Sunday, 11 March 2007

Tourist London Part 2

I didn't have time to finish Saturday's walk in my blog post yesterday, so here's the rest of the trip. It was nearly all on foot, though I added a short bus ride and a tube ride at the end, because that's what a tourist might do! I should add that my primary purpose was some shopping, so there are sections which I didn't bother to record related to shops.
We'll start with the statutory photograph of the London Eye, but this is a collector's edition, because you can see the red blimp, which has been put there as a special reminder that next weekend is Red Nose Day in the United Kingdom. We'll all be walking around with red noses, for charity next Friday.
The area around the London Eye always is awash with tourists and there are usually mime artists and other performers to keep everyone entertained. I listened to a guy playing acoustic guitar, singing "Wonderwall". A few minutes later a couple of bottles of Corona beer appeared and started shaking hands with tourists. I think they were recruiting people to join a party bus around Parliament Square.
For those that prefer a more traditional pint, there's also the Ship and Shovell, which is a pub quite close to the Hungerford Bridge. Remarkably this pub is divided in half, with one part on each side of the alleyway.
From the alleyway by the pub, its a short walk to Trafalgar Square, which was in mid demonstration, this time related to Zimbabwe. There's a demonstration or protest around somewhere in central London most weekends.
Lord Nelson (and probably some pigeons) look across Trafalgar Square and towards the Houses of Parliament.
I also paused by the elevated top end of the Square to look at the fountains and the view along Whitehall (past Downing Street where Tony Blair lives) and towards Victoria Tower which can be seen in the distance.
At the top of the Square is the National Portrait Gallery, and at the moment there is an interesting exhibition of fashion photography taking place.
A few minutes further and its another major tourist haunt, called Leicester Square. This is the heart of Theatreland although I find the Square itself can be a little seedy. It can dress up for important film premieres, but otherwise seems to become a mid evening magnet for drunken tourists. Around the edges are cafes and restaurants which can be a little over-subscribed. There are plenty of interesting streets nearby, with all manner of strange delight, in the area known as Soho.
Also, just behind the Theatreland area is Chinatown, which interlinks with Soho and has a large selection of Chinese restarants and shops. Like many large cities with a Chinese area, the signage and shop signs are mainly in Chinese.
In the interests of tourism, I decided to take a bus from this area back towards the river. I actually wandered through Charing Cross Road and past the empty tower block called Centre Point before catching a bus, and decided it would need to be a bendy bus in the interests of modernity. The photo shows the middle part of the bus and also the Oyster Machine that is used to read Londoners' tickets without needing to remove them from the wallet or purse. RFID rules.
I took the bus to Holborn and then cut through a few alleyways to get to St Paul's Cathedral. I was making for the Millenium Bridge and the photo of St Paul's here is taken from the bridge.
The light was changing because it was approaching sunset. I quite like this one of St Paul's, from the Millenium Bridge.
Looking East from the bridge, there's a view of Tower Bridge, although there are a couple of other bridges in between which means we don't see it fully. It gives an impression though along with a view of the 17:42 from Cannon Street (OK, I made that last bit up).
It was appraoching sunset as I walked across the bridge towards the other Tate Gallery, called Tate Modern. I was hoping it would still be open when I arrived and sure enough, it was.
The Tate Modern is built in a huge ex Power Station, with a tall chimney and a large space called the turbine hall. This is used for large installation pieces, like the current exhibit which features some huge spiralling slides, which can be ridden on a piece of matting. There was quite a line for this, although some people seemed quite prepared to sit around and do other things. There are floors of interesting modern art in the Tate, which has also been imaginitively organized.
To complete the journey, I decided to walk back to a tube station, in this case by followiing the orange lamp-posts specially marked with "Southwark", the name of the station.
I'd planned to go from Southwark to Westminster and then to change to the district line to get to Sloane Square.
Unfortunately, the train line at Westminster was closed for some engineering works, so I had to abandon that idea and instead to take the escalators from the quite deep tube station back to the surface.
I emerged into what was now darkness, by the side of Big Ben and Parliament Square. All was not in vain though, I spotted those two beer bottles now on their party bus, with a group of other folk, driving around the square. In my photo, they are just passing by Brian Haw, the long term peace protestor, who sits outside Parliament reminding the politicians to think.

Time for an expresso, and then home.

flickr set of whole route

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