Well, having spent the last two 'holiday at home' posts delighting in heather, bracken and moorland, it's now (in the words of Monty Python) time for something completely different. The big city! I'm not in general a lover of lots of concrete and traffic, but I do enjoy a visit to a lovely city. We don't get to London as a family that often, so we decided that it'd make a nice change to spend two days there.
On the way we sped past Stonehenge, an amazing heritage site that I haven't actually been to since I was a child. You could actually touch the stones back in those days.
We were staying in lovely, leafy west London and took a train into the centre. After a couple of stressful (for me) tube changes we emerged above ground at Canary Wharf. Oh my goodness, what a culture shock! I'm not a great fan of this sort of urban landscape, but it is amazing. I love the clouds reflected in the glass windows.
Just look at these buildings. I was a bit awestruck, and walked around looking up, trying not to trip over or lose the rest of my family.
A quick trip on the Docklands Light Railway, and we arrived at our destination - Greenwich.
We've talked about going to Greenwich for years, having 'done' the Tower of London, museums, etc with our children when they were younger, but have been curious to see this famous maritime site. When we turned a corner and the Cutty Sark came into view we were delighted. Such a beautiful ship, and so well preserved. I loved the figurehead, graceful and elegant.
This view shows just how much rigging there is on a ship like this.
After a quick picnic we walked along the river Thames, and it was pretty busy with different kinds of craft.
Here's the Old Royal Naval College, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. In the sunlight the ornate white buildings and Baroque landscape positively sparkled.
The compass dial on this tower reflected a clock on the opposite one.
A great place for following lines of perspective, the sheer size of the grounds and buildings is impressive.
I just loved these ornate gilded gates in front of the Queen's House. With their twirly bits and symmetry, they traced intricate patterns on the sky behind them.
The house itself had gorgeous curving flights of steps at the front entrance, bordered on either side by spiral topiary.
From here we walked up the hill to the Royal Observatory. Lots of people were picnicking lazily on the grass or strolling around admiring the views.
As we climbed the hill we looked back at the view. I really liked the elegant proportions: all of that green space in front of the beautiful 17th century buildings, and then another layer behind of modern London and high-rise Canary Wharf.
Finally we arrived at the Royal Observatory, and my husband and son decided to do the tour which included seeing the famous Meridian line. It was a hot day and we'd done a lot of walking by then so my youngest daughter and I (oldest daughter couldn't come, sadly, as she has a summer job) decided to find somewhere to sit and relax.
We quickly found the very pleasant Pavillion Cafe and sat outside in its gardens. So pretty, I even spotted some gorgeous roses.
An exquisite old rose in a delicate shade somewhere between pink and peach.
These cold drinks were very refreshing in the heat and we recharged our batteries for a bit more walking.
Right on top of the hill, that view just got better and better.
We walked back down to Greenwich town centre and decided to visit the market which is full of stalls selling food, jewellery and crafts of all sorts, a very nice place for a spot of retail therapy.
Back on the train again and at one of our changes I emerged onto the platform to be greeted by this amazing view of the Shard, towering over us - wow! Like me , all the other tourists on the train stopped to take photos there and then on the platform.
We were staying overnight, and the next morning was very wet and windy with the tail-end of hurricane Bertha passing over. We waited for the worst of the rain to subside and headed out to one of our favourite places nearby, Bushy Park. We've been here many times and it's one of London's great parks, such valuable green spaces in a heaving city. Given to Henry VIII as a deer park (the beautiful Hampton Court Palace is nearby), water gardens were then added by Charles I and now it is home to a fantastic array of flora and fauna. Both red and fallow deer roam freely and the park is always full of people walking, cycling and picnicking.
As the rain eased we walked through the beautiful Chestnut Walk and tried to spot deer.
They were a bit reticent that morning - this rather blurry photo is the best I could do.
After lunch in the very lovely Pheasantry Cafe we went for a gentle wander, first in the Woodland Gardens.
We were delighted to spot this very sweet fluffy duckling.
And this rather lovely Orange Balsam plant.
And this exotic-looking Egyptian Goose.
Back out into the main part of the park again, we walked under trees and through long grass, and I felt my shoulders drop as I began to relax. London is the most wonderful place with so much to see and do, endlessly exciting and new, and it is wonderful to have these green spaces to unwind in.
The sun even came out, making the grass a more golden-yellow.
Look - I even found some brackeny ferns to enjoy!
As we started the drive home we circled the beautiful Diana Fountain, glinting in the sunlight.
I relaxed into the journey, looking forward to returning to our little corner of Somerset and reflected on our visit. London is truly a fabulous place to visit with so much to offer - I'm sure we'll be back again soon