LONDON: A STROLL IN KENSINGTON & NOTTING HILL

Hello! In recent days we heard a lot about UK and its particular situation, after deciding to abandon UE. For me it’s still hard to imagine Great Britain no more part of Europe, but i can only assume that we’ll “absorb” what happened. Today more than ever I feel close to Londoners and I feel nostalgic about the beautiful City of London.

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This post is about the trip of my last time in London, in January 2015, and today I’ll bring you in two well-known areas not to miss if it’s your first time in the City. Today we start our stroll from Brompton Road, to take a quick look at Harrods, Mecca of the shopping centers. I’m not that passionate about department store, so I didn’t head out on the long queue at the entrance, but if you love shopping sure this is your place.

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From here you can venture into the heart of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, immediately west of the City of Westminster, real nerve center of modern London. The Borough of Kensington and Chelsea host several museum (like the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum), universities, embassies,  and lot of exclusive residential areas of the City. Continuing towards South Kensington, you could stop by the Royal Albert Hall, one of the most famous concert hall. The busy Kensigton Gore separate the Albert Hall from the Albert Memorial, another building in honor of  Albert Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria.

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In 1851, the Great Exhibition (for which the Crystal Palace was built) was held in Hyde Park. The exhibition was a great success and led Prince Albert to propose the creation of a permanent series of facilities for the enlightenment of the public in the area, which came to be known as Albertopolis. The Hall was constructed mainly of red bricks, with terra cotta block decoration. The dome on top was made of wrought iron and finally glazed.

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Before proceeding, you should go back to the City of Westminster and pay a visit to Buckingham Palace, residence and administrative headquarters of the reigning monarch of UK. If you’re lucky enough you could be present for the daily ritual of the Changing of the Guard; take a look also at the waving flag on the rooftop: when the Union Jack is lifted, the Queen isn’t in the palace: if not, you’ll see the Royal Standard flag.
During XVI/XVII centuries, Buckingham Palace was only a rural area of the city of Westminster: purchased as hunting lodge, successively it was used for the silkworm farming with King James I’s patronage. In 1700, it becomes property of Duke of  Buckingham, from which it derives the name. He builded a first abode – Buckingham House – where nowadays lies the residence. The first king to come into possession of the House was George III in 1762. The arch of Triumph, (today Marble Arch) was the entrance of the Palace: at first it was where now there is the exterior facade, but it has been removed under Queen Victoria to make some room for the enlargement of the Palace. Queen Victoria was the first to live there together with her husband, Prince Albert, and the 9 sons starting from 1837. She added new rooms, among which the Ballroom, and a brand new wing. At the death of the husband, when the court entered  a perpetual mourning, the works stopped and haven’t been completed.

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Returning in Kensington Borough, you sure will notice many residential sections – with beautiful pastel coloured houses -, of which Notting Hill is maybe the most famous; it “starts” from Notting Hill Gate, (also name of its Tube station) until Portobello Road, where takes place the characteristic market. The street took slowly its shape during XIX century, settled between the two big areas of Notting Hill and Paddington. Thanks to the rich middle class of the City, its shops and marketplaces rapidly flourished.

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Portobello Road especially owes its fame to the daily market which encourages a lot of tourists, in particular on Saturday, when also many antique dealers are taking part in it. The scenery is really cozy and familiar, thanks to the abundance of tiny shops and the Victorian architecture of the buildings.

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to be continued..

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LONDON – WESTMINSTER

Today I would like to invite you for a promenade in the Westminster Borough of London, one of the most famous central area in the City. Sounds maybe like a cliché, right? In this area indeed there are concentrate most of the principal attractions of the City. In few words, a must. This is the heart of every trip to London. In these few miles, the most important symbols of the British Empire are gather together.

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This area, which raise on the Tames, has always been the political and ecclesiastic pivot of London: here came in succession queens, kings, bishops and premiers who made the history of England. But let’s see what you could admire just with a short promenade: exit from the tube, if you look up at your left, you’ll see immediately the Big Ben. (St Stephen’s Tower or Clock Tower) Big Ben is the name of the principal bell of the clocktower.

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The Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) is the location of the Parliament starting from half XIII century; till 1512, also the Royal Palace was located here. In 1834 a great fire destroyed almost the whole building: after that, started the reconstruction of what you can see nowadays on the Tames northern bank.

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Crossing Westminster Bridge, your sight will sure be caught by the London Eye, the great panoramic wheel located in the Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank.

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On the way back. following Victoria Street, you’ll find the famous Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral: since 1066 the abbey is the place where royals incoronations take place. A church stood here already in the eight century but the history of the current abbey starts in 1050, when King Edward The Confessor decided to build a monastery. Only a small part of this Norman monastery, consecrated in 1065, survived. Most of the present building dates from 1245 to 1272 when Henry III decided to rebuild the abbey in the Gothic style.The abbey is stuffed with tombs, statues and monuments: here were buried the most important historical characters of the english history, like the writer William Shakespeare.

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To end the tour in this area, let’s go back to Trafalgar Square: ever since the Middle Ages, this area has been a central meeting place. In the middle of the square stands a tall column honoring admiral Nelson. The name of the square commemorates the victory of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson over the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar.
The square was originally called Charing. Later it became known as Charing Cross, after a memorial cross on the square. The nearby underground station is still named Charing Cross.

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On the north side stands out the neoclassical National Gallery, built between 1834 and 1838, overlooks Trafalgar Square from its elevated position. The museum is home to an impressive collection of paintings, spanning six centuries.
to be continued..

POSTCARDS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD: LONDON

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life: by seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.” Samuel Johnson 

“Non troverai nessuno, soprattutto un intellettuale, che voglia lasciare Londra. Quando un uomo è stanco di Londra, è stanco della vita: a Londra c’è tutto ciò che questa vita possa offrire.”

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A SPARKLING NIGHT IN LONDON

Hello! Finally I can write something again about our short trip!Let’s go on with our promenade in London: Piccadilly Circus is the most famous square in London, as well as meeting place and beating heart of the City, located in the City of Westminster.

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They call it the “Times Square” of London. Built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly, became during the years one the main street junctions of the urban traffic.

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Its position, in the hearth of  West End, and the proximity to the major points of interest as Shaftesbury Avenue’s theaters, and streets like Coventry Street and The Haymarket, full of  shops and trendy clubs, have made Piccadilly Circus a symbol of London. Famous for the bright displays and the insignia LED, located on a building on its northern side, and for the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain – which depicts the Angel of Christian Charity but was later renamed “Eros” after the Greek god of love and beauty – the square is surrounded by imposing buildings like London Pavilion (an entertainment complex – Trocadero) and Criterion Theatre.

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It’s hard to resist a tour of the nearby Mayfair, with the galleries of luxury boutiques, and the gorgeous hotels. Piccadilly Street and the most chic clubs, seems so far from an ordinary life. They made me feel quite in awe.

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We went back slowly to Regent Street: this elegant street, marked by white and refined residences, divides Mayfair from Soho quarter. Drawn by the architect John Nash, today connects the crowded Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus. It’s particularly suggestive during Christmas time when it’s decorated with beautiful illuminations.

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Spend a saturday night in this area is pretty exciting. London is just full of lights, people, life! Every cafè, every brasserie slowly fills of people in the evening. Traffic in the peak hour is just happily frantic, and it’s part of the lively atmosphere. Taxi cabs hurtle up and down the streets, but differently from other big cities, also the vehicles have a kind of ordered. With a beautiful walking, you could reach easily also Soho and Covent Garden: in Soho don’t miss the Chinese Quarter, always crowdy.
Soho is a menagerie of shops, clubs, pubs, restaurants and populace. It’s an area which is very much like a maze with streets crisscrossing each other. Originally a hunting ground, legend has it that Soho got its name from hunters crying out “So Ho!” – pretty curious, isn’t it?

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Soho is famous also for its Chinese quarter, with its numerous restaurants and shops, as well as some very good Italian restaurants. In fact some may say that Soho is a gourmet’s paradise ’cause it gives the visitor the choice of all sorts of possible tastes as well as to suit all budgets. Soho is now celebrated as one of the most fashionable parts of London.

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to be continued…

LONDON TRIP

Hello! We’re just back from a short holiday in London. There are always so many things to do, to see, to … eat in London! it’s just a stimulating big city. I love strolling between the streets, the quartiers. Looking at the cafès, searching for a new hidden corner. I don’t want to simply make a list of the things you could see visiting London. This time I’ll show you simply our improvised itineraries, to show you how pleasant could be not to follow a guide description.

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We stayed in a fine hotel near King’s Cross-St. Pancras. It’s not the City, but I think it’s a fine area, with many ethnic restaurants, so in the evening we had always a great choice of places for dinner. Right when you exit from the tube, you can see the majestic buildings of St. Pancras Railway Station, widely known for its Victorian architecture. It really stands out ’cause of the clock tower of the Midland Grand Hotel.

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The St Pancras area of the London Borough of Camden stands between the British Library, King’s Cross station and the Regent’s Canal.The area is in the northern part of the city, reaching from Holborn and Bloomsbury in the south, to Hampstead Heath in the north. Neighbouring areas are the City of Westminster and the City of London to the south.I really enjoyed walking in the streets of Camden, it’s a beautiful peaceful district. We took a lot of street photos while going to Piccadilly.

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I’m not telling you about Camdem Town, Camdem Lock Market, and all the most famous places in the area. It’s beautiful to visit them, but I was really fascinated while tooking promenades around our hotel, looking at the beautiful buildings, at the greengrocers, at the barber shops. At the old pedestrian crossings. At the cabs. At the double-decker bus.

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I could write a neverending list of the things you should experience in London. Our journey starts here, in the Inner London. And you? What do you think of London? What’s your experience about this city? Looking forward to publish all the photos I took walking for kilometers in few days!Cris