Sunday, October 31, 2010

Between Jurism, Journalism, Corpses and Fairytales: Holborn

Alright, this time it's gettin' bathetically touristy.

Bath was yesterday, sunny it was today. So, 'what to do' I was thinking when I remembered that quite a while ago, I actually purchased a guide for London that was supposed to help me in exactly this kind of situations. Half-heartedly leaving through it, I stopped in the centre of the book. 'Pretty', I thought when looking at a picture of a dragon-like figure artsy fartsy lit from behind by warm evening sunlight. That kind of picture everybody loves to look at and every hobby photographer proclaims to be his 'masterpiece'. I don't quite recall, but thoughts like 'Yes, I want to look at pretty things lit from behind by warm evening sunlight, today' might have come into my mind when settling on going out for a walk that it exactly described in the pages of that guide. Holborn it was, so I set out to go there.

Sir John Soane's Museum
What a suprise - Holborn was the name of the closest station so I got off the tube there, trying to find the start point of said walk with intitial difficulties. I think I have mentioned before that my sense of directions puts me close to retardation sometimes. Or maybe it was just because you sometimes just don't know in which direction you look when exiting the tube station. Nevermind. Lincoln's Inn Fields was supposed to be the first street to enter and also the name of the park it surrounded at the same time. The guide did not mention entering the park but I did anyway just for a sneak peak: yes, a park, not really too interesting. The first sight worth seeing was supposed to be Sir John Soane's Museum, which I did not enter, but viewed from outside. The architect from georgian times rebuilt the building, as well as the neighbouring ones himself. Alright, nice to look at for a moment, but not too interesting. What I liked about using a guide though was that one directly has a few background information and that things are described that one might not have noticed.

My masterpiece!
Heading to Lincoln's Inn - one of the oldest Inns of Court - turned out to be a bit difficult as the BBC seemed to be busy doing something in there with trucks - ehrm lories - and waggons parked outside. Gary Rush, Niamh Cranitch and and Nick Slade - are those local celebrities? Never heard of them but they had their own waggons, however. Alright, taking on the 3rd side of the park - catching a glimpse already of the backside of the Royal Courts of Justice and the Royal College of Surgeons, I turned into Portssmouth St. The 1836 founded Royal College of Surgeons now contains besides laboratories a anatomy museum, hence the corpses in the title. I found studying medicine always rather disturbing as I could neither look at corpses/body parts much less operate on them (let alone on living people always worrying of causing them any damages and so on). I am more than grateful that doctors and surgeons exist (duh), but then I sometimes think that you have to be at least slightly f*cked up to be capable of doing the things they do and did in college. Just a thought. Anyway.

The Old Curiosity Shop I saw next may or may not be the name giver of the story by Charles Dicken's  - but this building from the 17th century can give a slight impression of how the area looked like in that time (before the Great Fire of London). This is one of the most fascinating aspects of London: One old building can stand right next to an even older building standing beside a modern one.

From Portugal Street over Serle Street to Chancery Lane, this area really has to offer a lot of histrorical architecture and an atmosphere hard to describe. Old, but not the medieval kind of old but the sophisticated 18th century kind of old with a sophisticated nobleness, and the creative busyness that then gives you Fleet Street, that has been the home of many British newspapers.



I was still following that guide, leading me through a tiny passage at Fleet Street that I never would have noticed ending in a little court with a gate that - was locked. Guide:failed. End of story. Cul-de-Sac. That was the moment when I decided to send the guide to hell and walk around just with my own gusto.

See how majestically the sun shines through the dreamy smog of London.

I went back to Fleet Street, finally having a look at the Royal Court of Justice from the frontside.
This victorian-gothic building could really be right out of a fantasy fairytale: Majestic, playful and dark at the same time, here is where I finally found the alluring dragon I have been longing for all day (please notice the lack of seriousness). The dragon  - being actually a griffin - marks the border to the City of London.


I aimlessly walked down, almost to the riverside, finding a lory loaded with something that seemed to be a very old coal waggon. I am always very pleased by those kind of coincidents. Me randomly walking around London, finding a rather deserted place with such a temporary sight. Brilliant. Those kind of things remind me of the one week I spent in Paris last year when we rather spontaneously decided to go to the Arc de Triomphe where unforeseen a parade was taking place with people playing trumpets and so on and minutes later while walking down Champs-Élysées a red bus passed us with wig-wearing people on top singing songs by the Beatles. Kismet.

Anyway, quite close was a small park with a memorial and not a lot else to see, so I went back to the Court of Justice, walked down another street and found something I have never seen or heard of before:

What lay in front of me was the court of the Somerset House. Open to the public, very nice at dusk with not too many people around, I rested there for a while before I looked out for something to eat. Eating out alone always is a bit awkward and my experiences have been rather on the bad side but still: I had not eaten so far and was not even too picky. Not very far away was a Garfunkel's - a chain I had already noticed. I decided to eat there and naturally was given the worst place in the restaurant: right at the front, at the window next to the stairs down to the toilets. Fabulous. But - hungry - dinmatter. I ordered the chicken and rib combo along with chips and a sad tiny portion of coleslaw but tasty nevertheless.

The chicken was dry and chicken-y, but the spareribs however were the best I have ever eaten so far with no nibbling off the bones necessary as the meat just fell off of them. Yum. After dinner kept on walking around for a while until I came to the Picadilly Circus area where my stupidity made me waste some money. As the evening was unusually warm, I thought I could still go for a nice coffee (I don't get real coffee outside of cafes as the British really seem to like the sad excuse of a coffee that is the instant version) and found a frozen yogurt parlour. Not looking at the prices (how much could it be?) I spent 10 GBP on a coffee and two scoops of icecream. Bitter.Those kind of things ususally don't happen to me as I am generally very alert when it's about money and prices and I make sure that something like that won't happen again in near future. 10 Pound is not a fortune, but it is more about me being undesigned wasteful that bugs me. In the end, I got into the tube at Picadilly and called it a night.

About guides. If you really don't know what to do and need some inspiration, there you go. While the walks described in mine seem to be well-thought-out, keep in mind that they can never be as recent as the day you set out for them so obstacles may occur. Considering them a vague guideline might be the best idea with the background information being interesting but seriously, who walks to check a book all the time when walking around?

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