Yesterday’s London Bundle gave you a tour of the hub of British Royalty/Parliament from Westminster to Buckingham Palace. Before long, I’ll be delving into London’s neighborhoods, but before we leave the center City, I’d like to walk you along the Embankment/Strand Strip.
You can begin either west or east, but I’m going to recommend hopping the Tube from wherever you’re starting from and take it to either St. Paul’s or Mansion House Tube stations. From either station, a 1-minute walk will get you to the front steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral itself. A church dedicated to St. Paul has stood on this site for 1,400 years (no kidding), and the current structure designed by Sir Christopher Wren is celebrating its 300th anniversary. This immense architectural feat is awe-inspiring enough to view from the outside, but if you’re willing to spend the time and the fee, I highly recommend touring the inside as well. At the very least, dash down into the Crypt Cafe for a refreshment and visit the Gift Shop—you’ll be able to peer into a bit of the crypt as well through the wrought iron gating.
Other breakfast/lunch options at this point (if you’re just starting your day) are just to the left of the Cathedral at the Paul or
Tea cafes or duck over a little further into Paternoster Square for a variety of cafe/restaurant options. Just a block or so east of the cathedral is Bow Lane (by Mansion House station), a darling network of narrow streets filled with shops and pubs. If you head a little north instead, you can see Postman’s Park and/or Smithfield Market, which is near the site of where William Wallace (a.k.a. “Braveheart”) was executed in 1305. If you do wander by Postman’s Park, nearby across the street is an old bombed-out church just behind the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch corporate office on Edward St., which was an unintended target during WWII when the bomb was aimed for St. Paul’s. Can you imagine if they’d hit their mark??
Speaking of Edward St. and executions, if you round the corner from the BofA office onto Newgate street, a couple blocks’ walk will bring you to the Old Bailey. Dating back to the 17th century (when it was rebuilt after the Great Fire), the Old Bailey is England’s Central Criminal Court and, yes, the one that V blows up in the movie V for Vendetta, for those of you who are better with your pop culture than your history. The former Newgate Prison at this sight held public executions in the area, which renders this site mega-haunted as far as paranormal experts are concerned. The Viaduct Tavern across the street (dating back to 1875) is itself alleged to be one of the most haunted sites in London, though that doesn’t stop the professional folks from piling in by 5pm every weeknight. 🙂
If it’s a mini-pub crawl yer after, round your way back to the front of St. Paul’s Cathedral and head west down Ludgate Hill into Fleet Street (as in the Demon Barber!). Eventually, you will see a sign on your right beckoning you into a wee alley, in which Ye Olde Cheschire Cheese pub is tucked. “Olde” indeed, this public house was rebuilt in 1667, and its cellars (which I personally think provide the most atmospheric seating–just be sure to mind your head on the way down!) date back to a 13th century monastery. Charles Dickens was once a regular there.
Our bundle is not done yet, but, alas, I will leave you to tuck into your fish-n-chips or meat pie at Cheschire Cheese until Part II of our Embankment/Strand Strip saga.