Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Amazing Covent Garden in London

Street performers, bars, restaurants, shops and theatres - that is Covent Garden. Situated in the heart of London's Westend, Covent Garden would probably be the most lively and action packed entertainment and leisure destination in London.
The Covent Garden Piazza
The area of Covent Garden consists of  an Italian style central  piazza which is dominated by what orignally was the fruit and vegetable market surrounded by bars, restaurants and fashionable boutiques.
The Apple Market
Built in 1632 by Inigo Jones, the Covent Garden market is a large glass covered building comprising os several arcades of high fashion boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants and a plethora of arts and crafts. The Apple Market which is a part of this unique market does not sell apples !! It is estimated that 30 million tourists visit this famous tourist destination.
The Covent Garden Market
Covent Garden attracts street performers from all over. You will see numerous mime artists, musicians, jugglers and others entertaining the tourists in the central square. Dont be surprised if a statue springs to life as you approach it and reaches out towards you. This is just one of the acts that you will come across.
Pirot !!!
Another scene of Covent  Garden

So if you are in London , head for Covent Garden , have a drink at the numerous bars in that area, watch a street performance , shop at one of the fashionable boutiques and in the evening take in the theatre. You could end it with dinner at Belgo !

Sunday, October 3, 2010


If you are in London and in search for great seafood - head for Belgo at Earlham Street near the Covent Gardens. Belgo is a very unusual restaurant. The main entrance leads to a waiting bar area where you can start off with a glass of beer before you are seated at your table. The main restaurant is in the basement to which you descend in a cage like lift.
View of the Restaurant
The ambiance and look of the restaurant is very different from most places. A bit noisy with tables and benches for seating. Remember to book your table in advance or you may land up waiting for over 30 minutes.  Lots of steel visible with no false ceiling.
If you think Belgian Food , what does come to mind is  seafood and in particular mussels. There is a wide variety of seafood available at the Belgo, however what you must order is a steaming pot of Mussels accompanied by a bowl of freshly made crisp fries with creamy mayonnaise. And of course the Beer without which Belgian food is incomplete.
View of the Kitchen
The area around the Belgo at Covent Gardens is a very lively and and fun place. There are numerous pubs and other entertainment activities which includes plays and musicals over here.
In front of one of the theatres showing Chicago

Friday, October 1, 2010


Huge stones sticking out of the earth to a height of over 30 ft in a semi circular horse shoe shaped formation in the middle of lovely green meadows - that is Stonehenge. Another must visit place when you are in London, the ancient Stonehenge leaves you full of questions on the origin and purpose of these stones. Stonehenge is an icon symbolizing mystery, power and endurance. There has been a lot of speculation on its original purpose , from being a sacred burial site for high ranking citizens of that age  to a temple for the worship of ancient earth deities and a place for human sacrifice . It has also been speculated that this was an astronomical observatory for marking significant events on the prehistoric calendar. One fact is certain, Stonehenge must have been something very important to the ancients to make them take this effort and investment to put up this magnificent structure.
Stonehenge as it is today
The ancient monument of Stonehenge  was built as a temple about 5000 years ago as a large earthwork with a circular ditch surrounding a raised bank with upright wooden poles. This was the new stone age or the Neolithic Age.
The Circular ditch around the Central area with the Stones
(Note the Station Stone in the foreground)
About 2500 years ago, when the wooden pillars had begun to rot, the first stones were brought to replace the timber. This 2nd stage of Stonehenge started around 2150 BC when some 82 blue stones from the Preseli mountains from Southwest Wales were transported to the site. These were believed to have been brought by sleighs and rollers and through waterways - travelling a distance of 250 miles. This also marked the beginning of construction and alterations that lasted over 800 years stretching into the Bronze Age.
By this time, Stonehenge was the greatest temple in Britain, its banks, ditches and standing stones arranged in sophisticated alignments to mark the passage of the sun and the changing seasons.
A great Sarsen stone trilithon
These are two massive upright stones capped by a horizontal Intel . This is one of the 5 that originally stood over here.
Part of the outer sarsen circle with the best preserved section of surviving lintels.
It is apparent that the sarsens were carefully trimmed and shaped before being set up in their positions.
The Heelstone at Stonehenge
About 250 ft from the centre of the monument on the northwest periphery of the circle is a single large sarsen stone known as the heelstone. This is about 8 ft in diameter and stands 12 ft above the ground. The purpose of the heelstone however still remains a mystery.

Some Facts about Stonehenge

Age estimated at 3100 BC
Location Wilt shire, UK
OS Reference SU 122 422
Type of stone Bluestone, Sarson, Welsh Sandstone
Worship Lunar, Solar
Access English Heritage - there is a charge to visit the stones.

Stonehenge is an easy 3 hours drive from London. There are numerous tours to Stonehenge during the day. Normally there is no access to the inner circle - however there are special tours on certain days at sunrise and sunset which allow one to go within the circle up close to the stones. However you need to book very much in advance to get a seat on one of  these tours. I was in London in August and every tour was full up even though I had tried a month earlier to get a booking.