Today is to be an in-town day and we shall wander wherever whimsy takes us.
One of the advantages of holidaying at home is that you know where to find the good places to eat. There is no need to take pot luck and risk disappointment. So for breakfast we went to Cafe Maya in Mount Pleasant, where we chose the Vegetarian House Breakfast with grilled haloumi cheese.
After breakfast, we went for a stroll along Exmouth Market. Like Chapel Market, this is a street of shops and eateries which also hosts street market stalls. However, this one seems fairly quiet these days, in contrast to the livelier Chapel Market.
We took a bus into town and stopped off at the grand old Victoria station, where we had coffee on the terrace of the Wetherspoon’s pub there, which allows a good view of the bustle of the station.
Close to the station is the Apollo Theatre which has some rather fine decorative panels on the outside. I am not sure of the date of these, but their style looks like that of the 30s to me.
They seem to allude to the cinema rather than to the theatre, and their silver colour perhaps agrees with this. The audience, however, sits and stands around in a much more free and easy way than in any cinema I have ever attended. This panel depicts a stabbing and the reactions of the audience are studied carefully but also with humour.
This panel, cracked unfortunately, shows a calmer moment – perhaps a romantic interlude – and the gestures and stances of the audience reflect this. What shocks us today, though, is the gentleman luxuriously puffing out smoke from his cigarette. Here is a closer view:
This dates from a time when smoking was seen as an elegant habit rather than a health-destroying addiction. The panels also give us some indication of the costumes and hair-styles of the day. If you look carefully, you can see the same people in the audience in both panels.
Across the road, a golden ballerina dances atop the dome of the Victoria Palace, rather like the fairy on top of the Christmas tree.
We took a bus to Pimlico and walked along the Thames. Here we had a rather hazy view of Battersea Power Station on the opposite bank. It is a long time since it generated any power and its future still seems uncertain, caught between conservationists and would-be developers.
Nearby were tugs pulling barges laden with containers, up to three barges each. They had to manoeuvre like articulated lorries but also taking the flow of the river into account.
Several narrowboats went by on some mysterious mission, looking rather vulnerable bouncing past on the broad, choppy river instead of the flat waters of the canal.
We found a pleasant little park called Pimlico Gardens which contained two pieces of sculpture.
The first is called The Helmsman and is by Andrew Wallace. The other represents William Huskisson, the statesman, but I do not know the name of the sculptor. He is rather pretentiously dressed as a Roman.
We found the Crown Reach Riverside Walk, a pleasant place for a stroll beside the water.
There was art here too, though I can’t say this piece does anything for me.
The people who live here have a good view and pleasant surroundings.
Though it makes them a tad possessive. I suppose that’s understandable.
While we were in the area, we thought we would carry on along to Millbank and visit the Tate Britain – an art collection that can really lay claim to a “sugar daddy”.
However, barely had we entered the Clore Gallery (yes, photography is allowed) to see the Turner collection when the fire alarms went off and we had to leave the building. The staff were naturally unable to say when we might be able to re-enter the gallery, so we decided to move on and come back another day.
We took a bus back to town and had an omelette lunch in a sandwich bar at Charing Cross.
We then headed in leisurely fashion towards St Paul’s, with a goal in mind. Many interesting sights along the way held us up, though. Such as this, the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, one of London’s ancient livery companies.
It is remarkable for, among other things, the wonderful frieze by Benjamin Creswick, of which a detail is shown above.
We passed through Postman’s Park, which I have already written about (see A walk around St Paul’s).
People often write about the Watts memorial to heroic men and women and forget the other charms of this little park, such as the beautiful flower beds and the pond with goldfish and a fountain.
Outside the park is a drinking fountain dated 1870 (I think that’s the date – the inscription is rather eroded) which is still working. Quite a surprise when we tried it.
We passed by the premises of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths whose golden lion graces their gates, and…
… stopped for tea at The Red Herring.
Dawdling, dawdling all the way, we eventually reached St Paul’s and the destination we had been heading for – the Guildhall. We had for some time had it in mind to try to visit the clock museum there.
Unfortunately, we had dawdled too long and the Guildhall and its Art Gallery were closing. We had to content ourselves with photos of the outside and of the busts of some of the Great and Good, such as Pepys and Wren.
And, of course, Dick Whittington, possibly the most famous Lord Mayor of London, and his cat, looking rather plump in this rendition.
By now, shadows were beginning to lengthen and London’s spires and domes were turning into silhouettes against the evening sky. It seemed good to catch a bus back to Islington, and home.
A good day out? Assuredly. From breakfast to supper we had kept moving, revisiting favourites and discovering new things. London is a magic treasure chest that can never be emptied for the more you take out, the more there remains to be found.