Columbia Road, Brick Lane & Spitalfield Markets

March 19, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Columbia Road’s famous flower market was wonderful to walk through with the smells of hundreds of varieties and thousands of quantities. When I arrived early on Sunday morning things were buzzing and the street was bulging with vendors and customers. Along either side of the street and down some of the side streets are small shops also adding to the odour with their baked goods. The market doesn’t run the entire length of the road rather a reasonably small section at the end (between Ravenscroft and Shipton streets). It runs Sunday’s 8-2PM.

Columbia Road Market (3) Columbia Road Market (5)

Next this Sunday was Spitalfield’s Market it has plenty of stalls covering clothes and jewellery to oysters in the re-fitted Spitalfields development. While the market benefits from quantity it does lose something in the atmosphere – or lack thereof. The development feels sterile and lacks a sense history. Various opening days, check the website for details.

Spitalfields Markets (4) Spitalfields Markets (6)

Brick Lane was rather disappointing. There was a smattering of stalls along the side and a few people standing around with items on blankets but nothing particularly worthwhile.

Brick Lane Markets Brick Lane Markets (6)

Along Brick Lane I did come across a building with many more stalls in the process of being set up. This could warrant a second glance.

Brick Lane Markets (7) Brick Lane Markets (9)

Both Spitalfields and Brick Lane websites advised their opening times but upon arrival at these markets things were being set up. I would like to see an optimum visiting time range on these sites to avoid people coming too early.

Spitalfields had a reasonable selection, Columbia Road had a good sensory experience and Brick Lane market is skipable.

More photos at Flickr!

The London Eye

March 19, 2009 at 8:17 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The London Eye is clearly one of London’s most obvious and premier attractions. It offers panoramic views over the city and that’s about it. The question to ask yourself is whether the cost of the “flight” (£15.50) and possible queues is worth it. In the latter’s case I went during the week and on a less than beautiful day so I basically walked up, bought my ticket and then straight onto the capsule. Pretty easy.

London Eye (2)

When I bought my ticket I paid extra to get a reduced price on a Madame Tussaud’s entry – more on that later. While it was good to cross the Eye off my list at the end of the day there are several other sites around London you can visit to get similar views as well as a cultural experience, such as St Paul’s or Monument. However, if you have limited time in the city then a trip on the Eye might be advisable to get a quick overview of the city.

London Eye (30) London Eye (33)

My other criticism is that there’s no audio track or displays within the cabin and so the tourist is left to their own devices.

London Eye (25) London Eye (59)

The Eye is fine and not excessively expensive but there are other options for seeing the city that might offer more than a glass bubble experience.

London Eye (5)

Call Disney's lawyers!

More photos at Flickr!

Borough Market

March 19, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, UK | 1 Comment
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Borough Market near London Bridge has a wide range of produce to peruse and drool over. Luckily free samples can help with the latter. Personally, I thought there would be more stalls but there are still a reasonable amount ranging fom breads to beers. Some of the fresh produce available includes fish and meats strung up and of course fruit and vegetables.

Borough Market (3) Borough Market

I bought an espresso beer and it was a little too harsh for my sweet tooth but there plenty of other options available at this specialty vendor. I also liked the look of the olive cart – plenty of options. Around the edge of the market you’ll also find a number of coffee shops to rest up after shopping and before further exploring the city.

Borough Market (4) Borough Market (5)

I’m not a big market person but it was still enjoyable to wander through and look at all of the goods on display.

Although it’s quite famous and perhaps I’m blind but I didn’t notice much signage at the station to point the way luckily Google Maps or a shockingly helpful person should assist you in getting there.

Changing of the Guard

March 19, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A few Thursday’s ago I woke up shockingly early (for an unemployed hobo like me) to attend the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. The event begins at 11:30 although with the number of tourists in attendance it’s best to arrive a little earlier.

Changing of the Guard (16)

I initally set myself up at one side however after the procession entered the courtyard I realised this was a miscalculation as most of the activity was in the centre. As a result I moved to a better spot and while I wasn’t at the front luckily I could look over the heads of most people.

Changing of the Guard (11) Changing of the Guard (37)

Apparently the average tourist is quite short – except for those climbing on the fence. I feel quite sorry for the police who were constantly having to get the attention of these people and often through signaling advise them to climb down.

Changing of the Guard (14)

Unfortunately those with children or shorter than the average relied on climbing atop a parent or partner’s shoulders to get a glimpse. Anyone too far back was not going to see much.

The most entertaining part of the event was the music played by the respective guard’s bands, which ranged from traditional to modern soundtracks.

Changing of the Guard (28) Changing of the Guard (32)

After about half an hour the changing of the guard was finished, while I admit by the end I was a bit bored it was still a reasonable bit of  pomp and ceremony- assuming you can see it!

Westminster Cathedral

March 19, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Near Victoria station on the way to Westminster Abbey you’ll find a plaza with Westminster Cathedral. The home of the Catholic church in the city of Westminster.

Westminster Cathedral (4) Westminster Cathedral (5)

The Cathedral is still a work in progress and they continue to raise funds for completing the interior. In that sense it’s quite interesting to see the bare brick ceilings rather than the usual plaster seen in most other cathedrals and churches. Around the edge you’ll see a number of small chapels some of the artwork is interesting but not spectacular. Given the age of the structure this is to be expected.

One of the valuable parts of the cathedral is the opportunity to go to the top of the tower and take photos of the surrounds. There is a cost for this (approx £5) and it’s probably not best on an overcast day but it is still worthwhile to look out over part of the city. It is cheaper than the London Eye but you won’t see everything unlike with the Eye.

Westminster Cathedral (22) Westminster Cathedral (27)

Overall, if you’re in the area then you could stop by and have a look. It’s not a must by any stretch (although the exterior is nice) but if you’re in London when the sky is clear and blue you might want to check out the tower.

Westminster Cathedral (11) Westminster Cathedral (9)

Southwark Cathedral

March 19, 2009 at 7:41 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Iconic Southwark Cathedral near London Bridge was interesting to wander through but not amazing. The architecture both in the interior and exterior is wonderful but perhaps suffering from temple fatigue I don’t think its particularly striking compared to other religious sites.

Southwark Cathedral (6) Southwark Cathedral (2)

You can take photos inside if you pay a fee and similarly there’s also an audio guide (in both cases I didn’t opt for it).

There are a number of display boards scattered throughout and they provide the usual content about the history of the building and its development over the centuries as well as notable events. Nothing for me stood out.

Southwark Cathedral (8) Southwark Cathedral (9)

They are expanding with a new information centre but this was under construction. I don’t believe it’s possible to climb the tower which is a shame as that would certainly boost the incentive to come and visit.

Nonetheless much like the Westminster Cathedral if you’re in the area and have a few minutes stop by and have a look but don’t go out of your way.

The Clink

March 19, 2009 at 7:37 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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I’d been warned by two friends that the Clink Prison Museum wasn’t worth it and I should have listened. The museum basically covers the history of the site as a prison from debtors and political prisoners to more standard offenders. It was interesting to see its use at one stage as a women’s only prison and that the Clink came under the jurisdiction of the area’s Bishop – who also licensed local brothels!

Some of the torture implements are also shown in the museum alongside some of the more arcane laws including the alegedly still in force one about shooting the Scottish.

The information boards often have a lot of content but the lighting in the cellar made it a bit of a challenge to read, especially when competing with other people to milling around.

The Clink (2)

Overall the cost (£5), size of the exhibit and time taken to wander through outweighs the value of the content.

Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

March 18, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Tucked away in a side-street near Notting Hill and Portobello Road is the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertsing. If you’re feeling nostalgic for turn of the century consumer products or want to see how the advertising and goods have evolved to today then this museum might be for you.

The largest displays deal with the periods between the late 1800s to the 1950s. While I didn’t recognise most of the brands on display I did overhear a number of oohs and aahhs from a contingent of pensioners wandering through. So clearly it resonates with some people. Reading about how early consumerism developed in Britain was interesting and seeing some of the early advertisements was amusing (like smoking while playing tennis). Most of the time periods also feature a small section dealing with toys.

After the 1950s the space devoted to each decade begins to rapidly shrink. From the 1960s I started to see some more familiar brands and packaging – although still quite different to their modern counterparts. The 1970s had a number of children’s toys (in their original packaging) from shows like Star Wars and Star Trek (that’s right you heard me collectors). I would have preferred more information and shelf space for the 1980s to the present as it is there was barely a wall of content for each of these decades.

Perhaps I have a broader view of the term ‘brands’ than the museum intends but I had hoped to see – especially by the 80s onwards – displays dealing with TV and later internet advertising and its influence on brands. Unfortunately the museum only showcases some posters and predictably focuses on the packaging.

It was a reasonable experience and might be useful for some people but personally I think having to pay £5.80 (adult) makes the museum less than worthwhile. However the collection of toys – while small – does provide a better snapshot than Pollocks of toys throughout the century. Although the latter has a much larger number of toys for the period it focuses on.

Portobello Road Market

March 5, 2009 at 12:24 am | Posted in London, Out and About | 2 Comments
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I’ve been to the famous Portobello Road Markets previously (on Saturdays) but never during the week. Going on a Tuesday may have been a mistake. There were no stalls, which I can appreciate although plenty of other markets have stalls every day. Without the stalls to block access to the shops I assumed that all the businesses along the street would be open. Unfortunately, that’s not the case either. On this particular day the street was quiet and uninteresting.

In contrast to Saturday it was totally dead. Realistically you should go when all the hustle and bustle is present (not to mention the extended shopping opportunities), granted you’ll have to deal with that same hustle and bustle.

Nonetheless, Portobello Road Market is still one of the most fun wanders through London that you’ll have, not to mention it’s near the Museum of Brands and Packaging – my next stop.

February Lates Roundup 2009

March 3, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Natural History Museum, Out and About, Science Museum, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Last week was the end of February and that means it was time to revisit South Kensington and its museums for another round of Late night madness.

First up on Wednesday was the Science Museum. I did in fact come despite protestations last time that I wouldn’t come back for a while out of increasing boredom. Word of the event has definitely increased as there were more people than ever including some of my friends and so I thought I’d come again.

Rant – Only one major one, please keep the bars in the same location. Every time I come they’re in a different spot. January when the two were on either side of the ramp was perfect!

Anti-rant – As always there were loads of night only activities including a silent disco (the line was quite long so we didn’t partake but clearly popular) and a DJ in Launchpad – this was the first time I’ve seen people dancing there! I was also thrilled to see that most of the museum was open, including an “astronaut” giving a talk in the space section. Hopefully, future events will see even more of the galleries open. Very popular and enjoyable evening.

Science Museum Lates Feb 09 (2) Science Museum Lates Feb 09 (7)

Friday saw the double Lates of the Victoria and Albert and Natural History Museum. First up was the V&A.

Rant – My rant is basically bar based. The beverages were small and expensive. For example a beer costs almost £4, for about half a pint in a plastic cup, whereas at the Science Museum it’s £3 for a glass bottle of Asahi. Lastly, you can only drink (or eat) in the entry area. So assuming you can wait through the line to get to the bar you’ll have to stand around for a while before you can even get into the museum. I understand that the museum might be concerned about the safety of their pieces. Understandable but if that’s the issue either don’t have a bar or allow people to drink in the galleries but put restrictions on which ones they can go in.

Anti-rant – The activities on offer were excellent. My highlight for the night was a murder mystery where you had to follow a route and gather clues. It was really well devised as the route took you through most parts of the museum and past many other events that you could stop off on before completing your quest. Another fun activity was creating collages that represent us. The hall was filled with people, magazines, glue and scissors all embracing a child like joy at this arts and crafts. Despite my reservations about the bar (best to drink before hand) we all had an excellent time at our first V&A Lates -well recommended!

V&A and Natural History Museum Lates (2) V&A and Natural History Museum Lates (4)

The V&A closes just before 10 and luckily the Natural History Museum stays open until 10:30 so we headed over there to continue the frivolity.

Rant – Granted we got there at 10 but it appeared none of the standard galleries were open, the exception being the ticketed events. In addition unlike the other museums there were no special activities on and when I asked at the information desk the attendant looked at me blankly at such an odd request.

Anti-Rant – The museum offers a wider selection of beverages (including sparkling) compared to the other museums. While the exhibits weren’t open it was still an atmospheric experience to sip drinks under the giant brontosaurus skeleton in the main hall. A nice late event but not essential, probably best to do at the beginning/end of the night, certainly don’t base your evening around it.

V&A and Natural History Museum Lates (20) V&A and Natural History Museum Lates (21)

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