One of the things I admire most about London is that despite its status as a major city, quite a bit of green is still maintained. Blocks of apartments or shops are offsetted by a block of park, complete with beautiful statues and arrays of flowers. Then there the major parks somewhat linked throughout the city. Most windowsills and front steps are decorated with flower pots and plants alleviating the “big city” feel just that touch more – which, at the very least, made me stroll with more of a skip in my step. Of course, there are these bits and pieces of greenery…and then there is Hyde Park.
Its counterpart in the U.S. would have to be Central Park, and as with New York City, Hyde Park is certainly a must see sight in London. Now, I touched on Hyde Park in my previous post as that was one of the locations where the Diamond Jubilee Concert was being screened. Yet such an iconic park deserves to have its own post – especially so as I have more pictures of the park to share!
Hyde Park was acquired by King Henry VIII in 1536 from Westminster Abbey and used as a private hunting ground. It wasn’t until 1637, under Charles I, that the park was opened to everyone. Today, Hyde Park together with Kensington Gardens covers 630 acres – though there is a technical separation between the two (fairly contiguous) entities. So, essentially, pack a snack and put on your good walking shoes!
Besides the landscape – which is absolutely beautiful – and the fantastic diversity of flora around the park, there are some sites worth making the effort to see within the park. Now if you’re going to do this all out, you may as well start at the Queen Elizabeth Gate, also referred to as “The Grand Entrance”. Sounds like the place to begin, doesn’t it?
There are a few different memorials that have been built in the park. In the previous post, I mentioned the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial which is east of the hard to miss Albert Memorial. It is worth stopping by to see the oval ring of flowing water, and wade in it if that’s your fancy. Truly, while it seems a simple structure, the tranquility and thought put into the Princess Di memorial creates a beautiful way to remember and honor her.
The two memorials I have not yet seen in Hyde Park are the Holocaust memorial and the memorial honoring the 52 victims from the July 7, 2005 bombings. My family had actually been visiting London when the terrorist attack occurred, and I can say that it is nice to know a memorial has been constructed in honor of those who died from the tragic event. 52 steel pillars represent the 52 lives lost at 7/7, while a serene tree surrounded rock and garden serve to honor the memory of the many lives lost during the Holocaust.
If you feel you have something to say, or are perhaps in a philosophical and/or argumentative mood, then you will want to head over to the infamous Speakers’ Corner. Located at the far Northeast corner of Hyde Park near Marble Arch, this corner has been a public speaking forum since the 19th century. It has a rich history of ideas and democratic rights.
Finally, aside from important memorials and historic structures, there is simply the joy of taking a stroll through the many gardens and walks that wind their way through Hyde Park. From the Rose Garden to the Italian Garden, and the Kensington Gardens to Serpentine Gallery (as well as the body of water itself dividing the park), it’s a beautiful place to escape the city for a little while and just enjoy the green. I’ve been to Hyde Park twice now and still haven’t managed to see everything it holds, but I know it is a place I would very much enjoy returning to for a good walk now and then.
Happy new year to you, readers, and I hope you have all had wonderful holidays. Though it’s always a bit sad to see the holiday festivities come to an end (and go back to work – ugh!) and decorations come down, we can be thankful for the fresh start a new year brings. This year is full of potential for all of us, and I hope it will be a good one full of adventures – great and small – for you and for me! Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…