Half Term London weekend
It seems almost incredible that a whole week has gone by since it was small daughter’s half term holiday and we spent the last few days of it in London. She’d been quite poorly at the start of the week, then made a miraculous recovery and it was if the days spent in bed had never happened as we set off on the train for the capital.
It’s such an easy journey to London for us here from Warrington; two hours and we’re there – it takes less time than to get there than to some places that are closer in distance! My husband is often there for work but I don’t go that often (the last time was in October with Lucy) so it always feels like quite an adventure. Another adventure was finding the apartment that we were staying in; big daughter came with us and it’s not really practical to try to squish us all into the one room these days. It’s also considerably cheaper to rent one apartment for a couple of nights than two hotel rooms, and we had more space so it worked out very well.
The girls and I had the day to ourselves on Friday as my husband was working, so I had them up and out early. The first place on their wish list was Camden Lock. It was funny that they wanted to go there as it was the place where Lucy and I chose to spend our few hours in London in October. This time, instead of walking, we took the Tube and felt very cosmopolitan as we zoomed our way around London far beneath the streets, hopping from one train to the next as if we did this all the time.
It was still relatively early when we got there – about half past ten in the morning – and it was very quiet. Stallholders were setting up their pitches for the day and in the food areas there were all sorts of tempting smells as the kitchens fired up their ovens.
There’s quite a bit more to the market around Camden Lock than I saw in October; this time we found another whole section which used to be stables in another life. I liked the carvings that we saw on the walls depicting stories of what the area used to be like. (Or in some of the pictures, at least – there were horses, but not palm trees, I don’t think!)
I also liked that the stables had been kept and were now individual little shops.
The place is like a rabbit warren with new stalls to see around every corner. Long alleyways that invite you to walk down to see just what might be at the end …
and yet more stables housing yet more little shops. There were so many independent sellers with so many lovely things to buy. We could have stayed for hours (and spent a fortune) but the girls had a list and we had other things to see.
After a quick mid-morning snack (big daughter had spotted these halloumi fries and was keen to try them out – that’s yoghurt and pomegranate seeds on top and they were very yummy!), we left Camden and headed back to the Tube station.
I spotted a shop that I thought was very aptly named …
but there were no hand knits in sight so we moved on quickly. Back underground, back on the Tube trains … we walked and walked and walked. We stopped for a breather in Trafalgar Square. This is the National Gallery and look at that sky! It was a perfect day for walking around London, I have to say. We didn’t go into the National Gallery, but we waved at Nelson on his column and watched a street performer limboing underneath a flaming pole and – for some reason that we couldn’t quite work out – putting the fire down his pants. It was all very entertaining.
Not far from Trafalgar Square is Horse Guards Parade which is the official parade ground of the Queen’s Life Guard. Horse Guards is the official entrance to Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace and the parade ground is where the Trooping of the Colour ceremony takes place on the Queen’s official birthday (she has two – a “real” birthday and an “official” one). There are always two mounted Life Guards outside the gateway to Horse Guards parade and they change every hour (or half hour if it’s very cold), and there’s an official Changing of the Guard every morning, which is a rather grand ceremony to watch if you’re ever in London at the right time.
The Guard and his horse sat very patiently whilst surrounded by tourists (this was a blink-of-an-eye moment with nobody standing next to him) and he didn’t object at all if you patted his horse. The horse was a bit more selective and we noticed a few people getting nipped at! It’s not surprising that people want their photographs taken with them, though; they are immaculately turned out and are a very smart part of our London traditions.
Just down the road is Downing Street, housing the official residences of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This is as close as you can get to No 10 Downing Street (the Prime Minister’s house) these days, but years ago you could walk right up to it and have your photograph taken next to the policeman who stood on the doorstep. And yes, I have that photo (with my Mum next to me as I was very small and refused to stand next to the policeman on my own 🙂 ). It does make me a bit sad to think that my girls will never be able to have that experience, but the world has moved on and for everything that I might reminisce fondly over, there are many more things from my childhood that I think have changed for the better.
Can you see the London Eye through the buildings? Old and new. London is a city that is ever-changing, the modern sitting next to the ancient (and there is some ancient, the Romans were in London), linking generations in the most visible way.
You’re so pleased to see this picture of a building covered in scaffolding, aren’t you? 🙂 This is Big Ben and this had been small daughter’s choice to visit, even though we knew it was having maintenance work done to it. Big Ben is actually the name of the bell at the top of the Elizabeth Tower which is the building shrouded in the scaffolding, but the name is often used to describe the bell, the clock at the top and the tower itself. The chimes from the bell are used in the opening credits of one of the daily TV news programmes, for our Remembrance Day services and to herald the start of the New Year as well as other occasions when a grand and distinctive bell note is required. At the moment, Big Ben isn’t chiming because of the maintenance work (with such big bongs every hour, I could imagine the sound would knock the workmen off their ladders) but should be back in action later in the year.
Back down to the Underground again as we went to meet my husband who had finished work for the day. These signs were in every Tube station – the idea is that they show updates on whether the trains are running on each line, but I just like the colours!
They’re the inspiration behind the Mind the Gap sock yarn that I’ve always admired but have never knitted – I could be tempted though!
When you haven’t got long in a city like London, you don’t want to waste any time. We headed back to our apartment for a brew and a rest and then we were out again into the London evening. The night before, we’d been lucky enough to get last-minute discounted tickets for a West End Show (Wicked – it was fabulous!) but with another early start planned for the next morning, we just went to get something to eat and intended to have an early night. There’s something about a city at night, and early in the morning, that makes it rather special. Is it the lights? The atmosphere? I don’t know, but I like it.
For some reason, my camera decided to focus on the legs and feet rather than my sock, but here you can see that I was knitting on the Tube. It’s a good place to knit, actually, as long as it’s not busy – nobody speaks to anybody else on the Tube so if you’re nervous about knitting in public then it’s perfect! It’s a standing joke in the UK that southerners (and Londoners in particular) don’t make smalltalk with people that they don’t know, whereas we northerners are much more likely to chat to people that we meet. This video has me hooting every time I see it – and of course I know that not everyone in the south of the country is unfriendly so please know that this is intended to be funny!
We didn’t have long the next morning before our train home, but we did have time to take small daughter to Carnaby Street, passing the Liberty store on the way. What a grand store this is! No time to go in, though, as we’d promised to show small daughter London’s most iconic fashion street.
It was very quiet again so we had the street pretty much to ourselves to wander up and down and look at the shops. There are mostly brand stores in Carnaby Street itself now, although there were more independents in the streets off the main thoroughfare.
I have to say that it was quite a relief to be sitting down on the train again for the journey home – we’d walked for miles! This is my husband’s black sock that I showed you finished the other day; two hours was a good length of time to really crack on and get the foot done and it feels really good to have that pair out of the way now. I love him very much, but black socks are … well, black.
He does fancy another pair now though … “Not more black ones?” I asked, mentally pushing them to the bottom of my to-do list. “Oh no,” he said. “I like the sound of that yarn that looks like the Tube lines.” Oh yes! His socks are right back up the list! 🙂