“Isn’t it a lovely day? My patio’s on fire” – Gorky’s Zygotic Mynchi.
When I returned to London in April 2016, it was time for another trip to an unrecognised country – the Kingdom of Lovely. Yet again, people are wondering where it is, and indeed whether it is a legitimate country or not. The truth is, if it wants to be a country, it can be a country, and that is the same with every country out there. This travel blog, for example, is also a country, yes by visiting Don’t Stop Living, you have entered a new country, the world’s first ever travel blog country.
So, back in 2006, in the district of Bow in East London, Danny Wallace declared himself a King and formed a new country, the Kingdom of Lovely. After a failed invasion of an island on the Thames, Danny turned his flat in Bow into a country.
He hung a flag outside his flat, visited the UN, asked Tony Blair (then British Prime Minister) for secession from the U.K. and generally went about creating his own country, Lovely! The location of that flat remains a secret but having watched all six parts of the documentary, “How to Start Your Own Country”, which you can buy on DVD now, I decided to tour the key sights from the documentary to best represent the Kingdom of Lovely’s history, without stepping in the actual flat (sorry, country) itself. Here are the top 10 sights and ways to “do Lovely” while whackpacking in London, England.
Equipped with flags of the Kingdom of Lovely, myself and best buddy Millwall Neil started on an early day tour of a country which is very unknown in the travel spheres and certainly less backpacked than Buck House, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London. This is the order that we backpacked the sights in, with my own reasons to justify the inclusion of that sight.
Getting to Twickenham, London, England
First of all we make sure we have our Oyster Cards topped up for the day and we leave Millwall Neil’s flat in Finchley Road. We get the orange overland line from Finchley Road.
We leave Finchley Road and Frognal station on the orange overland route to Richmond, which is the last stop on that line. We leave just before 9am so as to avoid the crazy London rush hour.
We get off the train at Richmond and take a train that heads towards Windsor and Eton, but has Twickenham as its third stop. Today’s tour will commence properly at Twickenham.
1.Breakfast at the William Webb Ellis (JD Wetherspoons), Twickenham
We kicked things off early doors with a superb English breakfast at the William Webb Ellis, the JD Wetherspoons in Twickenham.
As a backpacker, I love Wetherspoons and the reason we went for breakfast at the William Webb Ellis in Twickenham, is this is the nearest cheap breakfast to the famous Eel Pie Island. I grabbed an English breakfast and a cup of tea.
At the Wetherspoons, over breakfast, Neil and I used the Wi-Fi there to stream YouTube videos of the Lovely invasion of Eel Pie Island. Next stop then, Eel Pie Island itself of course.
2.Crossing the Bridge to the Famous Eel Pie Island
After a hearty breakfast and an introduction to the Kingdom of Lovely to Neil, we headed across the bridge to Eel Pie Island. It’s an easy route to follow. Turn left when you exit Twickenham train station (or the William Webb Ellis pub) and keep walking until you reach the Thames.
Once Millwall Neil and I reach the other side of Eel Pie Island bridge, there are signs saying “Private Island”. This is where Danny Wallace famously put up his signs and claimed an invasion of the island, some 10 years ago!
3.Touring the sights of Eel Pie Island
Eel Pie Island is a small and private island on the River Thames. They are some really quirky houses and gardens. There is also a detailed map of the island, which is for private residents only.
Check out the photos. Did you know that you once needed a passport to enter? Yes an Eelpiland Passport! Here they are:
In the 60s and 70s, this quirky island was a music hangout for people like David Bowie and the Rolling Stones. They all played and partied at the prestigious Eel Pie Island Hotel, which sadly no longer exists, and has burnt down.
After touring Eel Pie Island, we head back across the bridge to mainland England and London. There we see the Barmy Arms, quite a random name for what is now the nearest drinking hole to Eel Pie Island.
Opposite Eel Pie Island, sits some information and a tribute to all those music legends who played and partied on the island in its heyday. This has less to do with the Kingdom of Lovely of course, as it was long before Danny Wallace’s attempted invasion but adds to the prestige, history and intrigue on the day.
6.Cabbage Patch Pub/Club
The famous Eel Pie Island Hotel lives on, but across the bridge in mainland England and London. Here on Twickenham’s high street is a bar called the Cabbage Patch Pub. Thursday nights are the nearest thing the Kingdom of Lovely’s attempted invasion gets to a nightclub. The country houses zero pubs and clubs, so this is it.
7.Winston Churchill Statue, Westminster
We leave Twickenham in search of other places that Danny Wallace visited in London during his TV series and the development of the Kingdom of Lovely. We get the train to Richmond and the district line straight to Westminster. Here there is a nice easy walk through some key sights from the Kingdom of Lovely days.
Be aware that the statue gets busy with tour groups day on day, but you can hang around to get your selfie with the man himself.
First up I pose by Winky C’s statue: Winston Churchill! It’s in the main square in front of Westminster Abbey.
8.St. Stephen’s Tavern, Westminster
We cross the road to the quaint St. Stephen’s Tavern pub in Westminster. It sits opposite the famous St. Stephen’s Tower (also known as Big Ben).
It was here that Danny Wallace invited members of the general public that wanted to be citizens of the Kingdom of Lovely to come along and give him their opinions. It was a kind of press conference held here. I go upstairs and stand in the exact spot that Wallace once did. Epic shit. Life doesn’t get any better than this.
9.Ten Downing Street, Whitehall
The prices for drinks in St. Stephen’s Tavern were beyond budget so we just took our photos then left and headed up Whitehall to Downing Street.
It was here at the famous 10 Downing Street where Danny Wallace once left an envelope for then Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. The envelope had a note with something like “The Kingdom of Lovely has left the United Kingdom. We are a separate country. If you have any issue with this, please get back to me.” Tony Blair never replied, thus rendering the secession official and the Kingdom of Lovely was a real country. The Prime Minister was by now David Cameron (a Conservative) and Millwall Neil and I held up flags of the Kingdom of Lovely. In a democratic state like England, protests and flag holding here is not uncommon.
10.Traffy’s Q, London
As I like to do in London, I give nicknames to every place. Trafalgar Square has long since been erased in my vocabulary for the more cool and contemporary term “Traffy’s Q”. Oddly on arrival there is a display of flags of many countries. I use this opportunity to get the Kingdom of Lovely flag out. Nobody recognises it.
11.Lessy’s Q, London
OK so forgive the personal jargon. Lessy’s Q is my zany way of saying Leicester Square, don’t ask me why I do this with London place names, I just do:
Ravi C P – Ravenscourt Park
Covi G – Covent Garden
MB – Embankment
Early C – Earls Court
Greeny P – Green Park
So we are now at the famous Leicester Square where Danny Wallace once preached to a huge crowd all who had the Kingdom of Lovely flags in their hands, flying them in the square around the William Shakespeare statue.
12.Touring Bow, London
Next up we head to the district of Bow in East London. This is where the Kingdom of Lovely, really was! Photos taken from the Lonely Planet book, Micronations.
Danny Wallace’s flat was in Bow at a now secret location. I thought it would be fun to take the flag to number 1 Bow Road and declare this as the location of the Kingdom of Lovely.
As we walk past countless blocks of flats in Bow, we realise that any of them could be “The Kingdom of Lovely!”
Access to Wallace’s actually flat and the exact location is not known, so this was the best we could do. We used the Micronations book to also source the bars and cafes recommended to see where Wallace and Kingdom of Lovely residents may well have met up outside the country, across the border into England.
When you get to Mile End tube station on either the District, or the Hammersmith and City Line, the Kingdom of Lovely actually has its very own tube station, marked clearly as “Kingdom of Lovely”, see below.
When we get to Bow, we find that both the Fat Cat Cafe Bar and the King’s Arms (as recommended in my guidebook) are now shut or at least moved from where they should be, so we tour some sights on the road, including some mosaics, a Catholic Church with a Vatican City flag on it and a statue of William Gladstone.
Then we walk the length of Bow Road and onto Mile End Road before deciding on a final drink at the Coborn, which is on the corner of where 1 Bow Road is. It seemed a very apt place to end the tour. Here are the photos of us pretending to be backpacking at the Kingdom of Lovely official entrance, 1 Bow Road…
The last and final stop to reflect on the day of sightseeing is pretty good. With both recommended places from my Micronations Guide, now shut, we opt for The Coborn, which is only a few metres from number 1 Bow Road itself!
We are heading to a charity and running event that night on my busy schedule so we don’t have an alcoholic drink on the tour today.
In the Coborn we meet a really interesting lady called Susan from the Isle of Sheppey, she is intrigued by our story, she hadn’t heard of the Kingdom of Lovely. She is with her dog, Huey, from Romania and we chat to the barman about the Kingdom of Lovely as well.
It has been a truly rewarding and exciting day tour, well recommended for anyone wishing to go off the wall as a whackpacker in London. To remind you that this isn’t the only crazy part of my blog, here are some cool articles on my other disputed countries and regions visits from my travels:
– Andaman Islands
– Gorno Badakhshan
– Chernobyl Exclusion ZOne
– Don’t Stop Living
– The Vatican City
– Northern Ireland
– French Guyana
– Hong Kong
– Nagorno Karabakh
– Lagoan Isles
– People’s Republic of Podjistan
– San Marino
– Druze People
Here are some videos of the day tour of the Kingdom of Lovely with the charismatic Millwall Neil: