Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.

London: an International Capital

Hyde Park Corner at Night, London, England

In a lot of ways, London feels a place apart. Given current political travails, that is no help to those who govern Britain when working out what other parts of England let alone Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland feel about how things are going in the United Kingdom. It also feels not only more British but also decidedly more international than so many places in England's south east.

As befits somewhere that has been an empire city, the place is full of architectural delights from different historical periods. Some are like the gothic St. Pancras railway station, which only was saved by a campaign involving the poet John Betjeman and more recently saw refurbishment when the Eurostar terminus was moved there. The gothic theme gets continued by Strawberry Hill, the residence of a former British prime minister, and the Palace of Westminster, the home of Britain's parliament, is similarly adorned.

Visiting the place is not all about ogling fine buildings though for there are museums like that of the Bank of England, the Cinema Museum along with both Leighton House and 18 Stafford Terrace in Kensington and Chelsea. Then, there are galleries like the Wallace Collection and quieter corners like the Chelsea Physic Garden to be savoured. If hustle and bustle is your thing, then there is Piccadilly Market and Wembley Stadium really comes alive on match days while there are tours at other times.

All of the aforementioned only scratch the surface of what is there so I have added more below. London is a big place so it is likely that you will need to make use of the bus network and the Underground though you also have London Kayak Tours or the London Waterbus Company if you fancy using alternative means of exploring the place.

VisitLondon.com

This website has the word "official" stamped all over it and comes from an organisation promoting the city to more than potential visitors. Everything that anyone needs to plan a trip to the city to see what's there is here and major upcoming events get splashed across the home page too so you know what's happening. It looks a good place to begin.

Here are two websites devoted to the attractions of the town in southeast London that gave its name to Greenwich Mean Time and the Greenwich Meridian. The first includes general visitor information while the other is dedicated to a collection of attractions that includes the Cutty Sark, the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory. This lot should keep you busy for a while.

Lee Valley

This once was an industrial powerhouse but those days are gone and it has been regenerated as a shared amenity between London, Essex and Hertfordshire. Watersports are a big thing here and it was a venue during the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Imperial War Museums

The first ever one of these started in London but they have spread to Manchester and Duxford too. Within London itself, there not only is that original museum but also HMS Belfast on the River Thames and Churchill War Rooms. All of those should keep you busy for quite a while if rainy days beset your visit to the city.

London Eye

If you are anywhere near Parliament Bridge, you cannot miss this and it has remained a striking feature around there since it was installed as part of the Millennium celebrations at the turn of the century. The concept has been copied elsewhere too so I have seen counterparts appear in Manchester and Edinburgh. The height of the wheel is such that the views must be extensive from the pods though I wonder how it really feels to be aloft in these after having a brush with cable cars in Austria that scared me.

Both of these are sister museums with one having exhibits telling the history of the city and the other with ones that tell the story of its docklands. Both have their share of drama with events like the Great Fire in the seventeenth century being one of many.

Natural History Museum

Other museums tell the story of human civilisation but this one sets a much grander objective: telling the story of life itself. Much of this has been gleaned from the fossil record and so are many of the exhibits on display. While dinosaur bones clearly are a draw, there is a focus on living creatures too and that makes for a varied mix.

Royal Albert Hall

It is a cultural institution and has been that for quite a while. It plays host to the BBC Proms along with a whole host of events.

Royal Chelsea Hospital

It has there since its foundation in 1681 at the behest of King Charles II and caters for military veterans of retirement age who have been left living on their own. There is an infirmary too to cater for the infirmity that unfortunately comes our way at that stage of our lives. Even so, many Chelsea Pensioners lead fulfilling later lives and take part in many an event of national importance.

The Royal Parks

A walk around the centre of London should bring you by at least one of these. Of the lot, I have been through Hyde Park, Richmond Park, St. James' Park and Green Park on various visits over the years. Each one is a great amenity and some are quite big too so there is plenty of space for everyone to enjoy the sun and there are a variety of events held too.