Tag Archives: sightseeing

Highgate Cemetery

I know, suggesting a cemetery as a place to visit sounds like a somewhat macabre day out, but bear with me.

Highgate Cemetery is very large, and it was opened in 1839 – so it’s easy to imagine how many people are buried there. However, the company that ran it dropped it when it became no longer commercially viable in the 70s, and as such nature and vandalism meant it went into rather a spectacular decline. Now a charity runs it; the East cemetery is open for public wandering, the West cemetery is by tour only. 

There’s a strangely peaceful atmosphere in the cemetery, given its location in a rather busy area of London, and it is obvious that it was neglected for some time. However, the still slightly overgrown greenery, the tiny, snaking paths between grave stones and the trees just add to the impression that you’ve stepped out of  London into a countryside grave yard. 

But what’s particularly impressive is the gravestones. Some are sadly still bearing the marks of the vandals that kicked them down, however others are absolutely stunning (once again, I realise I sound quite morbid, but its true…) There are angels, dogs, Celtic crosses and mausoleums – but dominating it all is the giant head of Karl Marx, who is also buried here. There are a few famous historical figures here – including George Eliot, a Victorian writer who assumed a male name to ensure her work was taken seriously; and Christina Rossetti, the poet. Douglas Adams is also buried here, for any fans of the Hitchhikers guide. 

Right beside the cemetery itself, and easy enough to walk through on the way from Archway tube station, is Waterlow Park. Green, with a pond and children’s park it’s a lovely picnic spot – and the gardens are worth a wander around in their own right.

The cemetery itself is £4 for admission for adults, free for under 18s and you get a free map to navigate (trust me, you’ll need it). It doesn’t feel sad or closed in at all, it’s a lovely place to drop by and I would recommend it for those looking for some time out of the London rat race. There are few places that manage to escape it quite so completely as Highgate cemetery (though it can get muddy and some of the smaller paths are quite overgrown, this is not a place for flip flops. Nettle stings on your feet anyone?)

 

 

Nightrider, Nighthorror, Night Night

Some of you may have noticed another resounding silence. And I apologise. I wasn’t fibbing when I said I would be posting more regularly, but I took part in the London Nightrider event just over a week ago and time since then has been spent sleeping and doing a strange waddle/shuffle/limp to the loo.

Nightrider – for those who haven’t heard of it – is an event where thousands of cyclists enter to complete a 100km route around London in a night. And, although I’d love to toot my own horn and say I finished, I must be honest – and I couldn’t. My own fault, but I gave it my best shot and I plan to try again next year…I did get a long way, and then wound up hobbling 3 hours home since trains weren’t running, buses don’t allow bikes and an old hip injury flaring up again (yes, apparently I am in fact 90) meant I wouldn’t be getting back on the bike any time soon.

Unfortunately I let exams and job hunting overtake my training, and after the course began on a set of horribly steep hills (especially after – due to an unclear sign – we all went the wrong way down an enormous hill, only to have to turn around and cycle back up it.) was left knackered from the very start.

But onwards and upwards; next year I will be training more, finding myself a big ol’ hill to conquer, and hopefully get some amazingly sculpted legs in the process.

And despite not having finished, and admittedly being disappointed in myself and my unsculpted pins, it was a worthy event. The solidarity of cyclists grouping together in the dark of night to cycle around one of the most beautiful cities in the world was inspiring; especially given the vast amount of people doing so for charity. Most people were very friendly, with lots of chats and helping hands being offered when – inevitably – some bikes broke down.

Although the hills were…well, a bit of a bitch, some of the views from the area around Crystal Palace and Greenwich were stunning – looking right down across to Canary Wharf. Having started at 22.30, we reached Tower Bridge – my favourite point on the route. It was so striking at night…London in general reveals a hidden beauty after the sun has set. If only there were more free view points from which to marvel at the capital.

As I was on a bike, I’m sorry to say I don’t really have any photos. I am not one of those magnificent beings that can ride a bike with no hands. But here’s a map:

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I knew when I was done. It was either continue and risk genuinely hurting myself or admitting defeat. This was a relief in one sense, due to the relief from a particularly gnawing pain from a nasty case of saddle-bum. However the next 3 hours were spent pounding the pavements of London, rolling my bike – using it, at some points, as a make shift crutch. I was wearing a panda outfit to raise money for the WWF, eliciting lots of drunken shouts from late night revellers. At one point, it all got too much, and one of the most surreal situations I’ve experienced since living in London (trust me, there’s been a few) was born…

Sitting on the pavement near Borough and Kennington at 2.16am, wearing a panda suit and drenched in sweat. Slugging down Lucozade with a bike on top of me and a helmet perched jauntily on my head. The drunken slurs and the music from nearby nightclubs. Luckily I wasn’t alone, my other half was walking home with me having also taken part. It was possibly even more surreal for her: sitting next to a sweaty panda loudly slurping Lucozade and commenting somewhat overly philosophically, given the situation, on a variety of issues, complaints and musings.

From there the walk felt never ending, through Kennington, Elephant and Castle, Brixton and on to Streatham. There was one unnerving, Groundhog Day like moment where we looped back on ourselves in a circular subway and realised we were walking up the same road we had just come from, on the opposite side.

There aren’t many exciting landmarks in that area of London. Some odd sights…furniture in the middle of the pavement. A guy so drunk he couldn’t stand (although that isn’t really that odd a sight, on a Saturday night in London). Reggae blasting at 4 am. One man had a barbecue all fired up and going.

A barbecue?!

When back, all I remember is falling into bed and passing out despite hunger and desperate need of a shower. The sun was up, although there had been no spectacular sunrise. It just went from dark, to dark blue, to a dull grey. But we were so exhausted we probably wouldn’t have appreciated.

The next day involved pain, tears and an Indian take out. Bring on next year. I will not be beaten again…

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London By Night

After ‘The Audience’ I went for a walk; since I was so jazzed up from meeting Helen Mirren and didn’t feel too much like hopping on a tube. It seemed easier to walk to Waterloo and catch a bus.

So that is what I did.

I took photos with my phone…excuse their somewhat grainy quality, I have yet to dig out my camera charger unfortunately. Hopefully they’re good enough to give an idea of how pretty London is at night…because, well, it is really pretty.

The sky can be eerie, with its consistently orange glow…there’s never a true darkness in London. But at the same time, the architecture is thrown into sharp relief with the contrast of light and dark thanks to the street lamps…and one can truly admire the carvings masons painstakingly etched out all those years ago.

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Piccadilly Circus…not so much the amazing architecture I was waffling on about, as much as pretty lights. They can be pretty mesmerising. In fact, this wall of adverts was something I always wanted to see after watching Bridget Jones’ Diary after a teenager! Now I’ve seen it a million times, but it always reminds me of that.

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A building on Waterloo Place. It’s pretty dull purpose wise, something to do with banks I believe, but I thought it seemed quite striking here.

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You can just see the, still illuminated, London Eye beyond those trees. In front there is a protest. I’m not sure exactly what they were protesting about, but they seemed pretty settled with tents and such.

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Trafalgar Square – that’s the National Gallery. As you can see, it’s unusually empty in the evening.

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Classic telephone boxes.

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Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (actually renamed Elizabeth Tower, in honour of our Queen and her – now 61 year long – reign. She’s close to claiming the record from Queen Victoria for longest reigning monarch!)

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Elizabeth Tower up close.

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Walking across Westminster Bridge is probably one of my favourite night time views of London. Since my mobile camera is not fantastic, I couldn’t capture the essence of the view from this bridge. But it really is pretty at night. In the final photo they have turned off the lights on the London Eye, but it is even prettier when they’re still on.

Although I imagine it’s one hell of an electricity bill!