Daily Archives: June 18, 2013

A dash to the London Zoo

This afternoon we planned to dash over to the London Zoo for an hour or two. I read in my guide that the closest station is Baker Street (just a few steps from Sherlock Holmes' home, which we passed on the way). Baker Street is only three stops from Paddington, so I thought “easy”!

But when we got there we found out we needed to take a bus from the station to the Zoo. But we couldn't find the bus stop, despite asking a very nice man in a policeman's costume standing outside 221B Baker Street (as it happens his information was wrong so clearly he's not a real policeman!). The fake policeman told us it was a quick 5-10 minute walk to the Zoo through Regent's Park and Primrose Hill (I was half expecting to see Jude Law any moment, who lives in the area apparently). It is a lovely walk through Regent's Park but more like 20-30 minutes! London has many quite wild spaces close to the city, which help to make it a really liveable city. If you've had enough of the crush on the Underground coming home from work (which we experienced on the way home from the Zoo) you can escape to the top of a hill or the middle of a meadow.

Finally we arrived at the Zoo. Forgetting our sore feet for a moment, it was worth it. I have never been to a zoo when it is pretty much empty of people. Because we got there so late there were no crowds at all. So we could get up close to all the animals (except for the ones that bite). London Zoo has some spectacular new display habitats, including Tiger Territory (with two tigers) and Gorilla Kingdom (with five gorillas, one of which looked incredibly unimpressed with us as we looked at him). It also has some lovely old buildings, including the Reptile House and the Aquarium.

The Reptile House at the London Zoo

Oliver had lots of fun and it was interesting to compare the animals on display with those at Taronga Zoo. Both beautiful old institutions. An afternoon well spent.

Oliver at the London Zoo

Tomorrow we will catch up with Martin Conway again and we'll attempt to fit a tour of Chelsea Stadium and The Tower of London into one day.


Monday in London

We changed our plans for today. Oliver and I were planning to visit Windsor Castle and Legoland Windsor, but I read some dire reviews of Legoland on Trip Adviser. So we decided to go to the Tower of London instead. This meant a Tube ride from Paddington to Tower Hill. But because I have off peak travel cards, we can't get on the Tube until after 9.30am. So we started walking towards Buckingham Palace with the plan to walk there and then catch the Tube to the Tower after 9.30.

We never made it to the Tower. We'll save it for tomorrow. Instead, we spent the day walking through London and we covered lots of ground.

First we walked from Paddington down to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Hyde Park is enormous and reminds me of New York's Central Park or Sydney's Centennial Park. Lots of joggers, people walking dogs, people riding bikes (everywhere without helmets including in the London traffic; madness!) and even some horse riders. We walked past the Italianate Garden, which Prince Albert designed and built for Queen Victoria. Beautiful!

The Italianate Garden in Hyde Park

Then we walked along the Serpentine, a man made lake that winds throughout the park. And on to Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch, which is home to the moving Australian War Memorial. It's a sweeping wall of grey granite into which has been carved the names of the home towns of all those Australians who died in World Wars I and II. The carving has been done in such a way that some of the towns spell out the locations of our famous (or infamous) battles, such as Gallipoli, Pozieres and Kokoda.

The Australian War Memorial at Marble Arch

We then walked down Constitution Hill to Buckingham Palace. Big crowds here. We amused ourselves watching the guards parade around for a while and Oliver found another naked statue to laugh at. He also threw some pence into the fountain for good luck.

A guard on the move at Buckingham Palace

Views of Buckingham Palace

We wandered through St James Park and on to the Churchill War Rooms. These are a set of underground bunkers from which Churchill directed British and Allied forces during World War II, especially during the Blitz. Oliver found these fascinating. We used a great kids' audio guide as we ducked in and out of the tiny rooms, which seemed to have housed the most enormous workforce under incredibly difficult conditions. Highly recommended.

The Churchill War Rooms. On the audio this guy threatens to kill anyone who tries to get into the Cabinet Room

The Churchill Museum and War Rooms

Our last few stops this morning were Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament — a quick gander before we jumped back onto the Tube — and a return visit to Hamelys Toy Store at Oliver's request.

A view to Big Ben just about to chime 12 o'clock

By this time we were starving and so followed Karen G's advice and ate at Pret a Manger before heading back to our hotel. We are resting up now before heading out to visit the London Zoo for an hour or so.

I'm impressed with how willing Oliver is to keep walking. We've walked a lot these last two days. My feet are sore!