Saturday, April 17, 2010

London - Bayswater & South Kensington

The flight to London on Virgin Atlantic was smooth and uneventful followed by the usual crush on the underground getting into London. We had a package deal with Virgin Atlantic that gave us three nights in the Central Park Hotel about two blocks away from the Bayswater tube station and fifty yards away from Hyde Park. We stayed at another hotel in this area last time we were in London and enjoyed it. Transportation is good with two underground stations, plenty of buses and Queensway is filled with restaurants.

We arrived at the hotel shortly after 9am and were amazed to be checked in immediately instead of being told our rooms would not be ready until after 3pm. An even bigger surprise occurred when we went to our room on the seventh floor and found that the room was large with two large windows with a view west.

After a long day's walk, it was wonderful to lie on the bed in the afternoon with the sun shining in and warming our weary bones.

The view. Way off in the distance, you could see the arch at Wembley Stadium.

Even the bathroom looked good and it was very clean. As my father would have said, 'it was a good camp' and I would recommend this hotel. Easily the best I have ever stayed at in London. After gratefully lying down on the bed and sleeping for two hours, we headed off to explore.

There is just so much to see in London. A little lane-way like this would be a feature in many small towns, but in London, it is totally unremarkable.

The traditional English symbols still abound.

They look so grand from the front with the portico out front. Scroll back up to our view from the window to see what they look like from the back.

Some houses are even more posh.

Unfortunately, whenever you want to take a photo, there is always some other photographer ruining the view. This street (Inverness Terrace) really does look impressive and because one end is partially blocked off, there is very little traffic and it is a pleasure to stroll along.

So we crossed over into Kensington Gardens, the western end of Hyde Park, which reminded me very much of walking in Fawkner Park in Melbourne which I used to cross every morning on my walk to work back in 1975. The sky was clouded over with a bit of a cold breeze so there weren't hoards of people about.

We wandered over towards Kensington Palace which I had never been near before. There were dafodills everywhere and still in full bloom.

More dafodills with the Kensington Palace Orangery.

The Orangery is now used as a restaurant and is the only building in the vicinity with architectural merit.

Kensington Palace looks like a reform school or prison, certainly not a palace. In my humble opinion, they should tear this dump of a palace down and replace it. Even a McDonalds would be better.

Even Queen Victoria turned her back on it.

Periodically we would come across small groups sitting on the ground in the park. Some appeared to be meetings like this one, others simply picnics. The English have to be really hardy to do this because it is distinctly cold out in the open with the damp wind coming in off the North Sea. Builds character, I suppose.

For two seconds, there was a break in the clouds and the sun illuminated the gold statue on the Albert Memorial. Unfortunately, by the time I got my camera ready, the sun was gone. It's the quick and the dead on a gloomy London afternoon.

Detail of the fence around the memorial.
Across from the Royal Albert Hall were these set of tracks with a replica of Stephenson's Rocket all steamed up, ready to go. You could take a fifty yard ride in an open carriage behind it.

The driving wheel. Such a fetching yellow.
The walls of the Victoria & Albert Museum are being restored.
The completed restoration.
There is just so much stuff in this place, any piece of which would be the star attraction of most other museums.
I was particularly impressed by two rooms that featured full size plaster casts of various famous items from other cities or museums.
Here is the plaster cast of the Florence Bapistery doors
I wish this plaster cast concept were used more in other museums. Interestingly, there were quite a number of artists making sketches of these casts.

The entrance / exit to the museum. I liked the colour.

You are probably wondering why does he have this gloomy picture of a Pieta. Next door to the V&A is the Brompton Oratory. Just inside to the right is this Pieta and to the left are two marble columns. If you look behind the right marble column, there is a small space that was reputedly used as a dead drop by soviet spies.

You are not supposed to take photos, so I took these photos with no flash, hence the blur.

So now for a bit of colour as contrasted to the white and grey of so many of the other photos.

We have really enjoyed strolling along some of the less crowded back streets where there is virtually no traffic and it's quiet and peaceful. This is Ennismore Gardens Mews. It reminded us of a back street we walk down in Philadelphia on the way to the Kimmel Center for the orchestra concerts.

In front of one of the houses in the mews. These residences are highly desirable and very expensive to buy.

Some more colour.
The horse riding track in Hyde Park / Kensington Gardens. I presume it is Rotten Row.
A statue to Prince Charles, rampant in Kensington Gardens. Just kidding.
I'd never thought that dogs could damage trees, but apparently they can.


  1. Hehe, some things in this country make me laugh - I do think the English sometimes rather have a bee in the bonnet ("serious threat to park visitors" etc???).

    The splashes of colour are called camellia (the red one) and euphorbia (the green one), just in case you didn't know. I think camellia are quite well known but I've had a few visitors who were quite taken by the "exotic appeal" of the one they didn't know...

    But I'm surprised you didn't get proper pictures of the Brompton Oratory (after all you've got plenty in the NT places which I never managed...). I once went into the Oratory, chatting along to my friend and never seeing the no photo signs - I took loads, flash and all, and nobody ever complained!