Monday, December 15, 2014

Walking The Strand in London

The Strand is one of the older streets in London with roots going as far back as Roman times. It runs for three-quarters of a mile from Trafalgar Square to Fleet Street and certainly is one of the most interesting streets in London. It was for many years the home of very wealthy lords who had large homes with back yards that went right down to the Thames. Its route gave them a straight route between their homes and the seat of power at Westminster. Those days are gone for the most part but the street still has much to offer especially to tourists.   


Where to stay


Staying on The Strand puts visitors in a good location for dining and enjoying the theatre. There are two hotels of interest. 


The Savoy Hotel is one of the top hotels in London. It is located on the site of the former Savoy Palace. The Savoy Palace belonged to John of Gaunt, one of the most powerful men of his time. He was the son of King Edward III, the brother of the Black Prince and the uncle of King Richard II. During the Peasants Revolt in the late 14th century, the frustration of the lower classes against the system was taken out on John’s beautiful palace and it was destroyed. He certainly would have approved of the high-end hotel that has taken its place. While most visitors can’t afford to stay there, one of the best afternoon teas in London is served there on a daily basis and it is a tea dance on Sundays. This is a way to get in the door and see all this luxury without going bankrupt. Rates at the hotel start at about £350 per night and go way up from there. 
The Strand Palace has a  location as outstanding as The Savoy  without being riverfront but at less than half the price. It is a historic property dating from the early 20th century and the carvery restaurant is a popular place to eat before a show. A carvery is an extensive buffet that offers several courses with joints of meat and all the sides that go along with them. 


Where to dine
 

Simpsons on the Strand is an icon restaurant that has been serving customers for over 150 years. If you visit here you will be following in the footsteps of many famous people who have chosen to dine here. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They offer a fixed price menu until 7 p.m. which makes them a great choice for a pre-theatre nosh. You will feel very special as the carver comes to your table rolling the antique trolley and then slicing your Scottish beef which has been aged for 28 days. This is the perfect place to try roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and horseradish. 


Theatres


The Strand has long been the home to theaters. The same holds true today. The Adelphi, Vaudeville, Savoy are all located here. Check the London Theatre Guide to see what is showing when you plan to visit. 


Churches


There are two churches located on The Strand. Thanks to the widening of the street they are literally on The Strand. They both sit on an island in the middle of the street which makes visiting them interesting. The two churches are St. Mary Le Strand and St.  Clement Danes. St. Mary sits on a very historic site though the church itself dates from the early 18th century. St Cements has a long history but the church that is there today was designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century. It was almost totally destroyed bombing during World War II but has been beautifully restored. 

Historic Buildings


Somerset House got its name from the original large home that was located on the site. Edward Seymour was the brother of Queen Jane Seymour the third wife of King Henry VIII. He became the protector of his nephew King Edward and fell out of favor toward the end of Edward’s reign and was executed. His home fell into disrepair over the years and was finally demolished to make way for the current building in the late 18th century. Today it houses the Courtauld Institute Galleries which include among other things a magnificent collection of Impressionist painting. During the winter, there is an ice skating rink in the courtyard at Somerset House. 


Taking a walk through history down The Strand is something that every visitor to London should do. It will not disappoint. 




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