Garden walking along the Thames.
Nonstop sightseeing, especially in a busy city like London, can be
exhausting. But along the River Thames just a few minutes from several
major attractions, three garden areas can provide temporary respite from
traffic and crowds. You may see a few tourists here, but the primary
patrons are Londoners-relaxing with the daily paper or enjoying a picnic
lunch on mild, sunny days. A stroll through these areas in late winter
reveals beautiful silhouettes of magnificent old trees. Any one of the
three gardens shown on the map at right also makes a pleasant stopping
place. The two Victoria Embankment stops are just a few blocks east of
Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Along the pat s are plenty of
benches for lounging. Street sounds are muffled, and the surrounding
gardens are beautifully kept. If you're near the Houses of
Parliament, aim instead for Victoria Tower Gardens. Stroll by statues,
statuesque trees A walk through all three gardens leads you by handsome
landscapes and interesting historical sites. At a leisurely pace, allow
45 minutes to an hour. The Embankment tube station leaves you at the
upper area of the map. Exit to the gardens. Just north of the station,
The Embankment Gardens Cafe (open at 10 A.M. daily) offers quick snacks
from a simple menu. For more elegant fare, consider the Savoy for
afternoon tea or a drink (jacket and tie required). The hotel's
main entrance is on The Strand, but you can also enter midway through
the gardens. Nearby is the Centenary Garden, a quaint, formal patio
surrounded by teak benches. It was recently opened to honor the
hotel's founding a century ago by Richard D'Oyly Carte (better
known for his patronage of the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan).
Continuing north through the gardens, you pass statues honoring famous
Britishers such as composer Sir Arthur Sullivan and poet Robert Burns.
Pause on a bench to enjoy the stately trees. Backtracking south past the
tube station, walk under the Hungerford bridge and cross at the
Northumberland Avenue traffic light to the lower Embankment Gardens.
Across the manicured lawn is the grand Old War Office, built in 1906.
From here, cross Horse Guards Avenue and continue south on Victoria
Embankment. The Embankment is a major thoroughfare, so this part of the
trek will be noisy. Follow the river side of the road for a close-up
view of activity on the Thames. Big Ben clock tower looms over the
Houses of Parliament, just 1/4 mile farther. The Westminster tube
station is on the street's northwest corner. If traffic at Bridge
Street and Victoria Embankment is too busy to cross, use the tube
station stairs and follow the signs. Walk west on Bridge Street and take
your first left, by Parliament Square and Westminster Hall. Follow this
street, which becomes Abingdon Street, to Victoria Tower Gardens (on
left). On sunny days-especially on weekends-bigger crowds make these
gardens less sedate than the Embankment gardens. Look for Rodin's
sculpture The Burghers of Calais at the upper end of the gardens.
Children will more likely notice the swings at the lower end. If you
have time, visit Westminster Abbey, just south of Parliament Square.