My first experience of London in 1987 revolved around Piccadilly Circus. I stayed in a cheap hotel there and spent much time wandering the local streets and perusing the markets. It was the first time I had seen a real ‘punk rocker‘ (as we said in the 80’s) in person – and I was definitely inspired.
Truly, London changed my life. It was London that inspired me to create an existence of exploration and travel – a life of looking and learning.
I remember being entirely overwhelmed by the gorgeous white buildings of Piccadilly, the bustling streets, the sights, smells – and the throngs of colourful people.
The area was built to connect Regent Street with the shopping district of Piccadilly. The term Piccadilly was derived from an original resident – Robert Baker, a famous piccadill tailor – a piccadill being a type of fancy collar.
The term ‘circus’ was acquired from the latin word for circle. Piccadilly became known as a ‘circus’ in 1819 when efforts were made to better congestion by creating the famous traffic circle.
The Greek God Anteros (often mistaken for Eros, erected in 1893) is depicted atop a central fountain located directly above the Piccadilly tube station. The station itself was built in 1906.
According to Wikipedia;
In May 2012 the Statue of Anteros had a new bow string fitted after it was broken by a tourist.
How embarrassing! What are you doing touching the bow anyway? I just hope it wasn’t a Canadian!
The enormous, larger than life ‘4 horses of Helios’ bronze statue was erected in the Haymarket in 1992. From fountainsoc.org.uk;
Each morning at dawn he rises from the ocean in the east and rides in his chariot, pulled by four horses – Pyrois, Eos, Aethon and Phlegon — through the sky, to descend at night in the west.
Piccadilly is well known for its jumbo neon (LED!) sign displays. The first incandescent advertisements appeared here by 1910. For the beginning half of the 1900’s, nearly every surface of the circus was covered in lights – referred to as ‘electric hoardings’.
It is hard to imagine the bright lights of Piccadilly flashing even before motorized vehicles – and long before traffic lights, but that is how it was.
Now only one unnamed building carries the bulk of the advertising. LED lights have replaced the neon, though there were still a few left on our visit in 2010.
In 2002, Yoko Ono paid a hefty sum to have her former husbands famous phrase plastered across the then neon display;
“Imagine all the people living life in Peace.”
There are some fantastic photos of historic Piccadilly through the years available at wikipedia.
London is one of the places I have no problem repeat visiting. Each time – even if visiting the same places – is like a new adventure.
After spending at least 8 hours walking and exploring, we were ready for a relax and sleep before making the long trek back to Canada.
We were not flying directly to our home in Vancouver. We planned to make a stop to visit family in Alberta first. Which meant we still had 12 or more hours of flight time between London, Toronto and Calgary. Plus the 4 hour drive to our visiting location, followed by a 12 hour drive home.
Our adventure was not quite over yet!
- Four Horses of Helios (fountainsoc.org.uk)
- Piccadilly Circus (wikipedia)
- Piccadilly Circus (aviewoncities.com)