You can find the map for today’s 6.73-mile walk here. Only 8 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.
Today was another fairly lazy walk.
The south has been nice because, without the hustle and bustle of the city and the plethora of shops and distractions, the streets themselves are the only thing I have to pay attention to. I like that. It’s why I started this project in the first place. I like the experience of seeing what the streets themselves have to offer: their aesthetic, their atmosphere, their level of activity. I like observing it all and getting a feel for each neighbourhood as it’s own thing.
The relaxed vibe around here means also don’t feel as much pressure to find amazing things to tell you about. It’s becoming more natural to just walk the walk and tell you how it went rather than try to make it be something spectacular. That’s pretty nice too.
So like I said, today’s walk was slow and lazy. I found some streets that weren’t very pretty. I also found a couple of places I think every Londoner should know about. It’s a lot of fun uncovering these gems in an area that is otherwise pretty ordinary. It’s like going on a big Easter egg hunt.
Although having said that, the first one I’ll tell you about was very hidden, but the other two are pretty much right there in plain sight. Chances are you haven’t stopped to check them out though!
I met Mr. Blake and his wife Catherine back on Day 10 in Bunhill Cemetery. It was nice getting a little visit from them again on the walk today.
Apparently, Blake had a dream of having his works displayed as public art around London, so Southbank Mosaics decided to make that vision come true 200 years later. They designed and installed a whole series of mosaics showcasing his poems inside the tunnel system that sprouts out the back side of Waterloo Station.
I like how much poetry is lying about the place in London. In memory of my grandma’s birthday a couple of years ago, I decided to go for a walk to see where the day took me (surprise, surprise), and I ended up getting a poetry-filled day. She was big into poetry so it was an absolutely perfect thing to have happen.
That’s the day I discovered the Poetry Library hidden in the Royal Festival Hall and spent an age reading through the Poems on the Underground at the London Transport Museum. Coincidentally, the Southbank also had a poetry festival going on that day, so the railings were covered in big prints of short poems from around the world.
Finding things like these poetry mosaics always brightens my day (particularly if it is in an otherwise grim tunnel).
I don’t know why more people don’t know about the Bankside walk between Lambeth and Westminster Bridges. It is absolutely gorgeous. I mean look at this view!
The best part of it is that you don’t have to compete with anyone to enjoy the sights. We all know Westminster Bridge is rammed (mostly with tourists), and the south bank from Westminster Bridge to Waterloo is crazy busy, especially around the Eye. But no one seems to visit the Lambeth side.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two. These are shots on either side of Westminster bridge – the east and west, respectively.
It was on this quieter side that I also found a great spot I had no idea existed. The gardens in front of St. Thomas’ Hospital on Westminster Bridge Road are amazing. By the time I got there I was very ready to have a little rest. As it happened, it was only about ten minutes to noon, so I sat around a while and listened to the clock strike 12.
I know this it is one of the big (if not the biggest) tourist attractions, but I am never tired of that clock. I can’t help but take photos of it every time I see it, and I always feel lucky when I am there to hear it chime.
I’ve had a lot of important London moments with those bells. One was my first Remembrance Day, when I made a last-minute decision to see what the ceremony was all about. Another was after I attended a long debate in Houses of Parliament and walked out into the crisp winter air to the sound of the bells under a full moon.
One of my favourite London moments was in February of 2011 when I was cycling home from a friend’s birthday dinner near Tower Hill. That was one of the first clear, warm nights we’d had after a particularly cold and grey winter, so I took the long way home along Embankment. As I was passing the Eye, I had one of those oh-my-God-I-live-in-a-GORGEOUS-place moments (I think every London transplant knows this feeling), so I stopped to watch the wheel and soak up its colours and the way they sparkled on the water.
At exactly the right moment, I turned to look at Big Ben just as it started ringing its midnight bells. It was so magical and filled me with so much joy I could barely handle it. All I wanted to do was grab a stranger and kiss them so I had someone to share the moment with.
I love those damn bells.
And there you have it. Day 57. Not a whole lot to share but the places I found made me really happy. They all made me pause to enjoy the moment and soak it up, which is a big part of what these walks mean to me. As this adventure draws to a close, it’s becoming more and more important for me to really take it all in and enjoy every last drop. I can’t wait to see what other refreshing secrets I find.
See you next time!
Only 8 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!