Monday, 29 July 2013

Museums of London

Whether you are a visitor or a London resident the Museum of London is a must visit. I have been a long-time fan. When I was young my mother worked nearby, and on days that we couldn't be occupied anywhere else we'd be sent off to the Museum (I think that is maybe where my love of London started). 

Located on the Barbican end of London wall; linking up to the high-walks the unprepossessing exterior hides a wealth of treasure relating to London and its history; from pre-Roman onwards.

Over the decades since I first visited there has been refurbishment and investment; and it provides a fun and educational day out for the family - and you get to see the coach that carries the Lord Mayor (elected annually and not to be confused with the Mayor of London) during the Lord Mayor's parade.

If you still want more London then there is a sister Museum; Museum of London Docklands. Located a short walk from West India Quay this focuses on the Thames broadly and the history of the Docklands area. Starting again back at the Romans and working through; an interest in ships is a big help at this one; although the recent history of the development of the area is fascinating.

Visiting either you will find cafes on the premises. The City version has a fantastic restaurant the London Wall Bar and Grill just opposite; and the Docklands version... well the are restaurants either side of the dock... when we visited we chose the Cat and Canary pub.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

South East London entertainment

Our corner of South East London is relatively blessed with entertainment. 

If you want to eat out then Greenwich town centre, Blackheath Village and the O2 provide nearly every sort of cuisine you can think of (and probably more). Greenwich and Blackheath manage to maintain an almost 'village' type atmosphere - despite being well connected by a variety of transport routes to Central London.

The Odeon, Greenwich
If you want entertainment then there is a wide choice. There are mainstream cinemas on the peninsula with the Odeon on Bugsbys Way and the Cineworld at the O2. 
There is much more on offer than these two behemoths though. In Blackheath the Trinity Laban Conservatoire hold events at the Blackheath Halls (at the top of the hill in the Village). In Greenwich itself there is Up the Creek (a comedy club); located in the town centre best accessed by DLR or Thames Clipper. There is also Greenwich Picturehouse (slightly out of town so best accessed from mainline rail); this mixes mainstream releases with a selection of other films. There are also events held at the stunning backdrop of the Old Royal Naval College.

When you've really exhausted this relatively quite corner of London you can take the Clipper from the O2 or Greenwich and head to The Globe at Southwark or even further up the river to Southbank itself.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The V&A

Along Exhibition Road you can find some of London's finest museums. The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Musuem.
You arrive at South Kensington Underground Station and take an endless walk along a tunnel, popping out at your chosen venue.
The Museums are mostly free. There are special exhibitions that charge entry, and all the institutions encourage donations.
Neither of us had ever visited the V&A, but this won't be the last time as there is really too much for one visit. It is an eclectic mix of items for different cultures through a vast swathe of history; with additional galleries on costumes, fabrics and so forth (closed when we visited). 

We were lucky enough to see an exhibition based on a short book 'Memory Palace' sponsored by Sky Arts. You couldn't take pictures but you could buy the book. At the end you were encourage to draw a memory that would then be uploaded to the weekly boards.

My contribution outlined in red
Our wedding

The d├ęcor and exhibits spread over five floors and two wings are varied and surprising.

The garden courtyard is probably best enjoyed when the precipitation is at a minimum; sun shine had returned by the time we left and got a bus back to Baker Street; South Kensington twice in one day is too much!

Monday, 22 July 2013

South East London

There isn't much to do in South East London on a Monday. Our original plan had been Eltham Palace, but the hot and humid weather didn't lead itself to a long bus ride.

Next plan Greenwich Ecology Park. Nice idea, but shut on Mondays. Next idea the Thames Barrier. I'd last been there in 2009 and the passage of time had dulled my memory on what a trek it is from the main road to the Barrier.

We arrived to find it delightfully quiet. There was a reason for this. Also shut on Mondays. Couldn't have put a sign up at the main road?!

We took the hints of fate at this point and went home via MacDonalds for lunch.

The Barrier frames The O2 and Canary Wharf

The Barrier frames The Shard

Gabion Wall shows the Thames

Modern stone circle

Derelict pub

Sustenance for the walkers

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The London Eye and a trip on the river

A grey and dismal day did not stop our trip to the London Eye.Mostly because we had pre-booked our fast-track tickets (highly recommended, especially at the height of the tourist season).

We got on the Clipper at the O2 (start of the journey on the weekend) and made our way up the river; one of our many views of London during our two weeks of tourist behaviour. Sit outside at the back and you get great views (and the risk of a soaking at high tide with choppy water!).

Southbank at the Eye in the height of the tourist season is chaos. The fast-track tickets probably cut two hours off our entry.

The ride is amazing, even on a grey day the views are superb. Not the height you get on the Shard but a different perspective. Seeing the machinery of the wheel too is amazing.

Getting off there is a shop. You can buy all manner of souvenirs, including the reasonably priced picture pack (£20 for a little book with a magnet, key ring and digital downloads).

The next part of the trip was a bit of a mistake. My memories of the Southbank are down the city end near the Tate Modern. The walk between the two is just a tourist trap. Not much to see other than temporary exhibits and street performers. It is a long, long way to the Southbank pier for the boat too.

We ended up having lunch at a non-cart restaurant, which whilst expensive is about the average for food in London at lunchtime.

Not much enthusiasm for the back of the boat
Our wake
Flying the flag
Going up?
Panorama 1
Panorama 2
Busker in the Thames
Beer with lunch
Stormy weather

Friday, 19 July 2013

British Music Experience

Go to the The O2 Arena on the Greenwich Peninsula (maybe you still call it The Dome). Walk all the way along the food road inside, past the cinema and you will arrive at the British Music Experience.

For anyone with even a passing interest is music this is a must-do day out. It is reasonably priced; informative, fun and you get downloadable content (via your 'smart-card' ticket).

There are two film experiences at the start and finish (don't skip the end one, it is fabulous) and all eras of music from the 1940s to the present day. Husband and I spent over three hours there!

When you are done you can then eat or drink at one of the many establishments along the path.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

London Zoo

Walking from Baker Street to London Zoo on the far side of Regent's Park in the middle of a heatwave is not to be recommended. Find a bus, take a taxi or risk the walk from St John's Wood.

Arriving at the zoo was an eye opener for two people who haven't visited in decades. ZSL London Zoo (to give it the full title) is clearly a place where the animals come first. From the aquarium, to the butterfly house, to the lions and tigers, to the penguins... the habitats are amazing. Given the weather we didn't manage to make the whole zoo - we have to go back sometime to see the other side of the road!!

Blimp - the 2nd Ashes Test starts at Lords
Ducks at the boating lake in the park
Shoals of fish in the Aquarium
The Gorilla just got out of his hammock
Favourite bit - the Humbolt penguins
Beyond humidity in the butterfly house - you're warned!
It might look like love, they were fighting though!
Tiger proving that he and our cat are related!
As close as I get to the tiger