diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Local attraction 2: London Zoo
The canal continues past the foot of Primrose Hill, straight through the middle of London Zoo. Don't get your hopes up because you don't get to see much from your free low-level passage, just a few ruminants, some birds and a lot of homo sapiens wandering around gawping at animals you can't see. But at least you get to see the stunning Snowdon Aviary, a spiky geometric cage erected beside the canal 40 years ago, and well worth not paying the admission price for. The wires are too close together to allow these prize avian specimens to escape, but pulled just far enough apart in one particular canalside spot to permit our smaller British species to nip in and out to steal all the best morsels of food.

Should you care to fork out £14 for a ticket (and £10.50 for every accompanying child) you too can enter the world's first scientific zoological gardens, here to observe a global menagerie in its non-natural habitat. You can even arrive by narrowboat if you so choose. Like the neighbouring park and canal, London Zoo also dates back to the 1820s. The oldest buildings are the Clock Tower and the Giraffe House, the most famous building may well be Lubetkin's modernist Penguin Pool, and the ugliest eyesore is arguably the utilitarian concrete Elephant House, now thankfully empty. I visited London Zoo as a small child, and I half remember a hotchpotch of buildings scattered around a compact site accompanied by the light stench of animal dung. The elephant house was still full at the time, the giraffes were very tall and the penguins made me laugh. But I've never been tempted to go back, not inside anyway, so I was pleased to discover that the giraffes are still visible from the road outside (and without any accompanying unpleasant smells).
by bus: 274

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