This article was originally written for the Apr/May issue of Coastal Lifestyle Magazine and was my first commissioned freelance print piece! The style may be different than other posts as writing for print is a bit of a departure from writing for online media. I hope you enjoy it! I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity and can’t wait to continue my relationship with this wonderful magazine!
Famed novelist Herman Melville once stated “There are two places in the world where men can most effectively disappear — the city of London and the South Seas.”
Though personally unable to attest to drifting astray amongst the far flung islands comprising the Southern Seas (much to my dismay) there is no truer sentiment when it comes to London. With layer upon layer of history intricately woven round the bends of the famed River Thames, this ever expanding city has manifested itself into one of the foremost culturally significant destinations since the Romans first laid the foundation some 2000 years ago.
Yet despite its vastness, visitors are prone to losing themselves amid the swarms of like-minded people in over-trodden Central London. They’re commonly spotted perusing guidebooks in the massive queue for the London Eye, struggling to see around the freakishly tall person in front of them at the Globe Theater, cramming into red telephone booths for a photo op, or embarrassing themselves in an attempt to make the unflappable guards at Buckingham Palace crack a smile.
But what of the rest of London? The lesser-known regions fanning out from the city center that embrace just as much historic eminence as the usual crop of sights found in a ‘Top 10 London’ Google search? Places like the residential streets that hug the riverbank connecting Hammersmith to Chiswick where instead of dodging aggressive taxis and double decker buses, pedestrians need only worry about skirting the occasional jogger.
Perched on the northern end of the Thames, the idyllic stretch fashioned between these two districts flaunts everything from iconic bridges to impeccably cultivated gardens, competitive watersports to haunted taverns, deep-rooted parish churches to moored houseboats, domestic breweries to cheap museums.
Though situated on a path easily traversed by foot in as little as 42 minutes, these local institutions lie deeply ingrained against a tranquil backdrop that cloyingly beckons one to lose all sense of time. Leisurely ambling along without a set agenda is the best way to experience this unrivalled urban walk.
Less than 30 minutes from Central London, Hammersmith Bridge presents the ideal starting platform. Though it flies under the radar in comparison to the renowned Tower and Millennium Bridges further downriver, it still packs its own historical punch. Originally constructed in the 1800’s as the first suspension bridge to span London’s most infamous waterway, this striking green-hued landmark endured decades of structural challenges and multiple IRA bombings before being named a listed structure and marked for character preservation.
Of course England isn’t England without its plethora of distinguished pubs claiming more corners than the Starbucks coffee franchise. Directly north on the Lower Mall pathway stands the Blue Anchor which was officially established in 1722 but has been serving cold brews long before the formal issuance of licenses. It’s a favorite spot amongst the locals where the proprietor frequently converses with his regulars, old friends catch up over pints of beer, and dogs nap under tables as their owners indulge on fish and chips.
Just up the way, the Rutland dishes up classic British pies, puddings, and mash while the world’s smallest barroom lies further ahead tucked inside The Dove. Home to where celebrated poet James Thomson penned the patriotic lyrics of “Rule, Britannia”, this longstanding public house has hosted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Charles II, and Dylan Thomas.
The road soon transitions into the Upper Mall where authentic cask ales at the Old Ship await the fortunate while the brave forge on for a glimpse of the ‘Hammersmith Ghost’ who’s been tormenting The Black Lion since 1803.
Primarily nestled alongside the River Thames, these establishments offer al fresco seating year round. With a myriad of rowing and sailing clubs dispersed amidst them, it’s easy to while away an afternoon watching crew teams glide across the water as nearby sailboats pursue a gentle breeze. Over a quarter of a million spectators flood this area annually as university rivals Oxford and Cambridge battle for honor and victory in an iconic rowing competition known simply (or arrogantly) as The Boat Race. A tradition that’s now in its 161st year.
Georgian terraced flats once occupied by notable Englishmen such as Sir Emery Walker, line the continued route towards an oddly charming neighborhood dotted with 18th century homes. Peculiarly, a road separates many of these households from their secluded garden lawns which lie opposite the street on the embankment.
Weeping willows and quayside houseboats picturesquely adorn the trail as it passes London’s last remaining family brewery before heading through to the final resting place of legendary painter William Hogarth, and then capping off the journey at Chiswick House and Gardens.
Chiswick House was the brainchild of the third Earl of Burlington, whose love affair with Italian architecture led to the materialization of the first neo-Palladian building in England. A patronage of the arts, he completed this classically styled villa in 1729 for the sole purpose of delighting guests with his exquisite collection of art and literature.
A nominal admission price permits access to the interior with its coffered dome ceiling, walls entrenched in jewel-toned velvets, and rare landscape paintings hung throughout. However, the true magnificence of the estate lies in its exterior grounds.
Completely original and innovative at the time of its inception, the garden’s design scheme sparked an entire landscape movement and became the inspiration for New York’s Central Park. Now covering 65 acres, a latticework of paths and hedge-lined avenues meander around fragrant flower beds, old deer houses, and Roman-influenced sculptures and edifices while a nearby waterfall cascades into a lake cleverly fashioned to resemble a natural river.
Strolling along as dusk quietly descends upon the reflective waters coursing beneath low-lying tree branches and stone carved bridges make the bustling streets of London seem thousands of miles away.
After visiting the districts of Hammersmith and Chiswick, one can’t help but to come away with a fresh new perspective on one of the world’s greatest cities.
What did you think of my first print piece?! Let me know in the comments below!
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