London in Bloom

Today the temperature in Britain soared to over 20°C. The entire population of London dug out their summer clothes and flipflops and burst forth into the streets to enjoy the sunshine. Unfortunately, I was not one of them, because I had to work today. The one day in the year when I had to work on a Saturday would just be the hottest day of the year so far, wouldn’t it?! Instead of lying on a patch of grass somewhere, eating strawberries and watching the clouds go by, I was stuck in a dingy church hall counting copper coins and drinking lukewarm tea with – shudder – UHT milk (tea lovers – you know what I’m talking about!). However, all was not lost! I busted out for a brief lunchtime stroll around Bloomsbury, and what a glorious array of sights did I see!

As I wandered down Euston Road towards Bloomsbury, I walked past the parish church of St Pancras. Built in Egyptian Revival style, this colossal pillared beauty has some absolutely stunning, huge sculptures of Greco-Roman figures running down each side. I stood in awe beneath them and couldn’t believe I hadn’t spotted this amazing piece of architecture before. Next to the church was a beautiful, quaint little alley of Victorian shops called Woburn Way; another place I hadn’t noticed before. One of the shops was called Wot the Dickens?! but sadly it was a takeaway rather than an undiscovered bookshop – probably for the best, otherwise I might never have made it back to work!

I knew Dickens had lived in this area, but I hadn’t spotted the plaque to him on the wall of the huge colonial revival style British Medical Association building that runs along one side of Tavistock Square, former home of Virginia Woolf, before. Tavistock Square is quite interesting in that it only has one side of the typical Bloomsbury Georgian dark brick and white stucco terraces left. However, the replacement buildings on the other sides are all lovely in their own way, and the centre gardens, dedicated to Gandhi, are especially beautiful. Today they were a riot of colour, a carpet of daffodils and crocuses having erupted just in time to soak up the glorious sunshine.

I wandered into the streets behind Tavistock Square, enjoying the strange stillness and silence of this part of central London. As most of the buildings in Bloomsbury are now owned by the University of London colleges, the majestic squares of tall, dark terraces with their central gated gardens tend to be extremely quiet on the weekends, and this unexpected peace is wonderful. I spotted some fantastic art deco architecture and enjoyed peeping in through locked gates into gardens I wished I could have cavorted around in – maybe one day!

With a heavy heart I left the stillness of Bloomsbury behind for the frenetic rush of Euston Road as I meandered my way through the dingy streets behind Euston station back to the church hall. Though there are plenty of seedy shops and questionable fast food joints in these streets, there are also plenty of beautifully, thoughtfully constructed early 20th century social housing estates and some stunning Victorian architecture, that has become sadly rather mired in grime. I hope that as the gentrification of this area gathers steam, more will be done to bring a little of Bloomsbury’s elegance to the streets of Euston and St Pancras. All the raw material is there, after all.

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40 comments

  1. Oh my – blue sky, sunshine, gorgeous flowers, lovely old buildings! What a perfect spring day! I’m sure there will be many more for you to enjoy Rachel! I’d love to go on a picnic and enjoy some outdoor reading (strawberries would be great, too!) but it’s still a little chilly where I am.

    1. Thanks Lucy – it really was a perfect spring day – the best kind. I hope your weather picks up for you soon – getting outdoors after a long winter is such bliss!

  2. Such a perfect day to be out and about in a gorgeous setting. You must return soon before all the blossoms fade.

  3. As always lovely photos! Sorry you had to work on such a beautiful day (isn’t that always the case!), but hopefully there will be many more. Doesn’t it seem like spring has come very early this year (well, earlier than the official 20th first day that is). Everything is greening up here, too.

    1. Thanks Danielle! I hope so too – English weather can be so cruel at being lovely during the week and then evil at the weekend – I’m hoping it will last until Saturday at least! Yes it does – I hope that won’t mean the summer will be cold!

  4. Leave it to you to make the most of the day, even if it was only to be during your lunch hour. Everything looks so beautiful, Rachel, and the strong bones of the past still shine through. Our daffodils are almost spent with the heat we have had and then storms. Sigh. I made sure I enjoyed them while I could, including bringing some stems indoors. Enjoy!

    1. Oh thanks Penny! :) It really was a beautiful day – there’s nothing like flowers and blue sky to set everything off in its best light! Sad to hear that about your daffodils…though more glorious flowers are soon to come, I am sure! :)

  5. Perhaps one day you could stop in at the Dickens Museum which is in the house he lived in for a while on Doughty Street over Bloomsbury way. Or maybe you have already visited. It’s a fave of mine.

  6. Blooming Bloomsbury.

    Lovely photos remind us that London is not all new buildings but beautiful old ones and even trees and flowers!

    1. Absolutely divine, Sam! And it continues! Wish I could be reading in the garden right now instead of stuck at work!

      Thanks – when I am grown up I shall have a magnolia tree in my garden! :)

  7. Those Japanese magnolias are exceptionally beautiful! New York has this past week blossomed into full-on springtime, and it’s so beautiful here. The trees along my walk to work are gradually getting leaves back and bursting into flower. I wish the seasons would never change! It’s perfect right now! I hope London stays beautiful for you, my dear, so that you have a chance to have picnics.

    1. Oh I love New York in the spring!! Glad you are enjoying it all before the heat comes again. Thank you! I shall have a little picnic today on my lunch break I think! :)

  8. Those are really nice pictures. London’s parks are beautiful when the daffodils come out. UHT milk is the reason I don’t drink tea on planes.

    1. Thanks Ed – yes indeed they are. Daffodils always make me smile! Glad I am not the only UHT hater – train tea is also a no go for me because of that disgusting stuff!

  9. I love that church, one of my favourite buildings in London – worth a look inside, too, if you get the chance.
    And I know exactly how you’re feeling … I was working yesterday, too. With very bad grace.

    1. PS I think the caryatids were copied from the Erectheion, which I’ve always wanted to see but I’ve never been to Athens.
      But they always give me a lift when I’m stuck in traffic on that horrible road.

      1. Oh really? I’ve never been to Athens either. I feel like my impression of what the Ancient Greek sites look like will be forever ruined once I see them surrounded by rubbish and traffic.

    2. I didn’t have time to pop in Mary! Next time. I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before. I have the biggest bad grace today as well – why work when you can be in the garden?!

  10. I had to google ‘UHT milk’ and now I’m wondering if it could be better or worse than that powdered non-dairy creamer…ugh. You poor thing!
    Thanks for bringing Bloomsbury to me this morning, Rachel! I love the neighbourhood feel of the place and all the treasures I see while out wandering. The door knockers, boot scrapers, mosaic tiles on the steps and stunning architecture are better than any shop on Bond Street in my book. And speaking of books…found a beauty of a copy of The Shooting Party yesterday. Thanks for the heads up!

    1. Oh Darlene, it’s horrific. It lasts forever as well – my Nan has it which is why I never drink tea at her house – I swear she still has milk from ten years ago in her cupboard!!

      Isn’t it just stunning? There is so much to see and I always imagine I am Virginia Woolf, wandering the streets of pre war London. The peace is also fantastic – it’s easy to forget how close to the centre of everything you are.

      SO EXCITED that you found The Shooting Party – I can’t wait to read your thoughts!

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