London – The Beginning: Photos.

June 20, 2007 at 10:36 pm | Posted in London, Out and About, photos, Travel, UK | 5 Comments

Here are some photos from when I first arrived in London, more on Flickr.

A shot of Westminister obscured by construction.
London (42)

Another icon.
London (40)

A Bible Study group earnestly listening to their guide outside of Parliament.
London (39)

Bus, Parliament, Big Ben and London Eye in the background. Lots of landmarks!
London (35)

Westminster Abbey.
London (34)

London Eye
London (41)

Advertising London’s extremely poor version of a manga cafe (especially after Japan).
London (2)

Trafalgar Square.
London (9)

More of the Square.
London (8)

Outside Buckingham Palace.
London (21)

Buckingham Palace.
London (27)

London the early days.

June 20, 2007 at 9:44 pm | Posted in London, Random, Travel, UK | Leave a comment

Given the rushing around for a job and finding a place to live I wasn’t nearly as touristy as you’ve come to expect. But here are a few mini reviews for you:

 

Vandon House – 1st stop and reasonable for the price, decent sized single room with TV, desk , wardrobe and hand basin. Sharing bathroom and toilet facilities with quite a few other people. The building has wi-fi but I lacked a laptop to test. They have several PCs where you can pay for time. Lastly, your room rate includes breakfast. I ate downstairs once and it was fine – for the price. The hotel is open 24hrs but you have to buzz in each time. Service wise the staff were friendly and do try to assist but are a bit gruff. Vandon house is situated near Victoria, Westiminster and Buckingham Palace and a good starting off place for touring the city. St James’ tube stauon is your closest stop.

 

Melbourne House Hotel (I know, I know. How Australian. Except not.) – located about 10 mins from Vandon House we have Melbourne House. Similarly priced and with similar services to Vandon, such as breakfast. I had a single room with common bath and toilet – only shared with the 1 other single room but located on different floors to the room. The room itself includes a hand basin and a single bed with a TV but this single room is incredibly tiny. I barely had space for my backpack let alone to change. This hotel is also 24hrs but no need to buzz as your keys will open the main door. Area wise it is close to Pimlico station.

 

Hyde Park Towers Hotel – Located near Bayswater or Queensway stations (depending on the line) is this somewhat shabby hotel (although nice reception) but decent enough to rest a weary head while exploring the area or heading further into town. My single room was large compared to Melbourne House but realistically it’s mid sized and features an ensuite. I didn’t have a problem with this hotel, it’s average and cheap (for London) and yes there are rips and tears but it goes with the territory. Only (minor) downside is the occasional rumble as a train passes underground. Barely noticeable.

 

Reem Hotel – Close to Hyde Park Hotel as well and a bit tricky to find as the street seems to be split but that could just be poor skills on my part. At any rate my single room was located in the lower ground floor (basement) but I had a window (looking up to the street and over bags…of laundry?). This room was shabbier than the last but on the positive also had an ensuite. Having to wait forever the hot water was not so sweet though. I caught a cold while I was here and it was probably a combination of basement living, cold and wet weather, heater not working/ working intermittently and getting soaked in the rain on more than one occasion. OK it’s probably the last one but the others didn’t help either.

 

I found most of these places through last minute or wotif and then cross-referenced with reviews on Trip Advisor. Trip Advisor is useful to check against a known hotel but has limited search functionality this impeding its development. I do like reading a lot of the reviews where it gets 1 star and everyone hates it except for a lone voice speaking up saying in defence that this is a budget price and you get what you pay for. So true. Even so I still went to places that had at least a mix set of comments instead of all negative. Turned out relatively ok.

 

I tried using GumTree and a few other sites to try share houses but given I only wanted a 3 month lease (in case I get a job in Leeds or some other fantastic place) so most places where already out of the running. On the odd chance someone even bothered to reply there was often a creepy vibe. I was a bit too busy running around trying to get work so I signed up and paid Flatfinders to contact the realtors for me and organise times etc for viewings. I spotted their ad on London’s CraigsList (which is fairly useless) and while I dreaded using any site being promoted to antipodeans they did a good job. After a few on site visits I found my place in Islington.

 

Islington is a varied neighbourhood area with the standard high street, shopping centre, movie theatre, canals, parks and less than respectable sports. In a few months time those with cable and a love of tattooing may see a show called London Ink, a spin off of Miami Ink. While the latter was filmed in sun drenched Miami, the London version is on a slightly more industrial street but it happens it be right near our house. The housemates and I are plotting ways to get on the show without actually getting tattoos.

 

Speaking of the housemates. We have 2 British guys, one from Essex and the other from Manchester (or there abouts), a Swedish guy and an American girl. They all seem cool and sociable so it looks like it will be a good experience. Definitely different to living by myself.

 

Work. What to say about work? After going to any number of agencies (all insisting on references but only 1 of my respective personal and professional references were contacted. So much for getting a full 5, 10 or lifetime history. Between rental and employment searching I criss-crossed the city by Tube and generally managed to avoid the area around Earl’s Court. I did get a new job and my current contract is near the iconic Gherkin. It’s largely process driven and not nearly enough to do in any day even after a few weeks of quote unquote work. It is affording me the time to open up Word and write this piece up – unless they’re monitoring my key strokes… Although whenever I copy and paste from Word the fonts look odd. On the plus side at least I look more efficient than when I’m trying to discreetly look at the Internet (open plan office). Perhaps I shouldn’t have said that as my referees read this blog…

Japan Photolog – Yasukuni Shrine and Diet Building

June 20, 2007 at 8:57 pm | Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Travel | Leave a comment
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Final selection of photos from the Diet and Yasakuni, more on Flickr.

Diet Building.
Diet (1)

Final stage of the Diet tour – people taking photos.
Diet

Everyone wants to get their photo taken!
Diet (3)

Walking towards the Yasukuni Shrine.
Yasukuni Shrine

Entrance to the Shrine.
Yasukuni Shrine (1)

The Shrine.
Yasukuni Shrine (2)

Yasukuni museum.
Yasukuni Shrine (3)

Japan Photolog – Meiji University, Imperial Gardens and Metro Towers

June 20, 2007 at 8:43 pm | Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Travel | Leave a comment
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Selected pictures from Meiji University, Imperial Gardens and the Metro Towers. More on Flickr, follow the links.

Meiji University campus.
Meiji University

The area around the campus has plenty of instrument and music shops.
Meiji University (2)

I love a country which offers more Coke at the same price as a regular can and both sold side by side in vending machines.
DSC02013

Entrance to the Imperial Gardens.
Imperial Gardens (18)

Amateur artists.
Imperial Gardens (17)

One of the many parts of the garden. A water theme.
Imperial Gardens (24)

A big field. Exciting.
Imperial Gardens

This random kept trying to use his phone, turning it every which way and doesn’t seem to be successful.
Imperial Gardens (3)

Through an arch, looking at a moat.
Imperial Gardens (13)

The Municipal Towers.
Tokyo Municipal Towers (9)

Plaza in front of the towers (with school groups assembling).
Tokyo Municipal Towers (10)

Looking down on the plaza from the observation desk.
Tokyo Municipal Towers

Panoramic view. Mt Fuji is somewhere on the horizon but pollution obscures the view.
Tokyo Municipal Towers (16)

View over park.
Tokyo Municipal Towers (18)

Observation deck, with a high ceiling makes the room feel quite empty.
Tokyo Municipal Towers (21)

Despite being a modern high tech building they still need staff to clean out the pools.
Tokyo Municipal Towers (8)

Japan Photolog – Yokohama

June 20, 2007 at 8:05 pm | Posted in Japan, Travel, Yokohama | Leave a comment
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Selection of photos from Yokohama, more on Flickr!

Landmark Tower complex.
Yokohama (2)

Across the bay and a bit of building envy.
Yokohama (5)

Yokohama’s famed ferris wheel.
Yokohama (4)

Park on the edge of the the harbour.
Yokohama (31)

Yokohama’s ChinaTown.
Yokohama (42)

Foreigner’s graveyard.
Yokohama (44)

Sunset on the bluff.
Yokohama (47)

Dusk overlooking the harbour.
Yokohama (53)

Ghost cat! Cats are everywhere!
Yokohama (49)

At night. Obviously.
Yokohama (57)

Japan Photolog – Shibuya, Asakusa and Roppongi Hills

June 20, 2007 at 7:32 pm | Posted in Asakusa, Japan, Roppongi Hills, Shibuya, Tokyo, Travel | Leave a comment
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Selection of photos from Shibuya, Asakusa and Roppongi Hills – more on Flickr, click the links.

Hachiko’s statue in Shibuya.
Shibuya (6)

The main (and very busy) intersection in Shibuya.
Shibuya (5)

More of the activity.
Shibuya (4)

Life in motion.
Shibuya

Wallking!
Shibuya (7)

Entrance to the Asakusa district.
Asakusa (8)

Main entrance to temple area.
Asakusa (6)

Shopping district leading towards the temple.
Asakusa (5)

Facing the temple.
Asakusa (27)

Close up of the temple.
Asakusa (29)

Pagoda in the temple area.
Asakusa (26)

Another temple? The Asahi factory.
Asahi Building

Roppongi Hills Tower at night (blurred).
Roppongi Hills (3)

Roppongi Hills again blurry.
Roppongi Hills (6)

A very blurry picture of Tokyo’s Eiffel Tower, the Tokyo Tower.
Roppongi Hills (1)

Japan Photolog – Harajuku & Meiji Shrine, Ginza and Akihabara

June 20, 2007 at 6:48 pm | Posted in Akihabara, Ginza, Harajuku, Japan, Tokyo, Travel | Leave a comment
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Photos of Harajuku, Meiji Shrine, Ginza and Akihabara. Click on the links for more on Flickr.

What I thought was part of the Meiji Shrine complex in Harajuku…
Harajuku 2

But not.

Here is the Tori Gate at the entrance of the real Meiji Shrine.
Meiji Shrine (10)

The couryard in front of the shrine.
Meiji Shrine (3)

The main shrine building.
Meiji Shrine (2)

Harajuku station with the Meiji complex on the left and the random place I went to originally somewhere in the top right.
Meiji Shrine (8)

Sunday in Ginza where the streets are closed and people can walk freely.
Ginza 13

Ginza even has foreign entertainment! Fancy.
Ginza 9

While not the tour book advertised cafe lifestyle spilling onto the street it does feature chairs. Chairs!
Ginza 1

Returning to Ginza.
Sony Building

The Sony Building. The showroom is the corner on the right of the mural.
Sony Building (2)

A funky looking building and older style lamp post.
Ginza (6)

“Quil fait bon” – best cake ever.
Ginza (3)

Akihabara with the streets closed to traffic.
Akihabara 11

Festival activity in the streets of Akihabara.
Akihabara 8

Festival goers carrying shrine?
Akihabara 5

More of the festival atmosphere.
Akihabara 1

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