Ok so not with the Bingley's. Though that would have been much more entertaining, and most certainly more critical, than my guidebook narrated tour. But our longest continuous walk during our vacation started at the Tower of London and ended at St Paul's Cathedral. Yes, I could have taken the tube from one to the other. But miss the chance to see Cheapside & Gracechurch Street? I think not.
If you aren't familiar with Pride & Predjudice (how is that even possible??), prepare to be bored by this post. But for any other Austenophile, you can imagine my excitement just seeing the street signs. Not a P&P groupie? Let me start with some background. Elizabeth Bennett's uncle was in trade (gasp!) in Cheapside and lived on Gracechurch Street. The snarky Bingley sisters had nothing but disdain for this fact of course - I mean really who could associate with the likes of such? So keeping this Jane Austen trivia in mind, you would assume this would be a destitute part of London.....probably in the East End? Wrong. It's located in the heart of The City....the original area settled by the Romans. In Jane's era, it was a shopping district, but not exactly reminiscent of Park Avenue. More like a spread out city market. Today, The City is the heart of the business & financial industries and is full of skyscrapers.....more on that at the end of the post. Hang tight - it's worth it......promise. But still today, reminders of the lowly shopping district are still around, memorialized in the street names.
Poultry Street. Honey Lane. Milk Street. Bread Street. No lack of the food here my friends.
But let this next picture be the one to spoil all your ideas of what Cheapside is like.
The Gracechurch Street I've "known" in my mind for years would not have a Starbucks. But there you have it folks. Not only is Starbucks taking over the world, but they are ruining my literary dreams. Yet I still love them.
We followed the tour in Rick Steve's London travelbook, so I won't bore you with listing out all the stops & sights along the way. There are a number of churches, banks, and literary sites along the walk and it's a great resource if you plan to walk through this part of the city.
The Bank of England
30 St Mary Axe is hiding in the background...better known as the Gherkin building...though I think it looks more like a bullet than a pickle. Hard to believe it's already almost 10 years old!
The tall building on the left is better known as the recently completed Walkie-Talkie building. You may have heard of about it on the news & how it has become known as the "fryscraper". Basically, it is concave and it reflects the sun down to the street below. Unknowingly, we walked right into it's path. And that is the moment I knew how ants feel under a magnifying glass. I've been to Florida in the hottest days of Summer. And that feels pretty close to an oven as far as I'm concerned. But I have never experienced the kind of heat & bright white light like I did as I speed walked that block. A few minutes into the BBC news that night, we learned that it was hot enough to melt a Jaguar. Lucky us, we visited during the two-weeks of the year when the sun was aligned just right to melt cars and make breakfast on the sidewalk. Check out the news report here. The video here is exactly what it felt like.
Just another awesome example that even with the best planning & DIYing, memorable moments can't always be planned!