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United Kingdom

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.

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

London Ho Ho Day 1

sunny
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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.

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

Paris to London

rain
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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.

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

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