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London: Part II

Day 4 April 16, 2013

Most mornings during our stay near King's Cross, we set out early for the station, stopping along the way for breakfast at a cafe. Coffee shops with pre-made sandwiches seemed to be incredibly popular in London, and they we're an easy place to stop for a quick breakfast. Most days, we would take Piccadilly Line or Victoria Line, both of which took us towards central London and became very familiar. This morning, though, we took Piccadilly Line in the opposite direction to a stop at Finsbury Park, which was about a 25 minute walk to our destination: Stoke Newington. While doing some research about neighbourhoods worth visiting, I'd turned up this article, which described Stoke Newington as "aformer enclave for radicals and nonconformists, which still has an independent vibe". It must be easier for a community to maintain an independent vibe when it doesn't have a tube stop, which must make central London feel much farther away. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from our visit here, but the article promised "pubs, cafes and quirky shops" and it seemed like a fun idea to get off the beaten path.

The walk from Finsbury park wasn't the most scenic, but we quickly arrived at Clissold Park, which lay alongside Church st. in Stoke Newington. In my research, I had clearly stumbled upon a description of Clissold Park, as I'd made a note on our map saying only "London's prettiest, deer in an enclosure" and my grammatical imprecision had led Daniel to joke that we we're going to visit London's prettiest deer. The park, it turned out, was very pretty but we sadly saw no deer.

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We walked along Church St., bought a croissant and wandered through a quirky grocery store and got bananas for a snack. The area did feel like a smaller town in the midst of a big city. We passed by the entrance to a cemetery and stuck our heads in. Over an hour passed while we walked through the winding paths, between patches of dense, old forest filled with overgrown graves. Looking on the map, it was Abney Park Trust Cemetery and apparently opened in 1840 as a pioneering non-denominational garden cemetery. It was a beautiful, eerie place, oddly quiet in contrast to the street outside. We passed only a few people walking dogs while we we're inside.

Once we we're ready to re-enter the bustle of central London, we took the tube to Marylebone (pronounced mar-le-bone, I read) and walked down Marylebone high street, home to trendy shops and cafes. We stopped and had lunch at an Italian restaurant we passed by, eating outside on the patio as it had become sunny and warm. We shared mushroom risotto, mussels, and expensive bottled water. I ducked into a beautiful bookstore, Daunt Books, which apparently is a well-known source of travel books, but seemed to have a bit of everything. I bought a gigantic chocolate macaron and ate nearly all of it myself.

In the early evening, we headed for the London Eye. We'd bought passes ahead of time but expected there to be a wait. Happily, however, we we're barely in line for 10 minutes before we we're headed up.

We'd worried that this might be an obvious tourist trap akin to the Empire State building, where you pay to wait in lineups upon lineups for a very crowded view at the top. I had been hesitant to go at all, but it turned out to be amazing. The view was incredible and so much clearer in every direction than what we expect when just on top of a tall building. Also, the ride itself was pretty cool, mostly because the ferris wheel is just so huge, and you're able to look back down through all of the supports to see all the other tiny pods, weirdly far away.

We walked for awhile after the London Eye, going back through St. James Park, where there is a nice view of Buckingham Palace in the distance. Later, we made our way to Notting Hill and sat down for dinner and wine at a slightly higher-end (though possibly less memorable) Indian restaurant than the one we found on our first day. The curry was good. We explored Notting Hill in the dark for a bit after dinner, and then made our way back home to King's Cross.

Day 5 April 17, 2013

Wednesday was our last day in London, so in the morning we packed up our backpacks, left the keys behind on our way out, and walked down to King's Cross station, taking pictures of everything: our home away from home, strange buildings we'd been walking by every day, and the station.

We went to the British Museum.

We walked through the Egyptian and the Greek exhibits, which we're both interesting. In comparison to the museums I've seen in Canada, which feature exhibits with as many displays devoted to communicating information as displaying actual objects, this museum was very clearly only a showcase for the collections of statues and artifacts collected from other regions of the world. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Interesting though it was to see many things from countries I'm not about to rush off and visit, there was something that didn't seem right about fragments of places like the Parthenon existing away from their origin. Many of the descriptions of the statue fragments included something along the lines of "head lies in Athens". Aside from the feeling that these things belonged elsewhere (you know, with their other limbs) there was a shocking amount of STUFF, things which we're all clearly valuable and historically interesting, but we're presented in such quantities in display cases that it was difficult to appreciate any one thing individually. It bothered me a little bit to think that things that we're likely culturally relevant and important to some many different countries and people we're all held in one place and probably appreciated relatively less than they could be.

I was most excited to see the mummies. A few of them included x-ray images of the body (and other items) inside the wrappings. There we're also mummies of cats and a calf, which I liked. Ancient Egyptians cared about their animals.

After leaving the British Museum, we had a few hours before it was time to head to the airport. We wandered through Chelsea one last time, where there are nice shops and quiet tree-lined streets. We got an almond croissant and sat on a park bench. I was feeling sad to leave London; I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the city. We rode the subway to the airport and had dinner once we we're past security. Obviously feeling fairly relaxed, we forgot to watch the time and so spent our last minutes in London sprinting for our gate while listening to last-call boarding announcements. We made it, and set off for Paris.

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Posted in Outdoor Activities Post Date 07/05/2019