Tag Archives: London

London Revisited – Travel Log 29

I was just checking through my travel blogs as I was sure I had already covered London, and I was right. Travel Log 26 when I visited the UK in 2014 https://tomewriter.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/london-travel-log-26/

However, as I was in London yet again only the other week [5th – 13th November 2016], I thought I would add to the previous adventure.

I arrived on Guy Fawkes Night and was pleased to learn from my younger sister that I had been invited to join them at a Fireworks’ Party that night. My sister, Terry and brother-in-law, Rudy met me at Heathrow and drove me back to their home in Totteridge, where I would be staying during my time in London.

Having unpacked [not much as only brought cabin luggage] and had a cup of tea we set off for Beckenham in Kent. The traffic through London was unbelievable and it took over an hour to cover the 30 miles or so from Totteridge. It was a bitterly cold night but the company of friends and the food and drink provided certainly made up for it.

The fireworks were fantastic.

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Sunday was to be a quiet day with our cousins coming over for lunch. Terry prepared a wonderful meal and I did my bit by setting the table:

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The reason for my visit to London was to get my British passport renewed, but also because it was my brother-in-law’s birthday on the 9th; so I thought I would ‘kill two birds with one stone’. It also gave me the opportunity to catch up with friends.

Now that I am residing in the south of France, the trip to England is a lot easier than from Australia; and being so close [2 hours flying time] I’ll be able to do it more regularly. All the same; as it had been two years since my previous visit I had a list of ‘things to do and buy’ whilst in London.

First on the list was to visit Brent Cross Shopping Centre, which was our local haunt when my family lived near there which was before I moved to Australia, and they moved to Golfe Juan. So Monday morning Terry drove us to the shops and I went spending….

Amongst my purchases was a present for Rudy. Rather than buy yet another predictable bottle of wine, I spotted a stall named the Amazing Chocolate Workshop – it was utterly brilliant. Everything from nuts and bolts, spanners, pliers, tools of all sorts, to a deli section displaying cheeses, sausages, ravioli, graters, knives, wooden spoons; and a cosmetics counter with lipsticks, compacts, tubs of makeup… but ALL made of chocolate:

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I ended up buying Rudy a set of pliers and pincers:

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The problem is he said they were too fantastic to eat!! Oh well… one tries :o)

Loaded up with a pair of jeans, Christmas cards, a nativity set, 2017 wall calendar, 2017 refill for my Filofax, crossword puzzles for my sister, Lesley [at Golfe Juan], and a few other odds and ends we returned home for a well-deserved rest.

Tuesday was the day I had booked to have my passport renewed. Having pre-arranged and pre-paid for it prior to leaving France, the appointment was booked for 10.45am. Terry came with me to Victoria – we took the underground train from Totteridge – even with such a brilliant service the journey still took an hour due to the peak time rush. I had forgotten how crowded the trains get in London at that time of the day.

After a small hiccup I was told to return at 3.40pm to collect my new passport. We took the tube to Oxford Circus and walked down Regent Street to a Pret-a-Manger Café for lunch. From there Terry went off to her office – not all of us have retired from work yet – whilst I decided to walk back to Victoria at a leisurely pace as I needed to kill time.

Fortunately although overcast it remained dry. It was all the same quite cold, so the walk was welcome just to get the blood pumping.

Unlike the last time I was in London I saw sights that, although were very familiar, it was nice to see again, and some I had not ever noticed before.

Setting off then from Regent Street I walked its length south to Piccadilly Circus to say ‘hello’ to our old friend “Eros”, and was pleasantly treated to another sculpture I had never seen before – the Horses of Helios [created by London artist Rudy Weller].

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From Piccadilly I walked down Haymarket and came out at Trafalgar Square making sure to acknowledge our famous Sea Lord, Admiral Horatio Nelson atop of his column:

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For those who follow my blogs and/or my writings in general they would know my love of anything historical. Europe, in deed, London in particular is steeped in history, and I could, time permitting, spend endless hours trying to capture all statues and monuments that record those events of the past.

Last week included a day that is held dear to the majority of the world’s population – or at least to those who lived through the two World Wars and survived them, or who had friends and relatives who perished in them; whether, either as civilians, or as combatants. It is also a day remembered by those generations that grew up following those conflicts; and it is hoped that future generations will continue the tradition of observing the 2 minutes silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month…

It was my original intention to attend the Cenotaph at Whitehall on Friday 11th November to be there at the appropriate hour to pay my respects. Unfortunately my schedule of planned events meant that this would not be possible.

However, as I was at Whitehall on the Tuesday [8th] I took a moment to stand in front of the War Memorial and offer a silent prayer.

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I continued along Whitehall reaching Parliament Square where Big Ben loomed above me, Westminster Abbey before me being prepared for the Armistice Day commemorations, and sighting a statue I certainly wasn’t expecting to see in London… Abraham Lincoln:

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By the time I arrived at Victoria my feet were killing me. I should have known better and worn trainers not boots!!

At least my passport was ready and I was able to return to Totteridge to enjoy a relaxing evening.

I had a day at home on Wednesday, but met up with old friends in the evening – it was great to see them again, even though two of them had come out to Golfe Juan with their respective partners to pay me a visit the previous month. Still – it’s always nice to be with friends!

Thursday was another full day. Terry and I went out shopping yet again, and then made a special visit to pay our respects to our dad who had passed away in June 1989 having lost his battle to cancer; and from there we went to say ‘hello’ to our cousin Ron, who also left us in September 1987 due to a massive heart attack – he was 36. I always make a point of visiting my departed relatives every time I am in London. Both men were a great influence on my life, so it is only fitting that I shall never forget them.

On a lighter note, that afternoon Terry and I headed back into the West End as she was in search of a restaurant for an event she wanted to book up. As it turned out the café at St. James’ Park no longer took bookings so another venue had to be found. We walked across Horse Guards Parade narrowly avoiding a group of mounted soldiers, smiled at the guards on horseback at the gates on Whitehall and headed northwards in search of a suitable venue or two.

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From Whitehall we proceeded onto Covent Garden where we were to meet up with Rudy. Terry had bought tickets for the Musical “Half a Sixpence” being performed at the Noel Coward Theatre in St. Martin’s Lane; but first we were due to meet up with some friends for dinner.

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It was only just after 5pm and we needed to kill some time. Rudy was keen to find some ski gloves so we visited a couple of shops and he was happy to find a pair he liked, and even happier when Terry bought them for him… well it was his birthday after all :o)

Although the Christmas lights have been erected around town it is a shame that, apart from a few shops, they have not been illuminated as yet – I expect it’s too early in the season. The ones in Covent Garden represent giant mistletoes… I reckon they will be wonderful when they are lit.

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Dinner was at an Italian restaurant named “Sartori” is located at 15-18 Great Newport Street. The food was first class and reasonably priced. If you’re ever near there it certainly worth a visit: http://www.sartori-restaurant.com/

On to the show… and what a brilliant performance it was by all the actors – it was a highly enjoyable and entertaining musical. Thanks Terry for such a perfect treat :o)

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There was more shopping to do on Friday, taking 2 minutes out at 11am as a mark of respect, and Saturday it was time to pack. We had another dinner with family on Saturday night, and then a drive to Heathrow on Sunday morning.

The week was over and before I knew it I was back in Golfe Juan.

It certainly was a well-packed, well-planned and entertaining sojourn in London, and perhaps a nice way to end a year that had such a traumatic start for me. Christmas is yet to come, and I shall no doubt enjoy it with my immediate family. If any friends are nearby I’m sure a drink or two will be shared to see the New Year in.

2017 is only six weeks away; what it will bring is anyone’s guess, but we can only hope that it will bring us all peace, well-being, and happiness.

RLB – Tomewriter

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London – Travel Log 26

Even though I grew up in London and although I have been familiar with most of the City’s sights, I have not really ever seen it through the eyes of a tourist.

When I was young my dad made sure to take us to all the famous landmarks such as Nelson’s Column to be dive-bombed by pigeons [see photo below], and to visit places like the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Henley-on-Thames to watch the Regatta, and of course to have fun at the fairs on Hampstead Heath – just to name a few.

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My uncle Marcel, Me, my elder sister – Lesley, Dad and pigeons!! – 1957

Of course it’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy seeing all these things as I’m sure I did: particularly places like Madame Tussaud’s, the Planetarium, all of the museums in South Kensington – especially the Natural History museum.

It wasn’t just my dad who took me to see places of interest, my various schools had field trips here and there – such as the Imperial War Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum; and in later years as one began to appreciate the arts I began to visit the various art galleries, theatres, and the Royal Albert Hall.

London is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is steeped in history [my favourite subject] and no matter which way you turn there is always something of interest.

It will always be very dear to my heart.

I love its parks, especially Hampstead Heath and around Kenwood House, Highgate, and Golders Hill Park – they are places of happy memories. I love its waterways, not just the Thames; but also its canals – particularly around Camden Lock.

And more happy memories at its various markets, such as Chapel Street, Notting Hill, Petty Coat Lane, and of course Camden.

Enjoying a pizza or ice cream at Marine Ices at Chalk Farm [http://www.marineices.co.uk/ when I was in primary school the owner’s son was in my year and many a time was spent there, even as young adults we would continue to support the café with our custom. And as young adults my friends and I would frequent the various pubs whether they offered rock bands or not. Some of our favourite haunts would include in Hampstead – The Spaniards Inn, The Bull and Bush, The Flask in Highgate, the Rising Sun in Mill Hill – until we got barred for being too rowdy, and many more I can’t even remember…

…For the last twenty-six years I have been living in Sydney and though the times I have returned to Europe on holidays during that time it has always been to catch up with family and friends.

This year however I decided I would spend at least one day visiting the city as a tourist. Having told my younger sister, Terry, my plans [as I was to be staying with her and her husband, Rudy, during my visit] long before I departed Australia she arranged that part of my tour would include a visit to Buckingham Palace.

Early on the morning of Friday 26th September 2014 Terry and I walked to Totteridge tube station and joined peak hour commuters on a trip to Green Park. It was an experience I had forgotten – as I used to be one of those commuters some forty years ago when I used to commute to Southwark to my first job at Conoco UK. It wasn’t a bad experience, as the tube trains in the capital are fast-moving and plentiful – every 4 minutes or so [unlike Sydney]. When we alighted at Green Park our first stop was for a coffee and pastry at a Pret a Manger café. We then walked across the park until we reached Buckingham Palace.

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We entered the State Rooms and began our extremely well-organized tour. Having only seen the palace from outside so many times, I never dreamed I would be able to visit its interior. And although one is limited to the State Rooms and the garden only, the experience was well worth it. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/the-state-rooms-buckingham-palace Then of course, one had to visit the souvenir shop… Needlesstosay I did not walk out empty-handed [all I can say is Thank God for MasterCard].

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When we left the Palace we walked to Victoria underground station for the next stop on our tour – Tower Hill. For in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of World War One there is one of the most spectacular exhibitions ever seen around the entire moat of the Tower of London. Some 900,000 ceramic poppies are being installed – each representing a fallen soldier from that conflict. Each poppy was lovingly created and is being installed by an army of volunteers. It truly is a sight one will never forget. http://poppies.hrp.org.uk/

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One of the things I have never done is walk across Tower Bridge. I have driven over it many times but never on foot; so as this was a day of doing things I hadn’t done before over the bridge we went. Half way across I stopped to take a snap of London’s tallest building – The Shard; below it the Thames and HMS Belfast added to its splendour.

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http://www.the-shard.com/

Although overcast it didn’t rain – save for a light drizzle which didn’t dampen our resolve to carry on with our sightseeing. Our destination was to be St. Paul’s Cathedral as this was yet another landmark I had only ever seen from outside. Once across the bridge to the southern shore of the river we leisurely walked along the embankment taking in the sights. The view of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London were fabulous.

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From here we walked past the Hay’s Galleria where at its centre is a structure which looks as though it could have been created by Jules Verne:

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Then through a few back streets to emerge at Southwark Cathedral and across the road a beautiful replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind and around the corner the Globe Theatre came into view.

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By about now my legs were beginning to kill me and I couldn’t wait to reach our goal, but we still had to cross the Millennium Bridge. Half way across it I stopped. Apart from trying to catch my breath it was nice to view the river downstream to see the sights we had passed on our way thus far and photograph it. Nearby an artist was quietly creating some astounding little masterpieces of artwork depicting iconic London land marks. I was unable to resist a gorgeous painting of Big Ben [see below]. Having parted with £10 I was more than pleased with my purchase. So I then took a snap of the painter with the Tate Modern Art Gallery in the distance – it seemed apt. The building once housed the former Bankside Power Station.

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It was time to move on as we were due to meet my brother-in-law, Rudy and my sister’s friend, Anita for lunch at St. Paul’s Cathedral. After an overcast morning it was amazing to turn around and see the Cathedral bathed in sunshine – it was as though some divine authority was making a point of highlighting this wondrous religious institution.

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When I was told by Terry we were meeting them for lunch at a shopping mall my heart sank. It had been a glorious day so far, but the prospect of eating at a food hall surrounded by hundreds of people and perhaps noisy kids did not appeal. It was not to be. When we entered the One New Change shopping mall Anita directed us to a lift taking us to the roof and the Madison Restaurant café & bar. The views were breath-taking and the food was second-to-none. http://www.onenewchange.com/shops/madison-restaurant

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We dined in comfort and amusing conversation until it was time to get started again. Of course we had to view some of the wares the shops and stalls the centre had on offer. Rudy found some delightful custard tarts and though he purchased four – one for each of us – we were too full from our meal so we declined, much to his delight as he tucked into the rest with gusto.

As we emerged back into daylight we headed for the Cathedral and Anita, who is a Blue Badge Tourist Guide [Blue Badge Tourist Guides are the official, professional tourist guides of the United Kingdom. They are recognized by tourist authorities throughout the United Kingdom and by Visit Britain as Britain’s official tourist guides] directed me to the best position to take a photo of St. Paul’s Cathedral. You can’t get better than this…

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Once inside the building there was no need of the electronic tour guide as Anita pointed out all the best features with passion and first class knowledge. As much as I would have liked to have visited the Whispering Gallery my legs and stamina [lack of] voted against the climb. Instead, whilst Anita and Rudy took to the 500+ steps, Terry and I descended to the crypt where the café was located and waited for our intrepid adventurers, whilst sharing a pot of tea and some delightful pastries.

http://www.stpauls.co.uk/

RLB – Tomewriter

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