A Travellerspoint blog

November 2010

London From the Thames

all seasons in one day
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Day 57 Thursday 11 November - “London From the Thames”

It doesn't look too promising when we set off this morning, strong winds, heavy showers and a bit on the chilly side. We catch the bus into Camden Town and ride the tube to Tower Hill, the station near the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. We walk around the Tower and onto the Bridge, it is indeed an impressive structure.

We find our way to the wharf where the City Cruise Boat takes us down-river to Greenwich a trip of some 30 minutes. Both sides of the river are lined by high-priced apartments. Some are in the form of converted warehouses while others have been recently built. Some of the historic points of interest were identified by one of the crew who appeared to have a quite thorough knowledge of all the pubs.

We turned around and returned to the Tower Bridge wharf where some additional people came aboard. We then headed up-stream and passed under a number of bridges one of which is being rebuilt. The Blackfriars bridge is a Victorian era rail bridge which is being widened to accommodate an extra railway track to assist in coping with the expected crows during the 2012 Games.

Just as we approached the London Eye the sky opened up and dumped a torrential downpour on us. When we got off the vessel water was running down the steps like a river. Within minutes our trouser-legs were totally soaked. We had to skip the planned visit to Westminster Abbey as we figured we wouldn't be able to take photos anyway and we walked up Whitehall where yesterday we were held up by the protesters.

We walked through the Horse Guard barracks and finally to Trafalgar Square. We then wandered along the Strand and stopped at Charing Cross Station to spend 30 pence for a pee. Jenny posted some cards at a traditional pillar box.

We walked past Australia House to St Paul's Cathedral and avoided another drenching by retreating to the tube station. It was starting to get dark so we decided to to stay underground and head back to Camden Town. There had obviously been another dumping. Caught the bus home but got off a bit early, fortunately no rain, just a very strong wind.


Posted by greynomadm 11:02 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

London Ho Ho Day 1

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Day 56 Wednesday 10 November - “London Ho Ho Day 1”

Very brisk this morning and for the first time in a while, there's no rain. We walk down to Camden Town, the nearest tube station, about 30 minutes away. A very helpful lady at the ticket counter sorts out our ticket requirements, we buy two lots of Day Travel-cards, one set for today another for tomorrow. They cover the inner two zones of London for travel after 9:30 (off-peak).

We set off to find a meeting point for our Hop On Hop Off Bus. We manage to find our way to the Embankment Station. Pretty simple, all on the one line. The trains are frequent, fast and clean. There are no less than 13 lines that create a spider's web of interconnecting lines servicing over 300 stations.

We happen to find the bus just as we arrive and settled back to enjoy the streets, squares and other scenes previously only seen on TV or read about in books and on-line. All goes well until we approach the area of Westminster where there are signs that there are problems ahead. Up to now we'd moved along quite well but when we advanced less than 3 bus lengths during about 10 cycles of the traffic lights we figured there was something wrong. We thought it may have been the barricading of the roads in preparation for Remembrance Day events but then decided they'd have plenty of time to do that overnight. We'd also observed a very large group of men and women in 'office' attire crowding the footpath outside an office building. Thought of bomb scare, false fire alarm or just an evacuation drill, never did find out.

It took some time to find the cause of our delay, over 50,000 students protesting against increases in tuition fees. Buses literally parked, trucks and taxis at a standstill, we crawled up Whitehall. We finally broke free of the grid-lock but I was in need of an urgent toilet stop, so we got off. Rather than risk sitting in more traffic for even more time we decided to do our own thing.

I've always had an image of Covent Garden Market as a giant fresh food market, so we hopped on the tube and found it. How disappointing, lots of 'junk' stalls, some interesting food outlets but no fresh produce to speak of.

We decided to visit Hyde Park Corner where the recently opened Australian War Memorial is located. Back on the tube and managed some line changes and got there in short order. The Memorial is unusual but very impressive.

By now it is getting late for us so we decide to check out our proposed route to Heathrow on Friday, so we travel to King's Cross and take the opportunity to revisit St Pancras where we switch to the line to Camden Town. A quick visit to a supermarket and we catch the bus to our hotel. Our 1-day card has served us well.


Posted by greynomadm 23:07 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Paris to London

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Day 55 Tuesday 9 November – Paris to London

Our last breakfast in Paris and despite the continued light rain we decide to walk to the station. We check through to the Eurostar departure lounge. First check to ensure we have a ticket, all very helpful and friendly. Then through French Immigration followed by British Immigration and a reduced form of an airport security check of us and our luggage. A very comfortable lounge with what looked like 'Duty Free' stores.

A long walk down the platform, we are in coach 2 which is all the way to the front of the train. Adequate storage for large luggage and very comfortable seats. Right on time we're off and within minutes we were rocketing through the French countryside looking green and drenched. Brought to mind that this is where the trench warfare of WWI took place, I can't come close to appreciating the bone-chilling cold that must have been endured by the diggers.

Smooth as you'd like we slip into the tunnel and before we know it we pop out on the British side. The St Pancras station is very modern but built in the style of the grand stations of Europe very clean and it was good to be able to chat with the staff. Found an ATM and withdrew some £ sterling.

We found a London Black Cab and had an interesting chat with the lady driver. Scared us a bit when she said that in 15 years she'd never taken passengers to the Corner House Hotel on the Hampton Rd. The place turns out to be spotlessly clean and as there was no lift we asked for and were provided a ground floor room. The lady at the front desk was most friendly and made sure we were happy with the arrangement.

A bit cramped but no worse than a ship board cabin, most of the room being taken up by a king sized bed.

Settled in and towards evening walked down the road for a quick meal and enjoyed some TV in English.

Bit short on photos again but hope to make up for that tomorrow.


Posted by greynomadm 09:11 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (3)

Still Raining in Paris

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Day 54 Monday 8 November – Paris and more Rain

Cold this morning but at least it isn't raining – yet! We head off in the direction of the Gare du Nord (main station), to look for a market we passed yesterday, to check on EuroStar check-in procedures and to pick up on the HoHo bus.

We find the market, but guess what ?? Open from Tuesday to Sunday. What's today ?? Our lucky day, it is CLOSED.

We walk back to the station and find the EuroStar area, we'll have to be there at least 30 minutes before departure and need to check through French and British Immigration and Customs. We collect 'Landing Cards' and enquire about luggage, same as the other Euro trains, take it with you.

Back on the street we make our way to the HoHo stop and are greated by a blast of wet Arctic wind. Decide to spend 10 € on some folding umbrellas to have with us on the HoHo. Jenny's was faulty when she opened it so it was exchanged, mine looked OK. Back at the HoHo stop we discuss our options, stay here and be battered by the wind or head back to the hotel.

We opt to return to the hotel and use a pair of the remaining Metro tickets. We start at the main station, travel one stop on line 4, switch to line 2 and travel two stops then switch to line 12 and travel one stop. It all works, we travel in the correct direction and make the required connections. The Metro service is great, lots of stations, frequent trains and most are not too crowded. Even for us foreigners the directions are not too difficult to follow.

On the surface it is a different thing. We (more correctly I) get lost. First the umbrellas are blown inside out, mine rips and Jenny's won't collapse, so we ditch them. The we seem to walk in circles and find the relationship between the street names shown and the names listed on our map bear only a passing relationship. You'd have to be here a while to appreciate the different abbreviations used and to understand why the same proper name can be used for a boulevard, a street and a lane.

With no sun to provide a sense of direction and no visable landmarks we resort to asking locals for directions. Most are helpful, some shrug their shoulders, others ignore you.

The combined effects of the weather, the chaotic layout of the streets, squares and alleys and the mountains of garbage still strewn across the footpaths leave me with a VERY negative opinion of “Gay Paris”. It is a place I won't be visiting again in a hurry.


Posted by greynomadm 04:55 Archived in France Comments (2)

Paris in the Rain

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Day 53 Sunday 7 November – Paris in Rain

The day started overcast and chilly, it deteriorated to cold and wet. We walked to the Sacré Cœur but used the Funiculaire for the significant climb up. We walked around inside this spectacular cathedral but were not permitted to take photos inside. The views over Paris are impressive but with the overcast sky and threatening rain the photographic results are not all that spectacular.

Wandered down lanes and narrow roads down to the Bd de Rochechouart where we were expecting to start our Hop On Hop Off tour. We walked back and forth looking for the landmark to identify the location – don't even think of using street numbers. At 10 the Tourist Information booth opened and we asked for assistance “It is over there but you are too early”. So we stand around for another half hour with no sign of the bus. Back to the booth, could they please contact the phone number on the voucher. Reluctantly the call is made and “This stop on the yellow route is cancelled for today's event.” Thanks a lot !! Where do we pick it up then ? The Central Station.

We walk for about 30 minutes and after a number of false starts find the stop, just as their yellow route bus pulls out. We stand in the strengthening rain and wait for the next bus, another 30 minutes. The yellow route bus arrives and the rain sets in and we head off to the transfer point for their green route. A number of us get off and the sky opens up seriously!! We find an unused flower stall across the street and take refuge there. About 30 minutes later a bus arrives, guess what ? Yellow route, same as we'd got off, the green bus hadn't turned up. Some of the sodden clients were none too happy, but back to the flower stall. Finally the green route bus arrives, standing room only. Great way to see the city, only the footpath visible and all windows fogged up. The weather is NOT their fault but no shelter, no additional bus, no explanation or apology.

We stuck with the bus until it arrived at the Eiffel Tower and got off to use the fancy automated toilet. Yes it works, yes it is free BUT it is sloooow as it works through its cycle. Meanwhile we continue to get wet. Decided to use the river cruise option and enjoy the warmth and shelter of the boat. We got off the boat just short of its return to the start and walk along part of the Avenue des Champs Elysées to the Place de la Concorde. The rain had eased but we decided to head home and we found our way to the Metro. Quick clean and back to within a block or two of the hotel.

Nice hot pasta dinner and back to the hotel after a long hard day. Battled for an hour to connect to the WiFi network and finally gave up.

By the way, the strike by the garbage collectors appears to be over and the streets are being cleaned up. Just imagine a garbage truck in a narrow one way street, picking up what looks like 2 weeks of piled up garbage. Now add to that a hundred cars trying to use that street. How happy were those drivers??


Posted by greynomadm 04:51 Archived in France Comments (1)

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