A weekend in London on previous visits might have involved some museums, maybe a show and definitely shopping. This recent Bank Holiday in London was far more chilled. We had taken Rory and his girlfriend with us and had deliberately kept our plans flexible. It ended up being one of our most enjoyable visits to the capital, though I suspect the fabulous weather may well have had a bearing on that.
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Our Go Native apartment was ideally situated two minutes walk from the entrance to both Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Arriving on a Saturday afternoon, we checked in and within minutes of dumping our bags, headed straight out into the sunshine to explore.
|Italian Gardens – Kensington Gardens|
The Royal Parks really do feel like another world as you leave the busy streets behind. We walked past the beautiful Italian Gardens, the Peter Pan Statue and The Arch then enjoyed a good bit of people-watching as we dipped our feet in the running water of the Diana Memorial Fountain. There was such a happy atmosphere in the park, you couldn’t fail to feel relaxed and cheered by the sight of so many families, couples and groups of friends making the most of the weather.
Unexpectedly coming across several mews in the vicinity, this became a new sport for the family. The streets around Bayswater have several mews and are well worth a peek. Although the traditional stables are no longer a feature of these gorgeous little streets, our favourite in the area, Bathurst Mews, does have an actual riding school at one end so we could envisage what they would have looked like in previous centuries. The pretty doors, cobbled streets, the abundance of flowers in pots outside each home and the tranquil atmosphere: was this really central London?
|Bathurst Mews in the hazy evening sunshine.|
Leinster Gardens Fake Houses
If you watched the recent series of Sherlock Holmes, you might remember the final episode when Holmes takes Mary Watson to a street where the houses are fake. 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens look, at first glance, like all the others in the terrace – until you take a closer look. In the photo below you can see a normal house on the left and Number 23 on the right. Check out the windows and you will see that they are opaque. The facade was created when an extension to the Metropolitan Line cut through the terrace in 1868. Such a typically British solution to the problem: don’t just knock the houses down – put up a fake front and let’s just pretend they are still there.
|Spot the fake!|
Underground trains still trundle below the streets and the best way to see this is to walk round to the back of the houses to Porchester Terrace. If you place your camera on the high wall you can take a snap and then look at the result to actually see the tracks below.
|View of the back of the fake facade – seen from Porchester Terrace.|
How have I never visited this part of London before? Taking a path between Paddington Station and St Mary’s Hospital took us along the towpath to the charming area of Little Venice. We were lucky to be visiting during the annual Canalway Cavalcade when over 100 boats from around the country had travelled to the junction of the Grand Union and Regent’s Canals to be part of this wonderful little festival. Stalls, bars, entertainment and the most beautifully decorated boats made this a typically British affair.
Who would have thought our weekend away in London would have had the same ambience as a weekend in the English countryside: public gardens, cobbled streets, canals and secret roof terraces. Perfect.