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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Westminster, Covent Garden and Leicester Square

We had another decent walking day today, strolling first to Westminster.... 
We stopped momentarily in the Victoria Tower Gardens, where journalists often stand while reporting on decisions made at Westminster.
We then strolled between the Houses of Parliament and the Abbey and into Parliament Square.  We noted the various statues that ringed the Square - Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi (plenty of Indians lining up for photos with the Mahatma), Sir Robert Peel, Lord Palmerston, David Lloyd George, and the ol' bulldog himself, Sir Winston Churchill, who has pride of place at the edge of the Square, observing the Parliament in which he sat for more than sixty years.
We entered Whitehall, intent on heading toward Trafalgar Square.  There was some military commemoration taking place at the Cenotaph, usually the site for such ceremonies on 11 November each year.
Downing Street - the residence of the British Prime Minister.  When my mum visited in 1979, there were no gates, and visitors could stand outside Number 10.  On my first visit in 1982, you could stand opposite Number 10.  Then, for most of the 80s, ugly street barriers kept passers by out of Downing Street.  It was only in 1989, just before we left to live in Australia, that then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher installed these gates - for which she was accused of having delusions of grandeur.
While still in Whitehall, it had begun raining, so we called in to this nice looking cafe for tea.
Afterwards, across the road, and on the other side of Trafalgar Square, Jean and I visited the National Portrait Gallery, where I'd never been before.  The Gallery is home to many paintings depicting the Christ child, scenes with saints, halos, angels, the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalen.  Many famous artists are here - Botticelli, Van Gogh, Monet, to name a few.
This 18th century painting is one of several by Canaletto.  Venice seems to have been his favourite subject.
Most people know the above painting.  It's the Hay Wain by John Constable (1821).
Finished with National Portrait Gallery, we visited the renowned cafe at the bottom of nearby St Martin in the Field.  I had spinach and potato soup.  Jean had a sandwich.  All for less than seven pounds.
Near St Martin in the Field is the Strand.  I wasn't pleased to see the above hotel is now called the Amba Hotel.  I've only ever known it as the Charing Cross Hotel, the first place I ever put my head down for the night in the UK.  Also, my mum stayed here during her 1979 visit with her cousin, Olive.  The hotel sits above the Charing Cross Station, just up from Embankment.
We kept strolling and arrived in Covent Garden.  We watched the entertainers for a while.
After coffeeing and spending some time around Leicester Square, we approached China Town and Wardour Street where we met our old friends, John and Bernadette.  We repaired to the Wong Kei Chinese restaurant, an old haunt of ours from the 80s, and where we have a Chinese banquet each time we come to London.  After our reunion at Wong Kei, we strolled to Soho Square and nearby found a cafe where we chatted some more.
Us at Soho Square
Late in the evening, John and Ber caught a tube back to Ruislip.  Jean and I walked back to our hotel in Pimlico, taking nearly an hour.  From Leicester Square, we made our way to Trafalgar Square, then down Whitehall (the Mall was closed for the Queen's Patron's Lunch), around Parliament Square, then down Victoria Street where I worked back in '86, and through a few more streets to the hotel.

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