That last stop was Charing Cross so the next stop is ours . . .

Here we go - Piccadilly Circus. Everybody get off the train and please mind the gap between the train and the platform. After a short walk along the platform and a few flights of stairs and escalators, we're at the lobby level of the Tube station. This one's fairly big with exits all around us. As we move through the turnstiles and zip our Tube pass through the machines, everthing starts to feel pretty hectic.

I'm the only one of us who's ever been here before so I ask one of you to pick an exit. I deal with your obvious puzzlement by suggesting that the best way to really see London is to just pick a direction and see where it leads. John decides that the Piccadilly exit sounds best as we're at Piccadilly Circus so we head down the short tunnel and on up the stairs. When we reach ground level, we look around to see where we are. We've come up on the south east corner of Piccadilly Circus at the intersection of Piccadilly and Regent Street. The statue of Eros that everyone wanted to see is right there - years ago it would have had traffic going all around it but the circus isn't a roundabout anymore and the statue is actually off a little to the right of the main intersection these days. There's the cluster of neon and other flashing advertising signs across the way that seems to be on every other London postcard and the traffic is really moving. Regent Street comes in from our right, through the intersection and curves off to the left although we can't really see the curve from here. We turn around and head down Piccadilly Street.

Fortunately, the side streets for the first couple of blocks are quite small so we cross them easily and get a chance to contemplate the sensation of watching the traffic on Piccadilly all running on the wrong side of the road. Rather disconcerting that! Soon we come to a small churchyard on the left with a rather old looking church in it. The sign says St. James Church. There's a market going on in the tiny churchyard so we wander the stalls for a few minutes. Nothing catches our eye so we head on out again onto Piccadilly. There's a big Waterstones bookshop on the left but we resist the temptation and continue onwards.

We soon come across the Piccadilly Arcade on our right - a covered passageway and shopping arcade which goes through to the next street. We've got a bit of time so we head on down the arcade. The shops look a bit pricey so we mostly just window shop. When we get to the window of The Armoury of St. James, mere window shopping ceases to be an option! The window and the store inside have literally hundreds of tiny "toy" soldiers. They're all carefully painted and organized on the shelves by country, era and regiment. In fact, a look at the price tags makes it pretty clear that these aren't "toys" at all! In the end, spending one night's hotel room cost (at London hotel prices) on a four inch high soldier just doesn't seem to make much sense so we head on out (John did seem rather tempted though).

When we get to the end of the arcade, we find ourselves on Jermyn Street. It looks interesting so instead of heading back to Piccadilly right away, we turn right and continue on our way (we've been heading east since Piccadilly Circus). Almost immediately we see an interesting looking shop across the street so we carefully make our way across (if it wasn't for the fact that they actually have writing on the road telling us which way to look, we'd probably never have made it across). It's an antique shop that seems to specialize in antique globes of the world and such. A quick wander through the shop proves to us that our initial instincts are right - £27,000 for a globe! Impressive and it would sure look great in our library but we'd need a bigger house first. :-)

Back out on the street, we continue on our way. When we get to the end of the street (which seems to have mysteriously changed into Bennet Street), we cross again and find ourselves outside a fairly upscale looking whiskey and port shop. We pass on by the shop (sigh) and walk past a smartly dressed fellow standing on the stairs leading up to a pretty fancy looking door. John wonders if it's one of those famous London men's clubs. When we get to Piccadilly, we carefully cross Arlington and find ourselves in front of the Ritz Hotel (not The Ritz in Paris but still pretty impressive looking).

The Ritz Hotel takes up the next block as we continue on down Piccadilly. Just past the hotel is an entrance to Green Park Tube station. After the Tube entrance, we get to an entry way into Green Park itself. The first impression of the park is that it's an interesting combination of a reasonably large informal space with a definite sense of order to it. There's a straight path lined with trees that's leading into the park which we start walking down. It's certainly a peaceful place even though (because?) there are kids playing here and there. Over on the left we see a number of large homes. If this was "out in the country" then one would expect homes like this to be surrounded by at least a few hundred acres of carefully laid out space - i.e. these are large homes!

Coming towards the end of the path, we see Buckingham Palace over on the right. On our immediate left is an interesting looking fountain with kids playing on it. Knowing what it is, I take us over for a closer look. It's a memorial to Canada's soldiers. The main part of the memorial is a slightly sloping darkish red rock fountain with maple leaves carved into it here and there. The maple leaves look like they've just fallen out of a tree and there's water running down the slope creating somewhat of a waterfall effect. The two or three kids playing in the water adds to the overall effect in a way which is hard to explain (my first instinct when I saw children playing in this fountain was that they shouldn't be playing on a memorial; it only took me a few seconds to realize that being able to play in the memorial was, in a sense, the point that the memorial was trying to make).

There's a compass rose laid out in stone next to the fountain. The words around the rose read:

In two world wars one million Canadians came to Britain and joined the fight for freedom. From danger shared, our friendship prospers.
The words are repeated again in French (there are more words in smaller type around the edge of the circle but I don't have them written down anywhere).


Turning back towards the Palace, we see a very busy roundabout with a statue of Queen Victoria. We walk through a set of gates with the names of the Canadian provinces on them (called Canada Gate) and then cross over to the traffic island with the Queen Victoria statue on it. Facing the Palace, the street behind us is The Mall (which leads through Admiralty Arch Trafalgar Square although that's not apparent from this distance). The street angling off to the right is Constitution Hill which runs along between the Palace grounds and Green Park (and on towards Hyde Park). Angling off to our left is Spur and heading straight to our left is Spur Road. Behind us over our left shoulder is St. James's Park and off to our right, of course, is Green Park.

Another day when we can get here early enough for the Changing of the Guards, maybe we'll see about taking a tour of the Palace. Right now, let's continue our walk along the left side of the Palace first on Spur and then on Buckingham Gate. There's a pretty tall stone wall with some pretty convincing spikes and razor wire along the top - I guess that they don't like visitors or something! Just as we get to the Royal Mews (i.e. horse stables in the old days), the road bends slightly to the left and becomes Buckingham Palace Road. Walking along this road, we very quickly find ourselves in a very different sort of area. Gone are the wide open spaces of Green Park and the distinguished buildings of Piccadilly. What we've got here is a business district. It isn't exactly ugly but it sure isn't what we were seeing a few short blocks ago.

In another block or so we find ourselves across from Victoria station. This seems like a good place to end our walk so we hop onto the Tube and head to Harrods for some shopping.

I hope that you enjoyed this short walk through London. I've got a bunch more of them planned (including a shopping trip through Harrods). Please let me know what you liked and what you didn't like so that I can improve them over time.

Thanks for coming along.

A few notes

  • The fellow on the steps just before the Ritz really was standing on the steps of a London men's club. I think that it is called the Brooks Club but I could be mistaken.
  • The first version of this writeup implied that the group was arriving at Piccadilly Circus Tube station from the north (i.e. the previous station was Oxford Circus). I've since decided to have them arrive from the south so the previous station is now Charing Cross (why they arrive from the south will become apparent in a later tour).
  • If you enjoyed this walk through London then you might also enjoy my walking tour of Wells Cathedral in the Wells Cathedral node.
  • You may also want to check out Things to see, do and experience in London.
  • Yes. I'm a Canadian but even if I wasn't Canadian, I'd have stopped to look at the Canada Memorial if I'd have noticed it. In fact, one of the things that I like the most about London is that it has "room" for all cultures - i.e. there are statues and memorials to an incredible number of "foreign" people and events.

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