For the day of my birthday I like to make a trip: this year in more London’s beautiful places
Visiting London and looking for the best and beautiful places in London in winter has been one of the greatest pleasures of January.
Each year for my birthday I try to organize a trip with Stefano: we love to travel and visit new places but London is the city that Stefano loves more. Culture, pubs, food: everything fascinates him and tries to go back to whenever he can.
By the beginning of 2017 I decided to join my birthday together with its heart city and we gave ourselves a few British days, with only one covenant: to decide the itinerary and to discover the most beautiful places in London, known as the semi-unknown ones (such as small or large gardens or historic houses).
Long walks, our faces were cut off by cold, pungent winds, but the tiny sun of London can convey at the same time a mild, penetrating warmth. Soft and veiled lights, everything covered with these placid colors, they have revealed to us a city that is charming and sweet in its winter coat.
One of the neighborhoods we’d never seen was Neal’s Yard. I picked it up by chance on the guides, fascinated by the colorful photographs. From Covent Garden, you can head to the small entrance tunnel and you will be amazed by its color explosion. I know, maybe winter is not his season, but I assure you that the square of Neal’s Yard is a real show. Stop at one of the kiosks to buy a street food or a hot beverage, then take the walk to the theater district.
The most fascinating and London’s beautiful places are secret and confidential, such as Dennis Server’s House: a typical 19th-century British house, perfectly preserved. You have to book and the entrance is at a charge, but it is a really affordable rate. There are no guides but only “controllers”, so you are free to walk from the cellar to the attic (it is structured on 4 floors), admiring the furnishings and even the (substantial) dust. Not all of what you see is original or, at least, not all of the jewelry and jewellery items should be in a single room (there is a small amount of them). You will be guided by a background of “noises” right from the 800’s to recreate the real atmosphere. To take these few photo photos I was severely rebuked: it’s strictly forbidden to take photographs, as well as being thrown out (this is a private house, not a museum). I thank the staff for not kicking me out, I was really nasty, but I could not really help it, it’s in my DNA =)
By taking the underground to Barbican, you can stop at the famous London Museum … but if you go further, you will come to a tiny park, made famous by Jude Law and Natalie Portman’s movie, “Closer”. Some scenes of that beautiful movie were shot here at Postman Park. Maybe this is one of the places I loved the most. This garden exists at will by George Frederic Watts: he wanted to create a place to commemorate the people who gave life with heroic sacrifices to save others’ lives. Slowly you can stroll in front of painted ceramics, read them, and have a sweet thought for those who have so loved and was so brave.
Two of London’s finest gardens are relatively close to each other: the Kyoto Garden and the Roof Garden.
Taking the underground and going down to Hight Street Kensington, we headed for lunch at Holland Park. Like every time, we buy from Tesco sushi and pancakes, meatballs and lasagna, lots of hot drinks, and we sit somewhere quiet for a fresh picnic. I never imagined that the Kyoto Garden (a section of the Holland Park Gardens, curated by the Japanese embassy in London) was so special. In pure Japanese style, there is a pond where you can find real carps, and all around the peacocks stroll undisturbed, among very very impolite squirrels (but all the squirrels in London are!). Be careful, if peacocks find out with some crumbs, they are pretty insistent …!
Yet another story has the Roof Garden : a garden on the top floor of a historic London building 99 Hight Street Kensington of 6000 m2 (yes, you have read it well). The gardens are absolutely hidden from the roadside, so you will not even notice walking. Enter the building and take the lift (everything is absolutely free, you just have to leave your signature at the entrance) and you will be immersed in … India. You will find pink “Flamingos” waiting for you, and balconies with gazebos in the Oriental style. Flamingos are very friendly but reserved, better to admire them from afar. Meanwhile, you can sip a cocktail (there is a bar in the open and one outdoors with tables) or even have lunch or dine. Currently, the Roof Garden is owned by Virgin, which also has gardens for private parties and concerts.
Here we are to a church, the only one we visited on this trip to the London’s beautiful places, but it’s not just a church of course: St.Dunstan in the East. Or rather, it was a church because it no longer has a roof now, since the Second World War, but is perfectly preserved and has become a wonderful garden inside. Once left Monument, it’s easy to get there, it’s really a couple of steps away. They look like words already heard, but believe me: this is really a jewel, beautifully preserved, inside a metropolis that grew around it. We looked out at sunset and found some people who, in solitude, read. I tried to photograph it as silently as possible, recreating the atmosphere out of the time it feels like entering.
Particular mention, for its small size, is deserved for Rembrandt Garden. If you want to walk to Little Venice, you will notice it just, but if you are careful, do not let it escape: is still delicious and I found it while the sun was behind it in a hot and calm sunset.
How could we not go for docks? It is, and will always be, our favorite walk, especially at sunset, at the moment we are deciding in which pubs to hang out the end the day, in front of a pint of beer. This time we did something we wanted to do for a long time, but it seemed too touristy to visit: the Globe. We were wrong not to have done it before. The ticket is worth it because we had one of the most sparkling guides ever encountered, and he has tried, succeeding in full, to let us imagine what Anglo-Saxon theater had to be at Shakespeare’s time. In the photos you will see a company trying a theatrical piece: they were hypnotic. In the photos you also see some clothes: they are in the museum inside and are the costumes worn by respectively Marion Cotillard for “Mac Beth” (directed by Justin Kurzel, 2015) and Cate Blanchett for “Elizabeth” (directed by Shekhar Kapur, 1998).
We are almost at the end, and I just have to tell you what is the most moving thing whenever I visit these beautiful London places. Every time I look at the beautifully maintained wooden benches I always look for the dedication that sometimes is engraved on the headboard. When they are dedicated to dogs, I’m always moved. The last, large park I’ve been shooting, long and wide is really famous, but it was missing from the list: Kensington Gardens. Huge, monumental (even if this is a weird adjective, for a park), we’ve gone through almost every part of it. The cold was really strong, the wind was pungent, but the atmosphere of the park was worth it: a soft layer of ice over the lake made it a plate on which thousands of species of birds lingered, trying to catch the few hot rays of the sun. Our tour ended in front of Royal Albert Hall, as it was supposed to go. In the next, maybe we will go in to attend a concert?
I hope you enjoyed this little tour around London Gardens, let me know if you have some secret and beautiful London places, I’d love to visit them next time! (Would like to see some other travel of mine?)
Bonus Track: Purchases
I found this wonderful bookstore, illustrations, design and games, MAGMA.
I could not help but buy a game based on the 1900s famous artists, with a card casket inside. And an another card desk, with some sentences: they describe in short what supposed to be the little pleasures of life that we all share. Absolutely useless and beautiful.
In this store, I did not happen by chance, I searched for it from home: Persephone’s Book, a book shop devoted entirely to novels written by women of the last century, unquestionably and for this reason recalled by the store itself (which is also a publishing house). They have all the same covers, but to open them, the second covers have original illustrations and are small jewelry to keep in hand. Unfortunately, it was really too dark when I came to take pictures, but I assure you it is one of the nicest stores I’ve ever seen. And of course, I bought two books, one for my job and the other one for my soul.