When I was little and I imagined the other planet that was London, when I imagined that fictional fairy land where the royalty resided and The Great Fire of London happened and the place where princesses and celebrities drank afternoon tea and champagne, the landscape I always imagined always included the same three landmarks: Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Big Ben.
Even though I’m going to try and do all the unusual stuff around London too, I’ve got to tick the norm stuff of the list and since I hadn’t been to the gates of the Queen’s house since I was a toddler, I thought I’d make the tourist pilgrimage finding myself with a free afternoon and tagging along with Matthew and his friend Dale from Manchester.
We met Dale in the iconic Trafalgar Square and basked in the sunlight and shadow of the National Gallery before heading for a bite to eat in Covent Garden. Trafalgar Square is great but I miss the days you could buy a pot of birdseed and be flocked by the terrifying London pigeons before abandoning ship and running for cover to let them fight over the seeds you dropped in sheer terror. In the main square of Covent Garden, they had the street market on and so whilst the boys chomped on their pulled pork burgers and I on my piri piri chicken and feta salad, we soaked up the music of street performers, including a Chinese keyboard artist that stopped his set half way through to sell a CD.
Following that, we had possibly my favourite thing in the entire world, Venchi’s hazelnut gelato before heading down the mall towards Buckingham Palace. Walking down the gravelled mall, it’s easy to imagine the regimented Victorians, simultaneously grandiose in their austere version of luxe and propriety. The Palace was built as the residence for Queen Victoria and she is immortalised by the fountain directly outside the palace. Face right up to the bars of the gates, we imagine a flutter of curtains and and Philip and Lizzie planning what to have for tea. It was a Friday, so local chippy probably. Though, then again, probably not.
It’s strange to think that as we stood outside The monarch’s official place of residence, a building synonymous with the image of Britain and one that has over 50,000 visitors every year from every corner of the globe, it is just a house that someone sleeps in, and watches Corrie in maybe and one where sometimes the fuse may blow out or the shower runs out of hot water.
London has that great ability to make the seemingly mundane or normal light up with grandeur and history. A bench in the park suddenly becomes the bench that Churchill liked to enjoy a cigar on, or Pudding Lane, an unassuming street, the origin for one of the most famous fires – The Great Fire of London. London is a place that history and the present and the future too also intertwine to produce the rich tapestry of Oxford Circus and Soho lit up red, white and blue bulbs flashing, the subtle gold and creams of Bond Street and Chelsea add a touch of regal and then the riotousness of Brixton or Camden pop like fireworks to celebrate the true breadth of what London has to offer. It really isn’t those three famous landmarks of the London Skyline that makes up this city at all.
Facts and figures from The Official Monarchy Website
the food & drink bit
Find out more about the streetfood market and crafts market in Covent Garden here
I know I talk about it all the time but- Venchi’s London for the best ice cream ever
Wahaca do pretty good chips and salsa- bargain too. The Soho location is pretty cool with a downstairs and overly friendly waiters (just lemme eat my chips…)
Ottolenghi Islington. The octopus was good. Perhaps rename the ‘from the counter’ dishes. Doesn’t scream ‘fresh’ but rather ‘been out all day’ Was still delicious though.
Slim Jim’s Liquor Store. Rock bar- strictly cas’ affair. Their loads of bras hanging from the ceiling, none of which are mine.