The Importance of Piccadilly Circus

Reflections from Limehouse- Friday September 26th

As our holiday nears an end, I can’t help but reflect back on the last three weeks, and in particular, all that we have seen and done in London.

In an earlier posting, I told you how we had spent time in August setting up what amounted to district by district “adventure lists”.  I flipped through the ten pages of notes earlier this morning, and we have actually been able to cross off about 80% of what he had on the lists.  We’ve also added things along the way that weren’t in any travel books, or “best of” web sites, but we sure found them fun.

Here’s a look at how London has looked to us….

The very first picture I took in London back on Wednesday September 10th was of the Swiss Re Tower, which is more popularly known as “the Gherkin” because of it’s rather unique shape. 

The cheeky tabloids actually refer to this building as “the Crystal Phallus”, and I needn’t tell you why.  It is one of the tallest buildings in the city and is only about four years old. It was erected (can I say that given it’s shape?) on the site of the former Baltic Exchange, which was a very famous London landmark that unfortunately was destroyed by an IRA bomb back in 1992.

It seemed that no matter where we were in London, we could see the Gherkin and since it was only about five minutes from our apartment in Limehouse, it gave us a constant reference point as we walked around the city.

All our London travels started or ended at either the Aldgate or Bank underground stations, or the Limehouse DLR station (Docklands Light Rail), and we made full use of day passes, hopping on and off the “tube” several times a day.

On the first day, you may recall that I had selected Piccadilly Circus as the first thing we “had” to see in London.  From that one corner, you can set off in several directions, and each route offers an entirely different experience.  Start walking east, and within minutes you are standing in Leicester Square, the heart of the theatre district.

Head south and within 10 minutes you find yourself approaching the district of Westminster which happens to be the home of Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and a whole lot more.

How about West?  That will take you towards Green Park and Hyde Park, just some of the magnificent green space that exists within the center of the city, and home to outdoor concerts, numerous historical monuments and arches, and several tributes to the late Princess Diana.

Diana Memorial Fountain at Hyde Park

In the mood to shop, then just head slightly north out of Piccadilly Circus, and you will yourself heading toward Oxford Circus, home to London’s high-end fashion retail, and one of the largest toy shops I’ve ever seen, Hamley’s.  Think of FAO Schwarz with an English accent.

Head southeast out of Piccadilly and you head towards the Strand, home to the Twinings Tea Shop and Stanley Gibbons Stamps, Fleet Street, the former heart of the newspaper district and still home to many important embassies, offices, and stores, and Old Bailey, London’s famous law house.

The Oldest Stamp Company in the world

And you have one more choice, and that is to head Northeast.  If you follow that path you will end up in Covent Garden, home of the London Opera and the historic Covent Garden Market.  You’ll also be just minutes away from St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Think about what I’ve just described to you in terms of famous buildings, landmarks, shopping districts, familiar street names.  Even if you have never been to London, you’ve likely heard of all the things I’ve mentioned above, and its all within a 15-20 minute walk in any of six directions leading out of Piccadilly Circus .

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