London In Perspective

I adore this city that I currently call home.  It is huge, terrifying, impersonal, beastly, cold, heaving and aloof. And I do battle with it for all the same reasons. But heck, London does historical and iconical (is there such a word?) in ways that take my breath away. Walk with me.

Feeling the way I did over the weekend, we decided to continue our “exploring London” adventure: St James’ Park was next on our list.  A ten minute tube ride took us into Westminster, and as we emerged from the tube station, we stared into the face of London. We see this face often, usually from the other (south) side of the Thames, but it was so exciting to feel so close to the beating heart of this compelling city.

This is what we saw first:

The London Eye on the South Bank of the River Thames

The London Eye, now known as the EDF Energy London Eye (can you cope?), opened in March 2000 as a “metaphor for the end of the 20th century and time turning into the new millennium”.  It was designed by husband and wife architect team, David Marks and Julia Barfield, and took seven years to build. About 3.5 million visitors pay (around £18 per adult, £10 per child) to go up in the Eye each year, and it is said that from the 135 metre height of its revolution, you can see up to 40 kilometres in all directions. We went up it in July 2000, and it was pretty awesome, even from the safety of the bench in the middle of the pod (I have a thing about heights!).

And looking the other way, this is what we saw:

Big Ben, at the north end of the Palace of Westminster

Big Ben is the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world, with each dial being just less than 50 square metres.  There is a special light above the clock faces that, when illuminated, lets the public know that parliament is in session. The clock ticked for the first time in May 1859 and has rarely stopped. I was interested to hear in the media recently that Big Ben was losing time; it might conceivably have lost one second. I wonder how many people used that fact for being late for a meeting?

We walked down Birdcage Walk, and found ourselves in St James’ Park. We saw a few glimpses of spring, with some cherry blossom trees showing a hint of bloom. The London wildlife enjoyed the attention of Park visitors, and many posed obligingly for the camera (animals, that is, not visitors):

Our first view of St James' Park
Pelicans enjoying the attention
A local celebrity: Black Swan had its London premiere recently
This guy is used to the paparazzi
This guy was a show-off. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Pffffft.

This was another reminder that we were in London:

Signs of the times

At the far end of the Park, we caught a glimpse of an amazing crib: Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace: the official London residence of the British monarch

When the Queen is in residence, the Royal Standard flies on the flagpole on top of the Palace, otherwise the Union Flag flies in its place. The raising and lowering of the correct flag is the job of a flag serjeant. I’m not sure you can see in the photo, but the Union Flag is flapping the breeze; I think that’s why we weren’t invited for tea.

So, back towards the River, passing this en route:

Got to love London

We bought ourselves some sandwiches and sat on a bench next to the River, with this view, to have some lunch:

The view from our bench

We had fun after lunch taking photos of each other with the London Eye in the background. If we got the angle and the zoom just right, the London Eye looked like a perfect halo around our saintly heads. We giggled like children as we took the photos, and kept grabbing the camera from each other to try something new.

We walked back across the River, and had one last glimpse of this before we caught a bus home from Waterloo:

View from the Golden Jubilee Bridge over the River Thames

Ah, this day was good for my soul. It reminded me of why we chose to come here, and the awesome and scary adventure that is London. Perspective is a fine thing.

Sunshine signing off for today!


56 thoughts on “London In Perspective

    1. Well, I think those squirrels have forgotten what it’s like to look for their own food. The tourists ply them with nuts and whatever else. I think if the tourists weren’t there they’d call out for pizza (like the ducks on our dock do)!

  1. Thanks for the wonderful reminder of some of what I love about London — and introduction to something new (the Eye) — it’s been a long time since I was last there.

    1. Pleasure, jevcat! Glad you enjoyed it. I felt the same – being reminded of where we are and what I love about this city! The London Eye has become part of the London skyline now – it’s interesting how things like that just merge with the old, and it’s as though it’s always been there.

  2. Thanks for the early morning tour of London, Sunshine. I never knew Buckingham Palace changed flags when the queen was at home. That’s an interesting fact. Now I want to play Trivial Pursuit with the hope someone will ask me a question about this.

    You’re a solid photographer, too. What a Renaissance woman!

    Have a lovely London day!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the tour, Maura! We thought that if there was a flag flying on top of Buckingham Palace, it meant that the Queen was in residence. It was only when researching for this post that I discovered the two different flags. Maybe you can find a cool excuse to drop this knowledge into a conversation … I dare you!
      Thanks, Maura – Renaissance Woman? Wow!

  3. Lovely!

    Your photos and those of a friend in Paris help sustain me between visits to two of my favorite cities. I’m an antiques fiend, so urge you to head to (terribly trendy) Spitalfields, where the Huguenots, the silk spinners from France, fled to in the 17th century — it is truly like stepping back in time. Brick Lane (one of my favorite books) is a real street there. The contrast with the “gherkin” (office tower) there is headspinning.

    ooooh, and Liberty. I spend hours each time fondling all their gorgeous fabrics by the yard and staring out their stained glass and bullseye windows.

    I had one of the most magical experiences of my life in Spitalfields….as I stood there soaking up the timelessness of the narrow streets, a man and woman in period 17th century dress (!!!) stepped out of one of the tiny houses — in the midst of making a film. Gotta love it!

    1. Thanks, bsb – glad to be of service! 🙂 I thought you’d enjoy some more glimpses of London!
      I know Spitalfields and Brick Lane – absolutely love both! One of our favourite things to do is to go and walk down Brick Lane, get a takeaway curry and watch the world go by. There are also two bagel shops at the end of Brick Lane that stay open 24 hours a day – the most delicious salmon and cream cheese bagels for about £1.50! Love it love it love it!
      What a surreal experience you had at Spitalfields – amazing.
      I haven’t been to Liberty – it always felt a bit posh for me! But maybe I’ll wander in there for a fondle! Of their fabrics. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Tilly – we’re having such fun exploring this city. No, I didn’t know that … do tell more! I’d love to know.
      I knew there were a few theories about who Big Ben is named after, but no more than that.

  4. I was so excited to visit London for the first time a few years ago. It was familiar and foreign at the same time. It seems like it would be a great place to live.

    1. I think that’s how I felt when we went exploring over the weekend. The sights are all so familiar, but I felt a child-like excitement to be right there. I can’t imagine losing that sense of thrill, living here.

  5. What a wonderful journaling of your adventure that day! I love the look of St. James Park…and I don’t think I’d like to live in Buckingham Palace…the chores would pile up…When I am “in residence” in our home, everyone knows it…no need for a flag when my gray Honda Odyssey will do the trick.
    Blessings on your day…

    1. Thanks, jane – glad you enjoyed the London tour. I know what you mean about Buckingham Palace – there are 775 rooms in there. Imagine you’ve just finished hoovering them and you have to start all over again?
      All important people have signs to indicate whether or not they are in residence … 🙂

  6. What lovely photos, Sunshine! Thank you for sharing them with us. You know, if London can be so charming and fascinating in the dead of winter, it’s going to be simply fabulous when spring arrives!

  7. Love all the pictures and the early morning tour of London. I was doing a little research about Big Ben for my post today and found that it is one of the few clocks with Roman Numerals that use IV instead of IIII for the number four.

    1. That’s amazing, Jeanne! Now you can see for yourself that it’s true! I took a close-up photo of the clock face and would be happy to send it to you if you like?
      Glad you enjoyed the tour …

      1. I would love a close-up of the clock face if you wouldn’t mine emailing it to me. That would be fun…especially since my post was on clock faces today.

  8. Great post, Sunshine. It’s been 25 years since I was last in London. Can’t wait to get back there sometime soon. Thanks for the memories of a city I also love–or at least did once-upon-a-time.
    Hugs from Haiti,

  9. (I can’t believe that the last comment said exactly what I was going to say! Now I feel like a copy-cat!) I did enjoy the photos of London. The park looks beautiful. I didn’t realize that Big Ben was so “young”. I thought it was much older. Thanks for the tour.

    1. Thanks, Darlene – glad you enjoyed the tour too! I was also surprised to learn Big Ben’s age – in a city steeped in so much history, I can’t imagine London without it!
      The parks in London are incredible – once the spring flowers start blooming, everything just explodes into colour. It’s quite breathtaking.

  10. Drawn here from carl’s place. You have detailed one of the nicer walks around London, there are many more. But there are many parts that just turn my heart and stomach. I lived/worked/studied in and around London from 1970 to 1986 and now feel a total stranger when I visit, sad really.

    1. Thanks for coming by, Dave, and for taking the time to comment. This is one of many walks we have done around London – we tend to go exploring whenever we can, and are loving the opportunity to do so.

  11. Perspective is EVERYTHING, Sunshine … and yours is always, always good. I know every time I visit your place, I will have an adventure. Thank you! x iz

  12. I am working on a painting idea and would LOVE a close up photo of the clock face, if you have it, for reference…if at all possible! Most grateful! I can’t seem to find an online close up anywhere…..

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