You can find the map for today’s 6.10 mile walk here. 40 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.
Today I finished off the last few streets of Marylebone and made my way into Mayfair. Marylebone is the largest neighbourhood I’ve covered, by far. All told, I was there for five walks. I still haven’t written about a couple of them but I have to keep you waiting for something, right?
I really enjoyed the walk today. The weather was beautiful, the buildings were gorgeous, the streets were full of greenery and I met a stranger who loves London and taught me all kinds of things about some of the places I have been. Perhaps he was making it up as he went along, but he’s a good bullshitter if that’s the case so I salute him either way.
Mayfair is just beautiful. I can’t get over the architecture and the dedication to green space. It is a truly unique part of London. The homes here are phenomenally decadent, with private gardens tucked away around every corner. When I have a few million pounds lying around sometime, I think I might get me one of these.
On Day 43 I mentioned how intrigued I am by private gardens – or perhaps annoyed and slightly irritated by my inability to inside of them is probably more accurate. Today I was strolling along and noticed a gate open that didn’t look like it should be open. I sneaked past a few houses on the street (acting totally casual, obviously, with all my equipment hanging off of me and a nonchalant, I-am-totally-allowed-to-go-here face on). I tiptoed through the gate and into the private back garden of some of London’s most elite (I was told John Paul Getty used to live here, that’s the calibre of this estate) and this is what I found…
Yep, it’s a garden. It’s a pretty garden, definitely, but it’s a garden all the same. Still it’s rather fancy and it is always fun to go where you’re not meant to be. Speaking of which, as I was turning to leave, I saw a man approaching me from outside the gate and I knew I was done for. I walked out casually, smiling at him and quickly getting away before he told me off when he said, “Don’t you just LOVE when these gates get left open. I haven’t never seen inside this one before!”
And lo a friend was born.
We had a nice long chat about London, our mutual love of walking the streets, sneaking into places we don’t belong and learning all we can about the quirkier bits. We also had an interesting discussion concerning the future of men in Western society. Quite the wide-ranging and interesting chat. I dare say it was the best surprise of the day.
And your mother taught you never to talk to strangers. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.
Brown Hart Gardens
Mayfair has far more impressive gardens these posh people ones though, and you can get into them without any special permission. Meet my favourite, Brown Hart Gardens.
This rooftop space opened about a year and a half ago and it is still relatively unknown. There were more people around on this walk than I have ever seen, so it is getting discovered, but it is still a really great hideaway just a few steps from the bustle of Oxford Street.
My favourite part is the water fountain on the south side. When you sit in front of it you can see the front doors of Selfridge’s but all you can hear is a little bubbling of water behind you. It is kind of a trippy experience, actually, to know that there is so much noise going on but you can’t hear it at all.
There is also a cute cafe up there that is now serving ice cream for the summer. It’s a pretty perfect place.
The exact opposite of Brown Hart Gardens is the American Embassy, a hideous structure if ever there was one. Why does it have to be so ugly?!
Also, being American I get so annoyed with stereotypes about us that it irks me immensely when our own embassy perpetuates them. Grosvenor Square (pronounced grove-ner, because of the “s” you see) is surrounded by embassies. Malawi, Italy, Monaco, Indonesia and Canada all have their offices a stone’s throw from the American site. But the entire square is full of American emblems without even the smallest nod to any of the other countries around it: the middle of the square has a huge monument to Roosevelt that spans the entire width of the park, while statues Reagan and Eisenhower tower over visitors entering the building.
Then there’s the giant eagle on top and the two glass structures that provide entry and exit points, both manned with armed soldiers, of course – the only embassy other than Saudi Arabia with weapons out front. I get that the building is a target for a lot of reasons but when you are actually there to see it in person it seems a little self-aggrandising. Just saying. Every other embassy in the area gets, you know…a flag.
Speaking of flags, I was happy to see rainbow flags over the entrance. That surprised me. At least to the outside world, America is trying to show that it is getting cooler about some things.
My last stop was Lancashire Court to meet a friend for lunch at Mayfair Pizza. I just love this little cobbled alley. It’s so nice eat lunch in a cozy back corner of London (which can be found about two minutes’ walk from Bond Street Station).
This whole alley is owned by the same company but it is divided up into a restaurant, pizza place, wine room and cocktail bar and you can take your pick from menus no matter where you are sitting. The food is pretty good, though a little pricey, but it’s well worth it for the atmosphere.
Just around the corner is Avery Row, a slightly bigger street lined with restaurants, pubs and shops.
These streets make up a nice little pedestrianised area that you might not expect to find so close to all the big shopping roads like Oxford Street and New Bond Street. If you find yourself in the area, check it out and let me know what other gems you find.
Next time I’ll carry on in see what else there is in Mayfair to share with you.
See you then!
40 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.
Quick update from the future: now that this project is finished, I’m off on another adventure! Keep in touch on my new blog at Three Miles an Hour. See you there!