City Walks with Grethe

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Salt beef on Rye

Posted by [email protected] on November 28, 2012 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (7)

You don't have to go to New York to experience the taste of a Salt Beef on Rye sandwich. Just go to a quiet piazza just off Cannon Street outside the church St. Mary Abchurch, here you will find street food at its very best: lovely rye bread thickly sliced and spread with mustard, and lots of juicy tasty salt beef and topped with slivers of gherkin. You watch while it is being prepared by a friendly street trader. On a fine day you can sit on a bench outside the church relishing every mouthful of this delicious sandwich. Afterwards you can buy a coffee from the friendly people on the portable coffee stall next to the salt beef, and if you are still hungry have an almond croissant with your coffee. Before you leave this oasis, do take a look inside the church which is open on Mondays from 11-3. It has a unique painted dome and woodwork by the famous Grinling Gibbons. The altar piece was splintered into 2000 pieces when the church took a direct hit in the Blitz, but with painstaking effort it was put together again in what must have been one of the largest jigsaw puzzles ever seen.

Lord Mayor Show

Posted by [email protected] on November 5, 2012 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)

It is that time of year again when the newly elected Lord Mayor will take to the City's street to show himself to the crowds. If you go to the Guildhall, you will be able to see his golden coach on display in a large glass case just outside the offices. And if you go into the splendid Guildhall Art Gallery, you will see several historical paintings depicting the Lord Mayor's procession  - either in the coach or on a barge on the Thames. The Lord Mayor used to travel on the river to Westminster to swear allegiance to the Crown. This was a fabulous sight with many other boats on the river. This tradition continued until 1856 after which time the Lord Mayor has travelled by coach from The Guildhall to the Royal Courts of Justice (just outside the City boundary) to swear allegiance to the Queen. His entourage consists of many colourful floats, soldiers, members of the livery companies etc. and the procession takes 1.5 hour to pass through Fleet Street, and back along Queen Victoria Street to the Mansion House, his official residence. The new Lord Mayor Roger Gifford is the 685th Lord Maylor of London.

If you are in the City next Saturday when the Show takes place, you will find me, with many other guides, at No. 1 Poultry at 3pm from where we will lead free walks around the City of London. Do come and join us at this spectacular event.

Music in City churches

Posted by [email protected] on October 11, 2012 at 6:20 AM Comments comments (0)

St. Stephen Walbrook is the perfect masterpiece created by Sir Christopher Wren. Beautiful proportions, bright and airy with a stunning dome, which is a mini version of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. A modern altar by Sir Henry Moore and lovely circular seating. Imagine sitting in these divine suroundings and listening to music by an exciting new international trio called Varietas. Some pieces of music were played together, but each member of the trio, consisting of piano, flute and oboe also showed us their skills in solo pieces. An exciting and well put together programme of music, and an hour spent in wonderful surroundings and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. And it was free!

This was just one of the many recitals that take place in City churches every day of the week. There are at least a choice of 3-4 concerts every day, all for free. What a wonderful treasure to have and I wish it was better known. The programme of events can be found in the churches. Why not pick up a list when you are next passing a City church and come and join a recital one day. You will not be disappointed. All the recitals are of the highest quality with gifted young classically trained musicians.

 

What a summer!

Posted by [email protected] on September 18, 2012 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

What a summer it has been!

First the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, then Celebrate the City and the City of London Festival, and lastly the Olympics and Paralympics.

I am pleased to say that I took part in everything.

I was invited to the Tower of London on the day of the Flotilla on the Thames,and although it was a very wet day,I had a splendid time seated with hundreds of others for a delicious lunch and later afternoon tea. There was entertainment and music and we had a fantastic viewing area once the boats came into view on the Thames.

During the Celebrate the City weekend, I gave back-to-back walks with my fellow guide Pete called 'What the Dickens'. They were successful walks and I also managed to visit Vintners Hall for a splendid guided tour of this magnificent livery hall.

Finally, during the Paralympics I was a London Ambassador at London Bridge and spent 5 sunny days walking up and down the river from the Globe Theatre to the Tower of London in the company of another Ambassador, answering questions from the public and receiving many words of thanks for our efforts. On Monday 10 September I was invited to the Athletes Parade, and had a great view of proceedings from a good position on the Mall.

What a great summer, but autumn brings many other events: Open House weekend, the Lord Mayor Show and the Spitalfields Winter Festival. There is so much going on, and I hope to be actively involved in most of these events.

South of London Bridge

Posted by [email protected] on March 9, 2012 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The area to the South of London Bridge is called Southwark or Bankside. This is where in the past you would come to relax and have some fun. Hence all the theatres were here, especially the Globe and the Rose, both associated with William Shakespeare. Did you know that there is a memorial to Shakespeare in Southwark Cathedral? He is shown reclining in a niche with a window above depicting characters from his comedies on one side and the tragedies on the other. There is much else to see in the Cathedral, and outside is the bustling Borough Market. From there you can walk down Clink Street past the ruins of the Palace which belonged to the Bishop of Winchester, past the Clink Prison, the old Anchor pub, frequented by Dr. Johnson and many other famous men. Just before you get to the present day Globe Theatre, turn left and this will take you to the site of the original theatre, and to the foundations of the old Rose Theatre. The area was also known for bear baiting, ale houses and brothels in medieval times. It is a truly historic area - and a complete contrast to the City lying to the north of London Bridge. The Old London Bridge that connected the two diverse sides of riverbank had houses and a church on it, and a large model of it can be seen in the church St. Magnus the Martyr just north east of the Bridge.

Look out for my walks in this exciting part of London later in the year!

Anyone for Tea?

Posted by [email protected] on February 6, 2012 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (0)

A very narrow building in the Strand has been the home of Twinings Tea for 300 years. At the time Thomas Twining opened his tea house in 1706, coffee hourses were everywhere in London, and were the places to meet. It shows nothing has changed, as everone these days meet in the modern coffee houses that have sprung up everywhere. Anyway, tea was different and soon became very fashionable. Often I am asked on my walks by visitors to London where they can buy tea, and in many cases my walks end at the Royal Courts of Justice, exactly opposite Twinings! If it is a wet day, I can even suggest to my group that they go to the back of Twinings Shop, where there is a kitchen where it is possible to make oneself a cup of tea! The shop, tea museum and cafe area has a wonderful atmosphere and a lovely perfume fills the entire space. I buy all my tea there, and I do recommend you to pay a visit if you have never been there.

City Churches

Posted by [email protected] on January 22, 2012 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Hidden away behind Carter Lane is a church called St. Andrew's by the Wardrobe, a curious name that relates to the fact that for centuries the Kings of England kept all their clothes, uniforms and other belongings in a building nearby called 'The King's Wardrobe'. I found myself there on a freezing cold day last week as a 'church watcher' and spent some time familiarising myself with the Church. A couple of things are worth mentioning: There is a large print that shows what the area was like in the Middle Ages when it was dominated by the large Dominican monastery stretching from the river Thames in the south, to the Fleet river to the west and Old St. Paul's to the north. Up in the gallery can be found memorials to William Shakespeare who bought a house nearby (now the Cockpit Pub - see a previous blog entry), and a copy of the Deed can also be found in the gallery. There is also a memorial to the composer and lutenist John Downland, who not only played at the court of James I of England (VI of Scotland), but also crossed the sea to become court musician to the Danish King Christian IV.

New Year in the City

Posted by [email protected] on January 22, 2012 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Eac year in January the City holds a service at St. Michael Cornhill. This is a church that is famous for its organ concerts that have taken place every Monday lunchtime since 1919. The music and singing at this year's service was wonderful, and the sermon by the political sketch writer Quentin Letts very witty and topical. The church was packed to the rafters, and at the end of the service, most people made their way through the alleyways criss-crossing Cornhill and Threadneedle Street to the magnificent Drapers Hall where a meal was being provided. Drapers Hall was used for the film 'The King's Speech', and it was possible to wander through the splendid rooms, chatting to people from all walks of life and enjoying curry and rice, followed by a delicious hot dessert with pears, bananas and toffee and cream. There was plenty of wine being served too.

In the House

Posted by [email protected] on December 19, 2011 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

During the Spitalfields Festival there is an opportunity to look into the elegant houses in the area which were once the homes of the French Huguenot silk merchants who had fled religious persecution in France and settled in many different areas of Europe. They were not allowed to trade in the City, so settled just outside the City gates. They were a great asset to this country, and many became very wealthy. Several houses have been renovated, and during the event called 'In the House' five houses are opened to the public. A musician plays in each house, and five different groups of people move from house to house, listening to the music, getting a glass of wine and enjoying the ambience.

In my capacity as a volunteer at the Festival, I was stationed in one of the best houses and it was a great experience welcoming people to the house and enjoying the hospitality of the owner, the music and the general friendly atmosphere. It is quite an unusual event and it books up as soon as it becomes available. Do look out for it in the Summer programme for the Festival!

Our Roman heritage

Posted by [email protected] on December 12, 2011 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The streets in the City are named after the trades that were based there, so we have Bread Street, Honey Lane, Wood Street, Love Lane (!) etc. I was walking through Ironmonger Lane with a friend when we noticed the door of No. 11 was open. I called out: Roman mosaic! Yes, said the doorman, would you like to see it? We certainly would! He took us down into the basement, through long corridors, not a soul around, and then left us in a room on our own. In the middle of the floor was a glass covering and underneath the most beautiful remnants of a Roman mosaic floor. On the wall was a poster explaining about the excavation. What a wonderful glimpse into a world long gone. This is close to the Guilhall and the Roman Amphiteatre - who lived here? We will never know, but it was a marvellous opportunity for us to catch a glimpse of the past.


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