Tower Hill

Tower Hill - tubeview

This is a sight of London that never seize to amaze me. Whenever I ascend from the dark tunnels of the Tube and walk into the light and this sight, I fall in love with London all over again.

The first time I came to London was for a job interview. When I finished, I had a few hours to spend in London before my flight home. I stood at the tube station on the District line looking at the intricate map of coloured lines criss-crossing London and the only name I recognised was Tower Hill. I drew the conclusion that it must be the Tower of London and boarded the train.

After travelling through the tunnels straight across London I rode the escalators and walked towards the exit. Chancing on finding my way to the Tower once I was on street level again. And there it was. The beautiful view above with Tower bridge in the background and it just took my breath away. This is when I decided that I would move to London, no matter if I got the job or not. I wanted to be part of this beautiful city. Luckily I did get the job that sent me on this new journey in my life.

Tower Hill - tube view

Poppy tribute at the Tower ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’

This art installation marked the centenary of the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the first world war. 888 246 ceramic poppies filled the moat around the Tower in 2014, each poppy representing a British military fatality during the war. The installation was beautiful, touching and the share numbers of deaths during the war was highlighted in a whole new way.

Tower Hill - falling poppies

The extra bits: Threadneedle street. Another of the fascinating street names that are dotted around the city. This one is located outside the Bank of England.

Tower Hll - Threadneedle Street

Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite T street in London or in your own hometown/favourite city.

T

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St Mary Axe

St Mary Axe - sign

St Mary Axe is home to one of the many sky scrapers in the City of London, this one with the lovely nickname ‘The Gherkin’ because of its shape. I doubt few people actually knows its real name, which is simply 30 St Mary Axe. Like many other buildings in London it has become a symbol for the London skyline, with its rounded top and black criss cross patterned exterior.

It’s not a public building and does not have the public space like the walkie-talkie, which makes the people who have access to it a very exclusive club. Once a few years ago, during Open House London I queued for six hours in the rain to ride the elevator to the top. But it was worth it. Stepping out of the elevator and look up to the albeit cloudy sky through the cone-shaped, latticed roof, was quite an experience. I remember standing there staring up into the ceiling and past the glass panels. It was definitely worth all that queueing, even though I would probably not do it again.

In Tokyo, we ran into a peeled version of ‘the gherkin’

St Mary Axe - skalad gurka

The extra bits: Sherlock Mews. Being a big Sherlock Holmes fan, I couldn’t help but add this small back alley to my posts. It’s not far from Baker Street, and it would be interesting to know how it got its name and if it was named before or after the famous detective put his mark on London.

 

Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite S street in London or in your own hometown/favourite city.

S

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Regent’s Street

regent Street - sign

Another of west-central London’s thoroughfares and another grand shopping street. The street’s curve between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus was a compromise when it was first built when ownerships of land came into question. John Nash’s vision of broad thoroughfares and public areas he so loved from French cities were more complicated to achieve in London. It is one of the first planned developments in London and was approved by parliament because it was to be paid by local investors who would then rent out the ground floor as commercial properties. Today many of the grand houses still hold flagship stores from one of the largest retail companies in the world. The street has been redeveloped many times since it was first established in the early 19th century. Currently Beaux Arts dominates the street, the large city blocks being designed to be different but harmonised and all facades finished in Portland stone.

Regent street - curve

If the architecture itself doesn’t make you marvel, during the winter months its Christmas lights will light up the darkened London winter days. Every year there is a new theme and it is always fun to make the trip to central London in November and see what the new theme is.

The extra bits: Regent’s Park is located further to the north and is one of the royal parks in London, where you can also find London Zoo. It’s another of John Nash visions for the city.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite R street in London or in your own hometown/favourite city.

R

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Queen Victoria Street

Queen Victoria St - sign

The queen regents in Britain are a sturdy kind and they have reined long at the throne (Queen Elizabeth I 45 years, Queen Victoria 64 years and the current Queen Elizabeth II on her 65th year) and long successful regents require the proper commemoration. Queen Victoria has several, but I chose Queen Victoria Street. It is a busy thoroughfare of London and not so very pretty, but as I have come across on this challenge before, Qs are difficult to find.

Anyway, this gives me a reason to delve more into queens and their longevity and influence. Queen Elizabeth I reigned during a time when women were not in power, and really the only reason she became a queen was her father’s inability to produce a strong male heir. If Edward VI had been healthy or Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary) would have burnt less Protestants at the stake, Elizabeth would not have risen to her position as queen. What intrigues me the most was why she never married. She certainly had suitors (even a Swedish prince, later King Erik XIV) and there was a strong desire from the court that she would produce an heir. How she managed to hold up against social conventions at that time is remarkable, or were there other mitigating circumstances that kept her unmarried and childless until her death?

The next longevity in the line of queens was Queen Victoria. Her spirit rests over many parts of London, from the imposing figure outside Buckingham Palace, to the Victoria and Albert museum in South Kensington and of course Queen Victoria Street in the City of London.

Queen Vic staty - NE

The Victorian age have a large presence in present day London, there are Victorian houses, the underground system, sewers it goes on and on.

The last (but hopefully not the forever last) longevity queen is the current Queen Elizabeth II, I always admire her for her strength in her old age. To still represent the country in the way she does. The Queen was another princess that was not meant to be queen, until her uncle Edward VIII resigned the crown for love. Queen Elizabeth IIs name will probably go down in history like the other queens before her. Even though the official power of the crown has diminished over the years, the symbolic power the royal family holds is still greatly felt among many British (and foreigners).

They were probably very unlike each other as rulers and as persons, but one thing all three women have in common is that they were not meant to be queens, they were not in direct line to the throne and only outside circumstances put them in to the powerful positions they held/hold for many years.

The extra bits: Queen’s Gate – This is where my sister wants me to move. Nice and central with lovely large houses and a posh address in Knightbridge. One can only dream…

Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite Q street in London or in your own hometown/favourite city.

Q

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Pudding Lane

Pudding Lane sign

An unassuming street in the City of London, except for its grim association. This small street was the start of the Great Fire of London in 1666, at Thomas Farriner’s bakery shop, where it is assumed the bakery fire was not properly covered and flying embers set fire to the house. The fire spread rapidly in the crowded city, gutting the city inside the Roman walls, making tens of thousands homeless and properties destroyed. Although the official death number was only six, it is now believed that several thousands died in connection with the fire.

You would think that a large fire like this would create a desire for safer houses and a re-think of the layout of the city, but this did not happen. There were several suggestions for creating a Paris with wide boulevards and Baroque buildings, but the ownership of the many properties that needed repair or re-building were so complex that none of the large plans came into fruition. The streets remained and buildings rebuilt more or less where they were, the only notable two new streets were King Street and Queen Street, creating a new route from the Thames to Guildhall.

One magnificent building though, came out of the fire, St Paul’s Cathedral, created by architect Sir Christopher Wren who had also been in charge of re-building many other churches in the area that had been destroyed by the fire. St Paul’s Cathedral could be said to be his final masterpiece.

Pudding Lane St Pauls julgran

In memory of the fire, The Monument was erected also designed by Sir Christopher Wren, 61 metres tall, now also the name of the nearby underground station. The base holds a commemorative tale of the Great Fire.

The extra bits: Samuel Pepys diaries for a intriguing view into London life in the 17th century, including his accounts of the Great Fire.

You can read about this amazing art installation that graced the streets of London a couple of years ago. This particular book bench was dedicated to Samuel Pepys.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite P street in London or in your own hometown/favourite city.

P

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Oxford Street

London’s shopping nerve – Oxford Street – goes straight through west-central London. Some Londoners avoid it at all costs, others thrive on the buzz that always pulse through this street. Ask any tourist and they will tell you this is where you need to be when you’re in London, forget Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Tower, this is it. This is London. Ask a local and they might say it is too crowded, to much traffic and too little of genuine London.

Oxford Street - flaggor

To me it is the centre through where I pass when going to work or play and I often gravitate toward its many shops, because it has everything and it’s a good starting point to then venture out to other places in the area, such as Charlotte Street mentioned earlier.

There are many controversies following this street, where red busses sit bumper to bumper most of the day and pollution is high. There are changes coming though with the current mayor of London Sadiq Khan promises to pedestrianise the street by 2020, including banning taxis and busses. The scheme would first see its eastern part between Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus ready for pedestrian only, to minimise disruption. The only problem is what to do with all the traffic and numerous bus routes that is currently running down the 1.2 mile stretch, would the surrounding streets be able to take the increase of traffic.

The extra bits: Olfaction – I love this word and there is no place like Oxford Street to use all your olfactory receptors. The constant smell of exhaust fumes laying like a blanket over this busy street, but then there is the sweet sticky smell from the waffle stand, or wake up kick from someone passing you with a cup of newly brewed coffee. You walk past a certain popular hamburger chain and its greasy smell almost overwhelms you, but then the next instant your nose has found the smell of someone’s passing perfume. Oxford street is certainly the place to go to write with all your senses.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite O street in London or in your own hometown/favourite city.O

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Notting Hill Gate

Notting Hill gate - tube station

Notting Hill Gate leads up to the peak of Notting Hill. Many events and places are associated with this area, Portabello Road, films, books and of course probably the largest event of the year: The Notting Hill Carnival.

The famous carnival, held every year during August Bank Holiday weekend, first held its doors open at the Town Hall in St Pancras in January 1959 as a response to the race riots in 1957. It was organised by Trinidadian Clauida Jones, editor of the West Indian Gazette. A few years later in 1966 a festival was held in Notting Hill to promote cultural unity, eventually it turned into the massive festivity it is today with more than one million visitors over two days.

I had a landlady once who told me about how back in the days when it used to be a small festival on the streets and how she used to join in at the back of the carnival parade and dance along the streets. These days it’s enormously massive and unfortunately when there are crowds of people there is the danger that comes with it. Another friend’s family used to own a corner shop in the area where a murder took place just outside the shop and she still vividly remember her mother cleaning blood from the pavement outside the shop in the midst of all the festivities. However, increased police presence and crime prevention has render Carnival somewhat safer.

Notting Hill Gate - street view

The extra bit: The film ‘Notting Hill’ because Hugh Grant can be so charming and Julia Roberts gorgeous no matter what she does.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite N street in London or in your own hometown/favourite city.

N

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The Mall

Mall towards arch II

Leading from Trafalgar Square toward Buckingham Palace, this large street or boulevard have seen many royalties and dignitaries travelling on its grounds. It sees the arrival of the queen’s soldiers every day when the changing of the guards take place. On special occasions such as royal weddings/anniversaries or Opening of Parliament the Mall is thronged with well wishers and the curious who have come to see a glimpse of the royals passing in guild edged carts.

At the top of the Mall, right outside Buckingham Palace, Queen Victoria sits and rules the city and country she was in charge of for so many years. The mighty statue of the queen, seems appropriate to crown this symbolic road.

Mall Buckingham Palace - NE

One side of the Mall is edged by St Jame’s Park, where rumours has it a headless ghost can be seen rising from the pond and disappear in to the bushes. She was the wife of a Sergent from the barracks who cut off her head, buried it in a secret place and threw the body in the lake in St James’ Park.

The extra bits: Magnificent Seven cemeteries are seven large historical cemeteries established in the mid 19th century to relieve overcrowded burial grounds in the city. Through an act of parliament in 1832, seven private cemeteries were established on the outskirts of London at Kensal Green, West Norwood, Highgate, Abney Park, Nunhead, Brompton and Tower Hamlet. Some of them are still in use, but it is possible to visit all of them and some offer tours of its famous and infamous residents.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite M street in London or in your own hometown/favourite city.

M

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London Road

‘All roads lead to Rome’ except for the many London Roads in Britain that lead to: London!

London itself has twenty-six roads using the same name. This particular London Road is located between East Dulwich and Forest Hill in south east London and was probably laid out before these suburbs were integrated into Greater London.

London road

Further afield around Britain there are several more London Roads, many of them constructed by the romans, or at least improved by them to transport goods and people to Londinium.

In London there are several places where you can find Roman remains of Londinium. This is one of the aspects about history that fascinates me, how everyone in the past leave traces behind, of their life and society.

It was a way of leaving your mark on a city or a country. The Romans were good at this, leaving traces of where they had been to make sure that the empire was run to their liking.

London Road - wall

The British themselves have left traces all over their former Empire, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (former Victoria Terminus) in Mumbai, the railway criss-crossing Africa encouraged by Cecil Rhodes and many more.

The extra bits: Keeping on the Roman theme, there are also a few Roman roads in London, with its roots from, you guessed it, Roman times. This particular road lies in Borough of Tower Hamlet. It has been re-routed since the original Roman road that connected Londinium with Colchester. The Roman market along the road has evolved over the centuries and is now a designated Conservation area.

London Road - Roman sign II

Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite L street in London or in your own hometown/favourite city.

L

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King’s Road

King's Road - sign

In royal London there must be a King’s Road (and there are more than one). This particular road runs through the boroughs of Fulham and Chelsea, an affluent part of west London. It used to be a private road owned by Charles II to travel to Kew.

Today, the road contains a mixture of commercial and residential properties and like most London contains the architecture of many eras. The oldest houses date from early 18th century.

King’s Road starts (or ends depending on how you want to look at it) at busy Sloan Square, which is the boundary for three fashionable areas in west-central London, Knightsbridge, Belgravia and Chelsea.

Along the way you have the Saatchi gallery, the largest free—entry museum of contemporary art. It has held many controversial exhibitions but has also been a useful stepping stone for young, contemporary British artists.

Kings road - Saatchi gallery

I like this road mostly for its varying architecture and its buzz of people all the time, no matter where you start on the long walk you will experience such a variety of life to set your inspiration and imagination spiralling.

The extra bits: Ranalegh Gardens, adjacent to King’s Road, a beautiful former 18th century public pleasure garden that also host the famous Chelsea Flower Show.

Kings road - Chelsea Hospital

Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite K street in London or in your own hometown/favourite city.

K

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