Around London: Hatfield House and HMS Belfast

London Travel Blog

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Early morning Earl's Court - well technically, Bolton Gardens. My home away from home!

London! You know, I've always experienced this but I keep forgetting it - just how quickly the sun rises in the UK! By 6am, it's as bright as 9am. Which is good in a way. Let's you get up and get ready. And get ready I did: b'fast was dinner rolls (yep!) with some excellent Gouda Cheese I picked up at the local newsie, along with... Onken yogurt (yeah, you get the drill) and off I went for a slightly different exploration. This time, not walking up to Earl's Court station but instead, choosing to walk the other way around - walking on Bolton Gardens through Gloucester Road through Cromwell Street into Hyde Park. The whole walk took about over an hour, it was brilliant - bright and all. I'd never really spent time @ Hyde Park - isn't it funny how the supposedly more frequent travellers to London don't see the city's landmarks yet.

Harrods - it does look grand from afar, innit?
So it was a good feeling to just spend a relaxing few minutes here, before I got on my feet and walked towards Marble Arch. The Serpentine looked really good. I also liked the fact that it has a clear view of planes landing in Heathrow!

From Marble Arch, I took the train to Pic Circus and walked across to see St.James Palace. Gosh what an anticlimax! My friend had mentioned to me that you can't really go in, just see the changing of guards, etc. Even then, really all you can do is take a picture of it from the outside and that's about it.

I felt I had been walking for ever and ever, but I really had that enthusiasm to walk as far as I could, heaven knows it's not every day one gets to go to London. No, just 4 times in 12 months if you're Vikram <g>.  Anyway, this time I really seemed to be so random, I was picking things off the Frommer's London 2008 book, and the next one I happened to choose was the Jewish Museum in Camden Town.

Hyde Park on a Sat morning
You know,  I visited camden Town only once, 3 yrs ago and it's not only still the same old active place, but I realised how cluttered it is, and with so many people. Tons more than an Oxford St. Or does it just look that way because the roads are narrower? Eitherway, I had a hard time finding the museum and no one in the neighbourhood seemed to know (lots of tourists). With some difficulty, I finally found it. LOL - tourist attraction my eye! There was some scaffolding work going on, the sign was almost indiscernable. And what do you know? It's closed on Saturdays! This was one of those moments in life where you think "and I just wasted the last 2 ****ing hours on THIS?? what the hell was I thinking?".

Anyway at this point, I headed to St.Pancras Intl to the place I wanted to go - Hatfield House.

The Serpentine
The place's claim to fame - this was Elizabeth's house in her early years. This is where it really all began. And today, it attracts tons of Queen Elizabeth's fans because it has a lot of objects associated with her, like gloves and silk scarves and such. I don't know why I wanted to go there to be honest. Do you think it had anything to do with the song "Hatfield 1980" by Everything But The Girl? Although, I gotta admit, that's where I heard it first!

The journey to Hatfield is fast, takes about 20 mins and heavy frequencies as well. As you alight the train, you see the entrance right across. I must admit it's rather pricey. The walk into the house is nice - very typical English manor'y so to speak.

No clue if it's fancy guess, but I thought it looked cool!
  Nice long walk up the garden, and almost into the house. It was around 1pm and I was really hungry. I had lunch at the canteen itself, and then went into the house. The house is really not the grandest, but you'll be surprised at how many Adam and Eve paintings there are. I asked one of the guides there, and she said that in those days, those paintings perhaps represented the fact that the owners were staunch Christians.

I spent some time wandering around the garden. If Manor houses and big residential palaces were assigned grades, I'd give this one a B+ best case. It doesn't have the dramatic scenery of a Culzean Castle with the house by the cliffs, it doesn't have the grand ornate gardens of Hampton Court nor does it have the wide open greenery (well publicly viewable at least) of a Blenheim Palace.

The much acclaimed Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park
But, this has something that all these lack, which is a wild lawn with trees, shrubs and weeds growing. All make for a wonderful "foresty" kind of walk, yet you're on Hatfield House property. The most striking thing about this place is that it's not "properly kept" in the traditional sense, but yet the unevenness and the look of lackadaisical maintenance gives it a different feel. The problem for me by now was that I'd been walking for over 6 hours, and I really didn't seem up to going for a walk. Especially when I know I've got so much of London left for me to see!

So I said goodbye to Hatfield House, a quick coffee + bag of crisps and a train ride and I was back in London.

I didn't know where to begin, or rather, continue. So many places to go, so little time to spend. I was thinking of Tate Britain, thinking of a few other museums but the Victoria Line was closed as well, so attractions near those Tubes were out of question (I couldn't be arsed taking buses and all).

St.James Palace
I just took a tube and got down at Southwark hoping to visit the Globe Theatre. First stop was Southwark Cathedral. A lot has been said about this place, but it's also easy to see how it gets ignored in London's growing skyline. This is one of London's oldest churches, and the interiors are brilliant, properly preserved and all. What I did notice is that an awful lot of people were using the area as a eating place (The lawns that is). The interior is nice, silent and very well maintained given the noisy neighbourhood.

I'd never visited this part of London so just to be able to walk and spend time along the Thames was brilliant. I ended up walking past a pirate ship that's now an attraction, and then I was debating on whether I take the new "London Bridge Experience" show, or I go to a place I had avoided all these years - the HMS Belfast.

Camden Town
Fortunately for me, I chose the latter.

The HMS Belfast along with the HMS Edinburgh was commissioned before the start of WW2, and after having had extensive damages still served in the Korean War, before being retired in the 60s, and open to the public in the late 70s. Today, it's a part of the Imperial War Museum. I really cannot say enough ncie things about this place. Normally, when I visit a tourist attraction, I'm thinking "they say you need 2 hrs for this?", but this is one place where I really felt I needed more than 2 hours. Shame I got in around 445pm and they close by 6pm. The recreation of a ship in action was fantastic - everything from understanding the science to how the ship is built and used, to things like the kitchen, the quarters, the medical room, etc.

Entrance to Hatfield House
They've even got dummies depicting an operation going on, a dentist, etc. I was suitably impressed. Took a few photos - not just of the ship but also around - hell, you've got St.Pauls on one side and the Tower Bridge and Tower of London on the other... of course it's picturelicious!

My next stop of the day was walking around the noisy parts - Oxford Street (bought some Thorntons), and the neighbouring areas. Returned to the hostel, had my Gouda cheese and a dinner roll for dinner and went out for a drink with a French roommate. The weather was a bit chill but still good enough for a walk. I was hoping I'd go for a nighttime walk around London town but I was chatting with the French crowd for quite some time and it was midnight. So I decided to head back instead, pack and call it a night by 1am.

Just liked this scenery - whatever!

I just love London! Gosh, I know I'll be back here again this year.

 

YantiSoeparno says:
I think if there is a map where I can follow you route would be nice ;-) You had a long walk and many places to visit :D I need a map :P
Posted on: May 31, 2009
Africancrab says:
Great blog Vikram, can't wait to read more.
Posted on: May 18, 2009
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Early morning Earls Court - well …
Early morning Earl's Court - well…
Harrods - it does look grand from …
Harrods - it does look grand from…
Hyde Park on a Sat morning
Hyde Park on a Sat morning
The Serpentine
The Serpentine
No clue if its fancy guess, but I…
No clue if it's fancy guess, but …
The much acclaimed Speakers Corne…
The much acclaimed Speaker's Corn…
St.James Palace
St.James Palace
Camden Town
Camden Town
Entrance to Hatfield House
Entrance to Hatfield House
Just liked this scenery - whatever!
Just liked this scenery - whatever!
Lunch for the day was boiled veg, …
Lunch for the day was boiled veg,…
Closeup of Hatfield House
Closeup of Hatfield House
Hatfield Old Palace
Hatfield Old Palace
I really liked these statues, they…
I really liked these statues, the…
view of the house and the gardens.…
view of the house and the gardens…
Inside Southwark Cathedral
Inside Southwark Cathedral
Back in London - and in front of t…
Back in London - and in front of …
The lovely St.Pauls
The lovely St.Pauls
In front of HMS Belfast
In front of HMS Belfast
Oh dear! *Cheesy overdrive alert*
Oh dear! *Cheesy overdrive alert*
Aboard the HMS Belfast
Aboard the HMS Belfast
The Tower of London
The Tower of London
With my roommate in Earls Court Y…
With my roommate in Earl's Court …
Aah...Earls Court!
Aah...Earl's Court!
London
photo by: ulysses