A bright sunny morning, so we started the day with a tube ride to London Bridge, walking across the bridge to Monument and a stroll along the north bank of the Thames. Our reason for starting the day here was to take a ride to the top of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building,
Officially known as ’20 Fenchurch Street’ where we had pre-booked tickets for an 11.15 am visit to its 35th floor Sky Garden. It’s completely free to visit the Sky Garden but tickets must be booked on-line and are available a week in advance. Once inside, visitors are able to stay as long as they wish and as tickets are limited there is ample room to relax and enjoy your visit. It’s a little known attraction but one I highly recommend as I’m certain you won’t be disappointed! The garden opened to the public in January 2015 and entrance is free as it was an agreed condition when planning consent was given for the construction of the building.
Entering the building is very quick and efficient, visitors just show their e ticket and some form of ID before passing through airline type security. A high speed lift then takes you up to the 35th floor which has a beautifully landscaped, spacious roof garden, cafe and bar. From the full length balcony there are panoramic views overlooking central London and we could even see the arch of Wembley football stadium in the far distance. There is stair access up a further two floors to the restaurant area with rear views across the city. It really is a great place to visit, both for the splendid views and to perhaps meet friends for a drink or meal. It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t cost anything as a visit to the nearby Shard would set you back a staggering £25.95 per person!
On leaving the Sky Garden we strolled along the river towards the Tower of London to reach our next destination St Katharine’s Dock. This hidden gem is tucked away behind the Tower of London and was originally part of the Port of London but today is an attractive leisure complex with cafes and restaurants overlooking a yachting marina. The Royal barge ‘Gloriana’ is frequently moored here alongside ultra expensive Sunseeker yachts and more traditional boats.
Our next stop was Piccadilly Circus and a walk along Piccadilly with its elegant buildings. We called into The Royal Academy of Arts with its ornate courtyard entrance arch. Entrance to the building and museum shop is free but tickets need to be purchased to view exhibitions. Across the road from here is Fortnum and Mason, claiming to be the world’s most luxurious department store. It opened its doors in 1707 and is the home of old English elegance, famed for its hampers and loose leaf teas. It’s interesting to take a look around, the food hall in the basement being my favourite, where you might find some tasty samples to try.
A little further along Piccadilly lies Green Park so we took a late afternoon stroll through the gardens before crossing The Mall and entering St.James Park. By chance, our arrival was perfectly timed to watch the sun set over Buckingham Palace and passing the lake we spotted pelicans, geese and ducks.
We ended the day with a visit to Greenwich, taking the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) from Canary Wharf. Riding on the DLR is included in the travel pass and if you haven’t travelled on it before, it’s a fun experience. The trains are driverless, so try and sit on the front seats of the first carriage for the best views as the train snakes its way between high rise buildings. The DLR doesn’t have barriers so you will need to look out for the Oyster card readers to ‘touch in and out of’ when using the system otherwise you will be overcharged. These are usually to be found on the main concourse rather than on the platforms themselves.
It was already dark when we arrived in Greenwich so I will leave exploring this district until a future time. The purpose of our evening visit was to dine at The Gate Clock pub (named in recognition of the Meridian Line in the nearby Royal Observatory).
After a fun filled day exploring London, it was back to our hotel in Vauxhall for a good night’s rest.