The Square Mile

London’s ‘Square Mile’, the city within the city, is the oldest part of London. It consists of the original Roman settlement up to London of the Middle Ages, the original Medieval layout of the old city remaining almost unchanged to this day. It was in this part of the city that famous architects such as Christopher Wren envisioned remodeling the City after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Today the City is the world’s leading global financial center, but to me it shall always be the art historical center of London.

If you care to take a walk down London’s historic center, I would suggest starting at the Aldwych end of Fleet Street. Here you can visit the Knights Templar Temple Church and the Prince Henry Rooms, one of the few buildings to have survived the Great Fire of London.

Cross the road and on your left is St. Dunstan in the West, one of the City’s oldest churches having been built in the 10th century. The church that stands here today is a remodeled 19th century version of the original medieval church.  Surviving Historical features include the 17th century clock with figures representing Gog and Magog, the ancient guardians of London. Surviving also is a 16th century sculpture of Queen Elizabeth I, the only standing outdoor sculpture of the queen. This little gem is definitely worth a visit.

St. Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street

St. Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street

The only surviving outdoor sculpture of Queen Elizabeth I - St. Dunstan in the West

The only surviving outdoor sculpture of Queen Elizabeth I – St. Dunstan in the West

As you walk up Fleet Street, stick to the left of the road and you’ll pass Sweeny Todd’s barber shop, where he cut the throats of helpless victims in order to give the bodies to his lover who then made meat pies out of the meat. Nice.

Look up and you shall come face to face with Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral.

St. Paul's and its Catholic dome

St. Paul’s and its Catholic dome

Christopher Wren was raised in medieval London, he would have been used to the chaos of the ancient layout of the City. A lover or mathematics, harmony and architecture, Wren studied astronomy at Cambridge University. After the Great Fire, he was commissioned to produce a new plan for London, one that would have put London at the center of European culture. Wren’s works were never realized, though the original ground plans can still be seen today. However, many of his churches, including St. Paul’s were commissioned. There were people who despised Wren for his rather Catholic looking masterpiece, though this was the people’s church and in a time of religious reform Wren won the hearts of the public with this harmoniously Classical work of art.

Close to St. Paul’s Cathedral is the famous Monument, which marks the spot of the beginning of the Fire of London. It is believed that the fire began at a bakery on Pudding Lane. Much of medieval London was destroyed, which gave way to the development of a more modern and forward thinking City. From then on, buildings were no longer allowed to be built in wood.

The Monument

The Monument

Today visitors can climb all the way to the top of The Monument for a fantastic view of London.

My favorite part of the Square Mile, which most people don’t know about (shhh it’s a secret), is the historically rich church of All Hallow’s by the Tower. Situated meters away from the Tower of London, this little beauty of a church houses centuries of London history dating back to the Roman settlement.

Founded in the 7th century this is London’s oldest church. All Hallow’s features an original Saxon arch which was constructed using recycled Roman building material. An early Roman settlement (with surviving Roman mosaics) can be seen in the crypt, which also houses the church’s museum. It is said that Richard I’s heart is buried somewhere within the church walls, the church also later  gained royal connections due to it’s proximity to the Tower of London. It was rebuilt, enlarged and modified over centuries and survived the Fire of London. Samuel Pepys is famously said to have climbed the tower in order to watch the destruction of London during the Great Fire. It was bombed during the war though its original outer walls thankfully survived.

With such a rich history (of which I have merely brushed over the surface) how could you possibly miss such a spectacle of London history? If you are visiting the Tower of London, be sure to stop off at All Hallow’s on your way in or out. The church staff are knowledgeable and friendly and are happy to guide you around the church on a free tour.

All Hallow's by the Tower

All Hallow’s by the Tower

Layers of history as you walk up the nave

Layers of history as you walk up the nave

So, start at Temple (nearest tube station: Temple) and make your way down the City, peeling through layers of London history on your way. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Eat Healthy at Borough Market

Travelers, take some time out of your busy tourist itinerary to visit Borough Market for a bite to eat. Londoners, ditch the supermarket and stock up your fridge with a range of natural produce and world foods at Borough Market!

Visit the market on Thursday, Friday or Saturday for the largest variety of market stall goodness.

 

Ripe

Ripe

I’ve been converted to buying my fruit and veg at Turnips!

http://turnipsboroughmarket.com/

Fresh

Fresh

As a big zucchini fan I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted these beauties.

Grow Your Own

Grow Your Own

As well as stunning fruit and veg, you can delight your senses (and stomach) with food from all around the world.

My favorite cheese stall would have to be Jumi London, with its fine Swiss cheese produce.

Swiss Cheese by Jumi

Swiss Cheese by Jumi

and here are some more of my personal favorites…

 

Sweet Treat

Sweet Treat

Dip into some truffle, honey and cheese.

A La Francaise

A La Francaise

Une Normandie a Londres is a perfect place to buy your French cheeses and meats.

Picante

Picante

Catch of the Day

Catch of the Day

Sample some fresh oysters with a glass of prosecco at one of the various fresh fish stalls at Borough Market.

Take Me to the Greek

Take Me to the Turkish

There are a few olive stalls in the market though my personal favorite was this Turkish one.

Pot of Love

Pot of Love

Flower Power

Flower Power

These little beauties made my day!

So abandon the usual Trafalgar Sq./Covent Garden/Notting Hill tourist traps for a bit of flavor and traditional London market life at Borough Market. Stick around until 4pm when the stalls begin to close for discounts and bargains.

How to get there: Take the tube to either London Bridge (Northern, Jubilee Line) or Borough (Northern Line), the market is a stone throw’s away. 

Love London.

http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day Trip to St. Albans

Though St. Albans is less than an hour away from London, it feels like you’re worlds away when you step off that train and make your way to the town centre. St. Albans brings to life it’s rich history, dating back to the Roman settlement of Verulamium. Roman walls are scattered around the town, and especially at the park which hosts it’s own archaeological museum – The Verulamium Museum, it houses artifacts found in the local Roman settlement, displaying everyday life in Roman Britain.

I fell in love with the Medieval architecture of St. Albans. Our first stop was at the clock tower. The clock tower, built in the fifteenth century, is one of the oldest examples of a Medieval town belfry in England. It was in use until the nineteenth century when the top of the tower was used as a semaphore station during the Napoleonic Wars.

For a £1 entree fee, you can climb all the way to the top, the best part being the fantastic view of St. Albans and beyond!

St. Albans Medieval Bell Tower

St. Albans Medieval Bell Tower

The Workings of Time

The Workings of Time

From the Top

From the Top

The Rich Landscape of St. Albans

The Rich Landscape of St. Albans

Next stop, St. Albans Cathedral. St. Albans Cathedral is a wonder of its own kind. The building is a mix of architectural styles dating back to the Normans. I felt at ease as the hours passed, walking along the aisles, soaking in every inch of history as it revealed itself to me through the walls.

The cathedral is named after the town’s patron saint, St. Alban, a Roman citizen of Verulamium who was martyred on the site of the building. St. Alban is famous for being Britain’s first Christian martyr. It is generally believed that he was martyred sometime between 205-304 AD.

Exterior of the Cathedral at St. Albans

Exterior of the Cathedral at St. Albans

This building is full of art historical significance and innovation. The tower is the only standing example of an 11th century cross tower in England.

The Cross Tower of St. Albans Cathedral

The Cross Tower of St. Albans Cathedral

Surviving Norman Arches and Traces of Original Wall Painting

Surviving Norman Arches and Traces of Original Wall Painting

 

Later Gothic Style Arches

Later Gothic Style Arches

Stone Sculpting

Stone Sculpting

Oriental Dreaming

Oriental Dreaming

This beautiful roof symbolizes both the Tudor and Stewart houses. One of the Battles of the Roses occurred on a site at St. Albans. Both roses were included in the Tudor decoration at the cathedral as the Bishop didn’t think it fair to show favor to one family over the other.

The Great Roses of England

The Great Roses of England

 

As we made our way out of the cathedral, towards the old Roman settlement of Verulamium, we passed what I was told is the oldest pub in England, the Fighting Cocks. I couldn’t help but feel that I had walked onto the set of a Lord of the Rings film. This absolutely charming little pub hosts a cosy and traditional interior with it’s own fireplace.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, the Oldest Pub in England

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, the Oldest Pub in England

A short walk across the River Ver led us into the local park, in which we discovered Roman walls, mosaics and the Verulamium Museum.

Roman Mosaics at Verulamium

Roman Mosaics at Verulamium

Roman Villa Mosaics at the Verulamium Museum

Roman Villa Mosaics at the Verulamium Museum

No we didn’t step into a time warp, we were just lucky enough to visit St. Albans during the celebration of the Magna Carta, the negotiations of which began in St. Albans. We watched a re-enactment of the date in history as well as a Medieval battle.

These Guys Were Cool

These Guys Were Cool

So if you need a day away from London, make your way to St. Albans. St. Albans can easily be reached either from Kings Cross or Kentish Town overground stations. Tickets cost as little as £7.50 return so what are you waiting for?