London by Day

The reason why the title of the post is called “London by Day” is because I had only been to London once before when I saw it by night during a sixteen hour layover back in 2012. This time I did not arrange to couch surf in London because I had intended on staying with people I knew. However, my arrangements fell through and so I booked a hostel called Londonears that Alice had recommended. Upon arriving at Waterloo Station I immediately made my way on the Underground to a station called Earl’s Court in Kensington. I walk out of the station and what is standing in front of me? A TARDIS! It pretty much made my day. Because I didn’t arrive there until early evening, I went for a walk around the neighbourhood, bought a snacky dinner from the grocery store, and hung out at the hostel. This hostel was crazy cheap (eleven pounds per night), but not nearly as charming as the one in Exeter. I spent the evening figuring out what I would try to see the next day.

TARDIS

The following day I woke up early and began my journey to see London. I decided to see it on foot by walking from Kensington, which is in the West, all the way to the East side and then take the Underground back. I decided to see London this way because, even though the destinations are great, I enjoy the surprises that you come across in between. I actually got my fair share of those! I started my journey by walking up to Hyde Park. What an amaaazing park. I was there as the sun was rising and it was just me, nature, and a few joggers and cyclists. I loved the axial cuts through the landscape and the clusters of wooded areas. I liked how empty it was because I find that in Toronto parks we tend to over-program. One of the few programs in Hyde Park is the Serpentine Gallery that commissions a pavilion every year by an emerging architectural practice. This years pavilion was designed by selgascano and I found the experimentation with structure and material interesting, but the final spatial and material experience disappointing. It felt to me a bit like a McDonald’s play place. Another building that I saw that was much more impressive was Zaha Hadid’s extension to the Serpentine Gallery that is in an old gunpowder storage building.

Gallery Extension

I walked across to the park to the Northeast corner and made my way down Oxford Street, a shopping district that was just opening up for the day. My first surprise was to come across the Selfridge building. I had learned a bit of the history about the department store from a show my dad was watching on Netflix called Mr. Selfridge. The store first opened in 1909 and was the first building of it’s kind in London.

Selfridges

The reason I was going down Oxford Street to begin with was to find my way to a cafe I had read about called the Attendant. It was formerly a victorian underground toilet that was built in around 1890 and used until the 1960s. It sat vacant until it was transformed into this espresso and food place and still has the original tile, and urinals that have been made into a bar counter. I had gone all that way only to discover that it was closed! In fact everything I had seen that morning including the Serpentine gallery and department store had been closed either because it was too early or a Sunday. I learned my lesson not to venture out too early in London on a Sunday morning. I definitely want to come back to this place at some point to see what it looks like on the inside! I enjoyed brunch and a latte at a cafe down the road instead.

IMG_20150906_092228

Next I doubled back and headed down Regent Street to the Piccadilly Circus. And what a regal street it was! I felt like I was in a Jane Austin novel if you subtracted the bustling traffic! From there I went to Buckingham palace. For the first time that day I joined the throng of tourists. I hadn’t planned it, but I had arrived right on time to see the changing of the guard…. or rather watching the guards walk in and the other set of guards walk out. What a bizarre logistical exercise! I found it a bit anticlimactic but fun to get swept up in the public excitement. What I liked even more than the building itself was the park space along the mall with full grown trees and folding lounge chairs.

Buckingham Palace

Park

Now that I had hit central London and was close to the Thames, it was time to see the big sights. Nearby to Buckingham palace was Parliament square, the Palace of Westminster, the Big Ben and the London Eye. The clock struck noon while I was there and it made me think how the last time I was there the clock struck midnight. Since half my day was over, this is where I’m going to abruptly end the post and finish up my story in a second post. What can I say; it was a long and eventful day!

London Eye

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