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Monday, February 21, 2011
Sunday, April 30, 2006
London: Harrods, The Thames, Greenwich, and Parliament
The day broke in bright sunlight today, and I decided to visit the areas that interested me the most: Harrods and Greenwich. I had another amazing English breakfast at the hotel and hailed a taxi to Harrods in Knightsbridge. I had seen clips on television of Harrods before, but nothing could prepare me for the delights inside!
I am an avid chef, so visiting the food galleries was a real treat. Aisle upon aisle, room after room of amazing food... I think on my next visit I'll rent an apartment so I can cook after a shopping spree at Harrods!
Next, I hailed another taxi and was treated to a lengthy narrative by the cabbie as we made our way to Victoria Embankment, passing through Trafalgar Square and past Buckingham Palace. Once we arrived, I joined one of the Thames river boats for an afternoon cruise to Greenwich - which I highly recommend. The onboard guide was very entertaining and informative.
On arrival at Greenwich, I walked the town and took in the sights. Lunch was fish and chips, of course, and I couldn't have been happier as I toured the world famous Cutty Sark and Greenwich Market.
The journey back was quiet - no guide this time - and I enjoyed a peaceful trip back to Westminster. In the setting sun, I walked along the Thames to the London Eye, then crossed the river to see Big Ben and the Parliament buildings. Very impressive, to say the least.
My last evening in London was a quiet one. I dined in, enjoying excellent prime rib from room service, and I went to bed early since I still had one more thing to do in the morning before heading to the airport: Oxford Street!
I found the taxis to be neat clean, and well operated by friendly and knowledgeable hacks. The taxis are expensive, to be sure, but you should take one just for the experience of a London cab ride. The drivers tend to know tons of lore and history, and if the fares were just a little more affordable I would have taken them all over town. The Underground is how most Londoners travel in the city.
Here she is, the one and only Cutty Sark - legendary cutter of mid 1800's. Here's an extract from Wikipedia:
The ship is named after the short shirt worn by the fleet-footed witch featured in the poem Tam o' Shanter written by Robert Burns. She was designed by Hercules Linton and built in 1869 at Dumbarton in Scotland, by the firm of Scott & Linton, for Captain John Willis, and launched November 23 of that year.
The Cutty Sark was destined for the China tea trade, at that time an intensely competitive race across the globe from China to London, with immense profits to the ship to arrive with the first tea of the year. However she did not distinguish herself in this trade; in the most famous race, against Thermopylae in 1872, they left Shanghai together on June 18, but after two weeks Cutty Sark lost her rudder after passing through the Sunda Strait, and arrived in London on October 18, a week after Thermopylae, for a total passage of 122 days. Her legendary reputation is supported by the fact that her captain chose to continue this race with an improvised rudder instead of putting into port for a replacement and still managed to be beaten by only one week.
In the end, clippers lost out to the steamships, which could pass through the recently-opened Suez Canal and deliver reliably, if not quite so quickly, which as it turned out was better for business. The Cutty Sark was then used in the Australian wool trade, and did very well, posting Australia-to-England times of as little as 67 days. Her best run, of 360 nautical miles in 24 hours, was said to have been the fastest of any ship of her size.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
London: A Night Out In Soho, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, And Leicester Square
Well caching fans, I have sad news. I didn't find any caches today! It's kind of embarrassing, actually, because I had a terrible night's sleep - waking up at 6:30 am and having gotten only 4 hours sleep during the previous 36 hours. I had a wonderful English breakfast and went back to the room, crashing until 5 pm!
I really needed the sleep, but it was a drag getting up and realizing that the day was pretty much shot. Nonetheless, I resolutely planned a great evening out and as luck would have it, that's exactly what happened.
I walked down to Soho and strolled the streets looking for dinner. My friend Nick has mentioned in the past that the Italian restaurants are quite good here, and he was right! I enjoyed a huge dinner for a reasonable price and I had a nice chat with the wait staff.
Moving on, I walked all the way down through Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, and Leicester Square. The night air felt great, and I stopped in a couple of bars for cocktails along the way. It was pretty easy to pick out the regulars in each bar from the tourists, and I met several interesting people during the course of the evening.
All told, I'm guessing that I walked about 10 miles and I got to see many of the popular places in London along the way. Tomorrow should be decent weather-wise, and I'm looking forward to exploring London in daylight...
London: Hyde Park, The Thames, and Frinton-On-Sea
After a rough night crossing the Atlantic, I arrived in London a bit late and quite exhausted. There were many delays, both at the airport and in London itself, making for a difficult start to my visit. This was soon remedied by a walk in Hyde Park, right across from my hotel, where the gardens are in full bloom and numerous caches keep residence.
The park was fantastic, as you'll see below. I had a good long walk and only saw about a third of the park itself. Marty and I were talking about micros in urban areas recently, and these were a nice change of pace; they were well hidden in interesting spots with beautiful views.
In the early evening, I met up with my good friends Nick Hall and Opal Bonfante for a walking tour of the Thames. Nick and Opal are rising stars in the local media universe through their company SE1 Media, which produces programming for internet and radio. Their first podcast 'iPod Traveller' is a must for anyone who has an interest in European travel. Opal is also a presenter at a prominent radio station 'The Big L: Radio London', where she hosts a nightly radio program. You can learn more about Opal at her own website.
We enjoyed a very interesting walk along the Thames, spotting many notable landmarks. Nick and Opal also did a few sound bites along the way, hard workin pros that they are, and we eventually made it all the way to the Tower Bridge before catching the Tube to Nick's place.
Nightfall saw us making our way to Frinton-On-Sea with a carload of pizza and good times. Frinton is approximately 1.5 hours by car from London, and we made haste along the motorways so that Opal would get to her radio show on time. I have to tell you, it's a hair raising experience driving along at night as a passenger in a car that is driving on the 'wrong' side of the road! I thought we were bound for certain death a number of times...
On arrival, Opal went straight in to the broadcast booth and got to work, while Nick and I chatted with the station owner 'Uncle Ray'. Ray is a man of exceeding good humor and it was a real pleasure to meet him. The Big L is a legendary radio station, having been one of the Pirate Radio stations in the 60's and 70's. Nick did several spots with Opal live on air, while for my part, I simply contributed some background color, preferring not to taint Opal's image with my voice on the airwaves. Wait, what am I saying? Opal's image? Hahahaha!
It was altogether a fantastic day, though utterly exhausting. I arrived back at my hotel at 2 am local and collapsed - happy, tired, and thankful for my good fortune and great friends around the world. I would like to thank Nick and Opal for their many kindnesses, friendship, and good humor. They made this day one that I will remember fondly for many, many years!