Winter in London: Day Four

Day four was a Sunday, and Sundays in London mean that the Mall (which is the long road leading to Buckingham Palace) is closed to traffic and open to pedestrians. We could not resist this prospect, so although we planned to go to church that morning, we hurried off to the Mall first. Upon arriving, we noticed that there was some sort of ceremony going on at Horse Guards Parade.

Troops at Horse Guards Parade

One line of troops at the Horse Guards Paradethe closest horse seemed to be enjoying fidgeting quite a lot!

More Troops at Horse Guards Parade

Second line of troops

I was so impressed with the horses here; they were all absolutely beautiful and well-behaved. We didn’t stay long, but this was an interesting spectacle and it was nice that we arrived in time to see it. From the Horse Guards Parade, we strolled through St. James’s Park towards Buckingham Palace; passing the War Memorial near which I ate my first meal in London eight years ago. Wherever I go, I like to take photographs of every war memorial I see, and this one is one of my favourites.

St. James's Park War Memorial

The stately and simple war memorial at edge of St. James’s Park

After St. James’s Park, we walked up the Mall until we reached Buckingham Palace. I love walking along the Mall, getting closer and closer to the glory of the Palace with every second. It really has an amazing atmosphere, especially in the summertime when there are hundreds of other people milling about.

The Mall

View of Buckingham Palace from the Mall

Victoria Memorial

The Victoria Memorial at the front of Buckingham Palace

Canada Gate is one of my favourite features of the Buckingham Palace area; it’s interesting because I live in Canada, and because it is so fabulously ornate. Beyond Canada Gate is Green Park, which I have been through many times. And past Green Park is Piccadilly, the street that is home to such storied and extravagant establishments as Fortnum and Mason and the Ritz Hotel.

Canada Gate

Canada Gate, which leads to Green Park

Buck House

Buckingham Palace, as seen from beside Canada Gate

A short trek through Green Park took us to Green Park Station, and we took the Tube to the City and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Upon coming above ground in the City, we could hear the bells of St. Paul’s tolling and calling us to the imminent church service. It really was a beautiful moment, and I was brimming with anticipation. Prior to this trip, I had only seen the exterior of Sir Christopher Wren’s magnificent cathedral, and the interior through a glimpse from the door.

Aerial View of St. Paul's

Aerial view of the Cathedral. Image from Flickr via Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Mark Fosh and Nanonic

Although there is an admission fee for tours of the Cathedral, one can attend services there for free. I would definitely recommend doing this if you want to have an incredibly unique and memorable experience; I have been to services at St. Paul’s, Temple Church, and Westminster Abbey, and all have been amazing and poignant experiences. The service at St. Paul’s was a good one, and was fairly well-attended. The church-goers were all seated directly beneath the dome, which made for an impressive setting. I spent a lot of time marvelling at the mind-blowing detail and ornamentation that was all around me- the baroque decoration is really over the top.

But despite the magnificence of this building, the unrestrained show of its design keeps it from being my favourite place of worship. I feel that it is a little too ostentatious, and I prefer the simple, soaring arches of Westminster Abbey and other Gothic churches. For me, St. Paul’s (although beautiful and amazing) feels distractingly flamboyant. A place like Westminster Abbey or Ely Cathedral makes me feel much more pensive and comfortable.

St. Paul's Interior

The extravagance of St. Paul’s, and the view that I faced almost directly during the service. Image from http://flickr.com/photos/90933305@N00/2410780 via Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Peter Morgan

By the time church was over, we were all hungry and craving pub grub- my aunt was set on having a good steak and kidney pie while we were in London. Walking up Fleet Street, we checked the menu of every pub we came across for S&K, but were sadly disappointed. I thought it almost a blasphemous shame that modern pubs have strayed from the classic combination of steak and kidney! But finally, we found The Old Bell Tavern, which was the perfect place for our meal. The Old Bell

The old-fashioned exterior of The Old Bell on Fleet Street. Image courtesy of Colleen Jacobs

The Old Bell was, incredibly, built by Sir Christopher Wren to house the workers who were building St. Paul’s! So it is very old, and has lost none of its charm. It had such a warm, cosy atmosphere, and was all decked out for Christmas. The floors were uneven and creaky, and behind my seat was a carved wooden cupboard from the 1600s. We all really, really loved this pub. Plus, the food was delicious- I had some gorgeous fish and chips and a calming pint of Guinness; and my aunt got her S&K!

The Bar at The Old Bell

The view from our table at The Old Bell. Image courtesy of Colleen Jacobs

Me at The Old Bell

Me at The Old Bell, about to enjoy a pint of Guinness. Image courtesy of Colleen Jacobs

That afternoon, nourished by our lovely pub lunch, we headed to Brompton Road to visit Harrods. Unfortunately, this was one of my least favourite parts of the trip. Harrods was absolutely teeming with shoppers and tourists (although mostly tourists) which made almost every corner of the shop impossible to navigate and as hot as July in the Sahara, but that wasn’t what bothered me most.

As we approached Harrods, pushed along by the crush of Christmas shoppers, we passed a homeless man and his dog. They were sitting against the wet wall of a building, and were being utterly ignored by every single privileged person who was walking by. It struck me as impossibly cruel and disgusting that hundreds of people were rushing to Harrods to buy £1000 Christmas presents, yet no one was prepared to help this man. I couldn’t take it, so I gave him some money before continuing on (reluctantly, and in a sickened mood) to Harrods.

I have seen lots of impoverished and homeless people in London, and I always feel compelled to do something for them. Most of them have dogs, probably for company and warmth, and that only makes me want to help them more. I really love dogs, and feel drawn to fellow dog-owners and dog-lovers. In this particular instance, I was really saddened and angered that- especially near Christmastime- no passers-by were giving of themselves to someone who had nothing. This still bothers me when I think about it, and I hope that this man and his dog had as happy a Christmas as was possible.

Interior of Harrods

The overwhelming bustle of Harrods; seen from the escalators in the Egyptian section. Image courtesy of Colleen Jacobs

All in all, this was another enjoyable day in London. Although I’m not so sure I like visiting Harrods anymore, it does offer quite a spectacle, especially to first-time visitors to London. And St. Paul’s and the environs of Buckingham Palace are a must-see for everyone in the capital! Sadly, Day Four in London was also the second-last day there, and I went to bed half-excited and half-dreading Day Five!

 

 

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