Quite a few weeks back I signed up for a tour of some buildings around London in a vintage London bus. I put it in the diary then forgot about it, till Helen the diary supervisor reminded me. I eventually found the tickets hidden away in the back of a draw, where I had put them after printing at time of booking. The tour kicked off at 10:30 but registration and hopefully chance to grab an upper deck seat, began at 10:00.
Google maps suggested that the 08:45 from Berkhamsted would give us plenty of time to spare. We managed to grab a free parking space, the train left on time, and we got seats at a table, however the man sat next to Helen was tapping away on the table all the way to London I could tell it was annoying her, but it made a change I’m normally the one to be reprimanded.
At Euston we got the Victoria line to the lines namesake, Victoria station then we headed to 20 Grosvenor Gardens, where there was quite a gathering around a green double decker. It was raining lightly and it took an age to get on the bus as they were handing out audio devices and tote bags as everyone got on. It may have been more efficient to load the bus then distribute the devices, but we will never know. Helen and I managed to get a couple of the remaining seats on the top deck just at the top of the stairs on the driver’s side.
The bus is an RMC1543 one of the most popular by all accounts. We first stopped on Bond Street where we all got off and they guide told us about the building belonging to Richard Green the old masters art dealer, who had another building built opposite to sell more modern art from. Then we walked via the Burlington Arcade where the modern floor was of interest. Heading towards Piccadilly other buildings were pointed out. We were then told to buy lunch, I had sushi and a tuna and mustard onigiri, and Helen had a nice looking sandwich. We met back on the bus and headed to the Queen’s gallery attached to Buckingham palace.
A lady from the architects office who designed the Queens gallery gave us a talk about they challenges of designing a wing to fit in with the rest of Buckingham Palace, which had been added to by many over the years. We got back on the bus and headed to our next destination which were some houses in Regent’s Park, on the way we headed up Park Lane which apparently is one of the (if not the only) section of road in central London that is not 30mph, it is 40mph. The bus driver had a go at braking it but even with the run up, taking the bends at speed (relative) he hit some traffic about 2 thirds in and only managed 35 mph. The tour has a history of record attempts they currently hold the record for the number of circuits of the Elephant and castle roundabout in a vintage bus they did that whilst looking at a building on the roundabout.
At Regents park we jumped off the bus and took a look at the 6 houses built on the edge of the park they were all very large and each one was an example of different styles of architecture, e.g. Venetian, Doric, Gothic etc. We all stood outside as the tour guide explained them, we had the curtains twitching on one of them and an armed policeman keep his eye on us from the other. The policeman was keeping an eye on the entrance to Winfield house the the residence of the American Ambassador has the second largest private garden in central London, after that of Buckingham Palace. Helen enjoyed the paparazzi effect.
We skipped the Camdem Packington Estate as we were short of time so the next and final stop would be the Highbury Gardens, which Prince Charles has some connection to in that after the famous Carbuncle affair, more care was taken over the design of buildings. The development was a combination of housing association flats with low rental for local and shared ownership with 5 year no interest mortgages combined with private ownership flats. All mixed together so that it was not obvious which flats were which. We looked around one of each type and I must say it felt a bit awkward, in fact too awkward for Helen who opted out, however the two where the people were in made us feel very welcome and were proud to show off their homes.
It was a short journey on a full Victoria line tube train back to Euston where we got the 15:54 train back to Berkhamsted. The day was interesting I now have a better feel for the architecture of London but I am not sure I would repeat it unless the subject matter was of real interest as architecture is not really my thing. Having said that the tour was very well organised and the people running it friendly and informative, I imagine it took some organising.