Thursday, April 14, 2011

Southwark to Westminster

We found it a cold and grey London day today (Thursday), only reaching 13oC by late afternoon, and no sign of the sun all day.

Walking is a great way of keeping warm so we set out as usual making our way to Bethnal Green station and then on to Bank where we thought we could change lines to London Bridge station on the south side of the Thames. We miscalculated this so ended up walking over to the south side via the Southwark Bridge.

Once over the bridge it was a quick turn left and up a few narrow cobbled passageways to the Borough Markets, "London's best markets" they say. We enjoyed seeing all the evidence of thoughtful and regional baking, cheese making, preserving, butchering and fishing. Lots of beautiful "food to go" too. Rob loved his smoked chorizo, red pepper and rocket on ciabatta, from the Spanish deli, Brindisa.

And I could not resist the confit of duck rillettes and fresh rocket on ciabatta, prepared by a real Frenchman.

Strengthened by our hearty, early lunch we started the walk West along the edge of the river, getting a great view of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (reconstructed).....

and the Millennium Bridge across to St Paul's Cathedral........

.....and the nearby Tate Modern (gallery).

We ended up really enjoying our visit to this somewhat controversial gallery of modern art. I thought its collection was relatively small, but of exceptionally high quality. Australian galleries have very few major Surrealist works so I was amazed to see so many at Tate Modern. I was so excited to see this Picasso too.........!

.....and so many Mark Rothko's. There was a whole room of them that Mark Rothko himself had donated to the Tate because he loves British art so much (esp. JMW Turner apparently).

I also liked the casual vibe of the gallery and the unusual layout inside the big warehouse space was invigorating for the viewer, I thought.

Anyway two hours in a gallery is a good reason to head for a relaxing pint (half for me). Today we settled in at Doggett's Coat and Badge, looking out through grey, misty windows to the muddy Thames beyond.

We kept on walking, past the redevelopment at South Bank, now all abuzz with tourists and buskers, and this sand sculptor working in one of the few areas of clean sand left on the river's edge.

I wondered what the Queen would think of these skaters who have taken over the undercroft of the Queen Elizabeth Hall just past Waterloo Bridge.

By now we were getting great views of the Palace of Westminster and its famous clock tower (containing Big Ben) even though the light was fading fast (at only 4.30pm).

Crossing Westminster Bridge I took the typical tourist shot of the London Eye, marvelling at the thousands of people who were still queuing up to get their rides. European schools must be on holidays at the moment so London is full of school groups (lots of Spanish and French) on educational excursions. it seems like most of them have been at South Bank today....a ride on the London Eye must be part of their excursion packages!

Westminster Abbey was attracting a big crowd even this late in the day. It looks a lot cleaner than we remember it 36 years ago. We could see all the temporary seating being constructed near the North entrance - ready for the royal wedding at the end of next week.

We walked up Parliament Street, past the entrance to Downing Street which is obviously very heavily guarded these days. Those are very high powered semi automatic weapons those police guards are holding. On our previous visit we could walk right up to the entrance of number 10 without all this security.

....then past Admiralty Arch at the entrance to The Mall....... sight of Nelson's column at Trafalgar Square.

We went underground then, from Charing Cross to Liverpool St station, then the number 26 bus back to Hackney. We made a great discovery tonight, Green Papaya, a wonderful little Vietnamese restaurant at 191 Mare Street. It's only a 10 minute walk from our apartment, across the parklands of London Fields, and the food is great. It seems just like home to find this little enclave of Vietnamese restaurants and a supermarket so close to us in Hackney.

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