LONDON IS NOT ONLY A GREAT CITY BUT ALSO A VERY BIG ONE.
Size isn't everything, but with seven million inhabitants and covering 601 square miles, when choosing a hotel, location is of more importance in London than it is for many cities. This is where anyone staying at the Fielding Hotel is richly rewarded for their choice for not only is it in the centre of London but could be described as being in the centre of the centre, for no matter in which direction one walks from its situation in the quaint and quiet pedestrian Broad Court, at the corner of which stands the old Bow Street Magistrates Court where so many famous trials were initiated, and the site of the world's first police station, one will find many of London's attractions. And walking is undoubtedly the best way to see London. So, step by step, let us look at what those attractions are that lay within the pedestrian's reach.
THEY'VE GOT US SURROUNDED!
Yes, all around the Fielding are attractions. Covent Garden Market, for centuries the old fruit and vegetable market supplying the city, is the beating heart of the area, with its many shops, stalls and crafts and antiques markets, street entertainers and pubs and restaurants (which also abound in the surrounding streets, including the very old Lamb and Flag pub), is a magnet for visitors. And it is also the home of the London Transport Museum which, along with its collection of old buses, etc., chronicles the history of the world's oldest subway system, and St. Paul's Church, which was once described as "the finest barn in England." There is also the Royal Opera House just opposite Broad Court, the Fielding so close that our guests often nip back to their room during the intervals! Around the corner is the Fortune Theatre, and almost as close are the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the Duchess Theatre, the New Theatre in Drury Lane, the Lyceum in Bow Street, and the Aldwych, Strand, Vaudeville, Adelphi and Savoy theatres along the Strand. Somerset House along the Strand houses the Courtauld Institute Galleries, one of finest collections of art in Britain, with works ranging from the Early Italian Renaissance through to its renowned collection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings. On a stroll along the Embankment, or better still through the delightful Embankment Gardens you will come to Cleopatra's Needle, erected in 1878 after being brought from Egypt (and for a while lost at sea during its perilous journey), a twin to the one in New York's Central Park.
GO WEST YOUNG MAN.
But why be sexist or ageist, anyone can go west to sample London's West End with its theatres (the majority of London's fifty theatres are centred around the West End and Covent Garden), the restaurants clubs and pubs of Soho and, if you like a gamble or have money you really don't want, casinos. And again it is all within walking distance from the Fielding Hotel. Here also is Chinatown, the busy Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus (easy to distinguish as one has a statue of Eros and the other of Charlie Chaplin). Walk down St. Martins Lane to the National Portrait Gallery and a little further into the famous Trafalgar Square where Nelson's Column commemorates Britain's naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson (who else would be brave enough to stand on a plinth that high?), to the National Gallery housing one of the greatest collections of Western art in the world. Here too you can see the recently restored St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, and walk further, beneath Admiralty Arch and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace or take a stroll through St. James's Park, from where you can cut through Horseguards Parade and down Whitehall to the Neo-Gothic magnificence of the Houses of Parliament and the ancient Westminster Abbey, burial place of Britain's kings and queens and great and worthy (and dead) personages. Or you can walk through Green Park and back along Piccadilly to the Royal Academy of Arts, within which there is always an interesting exhibition or two - so much culture you'll need to take a spare brain to take it all in.
EAST IS EAST AND WEST IS...
Well we've done that. So what is within walking distance eastwards from the Fielding Hotel? In a short distance along Fleet Street one reaches the splendidly Victorian Royal Courts of Justice, then there are the Inns of Court, ancient buildings of a variety of architectural styles combining dignity with charm, and Lincolns Inn, which is where the John Soane Museum, housing the idiosyncratic collections of the architect Sir John Soane, is situated, along with the Old Curiosity Shop, made famous by Dickens. Equally curious, along Fleet Street, is the Twinings tea shop and its little museum and Prince Henry's Room, a 16th century room which somehow survived the centuries behind a later façade. But if you prefer your old buildings whole then there is Staple Inn, dating from 1586 at Holborn. There is also Dr. Johnson's House, the man who famously said "A man who is tired of London is tired of life" - and if he were alive today, though not a man to change his mind anyway, he would be saying the same thing. And why not have a drink in the pub he frequented, The Old Cheshire Cheese, one of a number of old hostelries along the Fleet Street approach to the City, and, after uplifting a pint, why not be uplifted by a visit to one of the Wren churches such as St. Clement Danes or St. Brides, and his masterpiece St. Paul's Cathedral, which is not at all as long a walk as one would think.
But you don't have to be tied up and taken south, you can just walk down to the Thames - and not even Moses would deem it necessary to part the waters, for, most conveniently, at the bottom of Bow Street/Wellington Street, is situated Waterloo Bridge by which you can reach the arts complex which includes the three theatres within the National Theatre, the National Film Theatre and the Hayward Gallery. Walk one way alongside the Thames and you come to the Millennium Wheel which, though it smacks of the fairground is one of London's most popular tourist attractions. Walk the other way and, depending on how far you continue, you can reach the Shakespeare Globe Theatre and Museum, the Tate Modern gallery, Southwark Cathedral and Tower Bridge, along with other tourist attractions. Or walk on down Waterloo Road to the famous Old Vic Theatre.
Beyond the British Museum, one can walk to the British Library housed in a new building in stark contrast to the ornate Victorian Gothic of St. Pancras Station, in which there is usually an interesting exhibition, plus the permanent display of some of the most famous historical books and documents to survive in Britain. But you may well divert west at the British Museum and do some shopping along Oxford Street or Regent Street or even walk up to Regents Park to relax - its not so far. Feeling tired now?
THE WANDERER RETURNS
The nice thing about having so much within a reasonable distance is that they are equally easy to return from to rest a while in your room at the Fielding or come back to and relax or sleep after a busy and enjoyable day.