The day after we arrived in Town, I headed out on my own for a while. Before I hopped on the tube to go east, the sun was up and illuminating the Houses of Parliament rather nicely so I strolled along the South Bank and across Westminster Bridge to get some shots of the newly refurbished clock tower before heading off. It was very busy with tourists but it was great to see everything looking so nice on a sunny morning. (Besides, while I may have considered this area my manor, I am just a tourist too at this point.)
Our walk along the Regents Canal took us to Kings Cross and, when we got there, plenty of people were out enjoying the sunny Saturday. This included a bunch of car enthusiasts that had brought a variety of vehicles. These were not the sort of thing I see at Exotics@RTC. This was more a focus on enthusiasts for older vehicles that they have restored with much love. Old vehicles from my childhood were all over the place. I liked lots of them but the Bond Bug was a particular favorite. I had quite forgotten about this type of car until I saw it here.
When I worked in London, we used to go top Borough Market a lot. Nancy would shop there sometimes and we would often go up at weekends. Consequently, we were keen to go and see how it is now. In some respects, it was very familiar but in others it had changed a lot. The railway bridges over the market have been expanded in more recent times. At one point, there was a suggestion that the market would go as a result of the railway changes but thankfully that has not been the case.
What does seem to have changed is the balance of the types of vendor that are there. There were always plenty of places to buy food to eat straightaway. However, I seem to recall a lot more vendors of meat, fish and produce. There are certainly still a lot of these but now the balance seems to have shifted towards more of the immediate eating options. I am not saying that this is a bad thing but it does feel like it has turned away from being a market towards being a tourist attraction.
Since we were tourists, I can’t have much ground for complaint about this. I love looking around the market with its cast iron framing and the variety of stalls. There are some great meat vendors present and a few fish stalls too. We did have a guilty treat with some donuts and they were very good indeed. I am obviously part of the reason it has evolved. There is an old sign on the wall that lays out rents for the market. I suspect this is a little out of date at this point.
For as long as I lived and worked in London, I had never really seen much of the Thames Barrier. I had seen it from as distance and even gone through it on a boat when at a party but I hadn’t really ever got a good look at it. For those that don’t know, the barrier was built to protect London from flooding following some very destructive floods in the 50s. Construction started in the 70s (we Brits know how to get things done fast) and finished in the 80s. The barrier is the most obvious part of the construction but it also involved building up the banks along the river downstream where the water level would be raised when the barrier was closed.
There are multiple piers across the river with a rotating panel between each. These panels normally lie on the bed of the river but they can be rotated up to block the flow between the piers. I understand that, when the barrier is closed, they actually slightly over raise the panels to allow some flow under them to moderate the increase in levels.
The good news while I was there was that one panel was raised and another was rotated right out of the water allowing me to get a good look at the design. Each pier is clad in a stainless steel surface which is quite striking and makes the barrier very recognizable to people. Looking down the river towards the barrier, you can appreciate the width that it covered. When close to it, you can compress the perspective and make all of the piers look really close together. With the sun out, the piers were shining nicely. I sat and ate my lunch on the banks of the river by the barrier and watched the river traffic coming and going for a while. One other person was there. It was a most tranquil spot to take a break.
I made a detour to the Excel exhibition centre to visit a friend from high school. He works there and was able to meet up and chat for a while. As I walked up the steps, I came to a sculpture that they have commemorating the workers that had made the docks the vibrant place they were for hundreds of years. I thought it was a pretty cool sculpture so here it is!
YouTube is the source of information on so many things. One such thing is the re-purposing of old public toilets. I had watched a video about Attendant and decided we needed to check it out when in Town. We actually ended up meeting with some family in the West End and, since it was time for lunch, we went to check it out.
The café is set in an old, underground Victorian toilet. It looks virtually unchanged on the surface and there is not much change below the surface either. The urinals still line the wall but have been provided with table surfaces so you can sit in one like an individual cubicle. There are still cisterns mounted on the walls above your heads. It is a not a big place so you might find it hard to get a table on a busy day but we timed it well. Even so, we were a little squashed in to fit.
The food and drink was fine. It isn’t the greatest place we have ever been but it was good and the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. It isn’t a place you would end up relaxing for a long time but it has a unique vibe and a special look to it. Don’t go a long way out of your way to visit it but, if you are nearby, you might be interested to check it out.
The Thames is a busy waterway for commercial shipping and has plenty of docks and wharves along its shores. Seeing boats tied up is no surprise but seeing one that is sinking is not what I would have expected. That is exactly what I found, though. This old ferry was sitting at an awkward angle and looking very unwell. I came upon it from the stern and then had to go inshore as the path deviated away from the river but it was soon back on the water and I was able to look back at the sad vessel. A little research when I got home told me it is the MV Royal Iris, once a Mersey ferry. She is not looking at her prime now!
There was a time when the canals of London were not a good place to be. They were risky areas to go and they were a good place to dump stuff. How things have changed over time and now canals are getting a new lease on life. Developments along them are springing up. I wanted to check out Regents Canal while were were in London. We started out at Paddington Basin and then walked along the canal through Little Venice, Maida Vale, Regents park, on to Camden and finishing up at Kings Cross.
You really do go through a wide variety of places on the walk. Almost all of it can be along the canal but there is a tunnel it takes which requires a detour over the hill through which the tunnel cuts. You go through some wealthy neighborhoods, some quite poor ones, past a power station and then suddenly in to the area behind some mansions in Regents park. You even go through the zoo although the animals seemed intent on not being visible to those that hadn’t paid to visit!
As you get close to the popular areas, the canal can get quite busy on the towpath but for other sections, you are not exactly alone but you are definitely free to stroll without encountering too many people. Meanwhile, boats will chug past you.
It is surprising how tranquil it feels along the canal. You are very close to the heart of London yet feel you could be a million miles away. You see all sorts of people as you go and, when it is sunny like it was when we were there, it all seems very picturesque. To go between two of London’s main terminus stations, this isn’t the quickest route but, if you have the time, it is definitely one of the nicest.
I last used the Woolwich Ferry around 1990. At no point since then have I needed to do so. However, on my exploitation of the eastern parts of the Thames (at least while still in London), I started out in North Woolwich and needed to get to Woolwich. The foot tunnel was an option but the ferry runs frequently and is free so it was my preferred option. From what I have read, they replaced both ferries relatively recently. One of them has an obvious name – the Dame Vera Lynn. The other one is named Ben Woollacott in honor of a young crewman who lost his life on duty a few years ago. I think that is a nice touch.
The two ferries run at the same time with each loading on opposite sides of the river and then departing at the same time. There is an odd “dance” that they do with one going upstream and one down as they cross each other before then sliding in to the dock to unload and repeat the process. When I boarded the ferry, I didn’t know how this worked so was quite confused as we headed up river. However, it all became clear quite quickly.
The ferries are very maneuverable. They was in which the crews can put them wherever they need to while operating on a river that has some strong currents is quite impressive. They seem to slide into the berths sideways when coming from one direction while they approach the northern side in a more traditional way. If you haven’t heard of a Voith Schneider drive, I suggest you look them up. Very clever stuff.
I made the crossing and got some shots and video while doing so but my interest was now piqued so I ended up spending a little longer on the south bank of the river watching them repeat the process to see how it looked from the outside. A slick operation. As I got off, I saw the holding area for the vehicle traffic that was waiting to board. It seemed that there was a lot more going south to north than in the other direction at that time of day.
When we first got to London on our vacation, it was later in the afternoon. We got checked in to the hotel and dropped off our luggage before heading out for a stroll. We weren’t going too far and just restricted ourselves to the area around Westminster Bridge and up to Hungerford Bridge. There were so many people around, even walking across the bridges was something that required constant attention. Everyone was taking photos and not really paying attention to anything around them.
Since the sun was in the west, the main face of Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament from Parliament Square were better lit as was the London Eye from across the river. I was only carrying my phone with me so was grabbing the occasional shot rather than focusing on the photography but it was nice to be back in Town and having a look around. It did feel awkward being a tourist when I have spent so much time there scorning the tourists but so be it!