Thought I’d pop on over from my island of Mallorca to the slightly larger island (the 9th largest in fact) of Great Britain to see my friend who is working there for a few months. More specifically, I went to London. I was supposed to fly in and out of Gatwick but due to airline malfunctions, I flew into Heathrow. From Heathrow I grabbed the Heathrow Express, which takes you to Paddington station, where you can catch the Tube or a taxi. My taxi ride was quite short, to Oxford Street, but the whole time from airport to front door was around 25 minutes. I love it when things are that easy. It was a rainy evening but it was London, so that made everything okay.
Since I got in so late (thanks plane!), we just hung out in her apartment, drank some wine and ate my favorite snack, hummus. You just really can’t go wrong with good hummus and crackers. And it was soooo nice to have an actual apartment in LONDON to chill at! Made it all feel very luxurious, just how I like it.
Next morning, up and at ’em! Started the day by walking through Hyde Park.
Hyde Park is HUUUUUUUGE. So many different directions to go, so many things to see. A little bit of background history for you. Hyde Park was created for hunting by Henry VIII in 1536. Do you get that song in your head when you hear or see the words Henry VIII? “I’m Henry the Eighth I am, Henry the Eighth I am, I am.” I hope you are singing it now too. Anyways, Hyde Park is contiguous with Kensington Gardens, which are often assumed to be part of Hyde Park; Kensington Gardens has been separate since 1728. But their total area together is 625 acres (253 hectares), so a little bit smaller than NYC’s Central Park.
We entered at the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane, walked past the Marble Arch and the Speaker’s Corner, which has acquired a large reputation for protests and demonstrations. And then we headed towards the center of the park. There are many walking paths to choose from but we needed to get to the southwest corner of the park at Kensington High Street. We passed by some cool older buildings – The Old Police House and Magazine Cottage. Then followed Policeman’s Path towards the Serpentine Bridge. The bridge marks the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, the eastern part of the lake is the Serpentine and the western is known as the Long Water.
Large numbers of swans nest in this area. It was a beautiful place with the Lido Restaurant on the Serpentine if you feel like resting and doing a bit of people and bird watching. The Princess Diana Memorial is just south of the Serpentine.
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial wasn’t what I expected. I’m not really sure what I expected actually but when I think of fountain, I usually think of something large and spitting water with a statue or two of something beautiful. Made from 545 individual pieces of Cornish Granite, this memorial is an oval, stream bed that is quite shallow. The design aims to reflect Diana’s life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom.
There are three bridges where you can cross the water and go sit in the middle. The fountain is surrounded by lush grass where you can sit and enjoy the sounds, the day, the birds, your company, the silence, whatever you would want. This is what the artist, Kathryn Gustafson, wanted to accomplish. Diana was seen as a contemporary and accessible princess, so the goal of the memorial fountain was to allow people to access the structure and the water for quiet wading and contemplation.
And my last memorial from Hyde Park (actually from Kensington Gardens) is the Albert Memorial. The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens is one of London’s most ornate monuments. It commemorates the death of Prince Albert in 1861 of typhoid. It’s located directly across from the Royal Albert Hall.
There are just so many things going on with this memorial, which is humongous, by the way. First of all, there is a seated Prince Albert, who is now covered with gold leaf. Then, you have the Frieze of Parnassus at the base of the memorial, which depicts 169 individual composers, architects, poets, painters, and sculptors. Then, at the corners of the central and outer area, there are two allegorical sculpture programs: four groups depicting Victorian industrial arts and sciences, and four more groups representing Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas at the four corners, each continent-group including several ethnographic figures and a large animal. (A camel for Africa, a bison for the Americas, an elephant for Asia and a bull for Europe.)
Within the canopy features several mosaics showing poetry, painting, sculpture and architecture with two historical figures on each side – King David and Homer, Apelles and Raphael, Solomon and Ictinus, and Phidias and Michelangelo. Near the top of the canopy’s tower are eight statues of the moral and Christian virtues, including the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues. Above these, towards the top of tower, are gilded angels raising their arms heavenwards. At the very top of the tower is a gold cross.
WOW! That’s a lot of beauty, stuff, things on the memorial. I didn’t think I would spend so much time writing about Hyde Park but I realized there is a lot, so for you I dedicated a post to it. Go see it yourself! Or if you have been what is your favorite area, memorial, of the park?
And that, is Hyde Park, my friends. Stay tuned for more London goodness!