To ring in the New Year, my daughter took me on a scenic drive past some iconic London landmarks on New Year’s Eve. We drove along Fulham Rd, past Chelsea Football Club, founded in 1905, and the Chelsea and Westminster/ Royal Brompton Hospital where 3 of my grandchildren were born. It was a thrill driving past the festive Christmas window displays and festooned lamp posts.
We had a long drive along King’s Road, a major throughway linking Fulham and Chelsea, known for fashion stores and shopping. King Charles 11 used this road to travel to Kew. Until 1830, this street was accessible for royalty only. After that, it housed many different people and cultures! The world’s first artificial ice rink, the Glacarium opened just off King’s Road in 1876, and later that year it relocated to a building on the street. Thomas Arne supposedly composed Rule Brittania while residing on the street, and Peter Ustinov lived there. The 1960s saw mod-culture, the ’70s punk, and after that, the U.K.’s first Starbucks, Cube, and Elektra Records.
We soon hit the brightly-lit Sloane Square, a small square on the boundary of Belgravia and Chelsea Districts. The famous Peter Jones Department Store resides here. Every time I hear the name Chelsea, the words of the song from Cabaret involuntarily pop into my head: “I used to have this girlfriend known as Elsie with whom I shared four sordid rooms in Chelsea.”
It remains a thrill to drive past the magnificent Buckingham Palace, home to the Queen of England. Cassandra and I learned an interesting fact – the road past the palace is one of the most dangerous roads for accidents waiting to happen! This night, we had no problems. Of course, I’ve seen the Changing the Guard ceremony, but I would love to do the State Rooms tour sometime. I can’t remember whether I did that tour when I was in my twenties.
The Victoria Memorial, a tribute to Queen Victoria, silhouetted white and gold in the Memorial Gardens. This marble and gilded bronze monument, designed and executed by Sir Thomas Brock, weighs an impressive 2535 U.S. tons!
The lights lit up as we circled Waterloo Place, a square connected to the elegant Regent’s Park. Two significant monuments and five statues fill Waterloo Place. Later, I looked up the names of the renowned British figures the statues represent: Sir John Franklin (a British Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer), John Burgoyne (British General), Lord Lawrence (British viceroy and governor-general of India), Field Marshall Lord Clyde, and Lord Napier of Magdala (Officer in the Indian army.)
What is London without the red telephone booths? We stopped right next to two beauties opposite the New Zealand House. In 1924, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott won a Post Office sponsored competition with his design of a K2 cast iron telephone kiosk. He probably never thought that these booths would become a symbol of the British, featured in England, Malta, Gibraltar, and Bermuda.
We cruised along Pall Mall, the road connecting St. James Street to Trafalgar Square that borders the Theater District or West End. Memories of great shows like Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables flashed through my head. I recognized the booth on the square where one could buy last-minute cheaper tickets. Having seen the high price of tickets for shows in London – think more than £100, I’m sure the booth is in great demand!
As we navigated around Trafalgar Square, Cassandra pointed out the top of the Christmas tree, an annual gift from the people of Norway to commemorate British support during World War 11.
We took a slight detour past the Houses of Parliament around Parliament Square Gardens in the City of Westminster. The historic 12th-century St Margaret’s Church, with its pillars and delicate patterned windows and walls, lit up eerily in the night.
We made numerous stops on Waterloo Place, a broad street meeting Pall Mall. The Crimea Monument, honoring the dead of the 1854-56 campaign, stands at the northern end of the road.
Driving down Waterloo Place Street, we admired the stunning lights strung across the road, an awesome sight. Then, we flashed past Piccadilly Circus with its giant advertising screens and statue of Eros. ‘Circus’ refers to a round open space at a street intersection.
Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly can’t help but impress the passersby. Founded in 1707, this flagship store is one of the Queen’s favorite shops. It has a long tradition of excellence, specializing in gourmet food and drink, glorious hampers (picnic baskets), and Afternoon and High Tea ceremonies. The advent calendar wall is truly an original idea.
Knightsbridge is another example of a beautifully lit building on Brompton Rd.
What a magnificent building Harrods is. I managed to get a nice shot of this famous building on Brompton Rd near Knightsbridge Underground. We were on the way home now. I reminisced how, when we played monopoly as children, we became familiar with names such as Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, and Pall Mall. What a fun way to end 2021!