London- Churches, Templars and the Movie Imitation Game?!

My day in London started out as many of my days in London do. I set out on the tube with a plan of what I would see only to discover things I did not expect but was highly delighted to experience. In an effort to try and explore as much of the city as I can I often pick an area of the city and try to tackle what it has to offer by wandering the streets an seeing the sights in search of adventure. Today I found it. Armed with nothing more than a vague plan to see various churches in the area boarding Blackfriars tube station and my trusty cell phone map app citymaps2go I hopped on the train to see what the city had to offer. I was very excited as I had just discovered a new feature of the traveller’s app, wiki download content to complement and enhance the details on the map for venues of note. I may have mentioned the citymaps2go app before but in case I haven’t here is a quick rundown. It is a paid for app but it has been offered at various times for free. When you are connected to Wi-Fi or 3G you can download maps of different cities to your phone or tablet and have then available when you are offline (without Internet access) this is important as Canadian cellular phone carriers charge roaming fees for using cellular data on foreign countries of you do not have a travel plan. Google maps and the iPhone map require you to be connected to the Internet to use the map functions. This app does not. So I can be utterly and totally lost which thankfully only seems to occur when I am in the area of Hampstead, and still access my map to figure out where I am and how to get home. It also lists the usual features found on most map apps nearest public transportation, restaurants and shops. It is a fantastic tool in my opinion. I have digressed though, I wanted to visit the area and see some of the churches. The in depth knowledge feature on the app provided me with histories, points of interest and associations to the sites.

Exiting the underground at Blackfriars I turned away from St Paul’s Cathedral and stayed perpendicular to the Thames River. I followed the narrow and winding streets which would be more apt to be called lanes. I followed Fleet Street once home to a great deal of print houses. The history and origins of the area can be found on descriptive tiles along the wall in Magpie Alley, near Shoe Lane on the northern side of Fleet Street. The Alley is worthy of a pause to read up on the stories of the area. One of the most famous residents of the street is the butcher barber, Sweeney Todd. There are pubs claiming to be in his favourite haunts abound lining the road. What was lacking though was a meat pie shop.

I stopped St Dunstan-in-the-west a church that was closed to the public but features a clock with statues of giants. Originally a medieval church it has been rebuilt restored and renovated over the last thousand years of its existence. St Dunstan’s still has certain points of interest that boggle my mind at how old they are. The clock and statues set to strike the time on the church date from the late 17th century. The statue of Queen Elizabeth the first is a hundred years more senior to the clock dating back to the actual Elizabethan period and may well be the oldest outdoor statue in London, according to the app’s wiki data.

I kept heading west to where the road forks in to the Strand and stopped to admire St Clement Danes which is dedicated to the Royal Air Force (RAF). The church is lovely but you will want to avoid standing out front of the church if you were suffering from a migraine. The incessant tolling of the carillon to the tune of Oranges and Lemons made me edgy. Thankfully one cannot hear it from inside the church or around the backside as loudly. If I were in a building facing St. Clement Danes I would be investing in a good pair of noise cancelling earphones or risk going mad. All carillon bells and no silence make Katherine go crazy… The inside of the church was adorned and lovingly dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives serving their country. Large books are displayed commemorating the sacrifice made by the airmen. If a former RAF serviceman passes one can have their name inscribed in the books for a modest £40 fee. I felt pride viewing the crests inlaid in the floor knowing my Grandfather served with the RAF in WWII. I can hardly wait to show him the pictures of the chapel. There was one thing that threw me, an insignia rosette at the entrance which represents commonwealth air forces is noticeably missing the RCAF badge and I am curious as to why it has been omitted. The crypt underneath the church is hardly as sinister as one may fear. It has old tablets marking who was originally interred. The remains have all been cremated and moved to a new resting place. Since it is the first week of November remembrances across the globe will be commemorating the sacrifice of many men and women for the protection of their country and freedoms for themselves and future generations. I thought the church was a good way to kick off my personal remembering of the sacrifices made. On the walk around down by the Thames memorials were covered with poppy wreaths and people stopping to pay their respect to the fallen.

I continued my journey with a jaunt to the temple area but had misread the schedule for the temple church which it turns out is not open on Sundays. The church was featured in the book and movie Da Vinci’s Code by Dan Brown. It is almost a thousand years old and served as the place where the Knights Templar worshiped and were interred. The area surrounding the church was accessible only by one access the day I visited a gate off Tudor Street. The area it really neat and was once part of one of the four Inns of court, the honorable society of the Inner Temple (aka Inner Temple) and professional association for barristers (lawyers) and Judges. I am not going to drone on about the area or the professions it can all be read about it HERE . The area is neat and worth a walk through. The different styles of edifices, courts and random graves plopped here and there.

Exploring further along the streets I wanted to see the buildings on Chancery Lane which was once part of the temple area. I wound around the streets to my other destination, past the impressive Neo-gothic building housing the Maughan library. I rounded the corner to come down Chancery Lane and was struck by what I saw. The street was filled with rubble, burnt out cars, people in 40’s clothing. It was as if I had stumbled upon a scene from London during the Air raids of the Second World War. Upon closer look the rubble was Styrofoam painted to look like stone and not all the cars were old. There were several large modern trucks. I had stumbled on to a movie location. I stopped and spoke with a man loading film camera gear into a massive truck. He informed me that they had indeed been filming a movie set during WWII and had just wrapped filming for the day. The worker was nice and told me about the movie, The Imitation Game, and its subject, Alan Turing and how there was going to be loads of cleaning up of the area late in to the night. Upon reaching home I googled the movie and found it stars some actors if note but before getting all excited I didn’t see anyone I recognised, not that I am good at that sort of thing. I could have tripped over an actor and never known who they were. I felt transported back in time and thought how splendid a way to see what the aftermath may have been like whilst on my tour of remembrance. I wandered around the location in awe at how the area had been transformed as I watched the street change back to a modern one. Street signs came down, lamp posts changed out; even the lines on the street had been changed to wider less reflective ones. It was a very cool opportunity to see the movie magic. I am looking forward to watching the movie so I can see what was filmed on that set.

As the sun was setting quickly and it was starting to get cold. I decided to head back to meet my crew mates for dinner. We opted for the Persian place, Kandoo, on Edgeware road. I have been there before and love their food. I would recommend the mixed appetizer (humus, baba ghanoush and a yogurt dip) with a side of bread made in the oven in the window. My favourite dish is the lamb chops platter, much to the surprise of my mum I bet as I have never been a fan of lamb. I guess that visiting London every week for the last 6 months has awakened an ancestral English part of me.