This Bright Land
Explore London with One Aldwych Curator, Dr Matthew Green
London’s Waterloo Bridge is one of my favourite bridges in the world. Standing in the centre on a clear and sunny summer’s day, looking out over the water you get the breadth of history of the whole of our amazing city. From St Paul’s Cathedral, with its awe-inspiring architecture, to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, from the London Eye on the South Bank to The Gherkin in the financial district. It offers an amazing viewpoint and I find it ever inspiring how the constant breeze from the River Thames brings you a breath of fresh air right in the heart of our city.
If you are after a panorama of the city, eschew the touristy London Eye for nothing compares with the view from Parliament Hill, atop which you can stand, in the summer breeze, and gaze down at the metropolis splayed out beneath your feet, with Sir Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s, symbol of London’s resurgence from the ashes of fire, and another plague, clearly visible in the centre.
For the brave, take a dip in one of the Highgate Ponds – there is a men’s pond and a mixed pond, then saunter past Keat’s House and dine in the Hollybush Pub in Hampstead Village amongst media tycoons and faded politicians.
Medieval London was originally swaddled in its tall Roman walls but, from the 17th century, it burst out, sprawling westwards, with the building of utterly gorgeous terrace squares of fine brick townhouses fronting onto swirling sedan chairs and perfumed pigs and sheep from the Home Counties. To take in this new metropolis, why not load up Google Maps and take yourself on a tour of the great squares of the West End, beginning with St James’s and proceeding to Hanover, Grosvenor, Soho, Bloomsbury and Manchester Square, admiring the historic perfume shops, chocolate houses, art galleries and tobacconists that still linger.
London contains some of the best art galleries in the world and if you take in Tate Britain, in Pimlico, then catch a riverboat to its sister gallery, the Tate Modern, and you’ll come away marvelling at the great wonders of craftmanship within, but also the masterpiece that is London as seen from its original highway of commerce, its ‘liquid history’: the Thames.