Tuesday, 11 July 2017

London... Really?

Have I ever mentioned that I am a bit of a country bumpkin? No? Well I am. If I haven't seen green fields or a cow for a while then I start to stress (actually I start to stress when I DO see a cow - but that's another story).

For the last thirty years, I've lived in a beautiful little town where I only have to walk down a road, and over a stile, to reach the river. The other direction takes me to the South Downs. Utter bliss. The only problem is... the longer I live here, the harder it becomes to spend a day in a city. A whole day without longing to be back in a place where there are no crowds, no back-to-back buses, no busy roads and no noise.

Is it because I'm getting older? Maybe.

So why, after explaining all this, was I up in London twice last week. Yes, TWICE! Well, the reason is, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and confront something you dislike in order to do something lovely. If I only stayed in my little town and never got on a plane, or a boat, or a train (don't get me started on my travel anxiety or we'll be here all day!) I'd have no new experiences and nothing to write stories about. Ultimately, I'd be missing out.

This is my daughter. You'll have met her in my previous post about Bath which you can read here. We do lovely things together and on Tuesday we did another as, for my birthday, she had paid for us to have an afternoon tea bus tour of London (yes - bus and London all in one breath but my daughter knows I love food so was unlikely to refuse her gift). She was right.

Wanting to make full use of our day, I caught the train in the morning, anticipating, as I always do, all the things that could go wrong before, during and after my journey. I can tell you, It's very tiring being me!

Happily, no disasters occurred and I arrived safely at Victoria Station to be met by my daughter. First stop was No.11 Pimlico road - a contemporary bar and restaurant - for a mezze lunch. We couldn't fault it and were only worried that we might not have room for our afternoon tea at 5pm (My agent's office is near here so I shall have to remember this lovely place for next time I'm in the area).

So far so good. Next on the agenda was the river bus to London Bridge Pier - gorgeous on a sunny day. The plan was for my daughter to give me a tour of The City of London, where she works, as I've never been to this part of the city before.

First, we bought a drink and sat on a bench in the beautiful garden in the ruins of  St Dunstan in the East. This little gem is in the heart of the city and is a must if you're in the area. The photo at the top of the blog post shows the garden through one of the empty windows (I love the contrast with the modern building in the background).

After that, we walked through the Victorian arches of Leadenhall Market to the Gherkin...

 ...and then on to the incredible Lloyds of London Building. All the electrical conduits and water pipes are on the outside, giving it the nickname 'inside out building'. It was like being on a sci-fi set. 

This building was amazing too - with all its coloured lifts on the outside. I have no idea what it is. Maybe someone could tell me.

Gone were the tourists, gone were the foreign students on their day visits. This was the habitat of the young office workers: the financiers in their slim blue suits. The advertising executives in their pencil skirts. I was the country cousin again, loving the spectacle but glad to be just a spectator.

In stark contrast to what we'd seen before, our next stop St Bartholomew the Great was a very big step back in time. Founded in 1123, it is the oldest church in London and has been used many times on TV and in films. If you look at the photo, you can see why.

It was at this point we looked at our watches and realised we were not going to have enough time to walk back along the South Bank as we'd planned. 

Instead, we hurried along the North Bank before it became obvious we'd never get back to Victoria in time to catch our afternoon tea bus. What were we to do? There was nothing for it - it would have to be the tube. The mere though sent me into a cold sweat but we had no alternative. Gritting my teeth and trying not to panic, we traveled the four stops to Victoria. Luckily, it wasn't crowded, hot or too deep underground. I survived. I can say no more.

Thankfully, we made it in time to get to Victoria Coach Station where our tea bus was waiting. We had the executive seat at the front on the top deck and the whole experience was wonderful. The tour is run by B Bakery and I have to say the food was delicious. What an experience!

Of course, if I'd stayed at home (as my country girl voice was telling me to do in the days leading up to this) I would have missed out on so much. It was a fabulous day.

So what of the second trip? Well, that was to see the spectacular 42nd Street at The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane with my mother and sister. Little did we know when we booked that it would coincide with London Pride Day... now that's another story!


  1. Loved reading about this (after hearing about it). St Dunstan's looks a special place. Hope you keep facing the fear and going places, Wendy as we love reading about them. And I'm sure you have several stories out of this trip :)

  2. Glad you enjoyed your day, even with the scary bits! Some lovely things here to put on my own to-do list! I've always fancied the tea bus. Will have to wait for my daughter to make a London visit!

  3. The trouble with London is that there are too many people (and not enough cows).

  4. I used to love the Tube when I was a child (some while ago now!). Perhaps not as much these days... but it was great to read about your day.

  5. What a wonderful day with your daughter and the Afternoon Tea bus sounds perfect - it's gone on my to-do list!

    1. It should be on everyone's list, Angela 😀

  6. This post illustrates beautifully why London is so fabulous! I have lived in or near it for most of my life and there is always something new to see or find out. The layers of history are everywhere. I don't use tubes either, but buses are far better for seeing the city, as is walking. There are so many free things to do, green space everywhere, some lovely hidden gardens ... I can't remember if I have been to St Dunstan's, and haven't been to St Bartholomew's for years so they are both now on my list, thank you! And Pride was wonderful, didn't you think?! Hope you enjoyed your trip, and 42nd St. Kate Hardstaff

    1. Pride was wonderful until we realised we somehow had to get through the crowds to reach Victoria. Oh, my heart!

  7. What a lovely day out, Wendy - thanks for sharing those great photos. Haven't heard of a tea bus but what a good idea. I certainly share your anxiety about the tube, and end up walking miles to avoid using it. Not that I'm near London very often!

  8. Sounds like a wonderful day, and the lovely photos-especially St. Dunstan in the East.

  9. Used to adore London and the tubes. Exciting. Not so much now as it used to exhilarate me now it just exhausts! (Teehee note the alliteration here!!) But good for you facing the fear and doing it anyway. I'm sure doing that you get more out of these 'adventures' than those who just do it. The sense of achievement must be intense x