I'm really talking about two streets here- The Mall and Horse Guards Road. To be honest, there isn't much reason for you to ride them in succession- if you are coming from Buckingham Palace and heading for Victoria there are far quicker routes. None compare, however, in grandeur. Beginning at the Palace roundabout you can easily turn your back to the building's squat, beige form and face down the Mall. I'm sure it is very impressive, but something about the architectural style has echoes of the Third Reich for me- too heavy, too...bossy. It might be some latent republicanism, but I can't help thinking that no-one needs that many rooms.
The road that leads away from it is another matter. The proportions are perfect. In the distance you can see the glorious swoop of Admirality Arch and a tiny glimpse of Trafalgar Square beyond, getting clearer as you pedal. The wide, wide road is lined with flag poles, often colourfully swagged to honour some visiting dignatory or national celebration. It always feels festive. Most pleasingly The Mall cuts right down the edge of elegant St James Park. In spring and summer the colours of the flowers are exuberant and in autumn the same can be said for the turning leaves. Even in winter the skeletal silhouettes of the trees in the frosty river are more bittersweet than bleak.
Once you've enjoyed zooming along the straight, usually empty street, hang a right before you get to the Arch into Horse Guard's Road. This is where the changing of the guard happens once a day. There's a curvalicious bend for you, more grand buildings, some ungainly pelicans in a pond on your right, and if you're lucky a phalanx of men in red uniforms and big furry hats. All in all, a ride that always reminds even un-patriotic me just how odd, but also brilliant, it is to be British.
Image by Trevor Harris