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Welcome to the world of the Vincent D'Onofrio obsessed - and a bit of real life thrown in.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Number 1 London

Today I managed to use my lifetime membership of English Heritage for the first time. My friend was supposed to go with me, as I can take someone else in free, but she called in sick at the last moment.

I went to Apsley House, which used to be the first house as you entered London from the west, and was really known by the name of Number 1 London. It was given to the Duke of Wellington as part of his reward for resoundingly and repeatedly beating Napoleon.

The house stands on the edge of Hyde Park, at Hyde Park Corner. Next to it is a triumphal arch style screen that marks the entrance to the park. Across the road is the Wellington Arch, which used to line up with the Hyde Park screen, but it had to be moved for a road-widening scheme to ease traffic congestion. In 1852! It is now on a giant traffic island.

The arch is less ornate than was planned, because of economies due to shortage of funds - they had been doing up Buckingham Palace (replacing a very attractive facade with the present lumpen one). Originally the statue on top was a rather over-large equestrian statue of Wellington. It was much ridiculed. After the move, it was sent to Aldershot (where there has been a major army barracks for a very long time) and then, much later, a new statue was commissioned with a quadriga (a four-horsed chariot). It represents the angel of peace on the chariot of war.
You can go inside the arch, and there are viewing platforms. This is the view back across to the park and Apsley House.

These roofs are very Parisien-looking. Up yours, Bonaparte!

This is Constitution Hill. Very funny - we don't actually HAVE a constitution! The gardens on the left are Green Park. On the right are the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

Another view of the Palace gardens - complete with tennis courts, apparently. I think the tower block is the London Hilton. There was great controversy when it was built because it overlooked the Palace grounds.

This is a different statue of the Iron Duke. The pigeons love him.

The area is full of war memorials, including one to Animals in War.
By the time I'd finished here, I was late for lunch, so I caught a bus to an area where I knew I'd find an eatery of some kind. All the coffee shops were packed. So I went to Liberty's Department Store.

Don't be fooled by the appearance. It's a complete fake. They've had to replace the creaky, uneven stairs for health and safety reasons (the carved balustrades remain) but to me the whole place still looks like a fire trap. Even the lift has wooden linenfold style panels. I'm sure that can't be legal!
The shoe department was to die for. If I had a few hundred pounds to spare, and I could still wear the kinds of shoes they sell, I'd be in shoe heaven. As it was, a simple printed cloth shopping bag was on sale for £115. I resisted.


judith said...

wow! what a good day you've had. i enjoyed your pictures. thanks for sharing.x

kris said...

gorgeous pics! i luv the line "the pigeons luv him" too funny!

SnarkAngel said...

Wonderful pics, Val. I especially enjoy seeing the various architectural styles. I happen to be a fan of those Parisian-style roofs. I believe they are called "Mansard" roofs. I stayed in the "Mansard" roof section of an old hotel in Paris years ago. I could open my windows and put a bottle of wine right in the rain gutter, where it would get nice and cold at night. LOL

Drowsey Monkey said...

Love the photos! Even your caps here are great, lol.

Pigeons love statues, it takes away from the dignity, eh?

Music Wench said...

Oh I love the photos! I spent one week in London and a couple of days in Canterbury and wished I could have spent more. I've always wanted to go back and spend more time there. Glad to be able to live vicariously through your photos. :)

Anonymous said...

I tried to post here 4 times yesterday. Sadly, now I might actually be able to, I can't remember what I was going to say...

JoJo said...

Excellent post Val. I love your tours thru the London that most tourists don't check out. But what are "wood linenfold style panels"?

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