How to see the best of London from the River Thames....................
THE ACE CAFE
The Ace, on the North Circular Road, became popular, as it was the last eating place and lorry stop for the traffic coming from the North, down the A1, before they hit London. Because it was open 24 hours, it became a popular haunt for rockers in the 50s and 60s, as it gave them somewhere to meet, and access was easy.
It closed in 1969, and became a tyre depot.
In 1994, Mark Willsmore decided to 'borrow' it for a day, and hold a Rockers Reunion to mark the 25th. Anniversary of it closing. The response astounded everyone. Thousands of bikers turned up, most of them only knowing of it from stories told by their parents.
Mark began to wonder if there was still a need for a good old fashioned cafe-racer society. The tyre depot was shortly coming up for sale, and he put into motion a scheme for raising the money to buy it back and restore it as a cafe.
The outcome has been remarkable. As someone who used to regularly go to the original Ace in the 60s, I can vouch for the fact that it is indeed very similar to how it was, (no jukebox in a cage though!) with only minor concessions having to be made to modern health and safety requirements.
The Ace goes from strength to strength, with bikers from all over the world making almost a pilgrimage to the spiritual home of British biking.
It's a great place for a meet. They have good old fashioned rock 'n' roll bands there on a regular basis at weekends - including some of the great old names, such as Wee Willie Harris. Almost every weekend day, one club or another hosts a day for their particular model, make or style of bike, and it is popular with car clubs too.
Brent Borough Council have also marked the importance of the rocker culture and the Ace, by putting railings along the gardens opposite, which depict bikes from the 60s racing under the railway bridge. (of course, that never happened for real, did it? ;) )
Long may it continue.
The home of the BBC. The Architectural Review of 1932 described Broadcasting House as the "new Tower of London".
It is strangely asymmetrical, which was not the case in the original architectural design, but Val Myer had to adapt his first plan because local residents complained about lack of light.
This meant the building was symmetrical up to the sixth floor, and after that the building was sloped back.
Artistic commissions adorned the building, notably the statue over the front entrance of Prospero and Ariel (from Shakespeare's play The Tempest), by Eric Gill.
The boy Ariel is naked, and the story goes that there were complaints about the size of his penis - so John Reith, then Director-General of the BBC, ordered Gill to amend it.
The building is Grade II* listed.
I love Covent Garden. Its eclectic mix of market stalls and exclusive shops, its little eateries, and the added bonus of street entertainers and classical musicians. We have become very fond of a String Quartet called Bowjangles who occasionally play there. They are led by a very funny, but brilliant, cellist called Ezme, and they really liven the place up. However, I digress, This is part of the spectacular Christmas decorations.
Greenwich is worth visiting as a separate entity from London. Take a boat trip down the Thames, to find Greenwich Park, the Royal Observatory, Queen Anne's House, the Cutty Sark, Gypsy Moth IV, and the National Maritime Museum. To discover the whole place easily takes 2 or 3 days.
HAMPTON COURT PALACE
a Tudor palace, magnificently developed by Cardinal Wolsey and later Henry VIII, alongside a baroque palace built by William III and Mary II. Today, as well as a magnificent tourist attraction, it also houses 'grace & favour' apartments for retired Royal staff.
THE HOOVER BUILDING
LOL you'll be sick and tired of Art Deco by the time I've finished this blog!
The Hoover Building was designed for the Hoover Company by the celebrated art-deco architectural practice Wallis, Gilbert & Partners. Completed in 1932, it was originally commissioned as a factory complex with production, storage and repairs at ground floor level and offices above. Listed in 1980, the Grade II building was in use until the late 1980’s. The original production area is now converted into a Tesco superstore and the Hoover Building to the front is effectively self-contained. The extensive art-deco features on the exterior and in the common parts have been carefully restored. Even the Tesco at the rear, is vey sympathetic to the building.
Once, the A40, the Great West Road, was lined by factories such as this. Sadly, this is the only one remaining, and I'm glad it's been protected and restored.
THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
Naturally, one of London's best known landmarks. It's correct name is the Palace of Westminster, and it is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
It is best known for it's tower, which is often incorrectly referred to as 'Big Ben' In fact, it is the bell which strikes the hour which is Big Ben. The tower housing it has now been named the Elizabeth Tower, in honour of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee in 2012.
THE LONDON EYE
The huge wheel was erected to mark the Millenium, and has remained a firm favourite with tourists. A 'flight' takes around 20 minutes, and the views from the highest point of the revolution are amazing. It's probably the only place in London where you can see the Houses of Parliament and Battersea Power Station in the same field of vision
Yes, really. At one time, the location of the headquarters of Britain's Military Intelligence was kept well under wraps, but everyone now knows the magnificent Art Deco style building standing on the bank of the River Thames.
THE RIVER THAMES
The River Thames has many fine bridges, not the least spectacular being Tower Bridge. And, of course, everyone knows the nursery rhyme about London Bridge falling down!
Now, the Houses of Parliament has a bridge either side of it, and their colours are significant. In the House of Commons, the seats are green, whilst those in the House of Lords are red.
Similarly, on one side of Parliament, Lambeth Bridge is painted red, whilst, on the other side, Westminster Bridge is painted green.
This is the entrance to Lambeth Bridge
What most visitors to the River Thames fail to notice, are the beautiful lions head mooring points all along the river walls throughout the Pool of London
ST. CLEMENT DANES
The current building was completed in 1682 by Sir Christopher Wren. Wren's building was gutted during the Blitz and not restored until 1958 when it was adapted to its current function as the central church of the Royal Air Force
Outside the church stand statues of two of the RAF's wartime leaders, Arthur "Bomber" Harris and Hugh Dowding.
What we know as the Capital city, London, is actually more than one city. There is, of course, the City of London - which is the world's smallest capital city, being only 1 square mile - the City of Westminster, and the city of Southwark.
There has been a church on this site since AD 606. There may well have been a church here even earlier. Southwark Cathedral is the oldest cathedral church building in London, and archaeological evidence shows there was Roman pagan worship here well before that.Significantly, Southwark stands at the oldest crossing point of the tidal Thames at what was the only entrance to the City of London across the river for many centuries. It is not only a place of worship but also of hospitality to every kind of person: princes and paupers, prelates and prostitutes, poets, playwrights, prisoners and patients have all found refuge here.
At one time, recreations such as gambling and prostitution were strictly forbidden in the City of London, so people would cross south of the river to Southwark, where such things were commonplace.
Another one that has been converted for shopping and leisure, Tobacco Dock houses this pirate ship.
THE TOWER OF LONDON
One of the Capital's most significant buildings. In the early 1080s, William the Conqueror began to build a massive stone tower at the centre of his London fortress. Nothing like it had ever been seen before.
Through the centuries that followed, successive monarchs added to the fortifications. Long used as a Royal Prison, it has seen some very historical figures indeed pass through its' Traitor's Gate for either imprisonment, or ultimately, beheading.