London Tower Bridge

A London mini-break

Dear Jacson,

London, London, what a beauty you truly are. After the frantic rush that has been my reality these last two months, boy was it nice to slow down for a minute! Having 10 whole days in one place doesn’t sound like much, but when you live out of a suitcase, let me tell you it is blissful and I enjoyed every morning I didn’t have to re-pack my stuff.

After meetings with two London-based contacts earlier in the week (more on that to come so keep an eye out on the Socials for more), Jaz and I relished the time to explore London-town. What a wonder to finally be there and see the places I’d always seen in movies and in art.

While we stayed in a gorgeous Airbnb in Chelsea, we got some well-needed rest days where the most we did was go to the Tesco around the block for more hummus and wine. Of course, there were also some incredible days being “those annoying tourists” too.

Start of the introduction film in the Churchill War Rooms
Start of the introduction film in the Churchill War Rooms

On one of the last days in sunny London (it was actually sunny at that point), I went on a walking tour of Westminster and the Churchill War Rooms. Seeing as the Churchill Trust is supporting my research of specialised building design for Autism in memoriam of his life, I thought I should learn as much as I can about this man.

The tour of the area Westminster was illuminating. Our tour guide, Tom, was very knowledgeable about the surrounding areas, giving the group insight in the significance of the surrounding buildings, squares and dark smudges on clocks (something about the death of a royal) from a variety of historical standpoints. What was definitely the highlight of the tour was the trip down into the War Rooms. They say it’s just like someone switched off the lights those years ago after the war and that sure is the case! We entered through a side entrance of spiral staircases into a concrete room. A short film was played for us to set the scene and informational handheld speakers were distributed among the group. From there we were led into the start of the maze that was instrumental in the war efforts.

A Churchill War Rooms bedroom
One of the bedrooms in the complex that’s very typical of the rest

 

The Churchill War Rooms are the secret ‘temporary’ quarters in which the men and women involved in the operations of the British war efforts conducted strictly confidential business. After bombs damaged the structure of the original offices, they had to be relocated to a confidential location in London. It is from these underground rooms that were adapted from an old basement, that every major decision was made. And, to be honest, they looked as if the people working there had simply gone out to make a cup of tea. It’s a rabbit warren-esque set up, with narrow corridors and packed in rooms in every space possible. Just when you think you’re just about to turn the corner and find the exit, it just keeps going. Despite the modern ventilation system installed now, the air is heavy adding to the cramped feel. I can’t imagine how thick the air must have been when it was in use, with the cigarette smoke and stiff air.

Close up of the Key for the maps in the Cabinet War Rooms
The Key for the maps in the Map Room of the Cabinet War Rooms

 

Main hallway of the Churchill War Rooms
The wider main hallway in the complex with a portrait of Churchill on the wall

As a Churchill Fellow, I have an obvious fascination with Winston Churchill and this tour certainly shed some light on the man himself. Even if you’re not particularly interested in history, this tour is a must-do during a trip to London.

While there, I also got myself out to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croque Club, the home of the Wimbledon Tennis Championship! It was such a great day exploring the grounds and learning the history of the club. I’ve been watching the tennis ever since I remember, and I scarily know most of the stories of the players. I particularly loved getting up close and personal behind the scenes without all of the crowds, it’s something I won’t forget. And, of course, the trophies are spectacular!

Shelly sitting behind the desk in the Media Room at Wimbledon
Behind the desk in the Media Room

There were also some pretty AWESOME things to happen in London while I was there too.

List of fabulous events to happen in London while I was there:

  1. New Royal Baby

    Newspaper clipping Royal Baby

    A happy baby boy was born the day before we took the train to France, and there was celebration in the air!

  2. London marathon

    Ok, it happens every year. But still, exciting!

  3. Hottest day in April since 1949.

    Newspaper clipping warmest April day since 1949

    On Thursday the 19th of April it reached 28C and boy, you could tell. People flocked to the beautiful green areas around London and enjoyed the blissful sun while it was out. No one seemed to care that it was actually a work day because there were thousands of people in parks enjoying the sun and trying not to get attacked by pigeons. Ice-cream stands and kiosks were inundated with huge groups of people swarming them and lines that stretched way too long, trying to get the highly sought-after treat.

  4. The unveiling of Millicent Garrett Fawcett statue in London’s Parliament Square

Image credit: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian
Image credit: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian

This year marks the centenary since, thanks to the suffragist campaigner, some women were granted the same rights to vote as men in 1928. This statue is also the first representation of women in Parliament Square.

  1. Monet and Architecture exhibition at the National Gallery

Monet and Architecture exhibition poster at the National Gallery, London
The wall-sized poster of the exhibition
Monet and Architecture sign
Cheese!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t believe my luck! Like most people, I enjoy a bit of Monet, so to have the insight into his use of architecture in his paintings was such an interesting take on some of his most recognisable pieces. Without a doubt, try and get there if you happen to be in the area.

 

With all this touristing, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten why I’m here! Jaz, my friend Axelle, who’s kindly letting us stay at her flat, and I are having a get-stuff-done day during a drizzly, overcast day in Paris. We have an exciting meeting coming up this week and until then, I’ll be writing my report!

 

autism friendly, autismfriendlyspacesandplaces, Churchill Fellow 2017, Churchill Fellowship, london, tourist, UK

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