Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Day in the City

I don't think I've ever been in the City on such a nice day. Blue skies, lots of sunshine, warm but not too hot -- perfect for having sit-downs in churchyards and little parks, and I did plenty of that as I roamed around.

I started my day at Tower Hill to see Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the installation of ceramic poppies in the moat around the Tower of London to commemorate the 888,246 Brits who lost their lives during World War I. A team of volunteers are placing the poppies in the lawn gradually from this August (I think it started on the 100th anniversary of when the war broke out in 1914) until Armistice Day in November. I took a bunch of photos, but I'm afraid they will be mostly crap as the sun was shining so brightly into the moat but the walls of the Tower were in shadow. If I have a cloudy day and I find myself back in the City, I'll try to stop by again.

Next, I headed toward St Paul's Cathedral, stopping briefly at St Dunstan in the East. This Wren church was mostly destroyed during WWII, but the tower and parts of the stone side walls remain. A lovely little garden has been created on the site, with plantings, vines and trees growing among the ruins. Roger brought Molly and me here when we visited him ten years ago, but I hadn't been back since.

Heading westward, I walked along Eastcheap and Cannon Street, passing Pudding Lane without giving it any thought. It was here that the Great Fire of London started in 1666. I didn't realise until I got to the Museum of London later in the day that the fire started on September 2, making this the 348th anniversary. 

My plan was to reach St Paul's by 11:30, when I thought there would be a brief, free tour of the cathedral. Since I've never wanted to pay the twenty-some quid for the proper tour, that sounded like a good idea to me. I'd written down that people were to assemble at the west (main) entrance promptly at 11:30, and I got there at 11:26 to find nothing that looked like an assembly point, a waiting guide or a queue. So I went inside and asked one of the guards where to go for the free 11:30 tour. He pointed me towards a small group gathering inside next to a woman wearing a red sash, and told me to get a sticker from the ticket booth. The sticker said "Bill Viola" on it, and it dawned on me that I was queueing to see the video installation, Martyrs (Earth, Wind, Fire and Water) that I'd read about. Our little group walked down the right aisle to a wall where the installation was mounted and waited for it to finish its 7-minute loop so we could see it from the beginning. I'm not into the religious aspects of it, but I reckon all cultures and causes have their martyrs so the video does have broader impact. And it's quite powerful. I still don't know if there really was a free, brief tour, but I did get a chance to gawp at parts of the cathedral while I was inside. 

After picking up a egg salad sandwich from Tesco Express, I ate my lunch in another little park made in the ruins of a church -- Christchurch Greyfriars in King Edward Street. From there, I strolled through Postman's Park, a favourite destination since I first discovered it by accident in 1998, and around Smithfield Market

Next up was the 2:15 tour of the Charterhouse that I had pre-booked. I've been wanting to see this place for ages, but it had never been open for tours when I was in London before. Brother Duncan gave us a fabulous tour, explaining the founding of the Carthusian monastery, its dissolution during the reign of Henry VIII, the history of the almshouse and school, damage from bombs in WWII, and the continued work of the charity. A former school master, Duncan has been living at Charterhouse for the past two years, along with 40 other brothers. 

I was running out of steam at this point, but made a brief stop at the Museum of London to see the Olympic cauldron and to have a cookie and a sit-down before heading back to Westbourne Park. My plan was to have taken mat class at 7:30, but I checked the studio website just before I was about to head out the door -- thinking that the class might be full -- only to find that it had been cancelled. So, I did my own mini-mat class of stretching. 

50p to pee at the visitors' centre at Tower Hill
£1.60 egg salad sandwich from Tesco Express
£10 for Charterhouse tour
£2.50 cookie
£2.20 for soup from the Coop for my dinner
£5 to top up my Oyster card for my journey to Zone 3 today

21,592 steps, 8.51 miles

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