Walk with us in the Square Mile

Walk with us in the Square Mile

When a couple of dear friends from half a world away told us they’d be in London this weekend, of course, we just had to engineer a get together, didn’t we?  So it was that for the second time this week, I caught the train to Paddington Station, with time with my Hero by my side.


We caught my favourite #23 bus and nabbed seats upstairs, almost at the front.  The chap in front was fast asleep, so thankfully, i could still get a great view!


We like to meet people in memorable places and Eleanor’s Cross was mutually convenient if a little dangerous – who knew it was a kind of roundabout for taxis turning in front of Charing Cross Station? (My excuse for cutting the top off my photo)   As it happens, we didn’t meet there anyway, but bumped into one another in the station itself, by Caffe Nero.


After a bit of catching up – it’s almost a year since we last saw them – we jumped back on another 23 and headed up The Strand and beyond, getting off at The Bank of England.


A few years ago, I joined Mary, Diana and Kristy on a Photographic Walking Tour of this area, and I thought it would be a great foundation for a walk this morning.  So we began in the Royal Exchange and set off along Cornhill.  Are you with us?


I’d created a google map of a few places to head for, including the cream coloured pillar down there near the letter box.  It was blue when we were last there, and strangely, it’s blue in some of the google street views and cream in others!   The pillar itself is a water pump – but not any old water pump, needless to say.


This area is full of history and though we didn’t want to linger too long, it was fun to spot a few landmarks, such as the site of one of the coffee houses.  Having seen the grasshopper on the top of the Royal Exchange, we began to spot the motif all over the place, too.


We wandered through the alleys to Lombard Street and dropped into the church of St Edmund for a few minutes.


I mean, could you have passed this by?


All the time, we were looking up, enjoying the contrasts between the very old, historical sites around us and the towering modern ones above.  Looming especially large was the Walkie Talkie which has acquired the nickname of the “fryscraper” as a result of the solar glare caused by the curved glass panels.


Though we’d intended to make a left turn through an alley back onto Cornhill, we found ourselves distracted by the Monument.  Of course, we needed a closer look, though none of us felt like a climb!


Retracing our steps then, back to the alleys and in particular, to St Michaels Alley, where George and the Vulture is to be found.


We couldn’t resist a peek inside the church of St Michael, another Wren masterpiece with significant input from his colleague Nicholas Hawksmoor.


Our next stop wasn’t quite the same haven of peace and tranquillity but by now, we were feeling in need of a short sit down and a little refreshment.   The Counting House fitted the bill perfectly!


By now, we were nicely settled into our groove.  “Oh yes, there’s another Wren church…” “of course, there was the great fire, wasn’t there?”  “Hmmm…oh look, there’s the Walkie Talkie again”…  But we had a little gem up our sleeve which was just around the corner.  We waited for the reaction of our friends…


Oh wow!  Leadenhall Market never fails to amaze.  Just around the corner from all the commercial HQs, on this Friday lunchtime it was buzzing.

We love it.


It’s here where the contrast of old and new is really apparent.  The Lloyds building is immediately outside the market and comes as quite a surprise!


There’s steel and concrete and glass by the ton, and there, peeping from behind the curved glass wall, is the Gherkin.


Even so, the history is never far away.


Mixed opinions on the Lloyds building, though I think it’s worn well; better than the Centre Pompidou, perhaps?


Just across the road there’s the cheese grater


But the Gherkin remains our favourite!

We made a little side trip to take a look at Konditor and Cook whilst we were here, though I can’t say it was as impressive as the website and reputation had me believe.  Oh well…

From here, it was just a short, unremarkable walk up to and along Bishopsgate and a right turn into the new Spitalfields market, confusingly referred to as “old” Spitalfields Market.


Plenty to do and see here, of course, but you know, we were starting to get hungry!


We snooked into the top of Folgate Street to take a quick look at the exterior of Dennis Sever’s house before heading back to Spital Square and lunch.


From the outside, it doesn’t look much, but believe me, Galvin La Chapelle isn’t one of our favourite restaurants for nothing!  On this Friday lunchtime, it was buzzing and with Chef himself in the kitchen, every plate was a delight.  Not only that, but Edward was there to meet us! 

After a couple of hours of good food, lively conversation and the best of company, we just had to ease ourselves out of the comfy chairs and resume our peregrinations.


We couldn’t be in this area without showing our friends another equally fascinating side to this part of London, so retraced r steps through the market and out to the old Trumans Brewery site.  Always visually exciting, there’s usually something different to see and yesterday was no exception.  But we were getting a little footsore, so we mooched on through to Brick Lane, where the invitations to step inside every curry house on the street for lunch were coming thick and fast!


So we turned right into Fournier Street and admired the fine houses on both sides, yet another side to this fascinating corner of the city.  Well, not “The City”, now, of course, because we are in Tower Hamlets, but we’ll use the term loosely!


Who lives in a house like this?  (Someone with bottomless pockets, I imagine, for these houses must be incredibly expensive to buy, to restore and to maintain)

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With a final short stop at the Superga store in Spitalfields market to buy a pair of silver sandshoes for me, our afternoon was drawing to a close.  We made our way back to Liverpool Street station and the #23 bus stop to begin our journey home.

Our goodbyes were said on the bus, somewhere along the Strand.  Our friends had tickets for the theatre, we had tickets for the train.  We’d had such a lovely day in their company and look forward to more days with them later in the year, when we’ll go on a bigger adventure together. 

There might just be more than a little craic to look forward to!

Sunday morning invitation

Sunday morning invitation

What a show!

What a show!