By the time Thursday morning had rolled around, I had walked nearly 40 kms over the previous two days, and was feeling pretty tired. That’s not a complaint – even in the icier temperatures, its lovely to be able to get out and wander through the back streets of London. Unfortunately, however, the sore throat and cold that had been creeping on for the past few days had definitely taken hold, and the chilly breeze didn’t really help. Regardless, I ventured out for the day, starting in Kensington.
I visited the Roof Gardens in Kensington. These are apparently owned by Richard Branson, and free to visit as long as you show ID. I had kind of high hopes for them – they are on the top of an old department store, built around 1938 – but the gardens were pretty mediocre (to be fair, it appeared they were undergoing a renovation of sorts). However, I did find the flamingos! The first few I saw looked a bit sad, but a groundkeeper explained they were just cleaning out their pond for the day. I did find one lurking in another pond that looked a bit chirpier (pun intended). Anyway, it was a good way to waste a half hour above the streets of Kensington, although I did walk away wondering how the flamingos were coping with the eight degree temperature.
I wandered back up Kensington High Street towards Holland Park, where I sat freezing myself in the breeze eating my £2 Boots sandwich for lunch – clearly living the dream. I saw there was a Japanese garden within Holland Park and managed to find it, complete with very friendly peacocks and squirrels – one squirrel let me give him a scratch! After this, I headed up to Holland Park tube station and to Oxford Circus for a quick look around the shops, then caught the tube down to St James Park.
Westminster was fairly quiet. I obviously couldn’t get to Westminster station, as it was still closed, so St James Park was the nearest tube stop to the Churchill War Rooms. I wandered through St James Park and saw the resident pelicans, along with a very fast motorcade leaving 10 Downing Street and containing what I presumed to be the Prime Minister. The War Rooms were very quiet (and very enjoyable!) and the area was relatively dead, and after I had finished there I wandered over to Westminster Abbey, which was shut. The area was swarming with police and most of the roads were blocked off, and there wasn’t much to do – after walking for about half an hour in the freezing cold, I hopped on a tube to Embankment.
I visited the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, in front of which lots of artists were drawing with chalk on the pavement, mainly messages about the Westminster attack. I was intending to head back to St James Park to meet Penny for dinner, but she texted me when I was in the National Portrait Gallery, saying to meet her in Trafalgar Square. When I came out of the gallery, the vigil in Trafalgar Square had started…. I was pleased to find Penny amongst the thousands of people there, but it was quite a sight to see. We walked through to Seven Dials and had dinner in a pub, and then had tea (and I may have had a delicious cake…) in Covent Garden.
No matter how much I explore London, there is always something else I want to see. Even places I have seen before are so interesting – if I had more time, I would love to go back to the City, or to explore the East End and Canary Wharves. I suppose that is what makes me want to go back each time I do – every time you turn a corner, there is something interesting. Yes, there is grime, and crazy people, and terrible crowds at rush hour, but London is an amazing city. I am back there on Monday, but in all reality will probably just do some last minute shopping for affordable clothes I can take back to Dubai. I wish I could stay a week longer and absorb even more of the cities history.