Wednesday, January 13, 2016

London: night walks

A walking culture generally thrives in any large city, and London's is one of the oldest and most fanatic. Here where the sun sets early half the year, long walks at night seem almost as common as in the daytime. Many books have been written about the subject, from Charles Dickens' Night Walks to the newest non-fiction hardbacks.

Walking home in the central city allows the late perambulator to enjoy the mystery and history of old London, without worrying about historically accurate attacks from the criminals who used to dominate the nighttime streets. Now when the sun sets, we are free to feel wonder instead of fear at the looming silhouettes of Victorian buildings.

The St. Pancras building, now the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, is particularly striking at sunset as the modern buildings around it fade into shadow.

Visitors to the city are often advised to 'look up' while walking to spot unusual carvings or historical details, but it's better to pay attention to your feet as well. Little surprises appear on the pavements in busy places.

Something catches your eye as you go past and you stop to see...

A little door in wonderful detail on the sidewalk, under the window of a posh bistro in Shoreditch. It can give you a flash back to Alice in Wonderland, and you wish there was a bottle called 'DRINK ME' that would get you through that door.

Or you and your friends could be enjoying a moonlit walk home from the theatre when, like Han Solo, you realise 'That's no moon!' but the light from a crane playing over the river.

Or going down a side street by a familiar museum might reveal a view that you'd never seen before.

Churches are great for night walks. The quiet dignity of an old English church in the daytime can grow a touch spooky at night. The Holy Cross Church has a beautiful bronze Christ figure in the entryway and was a location in the British forensic drama Waking the Dead.

Most churches in this area are Anglican, although we did spot one or two different denominations. The All Saints Greek Orthodox Cathedral has a stern, almost sterile aspect, no less intimidating than the spookiness of the Holy Cross!

The best part of a night walk, of course, is reaching your warm, well-lit home...maybe pausing in the garden or by the window for a last look at the cool, mysterious nighttime world you just passed safely through.

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