Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Miserable grey London

To misquote Dr Johnson; "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of over-priced, over-crowded public transport, throngs of vacant shoppers and miserable weather". My children are evidently not tired of London, dragging me out to see the Capital once again. There was no plan; "failing to plan is planning to fail", reminded Moni. Indeed. We just drifted, from Ealing Broadway to Oxford Circus, thence to HMV (£3 for popular DVDs, £15 for the long tail), a selection of clothes shops with 70% off the tat they couldn't sell and full price for classic, classy stuff that stands the test of time. And it rained cold rain. Soon even my stout footwear was sodden.

Left: Just how wet it was in London.

Eddie wanted to see Fortnum & Mason's, (est. 1707) certainly a good deal posher than Harrods. The place was full of people like us - curious tourists from abroad, buying nothing. Running a business like this must be galling; in effect its a free museum of posh shopping thronged by sightseers getting in the way of the retail.

Picture quiz for my Polish readers: name this impressive central London edifice (right).

Piccadilly: we take a turn off mainstreet, away from cacophony and into the lesser-known thoroughfares of London town, headed towards Bond Street (via Savile Row and Jermyn Street). Thence by Central Line to Holborn, to gravitate towards Covent Garden.

Left: The back of the Lamb and Flag pub, Conduit St, seen from Lazenby Court. The real klimat of London is not in its jammed-up main roads but the thousands of narrow passageways, full of the atmosphere of bygone days, when this was City of Empire. The essence of Victorian London is to be found by looking up, above the garish shop frontages, and by exploring deeper than merely treading the tourist routes.

As we walked in the rain, we speculated upon what would happen if one were to superimpose central Warsaw on central London - would the one get lost within the other? See for yourself (above). The heart of Warsaw, centred on the Palace of Culture, taking in everything from the Łazienki Palace to the south-east to the Old Town in the north-east, out to Plac Zawiszy in the west, would fit into an area of London bounded by Victoria Station, Regent's Park and Holland Park. And notice also how much less densely built up Warsaw is - more greenery between the buildings.


Aphelion said...

I totally agree about the klimat of London - there are even remote corners where you can still sense the Elizabethan London, in places where old half-timbered houses can still be found - my friend and I came across a few of them by chance, just wandering through the small streets and, as we say in German, "following our noses".

Too bad that you have the same miserable weather we have here...hope your trip is still enjoyable in spite of it!

adthelad said...

Gosh, found the answer to your query on Great Queens St but your photo shows the junction has changed since google did their street view.