Ours is out there somewhere!

towerAnother photo from London and this time quite a breathtaking tribute it was too. To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War, an artist was commissioned to create a river of poppies at the Tower of London. The photo doesn’t really do the display justice and it is really worth visiting in person before they are all removed and sold off for charity after the 11th November completion date.

We, of course, ordered ours, which is number 401,580 of the 888,246 in total that are to be installed.

Not a mole hole to be seen

lawnDuring our recent excursion to London we decided to take a look around the Queen’s pad, which had been open whilst Her Royalness was away at her Scottish place during the Summer holiday.

The State Rooms were very palatial (which I guess they should be as they’re in a palace) and the picture galleries were amazing, even for a complete art ignoramus that I am.

But for me the wow factor was the garden, a vast expanse of green lawn surrounded by trees protecting Liz and from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. It was pretty flat, almost of bowling green standard and very well manicured.

I suspect the Queen doesn’t have trouble either with the corgis digging it up, unlike Rio, who I’m certain would be sent to the tower if he was let loose in the royal backyard.

Selfies

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It’s all the rage and who’s to go against popular culture, especially in London as can be seen in this collection of selfies. No ‘smart phone on a stick’ for us though, just the traditional holding at arms length and pressing the shutter button (or the equivalent on what is, technically, not a camera).

By the way, the backdrops include the Tower of London, the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and the Greenwich Maritime museum resulting in a sort of ‘selfies does landmarks’ montage.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of a selfie is:

A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media:occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary

Love the clarification around social media etiquette 🙂

50 not out!

happy_birthdayToday is a big milestone in my life; namely I’ve reached my half century!

No major celebrations planned so instead Tina and I are off to London as the kids have bought me a Virgin Experience. And before you wonder why Tina would want to accompany me whilst I spend the day with a seventeen year old virgin, I should explain that the present is a trip up The Shard followed by a meal at Marco Pierre White’s Steak and Alehouse.

As usual, things have conspired to try to spoil the day; the weather forecast is not ideal for skyscraper viewing and the rail unions appear to be intent on holding their second tube strike this evening. But we’ll make the most of it and try to have a great time and Tina may even buy me a prezzie too!

 

London awaits…

Yesterday Tina and I took a train up to the capital city for a day of being tourists and catching a West End show. We drove to Huntingdon station and were soon heading south, seemingly stopping at every station on the way (we must try and time it to get the fast train in future).

We arrived around 11.30 and had a quick look at the refurbished Kings Cross station before heading on the Underground Victoria line to make our way to Leicester Square. We found our favourite discount ticket booth and tried to order tickets for ‘Rock of Ages’, which Tina had mentioned she would like to see for her birthday treat. Unfortunately it was the cast’s day off and the show wasn’t playing so we ordered tickets for our second choice, Sweeney Todd, which was playing at the Adephi Theatre starring Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton.

Once the tickets were sorted, the intention was to take a train ride to Greenwich to visit the newly £50 million refurbished Cutty Sark exhibition, but when I checked online before we set off I found out that the attraction was also closed on Monday’s. Doh!

So what to do?

Tina mentioned she would like to go on an open top bus ride around London, something we’d not done since the kids were small, so after having a bite to eat made our way to one of the many bus stops and paid for a 24 hour hop on hop off pass with the ‘Original London Sightseeing Tour‘ which included a River Thames Cruise in the price. Having previously done these type of tours in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco we do find they are a great way to see places in a relaxing way, with informative and funny commentaries to boot.

We started off the tour from Piccadilly and basked in the glorious weather on the top of the bus, making our way around the various landmarks that make London a great place to visit. The tour guide was a typical Londoner and pointed out lots of buildings and facts that made the journey interesting as we made our way through the city traffic. One fact he did mention was that one of the apartments in the new glass fronted ‘The Shard‘ complex for £55 million (the previous owner had paid £20 million two years ago, not a bad profit if I do say so myself). That one apartment would have paid for the Cutty Sark refurb in one hit!.

Eventually we arrived at the Tower of London where we alighted and headed for a Starbucks to get a well needed coffee.

Now I’m not really a Costa or Starbucks person, I’m happy with a coffee from anywhere so can’t see why these types of places are so popular? Also, the way they take your order then make you wait at the end for your drinks is so annoying, especially when there is only one person making up the beverages. Anyhow, Starbucks was the only place around so we queued to order our Cappuccinos and queued to get the drinks and then sat and contemplated our next excursion.

We decided to use the river cruise tickets and so made our way to the pier where we managed to catch a boat which was just about to leave for Westminster Pier. Again, we sat upstairs and soaked up the sun, listening to the commentary by one of the boatmen, who insisted that his talk was not part of the trip, but all donations would be gratefully received when disembarking.

At Westminster, we bought some water and then made our way across Westminster Bridge and waited for a bus to take us on the tour again. This time we stayed on the bus and went over Tower Bridge and passed the Tower of London before getting off at The Embankment. A quick stroll through to the Strand and we found the restaurant of choice, namely Nando’s. We both enjoy the food and, more importantly they cater for Gluten Free-its. After eating we killed time before the show started by walking along towards Trafalgar Square and then headed to the theatre.

Before long the show started and whilst we both enjoyed the musical, it wasn’t quite what we expected. The performances from leading characters were really good, Imelda Staunton standing out for me as a really great all-round actress/singer. I am not really an opera fan and although the show was not an opera, you had to listen to the words or the songs to get the gist as to what was happening and as I’m lazy in the lyrics front I struggled to keep up. The second half performance was better, especially when Sweeney Todd started killing most of the cast 🙂

One thing I was surprised at was the actions of the theatre staff when anyone took a photo of the stage area. They would rush over to the owner of the camera or camera phone and insist the photo be deleted. Not sure what it achieved but I guess it allows them to sell more programmes.

After the show we got the tube back to Kings Cross and caught a fast train back to Huntingdon.

All-in-all a thoroughly, good, touristy day.

Oh and the reason for the blog title?

Well there was much goings on all around the place; the streets were being prepared for the jubilee celebrations at the weekend, with many film crews already set up in locations in the city. There were loads of union jacks flying and the front of Buckingham Palace was being prepared for an event at the weekend. Also much of the roadworks that we saw back in February in readiness for the Olympic Games had been completed and the place was looking quite tidy. I am still not convinced the transport system is going to be able to cope with the amount of people descending on the capital, but I’m sure it will all turn out fine in the end.

London

Tina and I decided that for our wedding anniversary rather than go away for the weekend, instead we would travel down to London for the day to watch a West End show, do a bit of site seeing and maybe some shopping.

We drove to Huntingdon station and we were soon on our way, the train filling up with weekend travellers to a point where there was standing room only as we neared the capital.
I was looking forward to seeing the refurbished Kings Cross station as we pulled in, but then overheard another passenger say that it didn’t open until Monday. Oh well maybe next time.

We made our way to the underground, our usual mode of transport when in London and we were surprised how busy it was, especially as it was a Saturday. The Piccadilly line took us straight to Leicester Square, where we intended to get our show tickets. We soon found a ticket booth and purchased matinee tickets for Stomp, playing at the Ambassadors Theatre.

We then started walking towards Coventry Garden, as I had indicated I would like visit the Apple Store to take a look at the new iPad, which had been launched on Friday. I guessed that as there had been a lot of excitement about its release, with long queues at the store on launch day, I wouldn’t get a chance to look at one, let alone actually buy one. I was pleasantly surprised as we found Apple had loads of tables with demo iPads set up to test. I had a play and was instantly sold; the HD display was so crisp and clear and seemed much quicker that my iPad 2. I looked at Tina and she knew straight away that we were not leaving the shop until I had a shiny new one in my hands.

At this point, dear reader, you may be thinking back to last year, when I bought myself an iPad 2 for Xmas. And you are right. The mistake I made with that model though was that I only ordered a 16GB version and I was finding I was running out of space and having to delete lots of apps. I also couldn’t store all the thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years, which was one of the prime reasons for getting an iPad in the first place.

Back to the Apple Store and I soon selected the device I wanted; a 64GB wifi only version and within minutes we were leaving the shop, me carrying my new toy in a distinctive Apple logo’d bag.

We stopped for some lunch, before I suggested we get the tube to Oxford Street, where Tina could do some balancing out on the spending front, by visiting her favourite jewellery shop, Tiffany’s, that is housed within Selfridges. It didn’t take long for Tina to spot a necklace she liked and soon I was handing over my bank card.
We then wandered down Oxford Street, dodging the thousands of people who were out shopping in the rain before heading towards the theatre to watch Stomp.
The Ambassador’s Theatre is quite small and it didn’t take long to fill up ready for the afternoon performance. We both thoroughly enjoyed the show, different to anything we’d seen before, but worth watching all the same.

Afterwards we wandered back to Leicester Square, but by this time the rain was quite steady so we agreed on an early dinner and found our favourite Nando’s which is just north of the Square.
By six o clock we had eaten and then decided to try to book tickets to the cinema. We walked back to Leicester Square but unfortunately all the films we wanted to see didn’t start until around nine o clock. As my back had been playing up all day (even dosing up on Codeine and Ibroprofen didn’t help) we agreed to head back to Kinds Cross and travel home.

And so in the end it proved to be an enjoyable, if not expensive day out in London. We didn’t do much site seeing due to the wet weather but did have a good time despite that.

We both agreed that we would not go anywhere near the place during the summer months when the Olympics are in town, as the place will be heaving and very difficult to travel around. There seemed to be a lot of roadworks, station refurbishments and generally loads of building works everywhere which I assume will all complete by August, when the games start. Otherwise visitors will get a poor impression of our capital as one that was not up to the challenge when it comes to showing off London at its best.

2012 Summer Olympics

I couldn’t go through the blog-a-day-in February without mentioning the festival of sport that will be coming to town in July this year. Whilst I’m no athletics fan I must admit that I do normally watch the Olympics and this year will be extra special as it’s on home turf.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the tournament was awarded to London, to the amazement of the French who were certain they’d get it and incredible that there has been no talk of venue delays, poor financial control or industrial action that could scupper the celebration.

I did consider trying to get some tickets to see some of the events but the process seemed really cumbersome and most would be oversubscribed so I didn’t bother. My mum did say that she remembers when the Olympics were last in London in 1948 and  as a little girl she was taken up to Wembley Stadium to see some of the events, so I guess I should have made the effort as I doubt if the Olympic Games will return again in my lifetime.

As for our chances of winning many medals, I really do not know?  I’m sure there will be British athletes who will peak during the games and become household names but I’m not sure there has been enough investment in the training infrastructure to ensure we can outshine the bigger nations such as USA or Australia who seem to produce winners every time.

Therefore I am looking forward to the start on the 27th July; I’m certain we will show the world we can put on a global extravaganza like never before!