By Nikhil Raghavan
When visiting London, there are many off-beat places of interest to visit and see, instead of the usual Buckingham Palace-Big Ben-London Bridge kind of tour. The trick is to spend at least two days at each place instead of doing a hop-on-hop-off-tour!
In the 1930s, the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (yes, the same person after whom Lutyen’s Delhi is named) designed the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King which replaced the original 1933 building that was never completed after being held up due to the 2nd World War. The new Metropolitan Cathedral is sited above the Crypt of the original building. The Cathedral houses a giant pipe organ built in 1967 by London’s J. W. Walker and Sons. The console has four manuals and 88 speaking stops. The 4565 organ pipes are directly above the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The organ is electro-pneumatically controlled. The pipe organ is played during every Sunday mass.
Three domes, five floors, 528 steps, 1400 years of history and the greatest crypt in Europe. The building from outside and inside is so overwhelming due to its sheer size, intricate architectural work and imposing arched ceilings. To fully appreciate the architecture of St. Paul’s Cathedral, one has to ascend 257 steps to their world-famous Whispering Gallery with its unique acoustics. A touch of modernity blends well with the traditional.
Giant musical strides
Opposite the Cunard Building on Albert Dock, Liverpool stands a larger-than-life bronze statue of the four Beatles. Created by sculptor Andy Edwards, it was unveiled in 2015 by John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird on the Pier Head. This is the closest one can get for selfies with The Fab Four but most would look ridiculous due to its sheer size. On Mathew Street in the Cavern Quarter there is a similar work of John Lennon’s statue reclining against a wall. While there, don’t miss The Beatles Story walk-through tour.
Shakespeare upon Stratford
Merely walking down this avenue fills you with literary euphoria. Its William Shakespeare’s birthplace. In the vicinity are his mother Mary Arden’s farm and wife Anne Hathaway’s family home. Shakespeare’s own family home for 19 years is the centre of attraction. The street is crammed with shops selling souvenirs, memorabilia and other trivia, besides an exclusive shop selling Christmas decorations and other paraphernalia throughout the year.
The historic EMI factory which carries their brand – His Master’s Voice boldly on the main building, still stands amidst several other buildings that constituted the company’s record manufacturing and marketing activities, in Hayes. The developer who bought the premises has transformed the campus into a commercial work space but retained many of the record industry touches, including the giant Nipper, the iconic trademark of HMV, with the entire complex itself named The Old Vinyl Factory. Sheer nostalgia for music lovers!
The Battle of Britain Bunker, located in Hillingdon plays a crucial role in the defence of the United Kingdom throughout the 2nd World War. The underground operations room, accessible by climbing down 76 steps to 60 feet below, was the nerve centre for No. 11 Fighter Group, Royal Air Force comprising of Hurricane and Spitfire Squadrons. The control room, plotting room, communications centre and squadron display boards helped the commanders to direct the war to keep the Luftwaffe at bay. A guided tour fills you with historical facts.
Enjoy a glass blowing experience at Cumbria Crystal, perhaps the last manufacturer of hand-blown, hand-cut luxury crystal in the UK. Using age old glassmaking methods, their highly skilled artisans craft stunning ranges of traditional and contemporary crystal every day in their Ulverston factory, on the outskirts of the Lake District. Glass blowing experience and weekend courses are also available. Just viewing the entire process of a crystal glass or vase being made is mind blowing.
Shaken and stirred
Attending a play or visiting a gallery or just strolling through the vast corridors and cafes inside the Barbican on Silk Street, London, is not complete without the experience of being served, or rather stirred and shaken up by a couple of robots! London’s very first robotic bartender, Makr Shakr operates free of human intervention, has two mechanical arms which can precisely prepare and serve any drink of your choice in seconds. Based on the gestures of Italian dancer and choreographer Marco Pelle the machine shakes, stirs and muddles with coordinated, dance-like movements.