Thursday, 18 February 2016

Modern London As I've Never Seen It Before. . .

London is a city with so many literary and historic layers to it, that you can easily spend days, weeks, wandering the streets, engaged with all the fascinating architectural detail.  And most of the tourist areas are focused in and among the city's older and magnificent treasures.

But London is also a very modern working city too, and on our recent mini-break, the Liverpud and I decided to undertake a walking tour of the financial area and get up close with some of the buildings we'd only see from afar across the Thames.  There are lots of architecture walking tours offered in London and you can pay quite a lot for some of them, but I'd recommend downloading this free guide produced by the City of London and just doing it yourself.  It took us about 2 hours and it was fascinating.

But actually, in order to get the best views of the new, you need  to climb the old.  So we started our tour at the Monument , which at 4 pounds, is one of the best tourist deals in London.

When you get up to the viewing platform, you are right among the modern buildings.  Here you can see the "Walkie-Talkie", the "Cheese-grater" and the "Gherkin".

With a great view of the Shard on the other side of the river.

Then it was off to St. Paul's Cathedral which I'd never actually been in before.  This is a bit more pricey but I thought it was worth it.  There is no photography allowed in the cathedral, but as you climb up to the viewing platform, you pass the Whispering Gallery (great fun to test out!) and then at the top of the dome, there's this tiny window in the floor which looks straight down onto the beautiful floor.  So you need to climb quite a few steps to take a photo!

You also get this view of the city.

And you can look down on Paternoster Square where our walking tour will begin in earnest.

And a reminder that the city's wealth initially owed a lot to sheep.  This is part of a statue called Paternoster by Elisabeth Frink.

I won't go through all the buildings that we saw, but here are a few that I particularly liked.  This is One New Change, built in 2010.  It uses more than 6,300 glass panels in 22 different colours.

 I love how it can just blend into the sky.

100 Wood Street takes classical Portland stone and alternates it with glass.  I like the pattern on the roof.

There's quite a trend for buildings to show the inner workings from the outside, or indeed on the outside.  I was drawn to the cheery yellow of the pipes and lifts on display at 88 Wood Street.

This is Ropemaker Place, and it has indigo-hued windows that change with the sun's position and help reduce the energy needed for cooling the building. 

And this building at Broadgate is huge!  Set back in its own courtyard of shops and restaurants, it's the kind of building you'd never come across in London unless you worked in the area. 

Lots of buildings such as the Broadgate Tower, like to feature parts of the engineering on the outside.

And the Gherkin is pretty impressive up close.

I particularly loved this kinetic bicycle sculpture by Ai Weiwei called "Forever" that is in front of the Gherkin.  From all angles it looks as if the wheels are turning.

More interesting outside cladding on the Cheese Grater building.

And the Lloyd's Building.

And you have to remember to look up to appreciate how the curves and glass in this area frame and reflect the sky and the architectural landscape. There's a strange beauty to be found among these steel boxes.

And no doubt the landscape will constantly change. I do like how London buildings are given a nickname.  No doubt we'll be back to see how "The Scalpel" looks when it's completed.

I highly recommend having a walk around this area (and there are plenty of coffee shops scattered about to keep you hydrated and energised -  I can highly recommend the pistachio macarons at Paul's).  There are hidden sculptures and quite lovely courtyards and we even stumbled on an unexpected skating rink.   We ended the day by crossing the Thames and walking along the South Bank, having dinner along the way, and then enjoying the city lit up at night.

Just remember that even with comfortable shoes, pounding the hard sidewalks is much tougher on the feet.  I was so glad our hotel had a nice big bathtub.

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