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Saturday, July 31, 2010

DISCOVERING LONDON BY FOOT

Crossing Abbey Road


"There are places I'll remember all my life..."  the Beatles.

London is one of those cities you really need to explore on foot.  At every corner, down every lane way, through the little parks and gardens, you will find treasures of the past and some of today's London too.  Look up.  Look waaay up! Some of these treasures are the architecture, the small details on the cornices of building, the chimney pots, the doorways.  London never fails to amaze me.  I've been here countless times and there is always some new place to explore as well as the fun of revisiting the old familiar places like Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square.

Yesterday, for my first day here, I walked around the neighbourhood of the Indian YMCA where I'm staying, and around Bloomsbury over to Russel Square.  There are so many things to see, and one of the things I've been doing this trip is trying to spot the big blue plaques on buildings that tell  you what famous person once lived there.  I've taken a lot of photos of the plaques I've spotted so far.  You could make a whole walking tour just  doing this.  I also decided to pay attention to the details of doorways, and have been photographing those as well.  And also some of the London murals, including a couple in the tube stations.
The Beatles Walk
Led by Richard who is known as the Pied Piper of Beatlemania and author of The Abbey Road Cafe Guide to the Beatles, we set off on a walk down memory lane with the Fabulous Five touring the various places in London where they lived and recorded.  Starting from Marlybone Station where A Hard Day's Night was filmed, then on to the British council records office where both Paul and Ringo where married.  And then by various houses, one where Ringo Star's son was born and was later a music studio where  "Eleanor Rigby" was composed.  This house at 34 Montagu became rather infamous and after the Beatles moved out, Jimmy Hendrix lived there in the basement ('66 -'67) until he and his girlfriend were kicked out for the noisy partying. It was also in t his house that John and Yoko later had their famous nude photo taken that caused a scandalous stir, and when the place was raided later by the police, John got arrested for drug possession. He had been tipped off and cleaned the house but one of the cops had planted some there. The cop was later punished for it but the stigma stayed with John. He pleaded guilty because of the stress it had caused Yoko to lost her unborn child, and later when they moved to the States, this old charge was brought up and caused John problems. He never moved back to England again because of it.

We passed by the restaurant where Help was filmed (now under a new name) and went over to 57 Wimpole St. where the Asher family lived.  Jan Asher was only 17 and already an actress when she met Paul in 1963 at a concert.  Paul lived here with her and her family for several years.  Her father was a psychologist, her mother a musician who jammed on her violin with Jimi Hendrix .  It was in t his house that Paul wrote "Yesterday" and later , with John, "I want to hold your hand"

We took the tube to St Johns ~Wood and went over to see the Abby Road recording studios and, of course, the famous crosswalk.  I twas tricky getting photos taken walking across the road because of the traffic, but one of the tourists in the group managed to take a couple for me. The fence around the recording studio is full of graffiti and memorials to the Beatles.  It' a very popular place for tourists to stop.
Later we ended up back at the tube station where Richard has his Beatles shop so you could buy souvenirs.


Old Hampstead Village Pub Walk
Hampstead is one of the poshest and most expensive places to live in |London and going back to the 1700 and 1800s it was a popular place for Londoners to go for the medicinal water and fresh air so a great many famous people have lived and still live there.  Our guide, another Richard (says he's Richard III) took us on an informative two our walking tour down the narrow lanes and shady streets of Hamstead, which was once home to many renown artists and writers and still is today.  (a number of movie stars and celebrities live there)  It's on a high rise in north London with views of the city and the famous Hamstead Heath.  The beautiful brick houses are dating back to the 1700's and are very well maintained and restored.

We first stopped outside the house where a friend of the owners used to stop by to tell stories to the children after their parents passed away.  He told them about a little boy named Peter who used to fly to a land where children never grew old.  Yes. it was here that Peter Pan was conceived!   

We saw the former  home of Robert Louis Stevenson who lived on the same street as well as the house of Oscar Wilde's lover.  Around the corner is a very old graveyard where many of the past celebrities are buried.  Saw the former  home of Judy Dench and the present home of film director Ridley Scott.also Ozzie Osbourne and a few others.  At the Admiral's  house, is where the author of Mary Poppins once lived and next door is the home of the Nobel prize winning author who wrote The Forsyth Saga.

As well we visited three of the charming old pubs in Hamstead and sampled the hand-drawn beer that each of them serves as specialities.  At one of the pubs, which we didn't go in, poet John Keats spent some years living and writing there.  And a the old Burg House, is where Rudyard Kipling lived.  A lot of these famous folk suffered with lung problems including TB and they came to Hamstead to live because of the clean air and supposedly purifying water from the springs there.

It was an enjoyable day, discovering London by foot.  If  I had more time here, I'd definitely take another tour or two. It's recommended for anyone visiting London as the best way to see the city and hear the amazing and interesting anecdotes that the guides will tell you.  You meet some interesting people too.  I spent a bit of time tonight with two fellows from Maryland,   a rather odd couple, but very nice to chat with and having that pint with them at the pub really made my day.

The former house of Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw

Tomorrow I'm off to Wales.  So there's be more blogs coming up soon.

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