London, Shakespeare, and Corgi Cupcakes

Leadenhall Market was within walking distance of where we were staying in London. It is in the financial district, and is one of the oldest markets in London dating back to the 14th century.

The market stands on what was once the centre of Roman London. It also served as a filming location for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films. The current architectural features of the market were designed in 1881.

It was quiet on the Saturday morning when I had Neil stop so we could take some pictures, as it is open on weekdays instead of the weekend. Thursday and Friday night were a little more lively! It was the place where I first saw people drinking outside a pub and had a moment of slight culture shock. (They can do that here?)

It was also a quiet morning at the Monument to the Great Fire of London. The Monument itself was closed so we didn’t have the opportunity to walk up the 311 steps to the viewing platform. It’s just as well: from this picture, you can tell it was a little rainy and cold that morning anyway.

The tower is 202 feet tall, which is the distance to the bakery on Pudding Lane where the fire first started on September 2, 1666. It was designed by Christopher Wren (who played a major role in rebuilding the city and St. Paul’s Cathedral after the fire) and Robert Hooke.

Below is a view of Tower Bridge from London Bridge. The current London Bridge is just a regular concrete and steel bridge opened in 1973 for vehicular traffic. It replaced an earlier 19th century stone arched bridge, which itself replaced a 600-year old medieval bridge. Before then, a series of wood bridges had been used to cross the Thames dating back to the Romans.

A distant view of the Shard.

We went to Borough Market to grab some baked goods and coffee for breakfast. The market celebrated its 1,000th birthday in 2014! The George Inn, which we had stopped at Thursday night, was just a couple of blocks away from the market.

It’s only 10 am but sure, why not?

A cake fit for a Queen. This queen, especially!

I’m still excited by streets with old brick buildings.

The Anchor Bankside pub.

Oh, look what we have happened upon! A popular local theatre! Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was originally built in 1599, burnt down in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and demolished in 1644. In the 1970s American actor and director Sam Wanamaker set about building a reconstruction of the theatre that was as faithful to the original as possible – even using the tools, materials, and construction techniques that would have been used for the original 1599 building. The new building was opened to the public in 1996.

The new theatre is 230 metres (750 feet) from the original site of the Globe. Some Georgian townhouses now occupy the former site. Also, the river Thames was much wider in Shakespeare’s day so while the original site of the Globe in 1599 was located on the banks, that is no longer the case. By choosing this new site the reconstructed Globe retains the Shakespearean atmosphere of a Thames bank side theatre.

The stage features all sorts of trap doors and levels. You can’t see it in the above picture, but there is another level with a window above. During a production of Henry VIII in 1613, a cannon from this window was what started the fire that burned the original Globe down.

The beautiful painted roof shown below represents the heavens.

The Globe has the first and only thatched roof built in the City of London since the Great Fire of 1666. As you can imagine, it took a little bit of a push and pull with the local administration to get that approved!

They used to stuff 3,000 spectators into the theatre for shows. Modern safety requirements have cut that down to 1,400 (half of those standing, half sitting.) We had a fascinating tour of the theatre and learned all sorts of crazy details about these audiences. People would sit on each others’ laps. Also, once they crammed you in, you stayed in. No in/out privileges, no washrooms. For hours. Combined with lots of drinking. I think I would prefer a contemporary audience and access to public washrooms.

These seats next to the stage were reserved for royalty and other VIPs. As you can tell, they’re not the best seats in the house for a performance. But they are the best seats if you want to be seen by everyone else.

In addition to the outdoor Globe theatre and its wonderful tour there is an indoor candle-lit theatre space, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, that is based on the indoor theatre spaces of Jacobean London. There are many beautiful tapestries hanging around the space, such as the one below.

There is also an exhibition about Shakespeare’s life and his work, the construction of the new Globe theatre (how did they prepare all those log beams without power tools? what did they use if they weren’t allowed to use nails or screws?), as well as displays about the costumes, technology (such as it was), and culture of Elizabethan/Jacobean London. We didn’t expect the exhibit at all, let alone find it so engrossing and educational.

The picture below of these Farthingale models reflects the different bustle styles in women’s skirts.

A costume for Queen Elizabeth I.

My first time seeing a reconstruction of a 17th century printing press (with moveable type!).

I couldn’t get over how I was finally seeing all the things I’ve read and learned about in schools and books. Imagine reading Shakespeare for the first time and then getting to go see a play at the Globe? Learning about the history of print and seeing one of these machines? Seeing an early printed edition?

As an English major and a lifetime lover of reading and writing, this is like a pilgrimage to my holy land.

Done to death?? Say it ain’t so! Bloudy fight? Horrible murder??

I can’t remember why I took this picture and it’s driving me a little crazy. I’ve deduced that it’s probably from Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Costumes and props used in the shows. Exploring the Globe was definitely a highlight of our time in London and I would definitely like to go back and see a play there.

The Millenium Bridge or, as I like to call it, the “Harry Potter bridge.”

Cool split level view of the pedestrian bridge looking towards St. Paul’s Cathedral.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is massive. As you’ll see below, it’s impossible to get all of it in one frame. A church has been on this site since 604 A.D. Christopher Wren (as mentioned above) rebuilt St. Paul’s in the late 17th century following the Great Fire. It was the tallest building in London from 1710-1967. The dome is among the highest in the world.

The church is located on the highest point of the City of London, and the largest crypt in Europe located below. English Baroque is the architectural style.

The West Front.

Time to join in the local festivities with a corgi cupcake!

We stopped at the Fleet Street pub Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for lunch. It was rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire, and has been frequented by literary figures such as Charles Dickens, Dr. Samuel Johnson (whose house is literally just down the alleyway), Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, among others. The layout of the pub retains the old medieval style in which there are several small rooms each warmed by a fire, instead of one big room for everybody.

There is no natural light so it’s a little gloomy, but very atmospheric. The floors are uneven in parts and the roof is low. Definitely built before modern building regulations. I had my first English-baked pot pie here and it was delicious! It was perfect after a slightly chilly morning.

More beautiful buildings spotted along Fleet Street.

Neil hanging out in colourful Neal’s Yard.

Rainy day city pageantry.

The Piccadilly Arcade featured some expensive looking jewelry and high end clothing shops but, sadly, no pinball machines. The second we emerged from this place of class and sophistication onto Piccadilly Street we were surprised by cheers and claps as the London contingent of the Naked Bike Ride went zipping by. I did not take pictures but it was funny to think that this event happened on the same day as the regal Trooping of the Colour and the celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday.

Piccadilly Circus!

There were so many cool shops to check out in this area. We went to Fortnum & Mason, a posh department store from 1707, and wow, these Brits take their tea and biscuits very seriously here!

My favourite part of the store was their street-side flower display. Go figure.

Bear with me here.

Cath Kidston was nearby and, while I busied myself with that, Neil found a store that specialized in Japanese books.

We then stopped in the toy store, Hamleys, so I could pay my respects to the Queen (she’s shorter than I imagined).

Carnaby Street! The epicentre of Swinging London and mod fashion in the 1960s.

These signs bring a lot of colour to a dreary rainy day.

36,000 more steps and we are exhausted. Back to the hotel with my Cath Kidston loot!

A bit of a whirlwind, this day.

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