Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Exploring the the Queen's Backyard

We had yet another day to spend in the city. The weather was nice and clear, not too hot, and sunny with dramatic clouds at time.

In the 17th century The Monument above once was at 62m the highest building in London. The tower had been erected to commemorate the great fire of 1666. 311 steps lead to the top, which we were too lazy to climb up, as the today's view would have been obstructed by higher buildings and construction sites all around. Given The Shard's height at 306m it's time seems long over.

Construction all over the city

 Another day on the Millennium Bridge - view towards St. Paul's Cathedral.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

We took a tour of the Shakespeare's Globe, which is a reconstruction of an Elizabethan theatre built in 1599, destroyed, rebuilt and later demolished by the Puritans, who destroyed and abolished everything considered devilish. (They later emigrated to America, took their lifestyle with, in order for England to be able to return to fun and games, culture and theatre.)

We were asked not to take any pictures from the inside, so I had to steal one from the net:

CLICK for more

On our walk along the shore of Thames we came across old and new, which made for an interesting, sometimes clashing contrast in architecture.

Ruins of a Church
The Shard, again
Then we hopped on an underground train and took a stroll through Soho which we didn't find very appealing, so we moved on towards Buckingham Palace.

Regent Street
Just another pub
At St. James Park
Horse Guards
Buckingham Palace, with loads of tourists
More walking in the park to escape the ever present tourists
(which we are not, obviously)
A moorhen
A coot

Romantic setting
Flowery stuff

The Horse Guards Parade
Handsome guard on handsome horse

With our feet hurting from the long walkabout on the hard pavement we made it back to the hotel after 15kms or so. What a great city this is. But now we must return home, back to the quiet of your Black Forest setting. Our ears started buzzing from the constant traffic and construction noise, and we need a break now. But we'll come back for more another time.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Food, Drinks and a Concert, and not necessarily in that Order.

Sunday had provided us with another opportunity to continue chatting, eating (and drinking) with Nick. Together we leisurely explored the area around Kings Cross station along the canal.

Guys, it's not even lunch time...

Shortly before 2 p.m. we parted ways, and attended a prog rock concert at Kings Place. In the afternoon. At a seated venue. The average age of the audience was certainly 50+.

The whole thing sounded more awkward than it actually was. This music was like a classical concert, with strings, bass, and brass instruments. The band BIG BIG TRAIN had asked to refrain from taking pictures and using cell phones, and the audience was very mature about it. They played for almost three hours (here a version of their song Wassail), and it was a feast for the ears.

After the concert we had another 'gig' coming up, involving once again food and good company. The venue was an excellent vegan Chinese restaurant in Archway, where we met with yet another moto-blogger: John a.k.a. El Diente.

Purely vegan!

Again, there was lots of chatting and eating involved, an evening full of stories of journeys, adventures and encounters. John is a well traveled chap, and had stories from around the world to share. And the evening flew by in an instant, and with the promise to meet him again. Next time maybe in the Black Forest?

Underground, Overground and everything in between

Big Ben & Houses of Parliament

It so happened that Andrea, Guido's better half, emailed Sonja that Guido would be in Europe, more so in England, and even better: in London on the exact weekend that we had planned to be here. And there was Nick, desperately trying to meet with us in Germany, and on failing to do so, simply choosing London as the spot to make an encounter possible on that very weekend, too.

As usual we took the tube to get to this morning's venue, which was nearby river Thames, only a few stations away from our hotel.

Destination: Cockfoster... really?

Stars aligned: A random couple in town for vacation, plus a guy from California in town for business, plus another guy from Knutsford in town for family business equal an International Moto-Blogger Breakfast on one sunny August Saturday in London.

Of course the Germans had managed to arrive way to early (always are), but then again, so did the British gentleman, and we had a long chatty breakfast (not completely gluten free, but vegan) somewhere close to the river Thames.

Guido, Nick and Sonja

Three hours later Guido had to leave for another meet-up, and after saying our goodbyes we were hungry now for sightseeing extraordinaire and voted Nick for tour guide.

Nick & Roland
Crossing River Thames on Millennium Bridge

We crossed the river on the (in)famous Millennium Bridge a.k.a. the wobbly bridge. Opened on time in the year 2000, bad engineering had it sway when too many people entered the bridge, closing it down for another two years in order to reinforce it.

The Shard, at 309.6m currently the tallest building in the EU

We usually make good use of the subway system to get around in London town, but Nick suggested trying the overground train for a change. We'd never been, so it was a nice surprise... one could actually see the city fly by.

Nick explaining the world to Roland
Bigger on the inside?

We ended up in Greenwich, and had a look at the Cutty Sark, a fast British Clipper from the 19th century. Alas, the former beauty of many oceans wasn't simply docked like a normal ship but surrounded by and built into a tourist facility with shops. What a shame!

Cutty Sark

Meanwhile the guys were getting hungry (again) and we found an American diner with a fairly decent salad for Sonja.

Nick doesn't like to share...

Again we had spent too much time chatting along, and therefore missed the time slot to visit the National Maritime Museum.

National Maritime Museum
Vintage speed boat

It also was getting too late for the Greenwich Observatory, best known for location of the prime meridian. (The Brits have theirs and the French have Paris...). The view from there however, was awesome, and well worth the climb.

Yes, we came all the way up to this spot.

Back in the valley we opted for another means of overground transport: the double-decker bus. It certainly wasn't the fastest way to get back into downtown, but it was fun nevertheless. Kudos to the bus driver, driving in crazy traffic and managing not to bump into other traffic participants.

An hour later we arrived at the bus terminal close to the British Museum, and thirsty from the journey we did the next best thing, and entered the nearest watering hole. It turned out to be a typical British pub with the original name London Pub. Seriously!

And here endeth the lesson.

The rest of the evening became a bit fuzzy. We have no memory whatsoever of how we got back to the hotel.