Sat 5 Oct - London, England

4 different types of transport today, not counting walking... And buses were not included either.

We started off by taking the tube (transport 1) to North Greenwich which is the tube station next to the O2 Arena (O2 is a tele communications company and is its main sponsor; the arena was also known as the North Greenwich Arena during the London Olympics in 2012).

Our first main goal today is almost next to the O2 Arena, "fly" the Emirates Air-Line.

Yes, the "airline" is a gondola (transport 2). And yes, Di was shitscared even before it took off.

Great views of course, looking towards the O2 Arena and downtown London.

Still shitscared?

Nope, Di was just faking it for the camera as this was the smoothest gondola ride we have ever been On.

The revenge of the crazy gondolas...

A self portrait above the Thames.

Looking towards London's city airport in the former Docklands area.

Coming down..., but not too quickly. In fact, the gondola ride had been very very smooth. And at £3.20 per person when using an Oyster Card, the fare is very reasonable (compared that to the Clipper / ferry fare which is £6.50, I.e. double that)

We were quite delighted to see that not everything had been glammed up and there was still working activity close to the city centre along the Thames.

End of the gondola ride at the Royal Docks, which are or were 2 docks, Royal Victoria Dock and you can probably guess the name of the other... OK, for uninitiated readers, the other dock is Royal Albert Dock. We think, but don't quote this, that the two docks have been merged now.

Some watersport at the Royal Docks. Wake boarding utilizing a mechanical "boat" to pull the board rider.

There were a number of "obstacles" or ways to impress in the water. This guy did a few of them, but when he finally tried to jump the ramp and do a "helicopter" well, he fell into the water.

The old cranes, spruced up and painted, lined the dock and it looked really good. A bit of a different feature and outlook from your window if you live here.

The tug and the steamship were out of bounds for punters like us. We assumed that they were still restoring them.

We found a bit of an overview of SS Robin, the steamship. Pictures only, no text.

Next to the 2 boats, and next to the line of new and restored apartment buildings was this dericlict old industrial building. We hoped that they will restore it for residential use, rather than demolish and build something new and hideous, it could be a very cool apartment building, we reckoned...

We then took the 3rd type of transport for the day being DLR or Docklands Light Rail to the station called Limehouse. As you can see on the map, it is next to the Limehouse Basin which is where the Regent Canal ends up before finishing up at the Thames.

This is where the Regent Canal finishes up at the Limehouse basin.

Yep, Limehouse looked like a cool place. One can only imagine how this area would have been buzzing with activity in days gone by. One sign board mentioned up to 15,000 barges using this basin area in the height of the dock activity.

The penthouses in the apartment buildings to the left would have great views over the basin and the Thames. They would probably set you back a few quid... Especially when we saw a small 40sqm 1 bedroom advertised for about £300,000.

The Limehouse Ship Lock is the final lock before the Thames.

And this boat was almost there... The boat by the way was very crowded with a very cheerful bunch of people waving to us and taking photos. Out for a Saturday pleasure trip no doubt...

BTW, just behind to the left from where we took this photo and along the Thames is a street called the Narrow as well as a flash restaurant with the same name. We didn't find out until later that The Narrow restaurant is run by a certain Gordon Ramsay, so we took no photo of it at the time...

I send an SOS tooo youuuu... message in a bottle... (Apologies to The Police this time...)

We wandered towards Canary Wharf along the Thames.

We couldn't really imagine how this would have looked like in the olden days, but some of the old warehouses were still there. Di read that the area could be a bit dangerous (and recalled even Sherlock Holmes chasing a baddie here in one Sir Conan Doyle story).

These platforms may look like emergency or fire exits, but they were actually balconies coming off the apartment building. We were not sure whether they were communal or whether they belonged to one apartment only per floor, but it certainly looked like a good spot for relaxation. Looking westwards towards central London you can see the "gherkin" building and the new Shard structure.


Hmm... Canary Wharf looked really boring, a bit like the worst parts of Darling Harbour in Sydney, so we took the Clipper ferry from here back to Embankment Pier (transport number 4, the ferry). Unfortunately we had not prepared well for the cost - more than £6 each - and Di grumbled a bit but it was still a great alternative to tube.

We arrived at Embankment Pier just after 1pm with no agreement between us on "where to next?" so we went our own ways and would meet back at the room later. Bye.

Di was hungry for lunch and being close to Chinatown went back into the fray - on a Saturday it's packed in this area. Her dim sum choice from yesterday was revisited and she found more Asians queuing to enter today. Di joined the queue and was shortly asked to share a table. Now sharing is common but this was an unusual but great experience - she was placed on a large round table with 3 other separate couples. One older couple from Malacca in Malaysia (about 30 years ago), a young Chinese Malaysian girl from Ipoh with her London boyfriend and 2 Scottish blokes from near Arbroath down for a party weekend! We all ordered differently, compared notes on food and chatted about travel and weekend plans. Very social nice lunch.

Then with a food theme in mind Di caught the tube to Knightsbridge...Harrods food halls beckoned.

No buying just looking, looking, beautiful. The chocolate counter here was tempting...

The fruit hall also looked great.

Again, packed with people on a Saturday afternoon but still fun for Di.

Afternoon tea treat for Di - one chocolate covered strawberry. Yummy.

She then meandered home on foot towards South Kensington, passing this great old Michelin Tyre building on the way. They now seem to be a posh restaurant doing lobster as a speciality. Seems to be appropriate that they have a chubby Michelin man in stained glass in the entry archway.

A nice arvo for Di and a rest in the room when she got home just after 4pm.

Meanwhile down at the Embankment Pier, Hans noticed that the Playhouse theatre was going Python... Would probably have been fun to see.

After a break watching the world and crowds go by next to the Thames, Hans wandered across the Hungerford Bridge to the south side, but first a photo looking westwards from that bridge.

The south, or perhaps more east side of Thames was very touristy on a Saturday afternoon, so after spending 50 cents on a visit to the loo, Hans wandered back across the Thames on the other side of the railway tracks. Then this under the bridge, a varied collection of skateboards, clothes and who knows what, but certainly not the usual trash of beer cans and plastic bottles...

There must be a story around this.

After a bit of zig zagging, including checking out Charing Cross Station, Hans noticed big crowds and stalls and music at Trafalgar Square.

It was a Japanese festival of sort, Japan - Britain 400 years. Hans must say that there was some awful singing going on from that stage. It appeared that talent was not a prerequisite for having a go. Yes, the singing was so bad at times that Hans was squirming, but the punters seemed to have a good time so all was well.

They had origami lessons and this, a Manga wall. People certainly had a go, and the quality here was much higher than the singing.

Time now was perhaps 2pm and Hans decided to give one of the Japanese stalls a go. So he ordered "Chiken Katsu Donburi" (their spelling). Hmm, pretty average food. A bit like KFC with a bit of spice and rice.

Oh well, food from festival stalls are rarely worth the effort and cost from anywhere in the world. That, of course, should not be confused with roadside food stalls in South East Asia where the food can be fantastic.

Across the road from Trafalgar Square, Hans could hear some loud rock music. In fact, these guys rocked. Hans could hear "Sweet home Alabama" first which is what drew him to check it out. Then "Money for nothing" and then the top song, Gary Moore's "Still got the blues" which was a top version which Gary probably would have enjoyed if he would still be alive today - RIP Gary.

A bit of a downer followed with "Every breath she takes" so Hans then moved along... After emptying his pockets of coins for the lads. This was a good performance.

This place at Leicester Square used to be a very run down "Empire Ballroom" when Hans was in London and inside there in 1981. All glammed up now of course and no longer very interesting.

Hans moved into Chinatown...

... before settling into a Starbucks in SoHo, absolutely full with students and others taking advantage of the free wifi... like Hans. It is kind of an interesting and stimulating environment, with all these youngsters studying and gaming and chatting and reading and doing who knows what.

Hans must have spent an hour there before taking the tube from Piccadilly Circus back to Gloucester Road and back to base some time after 5pm.

Lazy evening in the room and neither of us felt up to dressing up to go out. So Di just went to the local grocery store to buy some picnic food for us to have in the room. Tomorrow we are leaving this pitiful place (but in a great location) for Cambridge. Good night.

Footnote: When Di returned to the room she found it had been cleaned, new sheets and towels and £60 cash was on the dressing table. A quick check of emails confirmed that after several expressions of dissatisfaction from Di about a range of things going wrong that they would refund us 1 nights accomodation. A nice surprise.


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