Not so long ago, I had a day to myself with nothing to do. Ben was at a conference and I had no other plans with friends, but it was a glorious sunny day and I didn’t want to waste it indoors. So I grabbed my camera and jumped on a train to London Bridge. I hadn’t taken my camera for a walk in a while, and now I live a little further from central London I miss the times when I could stroll to the river from home within 15 minutes (it’s now closer to an hour to walk to London Bridge from Camberwell). So my itchy feet carried me out to the river and along the South Bank into central London to soak up the Spring rays.
When I moved to London, I learned my way around central London by walking. I might have once taken my fellow students from my floor in halls on trek around central and back to our halls, covering several miles and several hours, to many complaints of sore feet…but I’ve always loved walking when I have the time. I especially love being by the river – despite the fact that the Thames is grey and murky rather than clear and sparkling, there’s still something magical about it, and I feel closer to Nature and my native countryside when walking beside it. Of all those stretches of river footpaths, South Bank in particular holds special memories for me. My university was just across the water, and my halls of residence were within a ten minute stroll when I lived there in first year. It has been central to so much of my life in London – first dates, summer drinks, theatre trips to the Globe with my dad, solo strolls for reflection, and endless wanderings with friends, putting the world to rights. I thought I’d share the highlights of my wandering with you. It was such a gorgeous day – although London always looks beautiful, no matter the season, there’s something about the sunshine that brings out the best of this wonderful city. Here are my picks of the day:
The baklava in Borough Market is to die for. I always stock up on this and the raspberry coconut ice when I’m passing through with cash to burn (especially on this occasion, when I could justify the splurge based on the amount of walking I was planning!)
For some reason, I was noticing angles and shapes more than I ever have when out with my camera. Usually I gravitate towards flowers, close ups of little details or (attempts at) panoramic long shots, but today the architecture of the buildings around me seemed to just stand out when I looked through the lens. I particularly love the contrasting archways and brickwork in this shot, close to the Golden Hinde ship. It puts me in mind of when the area used to be a dockland area, rather than a well-trodden favourite walk with both tourists and locals as it is today. The only thing that I imagine hasn’t changed over the years is the sheer amount of traffic – the hustle and bustle of life in all its glory unfolding in these humble side streets under a thousand skies.
I must have walked past this building a hundred times, but it was only with the sun shining on the curving windows that I paid it the attention it deserves. You wouldn’t mind going to work each day so much if you got to call that your office, would you?
The pop of colour from this old section of Blackfriars railway bridge caught my eye, peeping out from between the modern brick walls and reflected in the glass that makes up part of the new station entrance.
I really love finding unusual graffiti around London and capturing it on camera. When I visited Shoreditch the other weekend my camera went into overdrive snapping away at every little bit of street art that came into view! (More on that to follow once I’m back from NYC) This particular piece is on the South Bank, just past Waterloo Bridge towards Westminster, next to the Wahaca restaurant which is made up of old storage containers. I’ve often gazed at it on my way past and wondered what on earth it symbolises. What is the fox head about – mask, hybrid human-animal, or just a whim of the artist’s? With no explanation tacked up nearby, it is left ambiguous for the viewer to interpret.
These lanterns were marking the route to the Udderbelly Festival (hence the giant purple cow in the background). The colours just popped against the sky, and I could’t but daydream about commandeering a few of them for my garden – yes, the one I don’t have yet… but doesn’t every garden, real or fictional, need a touch of magical whimsy about it?
It wouldn’t be a photo walk along the South Bank without snapping a picture of the London Eye now, would it? It was such a perfect day for enjoying the views of the iconic London skyline too – the city must have looked amazing gleaming in the sunshine!
I’ve always enjoyed wandering in the area around Parliament Square. The Houses of Parliament, in my mind, are among the most spectacular buildings in London (battling it out with the Natural History Museum for supremacy). However, after the last week at work I can safely say the novelty of this area has worn off a bit! But it still manages to cut a rather impressive figure in the afternoon sun.
Not to be outdone by their infamous counterpart across the square, the Government buildings on Whitehall are magnificent once you pay a little more attention to the details. I loved the intricate carvings in the wood and stone here…
…And the different representations of various departments in classical form. As well as agriculture I spotted the Arts, and there was a whole row of similar figures with their own title. I know these days its not fashionable to go in for such intricate designs just for a government building, but I think that’s a shame – we don’t have enough buildings like this out there!
Sorry, I warned you this might be a bit of an architecture-heavy post! But can you blame me when it looks this good? You can find this archway on the cut through from Whitehall to the Cabinet War Rooms and St. James’s Park, on King Charles Street. Again, something I’ve overlooked before, simply by not looking up.
The pelicans are huge! I have no idea how we came to have them here considering that they’re not native to the UK (perhaps a present to the Queen?), but they add a wonderfully exotic element to the park that your common old London pigeon (two functional legs optional) just doesn’t quite manage!
This was one of two herons having a bit of a stand off when I visited (I suspect it was mating season related). Sadly I didn’t quite capture the shots, but they were wheeling and coming up against each other mid-air, before taking off to scope out the land and settle in the trees or on the grass to reconsider their tactics. This is said heron flapping off to settle on the roof of the cottage in the park to regain his composure before swooping in for another round.
I’m so grateful for London’s green spaces. When I was younger I thought everything about the city was grey and grimy and dingey, and longed for the countryside whenever we visited. My feelings have changed somewhat now, but it’s still nice to recapture that sense of being back in the country and in touch with Nature once in a while – the concrete jungle can be hella oppressive at times! A few peaceful hours leaning against that tree trunk with a book and I could almost be back in Suffolk…
From the park, I made my way out onto the top end of the Mall and to the edge of Buckingham Palace. At this point I took a short break (to devour some raspberry coconut ice *dribbles at the memory*) and allowed myself just to bask in the warmth of the sunshine and soak up the rays. I so rarely stop and feel like I don’t have anything to do with my time, so it was rare joy to be able to stop and just watch the world go by without me for a while.
The Victoria Monument is suitably stunning, and glorifies the many achievements and virtues of Queen Victoria from its position in pride of place, directly in front of Buckingham Palace. I loved the way it stands silhouetted against the sky in this shot.
When it’s practically on your doorstep, you tend not to appreciate the beauty around you, and I found that with Buckingham Palace. I mean, look at those gates! Blinged up to the max, and yet I’d never taken any shots of them prior to this walk. Having done a little bit of gawping at the black and gilt detailing and carved stone pillars on my way past, I can start to appreciate what all the tourists get excited about…
So there you have it – a sightly unorthodox tour of the sights of central London, focusing for the most part away from the popular attractions and instead picking out those ordinary moments that we might otherwise overlook, elements of the London I see now as a resident rather than a tourist or the fresh-faced student of six years ago. Although it is sad not to get that same kick out of seeing the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben that I used to aged 19, it’s actually quite exciting now to pick out these other moments, these facets of London life that I might otherwise have overlooked. In particular, having a camera makes me see the city through new eyes, and appreciate how much in love with it I still am, after all this time.