There are so many interesting walking tours available in London we hardly know where to start. London Walks is a favorite company since they do not require reservations. Each walk starts at a Tube stop and you just show up and pay on the spot and explore a neighborhood hearing great stories and being taken into interesting nooks and crannies that you would never enter on your own. And they offer a discounted price for concessions, which we have learned is the British term for geezers. This is a pricy country, but we have benefitted greatly throughout this trip from being concessions.
This morning we went to Covent Garden, a favorite spot where we bought the plates and cups we still use from a vendor there 35 years ago. We picked out the pattern, he made the dishes and sent them to us. One arrived broken and he sent another. Over the years we have done some of our best shopping on the street. There's also an Apple Store there. Oh, joy!
I digress. Covent Garden is best know to Americans for being the spot where Henry Higgins discovered Eliza Doolittle and decided to turn her into a lady by teaching her how to speak properly. But its original name was Convent Garden, because it was a garden where the nuns who lived on site grew fruits and vegetables. Henry VIII seized their property - a familiar story everywhere we go - and turned the land over to his friends. They decided to build high priced housing and an entertainment district there, but kept the fruit and vegetable theme until fairly recently. Eliza Doolittle was selling flowers there according to the story. The trucks that brought in the produce every day caused traffic jams big time, so a new produce market was relocated and Covent now sells artisan made products such as the dishes we bought 35 years ago and has nice places to eat.
It is near the theatre district, opera and the London ballet school, so the whole area is renowned for culture and performance. Outside the garden, buskers who have auditioned for the right to perform on site, earn their livings putting on performances for passers by, even in the winter months.
We passed the famous Savoy Hotel on our way to the oldest restaurant in London, which was almost knocked down in an effort to widen the road it stands on. People who drive into the Savoy drive in on the right, because most visitors come from places where they drive on the right. Staff wanted them to be comfortable. The Savoy was the first hotel to have phones in every room.
Then we went to St. Martin of the Fields, which we recognized as the spot where we always took our students to make brass rubbings, using a gold crayon and black paper to make copies of the 3D brass figures that used to represent the residents buried in the coffins below. St. Martins is next to the National Gallery and both are part of Trafalgar Square with the Nelson Column guarded by brass lions. This may be the low season, but the square teemed with tourists. It used to be a famous spot to feed pigeons and have them rest on your outstretched arms, but there are few there today. They are messy birds and I suspect that efforts have been made to get rid of them and their after effects.
We had reservations to take a bike tour in the afternoon, but when we arrived at the rendezvous point it began to rain. We think we have changeable weather at home, but we don't hold a candle to London. Every day the forecast is for sunshine and rain and every day we get both. You can go into one tube station in bright sunshine, ride a few stops and come out into pouring rain. The bike tour leader kindly agreed that riding bikes in the rain would not be fun and refunded our money.
So we had a bit of a rest before we headed to Piccadilly Circus for another great play. The Circus area was also teeming with people. While it doesn't have nearly as much neon as Times Square, it made us think of this vibrant spot. Touring from 9am - 11pm could get a bit tiring for old folks like us, but we will never run out of things to do here.