Three tunnels and three bridges

Thursday, February 14th 2013

This evening, Tigger had arranged to meet a couple of colleagues to have a meal together. I was invited along, no doubt as the token male 😉 One of the colleagues was leaving the firm and that added a poignant note to the proceedings. I went to meet Tigger from work and together we went to the rendezvous point.

Borough High Street
Borough High Street
The view is dominated by the horrid Shard

As we walked north along Borough High Street, the view was dominated by the horrid glass monstrosity called The Shard. I had vowed not to take any more photos of this blot on the landscape and sky but as I had never before made a night-time picture, I allowed myself to be tempted.

The Rendezvous

The rendezvous was the Starbuck’s coffee shop opposite Borough tube station. I used to like Starbuck’s but it is no longer one of my favourites. I drink my coffee black, without sugar and am therefore very aware of any loss of quality. Starbuck’s coffee has, in my opinion, gone downhill hill in the last couple of years and is now weak and tasteless. We avoided it and ordered mint tea instead.

Borough High Street...
Borough High Street…
…meets Southwark Street

The four of us set out on foot to the restaurant. I took a few photos along the way but each time I stopped I then had to run to catch up with the others! I did not always have time to choose the best viewpoint. In the above photo, we are at the top of Borough High Street where Southwark Street sweeps in from the left. On the left, just in front of the bus, you may be able to see the word “MARKET”. That indicates the premises of the world-famous Borough Market where the finest foods are sold. The Market is attended by many famous chefs and by people who appreciate the best of foods. At the moment, though, the market is in disarray while building of a new railway bridge (intended to ease the bottleneck of London Bridge Station) is in progress.

Under the railway bridge
Under the railway bridge
The first of our tunnels

Passing beside the Market, we went through the first of our tunnels. This leads under the railway bridge that takes trains into and out of London Bridge Station. As this is quite a lively area with restaurants and bars, lights have been installed to prettify the tunnel. The lights change, though of course you can’t see this in a static photo.

Cannon Street Station Railway Bridge
Cannon Street Station Railway Bridge
Our second tunnel

At this point, I had no idea where we were going but as everyone else – and more importantly, Tigger – seemed to know, I was happy to tag along, stopping to take photos and running to catch up again before they disappeared and I lost them. Thus we came to the railway bridge at Cannon Street Station. The station is recognizable from the two towers with which it faces the river on the north bank. This tunnel too has moving lights which project darting flashes on the ceiling like rapidly moving fish – quite dizzying when you first encounter them.

The Anchor
The Anchor
Always busy, always noisy

On emerging from the tunnel, if you bear right and pass in front of the famous Anchor Tavern, always busy, always noisy, you find yourself walking beside the river. This area is called Bankside, appropriately enough. In the bad old days, this enclave was ruled by the Bishop of Winchester, the ruins of whose palace are still visible. It was a place of “stews” (brothels) and the location of the infamous Clink, the prison into which the good Bishop cast those who met his disapproval. Fortunately, the Bishop is long gone and the place is now safe and respectable.

Cannon Street station and railway bridge
Cannon Street station and railway bridge
Showing the two towers

Looking back from here, we can see Cannon Street station, on the north bank, and the railway bridge under which we have just passed. You can no doubt make out the two towers that I mentioned previously.

When I was a child, I thought I might one day go to London and join the Thames River Police. I liked the idea of sailing up and down the river in a police launch. That particular dream was never fulfilled though I did eventually migrate to London where the mighty Thames still fills me with wonder and awe, especially at night when its black surface sparkles with all the colours of the jewel box and you can imagine all sort of mysteries lying in the depths.

Southwark Bridge
Southwark Bridge
With St Paul’s peering over its shoulder

As we walk on, another illuminated bridge comes into view. This is Southwark Bridge and you can see the dome of St Paul’s peering over its shoulder. I was now beginning to wonder where we were going because we had come round almost in a circle back to our starting point. The walk through Bankside and along the Thames was worthwhile, however, so I don’t regret coming this way.

Passing under Southwark Bridge
Passing under Southwark Bridge
The third and last tunnel

On reaching the bridge, we passed through the third and last of our tunnels. This one is relatively plain, lit by a simple line of fluorescent tubes along the middle of the ceiling. There are, however, some slate panels engraved with images and captions narrating elements of the history of the Thames.

St Paul's
St Paul’s
Seen across the Thames

Once past Southwark Bridge we get a very fine view of the dome and the towers of St Paul’s Cathedral seen across the Thames. The thin blue line of light running into the left margin is part of the Millennium Bridge. In the original specification it was described as “a blade of light”. It is hardly that, frankly, but owing to its position, linking St Paul’s with the Tate Modern, it is a valued addition to the environment.

The Real Greek
The Real Greek
Greek cuisine on Bankside

We finally arrived at our destination, the Bankside branch of the chain of restaurants called The Real Greek. We had a pleasant enough meal though the coffee I ordered was indistinguishable from dishwater.

St Paul's...
St Paul’s…
…seems to float above the darker buildings and the river

After our meal, I took another photo of St Paul’s because it is, after all, the most dramatic sight along this stretch of the river. Seeing it thus, I also see in my mind’s eye those photos of St Paul’s standing among the smoke and devastation of the Blitz, for many a symbol of hope and courage in the darkest days of the war.

London Bridge
London Bridge
Waiting for a bus

Having taken leave of our companions, we climbed the steps up onto London Bridge and walked to the bus stop. I had time to take this photo before a bus came and whisked us away.

The Heron Tower
The Heron Tower
Another City monster

We changed buses in the City and our stop in Wormwood Street was at the foot of the Heron Tower, another City monster. Though it may be inconsistent of me, I have a sneaking regard for the Heron Tower, perhaps because I watched it being built, literally from the ground up. At the top of the building there is a restaurant open to the public and an express lift that takes people to it. The restaurant seems popular as witness the queue we saw in the street waiting for tables. All the lifts are illuminated and at night make a pretty light display as they rise and fall behind the glass façade. The blue lights dotted over the surface of the building make it immediately recognizable from any viewpoint.

Copyright © 2013 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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6 Responses to Three tunnels and three bridges

  1. Mark Elliott says:

    Truly dramatic photos of St Paul’s. It is also a joy to see that once rather menacing places like tunnels have not only been lit properly, but also lit creatively and intelligently. Some might call it art, I call it good, original design.
    I sympathise with your inability to find good coffee. The only chain that I think serves consistently good coffee in GB is Caffè Nero. When I’m over I have to order a double espresso and then ask for the weeniest dash of milk in order to approximate a good Spanish café cortado. Is there a coffee shop English or Italian term for this?

    • SilverTiger says:

      The two chains that we patronize most are Costa and Caffè Nero but I think the latter has the edge. Starbuck’s comes a distant third behind these two. There are also some good independents but you obviously need to try them individually to find out whether they are good or bad.

      I normally drink “black americano” (espresso topped up with hot water) and am not au fait with all the varieties on the coffee shop menu board but I don’t think that what you describe is generally available here as a named choice.

      The recession has had its effects. As costs rise, the coffee chains have the choice of increasing their prices or downgrading the product. In many cases, they have weakened the coffee or switched to cheaper blends, perhaps hoping that their customers won’t notice. When you drink coffee plain, as I do, then you definitely do notice.

  2. WOL says:

    The city at night has a whole different character. I like how things are lit with the blue lights, and especially that the tunnels are lit. The tunnels have tall enough arches, are short enough in horizontal distance, and lit well enough that they don’t seem at all claustrophobic, and creative lighting tends to defuse the uneasiness that tunnels can evoke. (And the fact that they are all lit differently gives you unconscious cues that help you keep track of where you are.) In your photo of Cannon Street bridge, what is that boxy building to the right of the right-hand station tower that looks like it has antennae topped with red lights? I can’t think of St. Paul’s without thinking of the scenes in the Mary Poppins stories about the “feed the birds” woman (tuppence a bag) who plied her trade in its shadow. (I was quite surprised to find out that Travers was Australian!) Your photos of St. Pauls iconic white dome are very atmospheric and do make it seem to float. However, I have to say, my favorite is the Southwark bridge with its blue lights. A boat right on the dark water of the Thames at night to see the city lights would be fascinating.

    • SilverTiger says:

      When darkness falls and the lights come on, the city is transformed into a magical place and always fascinates me. I should perhaps have spoken of “arches” rather than of “tunnels”, because, as you observe, these features are short, not long as the word “tunnel” implies.

      The “antennae” are really tall cranes. These are used extensively in building tower blocks and the city is full of them. Some are free-standing, others are attached to the building and extended higher and higher as the building work progresses upwards. They are so tall that the operator climbs into the cab at the beginning of the day and stays there until the end of his shift. Communication with the ground is by radio. The cranes are lit at night as a warning to aircraft, in particular, helicopters. There was recently a terrible accident when in foggy conditions a helicopter pilot lost his bearings and crashed into a crane. The pilot, his passenger and a passer-by on the ground were killed.

      I am not sure what the “boxy building” is. It’ll be one of the tall office blocks in the City.

      I should perhaps note that “city” (small ‘c’) refers to London as a whole and “City” (capital ‘C’) refers to the financial sector, a subset of London but an important one.

  3. What a magical trip – if I ever get back to London, I’m going to carry all your posts along with me. (and that Shard seems to be a big topic)

    • SilverTiger says:

      The Shard is the latest love-it-or-hate-it addition to London, a city that is endlessly changing, endlessly a building site. I’d love to be able to say “It’ll be lovely when it’s finished” but it will never be finished. Change is its normal state.

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