As the New Year descended upon us, I decided to spend a couple of days being a tourist in London, not so much to hit the sales, but to try and see some things that would be new to me, and hopefully capture some interesting photographs. In doing so, I resolved to walk as much as possible, rather than be dependent upon the tube and buses, hence the title of this post!
I booked into a really chic ’boutique’ hotel in Bayswater, called La Suite West (or maybe L.A. Suite West, I’m not sure!). The hotel was dominated by black and white decor, with low lighting throughout (a little too low for me!), but the room, facilities, and staff were all very good. The location too was excellent, very close to Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, and 2 tube stations, Bayswater and Queensway.
I arrived at the hotel around noon on New Years Day, and after depositing my bags, I set off on my first excursion, heading for Kensington Gardens. The Gardens are the location of Kensington Palace, currently the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent (thank you wikipedia!). The gardens also host the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, which was where I intended to start my exploration, however, as it is literally a playground, adults are only permitted if accompanied by children, so that counted me out.
I continued on to the grounds of Kensington Palace, and just as I arrived at the standout feature – The Sunken Garden, the rain decided to pay an unwelcome visit (no pun intended!).
The garden was designed in 1908 by Ernest Law, and is surrounded by a ‘tunnel’ of lime trees, which form a footpath known as Cradle Walk. Whilst the tunnel was no substitute for an umbrella, it did offer some element of protection, although I was rather paranoid about water getting on my camera!
After my fleeting visit to the Palace grounds, I headed towards the southerly exit of the Gardens and the general direction of South Kensington, to explore the surrounding streets – a maze of exceedingly picturesque properties, that typify this very wealthy part of the capital.
In addition to all the wonderful terraces, I was also captivated by the trees that can be found along almost every street – whilst I’m a million miles from being an arborist, I find myself amazed at the impact trees have on the appearance of our suburban landscapes.
After reaching South Kensington, I returned back towards Kensington Gardens, taking in the Albert Hall and the main Queens Gate entrance to the Gardens, adjacent to the quite magnificent Albert Memorial.
I have fond memories of the Albert Hall, as I took my parents there back in 1977 to see Frank Sinatra in concert, in celebration of my mum’s 50th birthday; a very special evening.
By this time I had been walking for over 4 hours, so was keen to get back to my hotel, and a warm drink. Whilst the skys had cleared, the temperature was dropping fast. Passing again through the Gardens, I savoured the sunset, in the company of numerous tourists and locals, enjoying these wonderful grounds, wondering why I had never visited before.
By evening time I was somewhat tired, so I wandered to a nearby pub for a quiet beer and a plate of bangers and mash, followed by an early night.
As I was turning out the light, I checked my iPhone health tracker, which told me that I had achieved 19,551 steps; a great way to start the new year, and quite a bit better than the 1,000 or so that I usually do these days!