One of my favorite parts of London is the area known as “the City.” For the uninitiated, “the City” (spelled with a capital C) roughly corresponds to the borders of the old Roman settlement, and is currently London’s financial and business district. Most guidebooks aren’t kind to the City; they label it as boring, without much to attract tourists. It’s true that there’s not much in the way of nightlife, but there’s just something about the atmosphere that I can’t get enough of. Plus, I don’t think guidebooks know what they’re talking about; there’s PLENTY worth seeing! 🙂
My main purpose in heading out to the City today was to go to the Museum of London. I’m really surprised that this one doesn’t get a bit more publicity with tourists; it’s really well-organized, and the exhibits are fascinating. Basically, you follow the history of London from ancient times, through Roman times, medieval times, and so on until you get to modern London. There’s a reconstructed Victorian street, and a great World War II presentation. That may have been my favorite part of the whole museum. Basically, they play this slideshow of pictures and video from the Blitz, and the only narration is voice overs from people who were actually there, sharing their experiences. The majority of the items in the museum (even the ancient and Roman ones) are everyday things. That’s what makes the Museum of London stand out for me; visitors aren’t seeing priceless works of art. They’re seeing things that were used, and worn, and played with, and eaten off of. Everyday life history has always been more interesting to me than battles, and politics! Here’s a sample of a few things that I saw:
After the museum, I decided to just explore the City. All I’d ever really done on my prior visit to London is visit St. Paul’s, and I suspected that there was more to this part of town than just the Cathedral, as fantastic as it is. So, I walked up and down random streets, stopping in places that looked interesting. I found the ruins of Christchurch Greyfriars, which now contain a garden:
John Smith was also buried somewhere nearby (yes, THAT John Smith), but I didn’t find the exact spot. I also discovered the Guildhall Art Gallery; talk about a place that needs to be more popular than it is! It’s small, but the excavated Roman amphitheater in the basement is AMAZING. It was quiet, and cool, and peaceful in there, and I had the whole place to myself! No photography allowed inside, though. You’ll have to come see this one for yourself. 🙂
Also near Guildhall was the church of St. Lawrence Jewry. I popped in there for a little break, and while I didn’t have the whole place to myself, it was pretty empty. It was no Westminster Abbey or anything, but it was still pretty, with interesting old memorial tablets on the wall, stained glass, etc. Plus, it was free to go inside. 🙂 There was nothing specifically forbidding photography, but I didn’t want to disturb anyone in there who might actually be praying.
My last discovery was another church; St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate (how’s that for a mouthful???). I really DID have this one to myself for awhile, and the silence was amazing. In a city of millions (plus who knows how many tourists), it IS possible to find places to be alone, away from the noise. I also find it amazing that London has so many pretty, historically important churches, monuments, etc, that places like St, Lawrence Jewry and St. Sepulchre get forgotten about. Part of me feels bad that they’re not more well-known, while another part of me hopes they never are. It’s nice to feel like I have “secret” places to enjoy.
I ended my day by St. Paul’s Cathedral. I LOVE that place (so much so that it will get its own post sometime), and I can’t be in the area without at least sitting on the steps for a few minutes. Plus, I’ve decided that I’m on a quest for a really GREAT picture of the Cathedral; one that hasn’t been done to death. I haven’t gotten it yet, but I DID like this one:
People have asked my why I don’t do tour groups, and why I DO like to travel alone so much. There are a lot of reasons, but today was a perfect example. If I had been locked into a group, I never would have had the chance to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and see what I wanted. I never would have discovered the Guildhall Art Gallery, St. Lawrence Jewry, or St Sepulchre -without-Newgate, and my time here would be that much less awesome for NOT having seen those places. I can understand how some might like the security of a tour, but give me freedom over security any day!
All in all…this was the best day I’ve spent in London so far. 🙂