Monday, February 21, 2011

My Blog Has Been Recovered!

After 5 years of inaction and the near-certain knowledge that my caching blog was lost during the switch to Google, I'm pleased to report that my site is back in action!

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!

The Egyptian Room at Harrods... a must see on any trip to London.

Am I really in London?

Pastry anyone?



I got a real kick out of this sign at Harrods. Why? They feature Krispy Kreme, of course.

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.

Trafalgar Square as seen from a speeding taxi...

I found Cleopatra's Needle before joining my shipmates for a tour of the Thames. This is the 'oldest stone in London' according to some. The monument was brought from Egypt and dates to around 3000 bc.

This profile is recognizable around the world.

Cleopatra's Needle from on board ship.

The old power plant now houses the Tate Modern, a free museum of modern art.

This is the City of Belfast, a rather famous battleship which saw action in WWII and Korea. It now serves as a floating naval museum.

This new building is actually the London City Hall. Inside on the lowest floor is a huge satellite image of London which you can walk on and find various spots in town.

The Tower Bridge as seen passing under by boat.

Our river guide was chock full of Thames trivia and seagoing lore... cockney accent and all!

Cher lives in the roundish penthouse in the nearest glass building. Whoop-dee-doo... hahaha!

This is Canary Wharf, an up and coming part of London. Did you know that wharf is an acronym? It originally meant Ware House At River Front, according to our river guide.

This is the view of Greenwich from the Thames. The observatory is the small dome near the picture's center.

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.

What I can't figure out is, how did my ex-wife make it on the bow of the Cutty Sark?

Here is the rear view of the Cutty Sark. The rudder is about 15 feet long, maybe more.

Lovely at any angle...

A look the center of Greenwich. It's too bad that cars are allowed here. I think the area would be better served if it were closed to vehicles.

Greenwich is filled with narrow alleys and winding streets, reminding me of Nantucket and other colonial-era seaside towns in the USA. Except that this place is much, much older...

This is Greenwich Market, which has been in continuous operation since 1700.

An admonition to the Greenwich market merchants from above.

If the cars weren't in the photo, this would be like looking at Greenwich in the Age of Sail.

Here is a fine view of the Thames and the London Eye from Westminster Bridge.

Eye in the Sky.

The Eye never stops moving... you have to jump in the pod as it moves by the boarding platform!

These lamposts would be awesome locations for nanos... I mean, *ahem* I really enjoyed the fine details all over the city of London, where even lamposts are finely crafted.

Along the Thames, not far from the London Eye, there are sculptures by Salvador Dali. These alone were worth the trip in my view.


This is just one fo the lions keeping watch at Westminster Bridge, not far from the Eye.

Now, it was a real treat to hear the world famous 'Big Ben' toll the hour. Most folks outside of London think that the name Big Ben refers to the clock itself. In fact, the name refers to the largest of 12 bells inside the tower.

Big Ben in the setting sun...

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...

The art galleries in London are as diverse as the former empire itself. I passed shops selling wares celebrating every culture imagineable.

I found this sculpture not far from the US Embassy, where I spent some time earlier in the day. You won't find this in Leesburg...

The garment district is filled with tons of shops which all boast tailored clothing. The prices were shocking, though.

Just after sunset I came by Nelson's Column. This is as close I got, since the light was gone and this is a spot probably best seen in daylight.

This is where I had dinner in Soho. The food was fantastic and I hated to leave, but the night was still calling...

Covent Garden at night. It's a laid back crowd here and I enjoyed talking with some regulars at the Nag's Head.

I was almost run down in London by wild horses! Actually, aside from Hyde park, I was surprised by the lack of horses in the city. I thought there would be carriage rides for hire, but so far I haven't seen any.

This is the statue at the center of Piccadilly Circus. I like the lighting in this photo.

Cricket anyone? I read recently that Australia is actually the world champion again this year.

Here is where I ended my evening out- Jewel Bar, at Piccadilly Circus. I was told that this is where the beautiful people hang out, so I HAD to take a look. Inside, I had a very pleasant chat with three lovely women who were quite happy to fill me in on things to do off the beaten path in London!

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!

This is the view as I entered Hyde Park. I sat in one of these lovely chairs while my GPS was initializing (which took a while since my GPS thought we were still in the USA) and was approached by a gentleman with a coin box. It seems that these seats are 1 pound 50 if you want to sit in them!

This was a fun micro to find. It's a 35mm film can with magnets under that square box, which serves as a speakers stand for those who wish to speak out in public on any subject. Inetersting area of Hyde Park.