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.

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