Recently I had some time to spare in London before catching my train so I decided I would walk from my hotel in the Paddington area to Kings Cross, a distance of around 4 miles by my circuitous route. It was a dry, crisp January day so ideal for walking.
My first stop was the Wallace Collection, an impressive art museum found in Hertford House on Manchester Square which was the former London residence of the Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace who accumulated the collection during the 18th and 19th centuries. Treasures on display here include paintings by Canaletto, Reynolds and Gainsborough together with French furniture, Sèvres porcelain, arms and armour and countless other priceless objects.
The museum is free, which is great, but like most top museums they display some of the best bits, in this case ‘Indian Painting for the East India Company’ in a separate temporary exhibition for which a charge applies. I made do with the free galleries.
Another plus was that no queuing was required to get in as this museum is probably less well known to the mass tourism market compared to say the British Museum or National Portrait Gallery.
On the negative side I felt the atmosphere was somewhat snobby (more due to the clientele rather than the staff to be fair) and as for the internal courtyard French brasserie I got the impression that most diners were there to be seen rather than to enjoy their ‘beetroot gravlax and thyme sabayon, root vegetable tartar and sea lettuce croquettes’.
Winter might not be the best time of year to see London’s parks but you can still find plenty of ducks, swans and geese to feed and enjoy a stroll through the Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden or the English Gardens.
This is the Griffin Tazza (Lion Vase), a large stone bowl supported by four winged stone lions which was installed in the park in 1863.
Just off Regent’s Park is this fine street, St. Andrews Place. Most of the buildings hereabouts seem to be connected to the Royal College of Physicians. Even if you won the lottery you probably wouldn’t be able to live here.
There’s a lot of new development all over London these days. One block, called Regent’s Place, describes itself as one of London’s best places to work, eat and play.
Even insects are catered for, thanks to these ‘beautiful bug hotels which encourage ladybirds, butterflies, beetles and solitary bees to thrive’. Reminds of some of the budget hotels which I have stayed in in Malaysia which are home to bed bugs, cockroaches and spiders.
Next I passed the Wellcome Collection, a museum of medical history and oddities which was begun by Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853-1936), pharmacist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector. Lack of time prevented me from going inside but I made a mental note to visit on a future trip to London.
Nearby is another grand building called Friends House which is the ‘head office’ of the Quakers. It appears that much of the space is also hired out for events.
Euston Arch Lodges
In front of Euston Station are a pair of Victorian gatehouses which I must have seen dozens of times without paying them any attention. They originally served as parcel and information offices for the London and Birmingham Railway’s London terminus, Euston Station and they stood either side of Euston Arch which was demolished in the 1960s when Euston Station was redeveloped. They have since been converted into tiny pubs, The Euston Tap, a highly rated craft beer house, and The Cider Tap. The names of the stations served by the railway are carved on the exterior.
I would like to have spent more time here but I had a quick look around the Treasures of The British Library exhibition. Here is a small sample of what’s on display:
Other items on display here include the Magna Carta, Jane Austen and Shakespeare documents and some of the Beatles’ handwritten lyrics.
The British Library Philatelic Exhibition has a permanent display of some of the world’s best stamps and there’s also a good collection of banknotes from around the world.
St. Pancras & Kings Cross
From here it was just a short walk past the beautifully refurbished St. Pancras to King’s Cross where the Harry Potter experience at Platform 9 3/4 was doing a roaring trade.