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Walks with Graff: New Orleans Saints in London edition
Todd Graffagnini explores London before the Saints take on the Vikings
By Todd Graffagnini Sep 29, 2022

Todd Graffagnini, a digital contributor for the New Orleans Saints, is a walker. You can find Graff pounding the pavement somewhere around New Orleans almost every day. As the Saints head overseas for the week, fans can join Graff as he explores new routes and takes in the sights of London ahead of gameday.

Hello everyone, and greetings from jolly old London, England. If you are reading this, chances are you know my affinity for travel, and especially exploring the various paths and streets of the cities I am fortunate enough to be in. Well, since your New Orleans Saints happen to be playing an NFL game at Tottenham Stadium on Sunday, and since I am covering the team during the trip, might as well cover all the bases and revive the Walks with Graff series that originated during the Covid spring of 2020.

This journey, thanks to the six-hour time difference from London to New Orleans and some jet lag due to an early sleep the previous night, started at approximately 6:30 a.m. London time Tuesday, so after midnight back home. I am staying at the media hotel not far from central London, and I was pretty excited knowing I could hit some great spots that are relatively close in a short amount of time. After a little recon the night before, I had my route set and off I went on a pretty good clip, helped greatly by the brisk low 50s temperatures that greeted me when I stepped outside into the still dimly lit morning.

I headed out the hotel and took a left turn onto Edgeware Road and headed southeast, a main thoroughfare in what is called the Paddington section of London. After about a quarter-mile one of the city's great landmarks is right there in front of you. The Marble Arch, which was designed to be a state entrance to still being constructed Buckingham Palace courtyard dating to 1837, was relocated to its current site in 1851. Now it's a pseudo entrance to gigantic Hyde Park, which is in central London, and has various walking, cycling and even horse riding paths surrounding and dividing it. Walking around the Marble Arch, I headed for the walking path on the east side of Hyde Park and parallel with another famous street in London, Park Lane. As I approached the southeast corner of the Park, that's when it started to get a bit surreal that I was actually there. Of course, unless you've been in a dark cave the last three weeks, pretty much everyone on the planet is aware of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8 after 70 years on the throne, the subsequent mourning period and ultimately the state funeral which spanned 10 days and culminated Sept. 19. As I took a slight turn to the left, I was taken back to what I witnessed on television just a week ago, except this time I was actually tracing the steps and routes of the royal family dating back to the late 1800s

It started by walking through the Wellington Arch Processional, and ultimately through Wellington Arch, another historic landmark of London, and where Queen Elizabeth's coffin was transferred from the State Gun Carriage to the State Hearse before the final journey to Windsor Castle. It was there, along with hundreds of British military looking on, the rest of the royal family boarded their own limousines to follow the hearse. I actually couldn't believe the history that had taken place just seven days ago on that very spot I was so innocently walking through. With all these thoughts racing through my mind, I headed down Constitution Hill, bordering the north side of the back of Buckingham Palace, and to the Palace itself, which comes up rather quickly after about a quarter-mile on the right. Suddenly, it's all there in front of you. I walked around the Victoria Memorial, located directly in front of the Palace and at the foot of The Mall, with its gleaming gilded bronze statue of Winged Victory now reflecting from the now rising sun. So many millions of people have spent time celebrating British triumphs or mourning tragedies, and I needed to get a glimpse of one of the most famous views in the world. The Mall itself, lined on both sides by huge Union Jacks, connects Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square and Horse Guards Road. It is open to pedestrians and traffic during the weekday, but closed on weekends and ceremonial occasions. I headed down The Mall toward the Horse Guards Road on the edge of St. James's Park and ultimately got a spectacular view of the Horse Guard building and parade ground as the sun was now coming up behind it.

I headed back up the Mall toward the Palace and this time walked around the other side of the Victoria Memorial, and back up Constitution Hill, back through the Wellington Arch and now up the west side of Hyde Park about a quarter-mile, then cut through the park to my original path on the east side and back to the aforementioned Marble Arch. It would've been easy enough to head back into the hotel and call it a morning…but not this day…one more personal spot on the agenda.

Moving back on the aforementioned Edgeware Road, this time heading northwest to a neighborhood known as St. John's Wood. After about a mile as Edgwater Road morphs into Maida Vale at the Grand Union Canal. One more block and a right turn at St. John's Wood Road. It was getting better all the time (subtle hint). Three blocks later, and a left turn at Grove End Road, I could sense it, and at that point, the music which was playing in my ears had to be changed to one thing….The Beatles' arguably finest album, Abbey Road. Which, not coincidentally, was about five minutes from the famous same-named studios. The final destination of this glorious morning. As Grove End Road forks into Abbey Road to the left, the now empty studios sit with nothing but Beatles love graffiti on the white painted walls in front. One more final act to this play, as has been replicated hundreds of thousands of times after the original album cover came out, but I too would follow in the footsteps of John, Paul, George, and Ringo and made the iconic short walk across the zebra stripes to the other side of the road. Contrary to popular belief, I DID leave my shoes on, unlike Paul McCartney. This act can be seen on my Instagram or Twitter @ntgraff.

All in all, the walk took 8.3 miles and just over two hours and was worth every meter and second. London is as historic as it is beautiful, and it was my pleasure to bring just a little bit of it to you. Hope you enjoyed another Walks with Graff and we'll see you Sunday for the Saints game at Tottenham!! Cheers!!

P.S. Due to my naivety/ignorance which is really unacceptable to me, in my initial walk on Tuesday morning, I failed to go another mile to the Thames and see the Elizabeth Tower/Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Thankfully, later on in the day it was rectified and everything was taken in. Those pics can also be seen on my Twitter/Instagram account.

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