From Southwark to St Mary le Bow

Tate Modern
My third Sunday here: I still hadn't seen the Thames yet and so decided today was the day. I began with a visit to the Tate Modern, which was tres cool (especially the Dalí exhibition, for all your clock-melting and eyeball-slicing needs) but they don't allow cameras. So you'll have to be satisfied with this photo of the gallery itself, or at least its smokestack (it used to be a power station). The pretty little pub on the left is called the White Hart -- sadly, not Arthur C. Clarke's non-existent pub of the same name.

St Paul's

The Tate sits on the south bank of the river, directly opposite St Paul's Cathedral. So there it is, and there's the Thames itself at last. Ah! the lovely brown colour is almost enough to make a Melbourne boy homesick.

St Paul's

This was taken on the Millennium (AKA Wobbly) Bridge (on the right in the previous photo), with St Paul's floating serenely above a sea of humanity. I actually wasn't worried about wobbles but the possibility of some fool bumping into me and sending my camera flying into the river.

St Paul's

Across the bridge now.

Firefighters' Memorial

This is the Firefighters Memorial, presumably sited just outside St Paul's because of the events of the night of 29 December 1940.

Of course, it being a Sunday, no sightseers are allowed into St Paul's. I was prepared for this, and so planned to head to the nearby Guildhall Art Gallery, mainly to see the Roman amphitheater. But then I saw a cluster of fine buildings and went to investigate, which is where I went wrong ...

Royal Exchange

I knew this was the financial district but hadn't studied up on it, and so I thought, oh, that must the Bank of England. Of course I'm a fool and it's not, it's the former Royal Exchange, now a posh shopping centre. It is a striking building though, if you like Victorian-buildings-that-look-like-Greek-temples (and I do). I did eventually work out that it was the Exchange I was looking, and which building was the real Bank, but managed to totally miss the historic Mansion House across the street.

Royal Exchange

There's a very fine war memorial prominently placed in front of the Exchange, guarded by a pair of enlisted men with SMLEs.

Bank of England

By contrast, the decadent central bankers across Threadneedle Street (yes, in the actual Bank of England) have scantily-clad women outside their building.

Now I decided to return to my original plan and find the Guildhall, but owing to cluelessness and the lack of a decent map, I headed in the wrong direction and ended up walking for ages in an empty and rather uninteresting part of town. By the time I worked out where I was, the afternoon was wearing on and as I was closer to the Museum of London, my planned final destination for the day, I reluctantly decided to skip the amphitheater.

St Alban

Along the way, I found this tower just standing in the middle of a street, hemmed in by huge, glassy office towers.

St Alban

It all that remains of a Wren church, St Alban's. This area was heavily blitzed in 1940-1; the church itself was damaged beyond repair in the Blitz and so the tower is all that remains.

Nearby was the Museum of London, at last. I actually didn't take any photos there, but that's not because it was dull. Just the opposite, in fact -- it was so fascinating I didn't want to bother with lining up shots or worrying whether I caught a reflection in the glass. It's actually one of the best museums I've been to here, which makes it doubly a shame that half of it (the galleries covering the 17th to 20th centuries) was closed! It traces the history of London's inhabitants mainly through archaeological finds and other survivals, and I thoroughly recommend a visit.

London Wall

Next to the Museum are some of the remains of the old London Wall.

London Wall

It was originally built in the Roman period but subsequently rebuilt in medieval times. It's rather more peaceful than its original warlike purpose might indicate.

St Mary le Bow

Finally, I walked down to St Paul's Tube to go home, but it was closed, so I had to trudge back down to Bank, opposite the Royal Exchange. At least I got to see St Mary le Bow Church, being born within earshot of the sound of the bells of which defines a true Cockney. Er -- I think that makes sense!

The next day I bought a proper map ...

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