Monday, February 22, 2010

Part of the London Trip

I really do enjoy London.  To walk the historic streets and imagining what it was like 100, 200 or even 300 years prior.

This time, my enjoyment was compounded by this being Debi’s first trip abroad.  So I got to be “Tour Guide”.

As part of our tour, I wanted to take her to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  What woman could resist seeing the place where Lady Di was married?  Although I did have ulterior motives.

You see, the area around St. Paul’s has some of my favorite pubs in London…and it makes for a great Masonic Walk as well.

Getting off the Tube at St Paul’s Station, instead of heading straight for the Cathedral, instead head down Patemoster Row, where you will find a most excellent store…The Whiskey Shop.

At The Whiskey Shop, you will find almost anything your heart desires…..and I brought home some samples that I will be reviewing later (Penderyn, Big Peat and Monkey Shoulder).  The shop is smaller than I expected, but then again…this is London, and I imagine real-estate is quite expensive. That being said, the staff seemed friendly and answered the few questions I had….so next time I swing through, it will call for another stop.  :)

From Pratemoster, you continue 50 or so meters to where the walkway T’s and you will turn left on Cathedral Steps….getting your first glimpse of St. Paul’s. 

As you approach, you are actually walking into the area which was formally known as St. Paul’s Churchyard…and the location of the Goose and Gridiron Pub, meeting place of the first Grand Lodge in 1717.  There is a Blue Plate to commemorate the spot just north of the large steps at the front of St. Paul’s.

Before I continue the tour, an interesting factiod about St. Paul’s.  The lightning rod for the cathedral was surveyed, designed and installed by none other than Benjamin Franklin….brother Freemason to Christopher Wren, the designer.

As you look West down Ludgate Hill into Fleet Street, you see some great architecture and landmarks-

Temple Bar

The Old Bailey

Old Bell Tavern (pub frequented by the masons who built St. Paul’s)

just to name a few.

Our next stop though is by far, one of my favorites…..Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

The Cheshire Cheese dates back to the 16th century and the board on display outside lists fifteen monarchs whose reigns it has survived. The interior is dark and wooden, and I have never made it past the small taproom on the right as soon as you come in.  Not due to lack of want, but instead because of how captivating the room is.  The small ground floor bar room is decorated with black timber, including the paneled ceiling. An open fire gives the room a special atmosphere. The portrait above the fireplace is that of a waiter who began to work at the Cheshire Cheese in 1829.  Regulars at this bar include; Voltaire, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The pub is even mentioned in a Tale of Two Cities. 

I will also add….the beer of choice here is Samual Smith’s, of which I prefer the stout, who’s combination of burnt coffee and nuttyness rivals Guinness (yes I said it).

Heading back out to Fleet Street and again turning west, you head about three blocks and find an archway on the south side of the street, a shortcut to Temple Church.   I will add, Debi spotted this (I was going to go down to the Thames and come in from another direction), although I think it was due to her being tired of walking :P

Temple Church is the famous Round Church of the Knights Templar, made famous by Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code.  Sadly, it is closed on Mondays….so I will have to take Debi back again sometime (it really is impressive).

With just this quick walk, you can see how quickly you can be immersed in history….and that is the way London is.  A fabulous city where small courtyards, archways and alleys lead to the unexpected.  I know Debi is excited (and wants to move there), and I can only eagerly await my next trip.

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