We saw and did lots of wonderful things during our late October week in London, but not before we got off to a rocky start.
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We had flown from Naples to Stansted Airport, less than an hour north of London. An easy express train ride took us to Liverpool St. Station in the city. Once there, we were daunted by trying to navigate the London Underground with all our luggage. Instead, we opted for a classic black London taxi to our AirBnB reservation in the East End, near Whitechapel Street.
We arrived late in the afternoon to find disappointment. The place had been advertised as a “charming and quirky flat.” Quirky it was. Charming it wasn’t. The only bed sheets were wet and hanging on a line outside the front door. There was no heat. We called the host. He seemed surprised that the sheets were wet, and he said he couldn’t do anything about the heat that night, but he would try to stop by the next day. We started frantically trying to find an affordable place in London to spend the night, if not the whole week. AirBnB tried to help, but everything they suggested was too expensive for us.
We were stuck that night but moved the next day to a bedroom in a private home, where we stayed for two nights. It was in a great location near Tower Bridge and other famous sights. But it was too small for us. We were used to having apartments to ourselves. We kept looking, but while we were there, we walked to visit nearby landmarks.
London on the Thames
It was just a short walk to the River Thames, where London’s modern architecture is on display.
The new is juxtaposed with the old everywhere in London. The city’s modern skyline, bristling with constuction cranes, provides the backdrop for the Tower of London. You can see by the crowds that it’s a popular destination.
Londoners have nicknamed the pickle-shaped building “The Gherkin.”
We walked past the Tower Bridge…
…Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre…
…and the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s “Golden Hind.”
Just walking around is a pleasure in London.
London is in many ways a living history exhibit. This is an old, so-very-British advertising slogan for Courage Beer.
We arrived at that day’s destination: The Tate Modern, London’s gallery of international modern art.
The Tate exhibits works by many world-famous modern artists. The sculpture on the left is Man Pointing by Alberto Giacometti. On the right is Upright Internal/External Form by Henry Moore.
Tottenham Hale and The River Lea
Through AirBnB we found a place in the suburbs for our last four nights in London. The flat was in Tottenham Hale, north of London. It was very near a tube station, so all of London was accessible to us. The place turned out to be delightful.
Our apartment was in the building on the left side of this picture. The River Lea is a navigable, multi-use waterway that flows to London from the north.
It was amazing to find such a bucolic setting with the London skyline in the distance.
Beautiful swans and other water birds were there in abundance.
Live-aboard barges line portions of the River Lea.
Some were as quirky and elaborate as any we saw in Amsterdam!
Wherever there is a clean body of water, there will be fishermen….
The River Lea is a popular spot for rowing teams to practice. The coaches ride alongside the rowers on bicycles, monitoring progress and shouting instructions.
The River Lea was a delightful, unexpected side of London.
The British sense of humor is easy to find in suburbs like Tottenham Hale.
Even this warning sign has a bit of that droll humor.
Seeing the Sights
We rode the tube into London to see more of the famous sights.
The moon was rising – or perhaps setting – over Buckingham Palace…
…and later, over the Houses of Parliament.
Just wandering around this part of London is a wonderful experience.
This section of London is bathed in dramatic lighting at night, Big Ben included.
Across the Thames is the famous London Eye.
The British Museum
One could easily spend a month at the British Museum and still not see everything.
This museum houses many of the world’s most amazing treasures…
…and some of its most curious oddities.
Ancient Egypt is well represented, with mummified remains…
…encased in elaborate, beautiful sarcophagi.
Royal pets were also preserved for eternity.
These rare ivory figurines show the Egyptians’ ideals of feminine beauty. The bald one probably had a wig.
Lindow Man was found well-preserved in a peat bog in England, some 2,000 years after his burial.
More Adventures In London
We had lunch at this classic London pub.
On the corner of the building was this interesting detail — along with one of London’s ubiquitous security cameras.
We wanted to hear some of the live music for which the city is justly famous. We found the Green Note and bought tickets to an afternoon show.
Luke Daniels was the featured performer. We, along with the rest of the genial crowd, enjoyed Luke and his band very much.
We were invited by some of the musicians and other patrons at the Green Note to join them at an after-party of sorts. It was a traditional music jam in a neighborhood pub.
A week is not enough time to fully experience London, but we got a pretty good taste. When it was time to leave, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Stansted Express stops at Tottenham Hale Station, just a few blocks from our apartment. So, in contrast to the rocky beginning, we had an easy end to our time in London.
We were excited to be flying to Dublin, where we would rent a car to begin our three-month exploration of Ireland.