It’s only 2 hours and a bit so why not hop over for a day trip from Paris to London. You know you could do with tea and scones for a change. If you take the first Eurostar train out and the last train back, you’ll have at least 7 hours to see 85% of what London is famous for and will be famous for in 2012.
From St Pancras, get yourself a one-day travel card (slightly more expensive if you arrive before 9.30 a.m.) or not if you do this all on foot.
Take the Circle line to bring you to Liverpool St, where you will get off. You will find yourself right smack in the middle of the City of London. This is the oldest and most interesting part of London, where medieval churches and 21st century skyscrapers are found cheek by jowl.
Getting around the Square Mile is best done on foot, so make sure to put on those walking shoes. For finding your way around, use the famous Gherkin as your visual orientation point. (Someone with a less wholesome mind could have come up with a far more imaginative nickname.)
Right opposite is Lloyd’s Insurance Bldg., probably the most stunning building, quite unloved by some.
There’s the Monument erected in remembrance of the Great Fire of London, a fire that burnt all that was not made of stone in 1666. Around it, you will see that medieval street pattern persists – as do medieval street names. Some have disappeared: Sherborn Lane was once Shiteburn Lane. Can your imagination guess what that street was used for?
Bankers in their brogues and suits come to Leadenhall market, Victorian splendour at its best, to have their lunch or for a drink, seated in fairly posh restaurants or in a sandwich bar.
From here, look for directions to St Paul’s Cathedral, Christopher Wren’s masterpiece of a Protestant version of Baroque and the most Catholic of architectural styles. This is where Charles and Diana were married. (There are finger posts all over to direct you there).
The Canary Wharf seen from the Millennium Bridge.
Then go over the river Thames, across the “wobbly“ Millennium Bridge, from where you can see the Tower Bridge, if you look to your left. Tower of London is right underneath it.
Tate Modern, a Millennium project like the bridge, is at the end of the bridge. This was the Bank Power Station, one of the last power stations built in central London (commissioned in 1947). Building power stations so close to Central London went out of fashion after the Great Smog of London killed 100,000 in 1952. It was built by Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed the Red Phone Box.
Inside the Tate Modern.
Look to your left at the end of the bridge to see the reconstruction of the Globe. The real Globe was destroyed by fire in 1613, app. 200 m away.
After a peek into the Tate Modern, get walking along Thames, this time making Big Ben as your orientation point.
You will walk by the Blackfriars Bridge, where Roberto Calvi, head of the Vatican’s Bank Banco Ambrosiano, was found dead in 1982, hanging from scaffolding. An enduring mystery, in which suspects include the Vatican, Mafia and P2 masonic lodge.
By the Waterloo Bridge, you will be at the South Bank complex, originally built in the early 50’s for the Festival of Britain, when brutalist concrete was the “style of the future”. Think “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks and the Umbrella Murder (poisoned umbrella tip in 1978 that killed Georgi Markov who worked at the BBC Bulgarian Service across the river.)
By the Embankment railway bridge, look for the Savoy Hotel and the Shell-Mex House on the other (northern) bank.
Past the London Eye, turn right into Westminster Bridge. Soon you will be walking past the Houses of Parliament (first and most exuberant flowering of the neo-Gothic style which became all the rage in Victorian England).
Across to your left is the Westminster Abbey. recently in the news for THAT recent wedding. This was built by Edward the Confessor in 11th century, consecrated weeks before the Norman invasion of 1066 and where kings and queens and great Englishmen of all sorts are now buried.
Turn right into Whitehall past the Treasury, the Foreign Office and Downing Street.
You certainly will not want to miss the Horseguards Parade. You can enter through one of the side entrances here and go through the arches.
Go right before St James’s Park. To your left, seen from The Mall, you will get a glimpse of Buckingham Palace in the distance. This is the Queen’s – they say: unloved – London residence. (She prefers to stay in Windsor or Balmoral.)
Turn right in direction of the iron gate to get you to Trafalgar square. Nelson’s column dominates it and ahead is the National Gallery.
On the right hand side of the National Gallery, turn left turn into Leicester Square, the heart of London West End. TIP: This should be the ONLY place you should get your half price tickets to see anything in the West End.
Take Coventry Street to Piccadilly Circus to see the Eros statue, one of London’s most famous landmarks.
Cross Piccadilly Square diagonally to Burger shop and turn left past Piccadilly Theatre on your right. Across Golden Square to Beak Street: in the middle of SoHo. From Beak street turn left and Carnaby street right.
Continue to Argyll Street. On your left is Oxford Circus, where Oxford Street meets Regent Street, where you can then spend the rest of the day shopping before boarding your train back to Paris.
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