A Mindful Walk Along London’s Embankment
I’m hoping that typing will help my fingers thaw. My hands and feet are like blocks of ice but it was worth getting so cold in Trafalgar Square on Sunday where, as the sun’s last rays faded, the French Tricolore flag was projected onto the façade of the National Gallery and the waters of the fountains were illuminated red, white and blue as tribute to those who lost their lives in Paris last week.
I was privileged to be part of the huge, quiet and contemplative crowd and able, as I hoped I might be, to meditate on the loss of life and send healing thoughts to those who were grieving and trying to cope with trauma.
As I started my stroll home in a pensive mood, a smile slowly spread across my face as I remembered that this most central area of London, was also home to some of my favourite peaceful spots that I enjoy sharing with you.
Do you know lovely Embankment Gardens? Across the road from Trafalgar Square and a short stroll down Villiers Street next to Charing Cross station you will find one of my favourite London gardens just on the left, next to the entrance of Embankment tube station. This garden is one of three strung along this particular part of the river: Temple Gardens, Main Gardens and Embankment Gardens. In this, the Main Gardens, you’ll find a bandstand with entertainment during the summer months. You can lie back in a deckchair and pick up some rays whilst listening to the music, it is as soothing and peaceful a spot as you can find in the hurly burly of London.
Even in the winter months there are usually bedding displays that make it a pretty place to stroll or sit peacefully, knowing that you’ve left the bustle of The Strand behind you. There are some charming statues and a lovely sundial under the Savoy Hotel dedicated to Richard D’Oyly Carte.
Now, why would this particular garden be my favourite of the three? Because it’s where the café is of course! This is real English caff, not fancy but you will get an honest, filling English breakfast, a variety of things with chips and a good strong cup of tea with a piece of cake and you can sit outside on a terrace and watch people go by. What can be better than that?
When you leave the garden, wander back up towards The Strand but before you get there, take a right into the Adelphi area, a small district comprising Adelphi Terrace, Robert Street and John Adam Street. See the ravishing art deco Adelphi Building set in amongst the Adam Brothers’ beautiful 18th century architecture. I’ve just had a rummage through Wikipedia and learned that this little enclave was once home to such residents as David Garrick, J M Barrie, John Galsworthy, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Hardy and unsurprisingly Richard D’Oyly Carte. Stop there for a moment and imagine what it must have been like in these times. All top hats, pocket watches and gentlemanly manners. Fantastic!
Last, but by no means in this little quarter is the gorgeous Corinthia Hotel, just to the right of Embankment tube station on Waterloo Place. It is glamorous, luxurious and absolutely my favourite of London’s 5 star hotels. Why do I include it in an article about peaceful places in London? Well, because when my mother was seriously ill a few years ago, the Lobby Lounge in the Corinthia became the place I would head for when I felt very stressed in my caring role to give myself a break and a much needed lift. I would walk in there, be welcomed with smiles, sink into a sofa, order a pot of Oolong tea or sometimes treat myself to delicious scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for a late breakfast and the cares of outside world would fall away. It would give me the breather that I needed in a super comfortable, relaxing place. I even left smelling divine from the lovely hand cream in their loos. It never failed to revive me and more ready to face whatever I had to deal with next and I’m ever grateful to this gracious, calm and beautiful place and the lovely people who work there for this. I remember John Betjamen saying that when the end of the world came he would like to be in the department store Peter Jones as nothing bad could ever happen there. I’d like to be in the Lobby Lounge of the Corinthia!