A Square Mile & Some Black Kids

London Travel Blog

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St. Dunstan in the East
I'd been to London a number of times but there was still so much I hadn't seen. One of the things I had on my to-do list was the Jack the Ripper Walking Tour, but that wasn't until tomorrow evening. My last meeting last in the afternoon so I decided to spend the morning with my mom doing the Famous Square Mile Walking Tour.

The tour starts off at the Fish Hill Street station and goes around the square mile that was the original city of London walled-in by the Romans in the first four centuries. This historical walk-about doesn't come with any brochures so forgive the obscene lack of detail in this entry. My memory sucks eggs. But in a nutshell, the tour recounts London's early history from being the trade capital of the world thanks to the River Thames, to the Great Fire of 1666 that obliterated much of what was built, and how London has developed and expanded outward throughout the years to what is known today as Greater London.
Leadenhall Market
There's a towering monument (under rennovation at the time) whose tip is said to land directly over the site of the origin of the great fire should it fall over. It's interesting to note that the current street names reflect the city's past landscape. Haystreet, for instance, implies that the area was once a hay market. Before the advent of cobbling streets, the City of London was swathed in hay to absorb the horses' waste. Then the black plague ensued and claimed hundreds if not thousands of lives. Those infected were taken to churches to protect those in good health. These churches were usually marked with a skull and crossbones to ward off the others and to let them know where to take the ill. Also back then, the houses were built such that the second story was wider than the ground floor, forming an eave.
Lloyds of London
The third floor would be wider than the second, and so on. Why this was, I don't remember, but what stuck was that the narrow streets had ditches in the middle which served as their waste disposal system. People would chuck their trash out the windows and into the ditch it would go. Well, most of the time anyway. This kind of set up required people to walk along the sides of the ditch and under the eaves, allowing them to hear the ongoing conversations taking place in the houses they would pass. And this is how the term eavesdropping came to be. Aren't you glad to know that now? ;-p

We were taken to a number of churches (or what was left of them), and walked through the financial district (London still being the trade and finance capital ofthe world) towards the Leadenhall Market.
The Royal Exchange
There was a tight space on the street created by the barricades of an ongoing construction behind and it was when I was squeezing past people that I heard a loud thud followed by a aching groan. I looked back and saw an elderly man on the ground with his spectacles bent half off his face, clearly in pain. I wanted to go back to at least help him up, but there were more people walking past and I couldn't get to him. It made me feel guilty for witnessing the incident and not acting on it. It was a good thing that other people came to his aid so I didn't feel as bad. I caught up with the rest of the group that was already by Leadenhall Market. Because of my delay (ok, my memory!), I completely misssed its historical significance save for the fact that parts of Harry Potter was shot there.

One more church garden later and we were in the Royal Exchange Building, erected in the 16th century as London's center of commerce .
London Guildhall
This building didn't quite survive the Great Fire and was reconstructed twice since. Here's the clincher: its third and last reincarnation, the Royal Exchange that we see today, was designed in 1844 by one William TITE. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Could he be? Is he a forefather of the one and only Boy Tite?! Harharhar.... Anyway, The Royal Exchange continued to be the center of commerce until 1939 and is now an upmarket shopping center.

The Square Mile waking tour ends at the London Guildhall. An ampitheater in the Roman period, it has transformed to where early Anglo-Saxons would pay their taxes, and later on to the present administrative and ceremonial center of the City of London. It may not sound too interesting, but there are still traces of the ampitheatre in the basement, plus an art gallery, a clockmaker's museum and a library inside, none of which I saw.
St. Paul's Cathedral


The next thing I needed to strike of my list was St. Paul's Cathedral, whose shadow I still hadn't seen! So my mom and I went on our way and as we approached the corner of the block, there was another man, this time middle-aged, lying on the sidewalk and blood oozing out of his head onto the pavement!! By the time I crossed the street a crowd had aready gathered around him and a man crouched over next to him was on the phone calling for help. Thank god, I wouldn't have known what number to call anyways. But I think I did see some bits of brain on his crown somewhere...or maybe just hair clumped up from all the coagulated blood? Despite my morbid curiosity, I couldn't stand to look. But what is it with me and all these mishaps?! First, that passenger incident in Euston the just last Tuesday, and now two men on the ground in one day? I walked away from the scene and wondered what on earth was going on and how I ended up being such a freak accident magnet.
Bank Station
What a head-scratching moment.

It had started to drizzle by the time we got to St. Paul's Cathedral. The sky was grey so my mom sought shelter, but I managed to get a few shots shortly before the rain got stronger. I dashed for the side entrance where non-paying tourists are allowed. After only a few minutes in there, we were all asked to leave as a mass would be commencing shortly and they needed to clear the place of non-service goers. It was such a massive cathedral and so intricately adorned from floor to ceiling! And the dome! I couldn't get a clear view from where I was standing, and we decided since we really didn't have time to come back anyway - for £15 and no photography allowed - the most practical way to appreciate it at no cost would be to hear mass now. Of course, we was limited to one area, but at least we was able to get a better view of the central part of the cathedral.
Brixton Academy
It was just so awe-inspiring I just sat in my seat for a full hour taking in what I could of the place.

A day of touring has ended and it was time to enjoy the nightlife. We headed back to the hotel where I would meet M for the XFM Big Night Out event at the Brixton Academy. My other friends, J&S picked us up at the hotel and we headed for Brixton. I couldn't believe I was actually going here, where many of many of my favorite bands have played! Tonight was the Futureheads headlining 3 other indie newbies. The Brixton Academy had been a cinema and a theatre when it was first built in the 1920s and has undergone a demolition threat after it was closed down in 1972. There were talks of it being turned into, of all places, a gas station but that plan fell through and it reopened in the 80s as a music venue.
The Black Kids
It is today's one of London's prime rock and pop music concert halls where almost everyone who's anyone in the music scene has played.

First on stage was a band from Florida, the Black Kids, aptly named because of their roots. I had never heard of them before, but XFM, being an indie station, had picked up on their sound and brought them to the UK for some promotion. They were good fun and got the whole house to bounce along to their stuff. They started pretty late and by the time they ended, J&S had to get back home to let go of their babysitter. Good timing though since I was tired and used to taking my grandma pills. Besides, I had already seen and met the Futureheads before and M had an early train to catch to Edinburgh.
Err..I forget what church this is



yheleen says:
great writing :)
Posted on: Jun 21, 2008
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St. Dunstan in the East
St. Dunstan in the East
Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Lloyds of London
Lloyds of London
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
St. Pauls Cathedral
St. Paul's Cathedral
Bank Station
Bank Station
Brixton Academy
Brixton Academy
The Black Kids
The Black Kids
Err..I forget what church this is
Err..I forget what church this is
St. Dunstan in the East
St. Dunstan in the East
St. Dunstan in the East
St. Dunstan in the East
St. Dunstan in the East
St. Dunstan in the East
Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market
Gargoyles
Gargoyles
Spot the gargoyles
Spot the gargoyles
St. Peters Cornhill Church
St. Peter's Cornhill Church
St. Peters Cornhill Garden
St. Peter's Cornhill Garden
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
Outside the Royal Exchange
Outside the Royal Exchange
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
London Guildhall
St. Pauls Cathedral
St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Pauls Cathedral
St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Pauls Cathedral
St. Paul's Cathedral
Brixton Academy
Brixton Academy
Poster
Poster
The crowd inside
The crowd inside
Steve, Jenny & Mica
Steve, Jenny & Mica
Mica & me
Mica & me
Jenny & me
Jenny & me
Jenny, Steve & me
Jenny, Steve & me
Mica
Mica
Jenny & Steve
Jenny & Steve
Shes happy
She's happy
at their first gig
at their first gig
in London
in London
London
photo by: ulysses