A New Year – Welcome 2013!

David and Perry left on Thursday, Dec 27th.  I had a “pity party for one” on Friday and also, cleaned the apartment.  With three people in this tiny place, it needed a good, thorough cleaning!

Saturday, was another dreary, rainy day.  I had a ticket to go see the play Salad Days at the Riverside Studios in the Hammersmith section of London.  I had only been to Hammersmith tube stop when making the trip to Heathrow. It is where we changed trains from the Circle/District line to the Piccadilly line that takes you to Heathrow.

Normally, I would have walked but with the rainy weather, I took the 211 bus.  Hammersmith is west of where I am living in Chelsea and it appears that they are developing it.  The Thames River walk continues along the river there and they are building some high rise apartments. I imagine in another couple of years, it will be a trendy place to live. This is a picture of the Hammersmith Bridge with a little of the river walk in it.  It wasn’t the best of days!

I had purchased the ticket for this play on the London Time Out discount page.  Each morning, there are new offers.   I play was entertaining but very silly….it was about a magic piano that made people dance when it was played.  I am grateful that I didn’t pay full price for the ticket!

New Years Eve was very uneventful.  The weather had cleared up and it was a mild night.  I was going to walk down to the river by the London Eye, about a 30 minute walk, to see the fireworks at midnight.  I read that you needed to get there before 9:00 at night.  I tried to convince myself to go but I just couldn’t wrap my head around standing there for 3 hours with 250,000 people I didn’t know for a 10 minute firework display.  If I had someone do it with, I would have gone but it just didn’t appeal to me alone.

I watched a couple of movies “Catch Me if You Can” and “Bridget Jones Diary”….I love Bridget Jones’ movies…it is especially fun to watch now when I recognize places in the movie around London!  I watched the fireworks on TV at midnight and kind of regret that I didn’t make the effort to go. They were amazing….oh well!

New Years Day was beautiful! It was sunny and warm, in the 50s.  I walked to Piccadilly Street to see the New Years Day parade. It was the 27th year for it.  I was right at the start of the parade, before the first reviewing stand.  The participants would line up in front of us and then would march to the reviewing stand and perform before moving on.  It was your typical parade with many entries from the states.  There were several state side marching bands…Tennessee, Arizona, Ohio and Texas to name a few.  There were two large groups of All American Cheerleaders as well.  I really liked the donkeys, the Red Hat Society and the beautiful horses!  I only stayed for about half of the parade and then headed back to the apartment.

The walk back took me through St James park, near Buckingham Palace.  I clicked this picture of this cherry blossom tree blooming…January 1, can you believe it?  I guess that just shows how mild the weather has been because I have seen other cherry trees in full bloom since spying this one.  It just looks like a day in spring and not January 1!!

I went to a couple of other plays with tickets that I purchased on line at a discount price. One was A Chorus of Disapproval which was good.  The other was Yes, Prime Minister.  I really enjoyed this play!  It was a political satire and I was afraid that I wouldn’t understand the British humor.  However, it was really funny!

Another afternoon, I grabbed my book on walks around London and did a couple of them.  It was in the Temples area near Fleet Street and the Thames River.  It is a quiet sanctuary from the hussel and bussel of the streets nearby.  The highlight of this area is the Temple Church which dates from 1185.  It was closed when I did the walk so hope to get back there to see the inside.  It was in the movie The DaVinci Code.

The walk started outside the Temples area by the Thames River.  It was the building that was built by William Waldorf Astor, an American who became a British nobleman.  At one time, he was the richest man in the US and developed the Waldorf Hotel chain.  He renovated this building, the Astor Estate Office in 1895.

I liked the weathervane on top of the building which represents the
ship that Columbus took to America!

This is a picture of inside the Temples gate to give you an idea of the charm of this area in the heart of London.  It is in the middle of two busy streets – Fleet Street and Victoria Embankment…lots of traffic and people rushing by.  Inside, it is a haven from all the city noise with lovely green spaces and quiet garden courtyards.

This area is known as the Pump Court.  It is where the pumps to fight fires in Temple once were. On January 26, 1679 there was a fire and the buildings in courtyard burned because the Thames River was frozen and the pumps were unable to get sufficient water.  It was rebuilt in 1686.

This sundial was installed during the rebuilding with the reminder “Shadows we are and like shadows depart”.  This is just one example why I enjoy doing these walks.  I doubt that I would have looked high enough to see this sundial had it not been pointed out in the book.  Or, if I had noticed it, I wouldn’t really understand the significance of it.

There is speculation that this building, No 9 Kind’s Bench Walk held the office of Jack the Ripper.  On November, 1888, Montague John Druitt committed suicide by drowning in the Thames River.  At the time of his death, he was 31 years old and a lawyer.  In 1894, the Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police Mr. McNaughton named Druitt as the prime suspect for being Jack the Ripper.  His main reason for this was the last murder by Jack the Ripper happened at the time of Druitt’s death and there were no murders since.  I don’t know if I would want to work in this building today with such a history!

As I mentioned earlier, the round Temple church is located here.  The Knights Templar was a group of knights founded in 1119 to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. The column with the knights on horseback was erected to honor them and also, to mark where the great fire of 1666 was extinguished.  Fortunately, the church survived.

I really like the statue of the two knights riding the one horse. A nearby plaque explained that this image was taken from the seal of the knights because in the beginning, they were too poor to each have a horse.  

From Temples area, I made my way back to Fleet Street where I visited the St Dunstan church where I saw the two giants poised on each side of the church clock “ring” the bell on the hour.  The figures really don’t move but there is a bar that strikes the bell to make it ring.  This clock is from 1671 and is over 300 years old!

Further down the street, heading towards St Pauls Cathedral is a small alleyway that takes you to the Hen and Chicken Court.  I ended up standing behind No 185 Fleet Street, the address for the fictional character Sweeney Todd’s barber shop.  As the story goes, it was in the barber shop that Todd would cut the throat of his customers and drag the bodies through a tunnel to the nearby Bell Yard…another stop on this walk…to be made into meat pies sold by Mrs. Lovett. All very gruesome!

From Fleet Street, I made my way toward the river and Blackfriars Pub and walked behind it on Blackfriars Lane to see a mound that is the City’s oldest burial ground.  In the 18th and 19th century there was a massive amount of burials here.  In the picture, you can see some of the old grave stones.

Also, in the right hand corner of this area, was a small amount of a crumbling wall that is the remains of the 13th century building for the Priory of the Dominicans.   Now, if I hadn’t had my book, I would have totally overlooked this little gem of history.

My walk continued to St Pauls Cathedral where I popped in to hear the Evening Songs…so pretty!  They had a life size nativity in the back of the church that was surrounded by candles lit in memory of people or as a prayer request.  I tried to get a picture but no pictures allowed in the church!  This is a view of St Pauls dome at night.  A different angle for a picture.

Beside the cathedral is the archway Temple Bar.  It is the only surviving gateway for the city of London.  First reference to this gate was made in 1293 when it was probably no more than a rope or chain between two post.  The original location was where Fleet Street and the Strand meet.  Over the years, it evolved into a structure of timber.  It survived the great fire of 1666 but was very dilapidated.  Charles II commissioned Christopher Wren to design an arch. This one was made of stone and wood and stood for over 200 years.  In 1878 for a variety of reasons; widening of the road being the most primary one, the arch was taken down.  Fortunately, someone had the foresight to take it down stone by stone and beam by beam with each one being numbered so it could be reconstructed at a new location.

Ten years later, the Temple Bar caught the attention of Lady Meux.  Lady Meux was a banjo playing barmaid who had married into a wealthy family of brewers. She believed that if she had the Temple Bar constructed on their estate, she would finally get the respect from the other gentry members.  What an undertaking that must have been to move over 400 tons of stones to Hertfordshire, over 50 miles from its original location.

In 1976 a Temple Bar Trust was established to pursue bringing the arch back to the city.  It was relocated to Paternoster Square, near St Pauls Cathedral and opened as recently as January 10, 2004.

My final stop on this walk was at the remains of Christchurch Greyfriars on Newgate Street.  This was established as a monastery in the 13th century.  After the dissolution of monasteries, it became a church. In the great fire of 1666, it was destroyed and later redesigned by the famous architect Christopher Wren and rebuilt in 1690.  This church was destroyed during the bombings of World War II.  Today the remains of the steeple and walls surround a public garden.

Throughout this walk, much reference was made to the Great Fire of 1666.  I had to look up the history of it.  Shortly after midnight on a Sunday night, Sept 2, a fire broke out in a bakery on Pudding Lane.  Pudding Lane is not far from the Tower of London.  Back during this time, fire was mostly fought by demolition to create gaps so the fire couldn’t spread.  Indecision of the government officials caused a huge delay (sound familiar?) and the fire spread northward.  It burned for 3 days, destroyed the medieval city of London inside the old Roman City Walls.  An estimated 70,000 homes, 87 parish churches, including St Pauls Cathedral and most government buildings were consumed by the fire.

Christopher Wren is someone I have mentioned in my blogs since being here in London.  He is one of London’s foremost architects. After the Great Fire, he was responsible for rebuilding 52 churches in London, including St Paul’s Cathedral.  He is known for other major buildings throughout London and nearby.

I ended this week by going to Windsor yesterday. I paid for the apartment that David and I renting in April when I return from the states.  I really enjoy that little community.  It is easy to get around, the stores are not so crowded that you can actually shop and not get pushed around.  I bought some new black shoes, something that I have been looking for since coming over here. I wanted a stylish but comfortable pair to wear with my black slacks.  There is a shoe store Hotter, that just opened 6 weeks ago. I saw it when I was there before Christmas and it was so crowded, I decided to return after the holidays. I am glad I did because I found just what I was looking for.  The clerk told me that the company is out of England and started on the internet selling shoes. I can’t imagine ordering shoes over the internet, can you?

I also bought a small suitcase to use on our upcoming trip to Dubai and Jordan. Plus, I need it to take the few extra things I purchased while traveling through Europe and living here in London.
After paying for the apartment, I had a cup of coffee and a scone.  Hopped the train and walked from Paddington Station to my apartment. It is only 3 miles….I walked to the train station in the morning, too!

Speaking of walking….the walk to the train station took me through Hyde Park.  The weather was overcast but mild.  The birds were singing and chirping loudly.  It felt like a morning in April!  Coming back through the park yesterday afternoon, I was amazed at all the wild parrots in the trees. Who knew there were wild parrots in London?  If I closed my eyes, I would have thought I was in the parks of Lima, Peru or Barcelona, Spain.  I am just amazed that there are parrots here!  I just googled “parrots in London” and there was a report by BBC in 2004 saying that researchers predicted that the parrot population in London was increasing by 30% each year!  There is speculation that they were brought here by Jimi Hendrix and escaped during the making of a film or they escaped from damaged aviaries during the great storm of 1987.  Maybe it is due to global warming and they have just migrated here?  Who knows?  David and I had seen one in a park near our apartment before Christmas. On Christmas day, we saw another one in our walk at Battersea Park.  Yesterday, I had no doubts that parrots are thriving in London!!!

Up, up and away!!!

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