London by Day – Part II

From the London Eye I began going down Queens Walk that is a lovely walkway right alongside the river. One thing that impresses me about London is the infrastructure and how it is celebrated. I liked one walking bridge in particular called the Golden Jubilee Bridge because it borrowed its structure from the bridge next to it. The Queens Walk was lively because it was a beautiful day. There were buskers, and people blowing bubbles for a group of kids, and a skate park that was incorporated into a building. I walked along the south shore of the Thames and crossed at Waterloo Bridge to get to my next destination that was Somerset House. The main reason I wanted to see it was to experience the courtyard that has 55 dancing fountains that are incorporated seamlessly between cobblestones that match the historic neoclassical facade. It was as beautiful as I thought it would be! I learned that in the winter they transform the square into a public ice rink.

Somerset House

From there I walked down Strand, Fleet Street, and then Ludgate Hill until I reached St. Paul’s Cathedral. On my way there I got my first view of this well known monstrosity: 20 Fenchurch Street or more commonly known as the “Walkie Talkie” designed by architect Rafael Viñoly. Instead of tapering like most towers, it bulges at the top to have more prime real-estate on the top floors. My friend told me that the curved glass acted like a heat ray and scorched some tarmac and cars before they decided to solve it by putting fins on the building.

Walkie Talkie

Saint Paul’s Cathedral is a beautiful church. Unfortunately I couldn’t see much of it because a service was in session. I was in a hurry anyways because I had arranged to meet a friend for lunch. I met my friend Vikash at the south end of London Bridge. On the way to meeting him I got my first glimpse of the Shard by Renzo Piano and the Gherkin by Foster and Partners, towers that are much more pleasing to the eye than the Walkie Talkie! From London Bridge there is also a great view to the Tower Bridge. For some reason I always thought that the Tower Bridge was the London Bridge from the nursary rhyme, but there used to be an old London Bridge where the new one is now that had small arches and clusters of buildings along its length.

Tower Bridge

I found Vikash and he took me through the Burroughs market. It too was vacant (Sundays… *sigh*) so we went to a bar that overlooks the Thames. I know Vikash from hosting him for two weeks at my place in Cambridge when he came to the ACADIA conference with a team from the University of Nottingham. We had a fun time catching up and talking architecture. After we finished our pints we decided to walk around. I told him that there were three more places I wanted to see: this random bakery called St. John Bakery that I read has the best donuts in the city, the base of the Shard tower, and Tate Modern. So off we went first to find the bakery. I brought us a weird way to get there and it was interesting to see a more residential part of central London. There are a lot of industrial buildings that have been turned into flats. We also happened across a bizarre circular intersection where the apartments that bordered it were rounded with the circle and were covered in royal blue tile. We decided it was the strangest thing we had ever seen and didn’t know what to make of it. Vikash had to chuckle because it goes to show there is always something new to discover in a city.

Blue tile lofts

The St. John’s Bakery was located in an interesting area where there are stores and shops that are built underneath a set of arches that carry the train tracks. At first we were confused because we had approached the strip from the backside. When we found our way under to the other side, we discovered a vibrant little food market area called the Rope Walk. The bakery was under one of the arches and there were other permanent and pop-up food places as well. It was such a cool find! One of the archways was full of stacked lumber and there were people there grilling gourmet burgers! We were very hungry by that time and so we decided we were going to get burgers, but when I reached into my purse, my little satchel that held my cash and credit cards was nowhere to be found! I was so discouraged and embarassed. We decided to skip lunch, got the donuts we had come all that way for, and retraced our steps. We didn’t find it, but I decided that we might as well not let it completely ruin the afternoon. We still went to the base of the Shard (I was disappointed… I don’t think Piano achieved his original vision) and Tate Modern before parting ways. The Tate was another great building to see! It is inside of a former power station and architects Herzog and de Meuron designed the adaptive reuse. Across from the Tate is the Millennium pedestrian bridge, another beautiful piece of infrastructure. London is such an inspiring collection of old and new architecture that is widely distributed throughout the city!

View of the Shard from the train bridge arches

View of the Shard from the train bridge arches

the Tate

Inside Turbine Hall in Tate Modern

I was very fortunate to have just enough Canadian money left in my purse to get me to the airport the next day. Because I had to save it for that particular trip I had to walk alllll the way back to Kensington. It was a just punishment. I must have walked well over thirty kilometres that day and therefore was not a particularly fun journey home. My phone had also died by that point and so I was finding my way back from memory and made a few accidental detours along the way. Once I arrived back at the hostel I bought another tiny snacky meal from the grocery store and then began packing my bags. I decided to go to the airport that night instead of the next morning because I didn’t have any extra money for contingency if for some reason there was a delay on the underground. At the airport I found myself a little spot between a column and the facade, pulled out my sleeping bag and slept a fitful four or five hours on the hard floor! And that brings me to the end of another adventure! I definitely need to spend more time in London, but I think I did pretty well for only one day!

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