“I’m literally trying to represent people because a number is a number, but if you see it all like this it is a visual idea of how many people were there.” Paul Cummings
If you have been reading my latest blog posts, you will know that I spent a far bit of my UK trip either in London or down on the East Sussex coast in Brighton and Hove. One of the days out in London was a girly trip to the landmarks and attractions of the London Bridge Quarter that sits along the banks of the Thames.
Monmouth Coffee Company at Borough Market (source:www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk)
First stop was for a coffee in Borough Market at Monmouth Coffee Company who boast of having ‘arguably the best coffee in Britain‘ (very bold statement indeed) and I have to agree it was pretty damn good and the place is uber cool but I’m not sure I’ve tried enough coffee to verify Monmouth’s place at the top of the nations best coffee list. We strolled through the market and out past Southwark Cathedral, dropping in along the Thames via London Bridge and headed towards Tower Bridge, taking in the attractions between Hays Galleria and around City Hall, the office of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
The majestic Tower Bridge
View across the Thames of the Tower of London
The View back towards the City of London from City Hall
The London Bridge Quarter is a juxtaposition of the old and new. From the world-famous historical sites like Tower Bridge and the Tower of London to the newest shiny attraction, The Shard, from the old Southwark Cathedral to the modern curved glass dome like structure of City Hall, HMS Belfast moored on the Thames to Borough Market.
We had a quick browse around Butler’s Wharf and Hay’s Galleria and then continued on towards City Hall and happened upon some bright coloured benches which are part of an art installation of fifty vibrant book benches called “Books about Town’. Fifty of these colourful benches are dotted throughout London and we saw a small selection of the iconic books brought to life on benches on the Riverside Book Bench Trail that runs along the Thames, one of four trails across the city.
Dr. Seuss is one of the iconic books brought to life on colourful benches of the Book Bench Trail in front of City Hall and Tower Bridge
A fifty-first bench was recently added after a poll by The Guardian where readers were asked to vote for their favourite book to be immortalised on a bench. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere‘ was chosen and is now on show at Kings Place in Kings Cross Station. All the benches will be auctioned on 7th October much like the oversized painted Gromits that adorned Bristol last summer.
Book Benches illustrated with ‘Dr Seuss’, ‘Through The Looking Glass’ and ‘Clarice Bean’ are part of the Riverside Book Bench Trial in the London Bridge Quarter
Next stop was onto Tower Bridge and as we walked across admiring the views back along the Thames, I was quite excited when the alarm sounded to mark the opening of the bridge (something I’ve never experienced before) and we were herded back behind the iron gates to let a small craft with an oversized mast pass through the bridge to continue its journey along the Thames. The teenager was not overly impressed (shocker) with the whole bridge opening fiasco whereas I was pleased to see this ancient bridge in action and its capabilities.
Tower Bridge opening to let a tall masted craft pass through along the Thames
View from Tower Bridge of City Hall, The Shard and HMS Belfast in the distance
The Tower of London
Next on the itinerary was the Tower of London to see ceramic artist Paul Cummins ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red‘ installation. A crimson tide of ceramic poppies have been planted around the perimeter of the Tower in the dry moat to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
The sight and sentiment of the poppies was simply stunning and this exhibition continues to grow daily with a staggering 888,246 poppies to be planted in the grounds in total when it’s finished, one in remembrance for every soldier from the UK, Australia and the Commonwealth who perished during the Great War.
The amazing sight of the ceramic poppies awaits you at the Tower of London until 11th November
The first poppy was planted earlier this year on 17th July and the last will be added on 11th November on Armistice Day. Poppies are for sale at £25 each (to be sent out after Armistice ceremonies are finished) and to date an incredible £11.2 million has been raised for charities such as the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes, who support British veterans.The poppy, synonymous with military remembrance in Britain since the First World War, came from a poem at the time which recalled the bright-red flower growing in the battlefields of Flanders.
The old and the new ~ Tower of London and its WW1 commemoration of poppies and the shiny new Shard in the background
A selection of professional photographs of the ceramic poppy installation at the Tower of London (source:www.thisiscolossal.com)
We left Tower Bridge and made our way back along the opposite side the Thames past Monument and over London Bridge completing the circuit back towards Borough Market for lunch at Rabot 1745 for some ‘cocoa-centric cuisine‘ (see Borough Market post here). A quick walk through Southwark past the replica of Sir Francis Drake Golden Hind Galleon and then back for drinks in a pub under the shadows of Southwark Cathedral.
Replica of Sir Francis Drake Golden Hind galleon sits in St Mary Overie Dock in Southwark
As we walked up to The Shard for our allotted ‘View From The Shard’ visit, the teenager observed that the top of the building was open to the sky, I laughed at her ridiculous notion dismissing it as nonsense, nothing that high would be open, surely! The Shard is Western Europe’s tallest building, and London’s newest landmark which was designed by Italian Architect Renzo Piano (co-designer of the Pompidou Centre in Paris). There’s no doubt that the Shard has changed London’s iconic skyline and at a height of up to 800ft (244m) it offers spectacular views over London for up to forty miles on a clear day.
The Shard, at ninety-five storeys high, is almost twice as high as any other vantage point in the city, and the only place where visitors can see a 360° panoramic of the entire city from the viewing platform. Landmarks such as the London Eye, The Gherkin and Tower Bridge are clearly identifiable on a clear day. Our visit started in a high-speed ‘kaleidoscopic’ lift (not quite as impressive or as fast as the Burj Khalifa but good nonetheless) ascending to the three storey viewing platform on the 69th floor.
More London city views and luckily that huge black cloud did not mare our clear outlook
The vista was absolutely amazing and it was great fun spotting iconic landmarks and attractions, the curved sludgy brown Thames snaking through the city, a miniature London Eye that resembled a hamsters wheel and the busy stations with what look like toy trains on a childs play track. We climbed up via the stairs to the 72nd level to access the partially open air view and I had to issue an apology to the smug teenager who had been right all along (grrrrrrr), it was all a little surreal (and scary) to be so high up and it be open to the clouds above and a sheer drop below.
Arty shot of the teenager
Attempting teenage type pouts and failing in spectacular fashion
At £24.95 a ticket each ‘A View From The Shard’ isn’t cheap (but where is in London these days) but it’s an amazing experience. Interactive telescopes give you even better views and information about all the two hundred or so landmarks/attractions that can be seen is readily available (in ten languages) around the viewing platform, Guest Ambassadors are there to answer any questions (and take photos) and there’s even a champagne bar!
A rather dodgy copy of the ‘official’ photo
After the dizzy heights of the viewing platforms we needed a beverage so made our way to Aqua Shard on the 31st floor for some pre-dinner drinks at the triple-height atrium bar, the perfect end to a perfect visit to The Shard.
SOME SHARD FACTS
~The Shard is 309.6 metres (1,016 feet, high) – almost a third of a kilometre.
~It is 95 storeys tall, with level 72 the highest habitable floor.
~The building is served by 44 lifts, some of which are double-decker.
~Its exterior is covered by 11,000 glass panels (equivalent in area to eight football pitches or two and a half Trafalgar Squares)
~The length of wiring in the building, 320km or 200 miles, would stretch from London to Paris.
~At the busiest point during its construction, 1,450 workers from 60 countries were helping to build The Shard.
~Lifts in The Shard travel at speeds of up to 6 metres a second.
~A fox was found on the 72nd floor towards the end of construction. The fox, which as nicknamed Romeo by staff, is believed to have survived on food left by construction workers.
The beautiful sunny day with intermittent showers, turned into a huge rain storm (well it was August in the UK after all) so we ran for the cover of a black cab and met the menfolk for cocktails at one of my favourite London venues, Somerset House. A few cosmos later at the Tom’s Kitchen alfresco terrace bar, we headed inside to the fabulous restaurant of celebrity chef Tom Aitkens for some delicious contemporary British cuisine served in the simple but trendy setting. The teenager rated the burger high on her burger tasting list (see Burgerlicious post here) and after a great day and night in the capital we walked off dinner on the way back to Waterloo.
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014. All rights reserved.