With Brexit done, we return to London, capital of Great Britain, an island nation, going it alone. And RONAN O’CONNELL reckons we can explore without spending too much money
From its gorgeous canal village, to a walking tour of the city's spy locations, its engrossing Science Museum, the glorious park dedicated to a legend, and the historic market that bulges with gourmet food, here are five of London’s best free attractions.
“I want to see where Princess Diana Lived”. That was the answer that shocked me when I asked my wife to list the top three places she wanted to see during our visit to London. Until then I had no idea that she was such a fan of the late British princess, posters of whom were plastered on the walls of her family home when she was growing up.
So we walked from our hotel in Paddington down into Hyde Park, across into the sprawling Kensington Gardens and headed for Kensington Palace, the grand royal residence that was the long-time home of Princess Diana. Along the way we stopped at the lavish Italian Gardens, the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Queen Caroline’s Temple, and the Diana Memorial Playground. By the time we finally reached the palace, after meandering through Kensington Gardens for more than two hours, my wife looked at the $35 entry price for the palace, shrugged her shoulders and said: “I’ve already seen enough”. Kensington Gardens are, in themselves, a brilliant attraction.
London’s spy trail
As my wife stood on the Blue Bridge in St James’ Park, looking towards Buckingham Palace, I sidled up next to her and, while looking in the opposite direction, whispered to her a message. British MI5 and MI6 spies for many years used to do just this, right on this bridge, while meeting other secret agents. London has been a central location in the spy battles between Britain and Russia that date back decades.
So we did a self-guided walking tour of some of the city’s most renowned spy locations. We visited assassination locations, former secret intelligence bases, and even a lamp post in the ritzy Mayfair neighbourhood inside which Russian KGB spies would hide messages, pictured left.
This is an edited version of the original, full-length story, which you can read here.
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