Waterloo Sunset

After a busy day exploring part of the East End, Docklands and Greenwich, we decide to head across the river to a pub featuring an open mic night and, supposedly, a menu of pub grub.

76busOur mode of transport for this adventure is the 76 bus to Waterloo. The 76 bus sets off South on City Road and down through the financial heart of London at Bank, before trundling along through the traffic on Fleet Street and The Strand.

stpaulsWe pass the courts and Australia House before our front seats on the top deck of our big red bus gives us an excellent passing view of St Pauls.

Gradually the traffic sorts itself out and we turn Southward across the Waterloo Bridge and around the roundabout, under the overpass before stepping off the bus.  londoneye

It’s just a bit late for a Waterloo Sunset but in time to catch the lights of the London Eye as it spins in front of jet streams away up there above.

We walk to the Stage Door; a small local pub where singer songwriters are taking part in the regular Sunday Open Mic night.  Unfortunately, the kitchen is closed on a Sunday so we’re forced to leave the music behind and go in search of sustenance.  We find that our next choice, All Bar One has also stopped serving dinner for the night and, with the help of a friendly cabbie we end up in Covent Garden at Balthazar, a replica of the same restaurant in lower Manhattan.  Balthazar is just at the back of the Covent Gardens markets and close to the venue for London Fashion Week.  We chat to the waitress about the number of slim, tall women in the restaurant and she confirms that they’ve been selling ‘lots of salads; and oysters!’  Apparently oysters have a great level of protein and a host of minerals and vitamins without carbs. I guess it’s a shame that I don’t eat oysters; but then, I’m a long way from being a model. We have a chuckle on our way home as the billboard outside Shoreditch Grind, proclaims: “Please do not feed the models. #lfw”

Time for a rest.

London Sunday

ozoneAussies and Kiwis have clearly had some influence on the cafe scene in this part of London.  After checking out Lantana yesterday, we find ourselves just around the corner in Ozone, a coffee roasters and cafe which gives away the origin of one of its founders when the bill is presented with a tag which says simply: “Cheers Bro.”  We sit at the counter which encloses the kitchen and watch as our breakfast is prepared, planning the day and enjoying the lively feel.

Then, it’s back on the bikes for a better look around the Shoreditch area.  fifteen

A few minutes of cycling and we find Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant tucked away in a backstreet just North of the Old Street roundabout.

Riding around this area, with its maze of streets running at all sorts of angles totally disorients my usual sense of direction and we find ourselves stopping frequently to check the little blue dot on the City Bikes app on the iPad mini and to look for the location of the next rack of bikes.

bricklane We find our way back to Shoreditch High Street and decide to wander down Brick Lane toward Whitechapel. The streets are full of market stalls with clothing, hats, vinyl records and food sellers from around the globe.


It’s far too congested for riding, so we enjoy the walk, taking in the sounds and scenes; spending some time imagining just how some of the wonderful array of chocolates in this shop might taste.

As Brick Lane changes character to be a street of Indian Restaurants, we reach Whitechapel and on to Commercial Road for a quick catchup with the place I stayed when in London last year to speak at BETT.

There’s a rack of Boris bikes just here, and we take the opportunity to cycle down and join the Cycle Superhighway 3 which heads East toward Docklands.

The clearly marked cycleway parallels the Dockland Light Railway (DLR) past Shadwell and Limehouse Basin, where the Regents Canal links with the Thames, via a lock which dwarfs those further up the canal.

We cycle on and dock our bikes at Westferry, ready to catch the DLR down through Canary Wharf toward Greenwich. Canary Wharf, and the Isle of Dogs, which publicity describes as ‘From wasteland to towering success’  is symbolic of the moves, all around the world, where urban and maritime environments are evolving as different style of transport evolve, and previously busy, bustling docks become obsolete.  Adaptive re-use of this area has recognised the necessity for good transport links to complement the huge high density housing and commercial developments.

cuttysarkOur DLR carriages duck under the Thames to emerge at Cutty Sark, where we alight and wander past the huge Cutty Sark, one of the last great clipper ships which was built in the late 1860’s to carry tea to London, before setting records on the wool clipper run from Sydney to London.

Like so much, though, new technologies see the progressive obsolescence of past triumphs, as the development of the steamship and the opening of the Suez Canal make the past reliance on sailing ships a dying concern. Shift happens.

paintedhallThis part of Greenwich is a World Heritage area and we have a walk around the old Royal Naval College, with its magnificent Painted Hall which has seen a number of uses and was actually the venue for the initial dinner of the newly formed United Nations following World War 2.

Greenwich is also, of course, the site of the Royal Observatory and the Primer Meridian; with its key role in global navigation long before the advent of smartphones and GPS.

Seeing as we are at the place where Mean Time is set, it seems a shame not to stop for a short break at the Meantime Brewery to enjoy a pint of their London Pale Ale.

NavalcollegeThen, it’s back under the river to check out the Naval College from the Northern bank.  The Queen at the time, living in the Queen’s House at Greenwich was apparently happy enough for them to build the College so long as they left a gap of 35 metres in the middle so that she wouldn’t lose her view of the river.  That’s the Queen’s House set back between the two towers of the Naval College.

There’s another rack of Boris bikes here, so we cycle back up through the Isle of Dogs, passing Mudchute and the London City Farm. Mudchute gets its name from its origin as a place where dredged mud from  the dock areas was dumped, creating open space.

canary wharfThe entire area of former docks has now been transformed into a mix of high density housing, transport connections and commercial and recreational activities.

We catch the tube on the Jubilee Line northward to Canning Town where it intersects with the DLR before doing a quick return trip down to see Excel Exhibition Centre which is a massive venue built to house some indoor events for the London Olympics and now home to a number of large exhibitions and events throughout the year. It is now also the home of BETT which is held at the end of January each year.

DLRHeading homeward, we catch the DLR back in to Tower Gateway and wander down toward the Tower of London in time to see a large crowd watching as cyclists circulate on the final stage of the Tour de Britain; tourdebritainswooping carefully around this hairpin bend with the Tower of London and The Shard providing a backdrop of a thousand years of established difference. The riders lap past this turn around every ten minutes to the delighted cheers of the crowd, thoroughly enjoying the action in the warm autumn  sunshine.

We grab the tube one stop to Aldgate East and pick up our last bikes for the day before riding back up Brick Lane to Shoreditch High Street and then back to the rack in Leonard Street, just around the corner from our apartment.  Time for a rest before our attempt to catch a ‘Waterloo Sunset.’


Canals, cycles, tube and bus

We flew into Heathrow from Abu Dhabi after a delayed flight and enjoyed the transfer to Paddington on the Heathrow Express.  As we needed to check in to our AirBnB apartment at Old Street we figured we’d grab a cab and all went well until we saw the Cash Only sign in the cab.  Having told the cabbie that we only had 20 GB pounds, he made it a challenge to get us there within the limit and, as the traffic snarled around Kings Cross station for some reason, it was an jinking journey through back streets and a run along Clerkenwell Road to our destination.  Check in went smoothly and we knew again that the value of booking an apartment vs a hotel is significant.

Wandering downstairs we found a pub about fifty metres away and had a ‘welcome to London’ pint and small shandy.  A leisurely walk around the immediate neighbourhood confirmed that we’ve found a nice edgy precinct to enjoy.

Arriving at night had the advantage that we could get a good night’s sleep and wake with body clocks in sync.  So, where better to head for breakfast than Lantana at Shoreditch, a cafe just down the street which was started by a couple of Aussies.  Eggs, sourdough and an understanding of what I was talking about when ordering a Long Black.

Suitably set up for the day, it was off to the nearest rack of Boris Bikes. We opt for the 7 day access and set off on our bikes to do some exploring.

OK, now, who knew that London, as well as all of the other things it has going for it, also has over 100 kilometres of canals; created to provide a means of transporting all sorts of goods within London, linking with the Thames and to major interior canals like the Grand Union.  LynetteatCityRoadBasin

Our apartment is close to the City Road Basin on the Regents Canal which runs from the Thames at Limehouse Basin up to Little Venice, at Maida Vale just near Paddington Station where the canal links with the Grand Union.

RegentsLock2Our ride takes us past one of the many locks where the narrow boats and their crews work the large lock gates to drop around two metres in canal height.

RegentsLockUsing some basic hydrology and a significant amount of pushing of gates and winding of keys, the lock is traversed and the boats go on their way.

We watch, fascinated to see this aspect of transport history combining with a lively artery of walkers, runners and cyclists, utilising the legacy of a past which has long ago foregone its original intent.

We cycle on to Islington, the namesake of the suburb which is, for us, close to home in Newcastle.  YorkIslingtonIt seems a shame to miss the chance to enjoy a Pale Ale from the corner pub, as we check Yelp before heading off for a stroll up and down the Islington High Street which is full of nice food and fashion shops and a number of expectant groups; rose lapelled and ready for weddings at Islington Town Hall.Islington

We wander back down the street and pick up a couple more bikes to follow the canal further and have some trouble finding it, as through this section, the canal actually passes through the Islington Tunnel for around 850 metres. Back in the early days, horses clearly couldn’t use a towpath through the tunnel and boats would be ‘legged’ through the tunnel with the boat crew lying on their backs and ‘walking’ the boats through the tunnel with feet against the brick tunnel walls.

Chapel MarketsWe take the opportunity to have a browse around the Chapel Markets before picking up another couple of bikes.

We manage to find the canal again as it emerges from the tunnel and follow it on to Camden.  With some shakiness holding the Flip Camera while riding the bike at the same time, here’s a quick view of just how it looks riding along the Regents Canal Towpath.

Riding on to Camden Road, we needed to walk our bikes through the Camden Markets as the lovely autumn weather saw huge crowds of people wandering around the markets and finding the canal a lovely spot to overlook while lunching.CamdenTown Camden






The crowds make it impractical to keep following the canal, so we head off South down the edge of Regents Park and find a lovely pub, the Queen’s Head and Artichoke,  to enjoy some Tapas for lunch.  Haloumi with mint, Chorizo and Lentils and some great Pork and Paprika meatballs with a tomato based sauce washed down with a mid strength ale.

TourdeFranceSo, onto new bikes from the rack outside the pub and I find that the Boris bike painted yellow is a tribute to the 2014 Tour de France which started in England.  This bike is about as close as I’ll ever get to the event itself!

We push on, down along Great Portland Street to Oxford Circus, before pedalling on to Marble Arch.  It’s amazing just how hot it is cycling on a day like today and we dock our bikes before strolling along the Northern edge of Hyde Park and picking up a couple of other bikes just near Lancaster Gate to check out the neighbourhood where Lynette lived for a while back in the seventies. Street after street of beautiful terraces provide a nice backdrop to a casual look around, stopping outside some places which have created memories.craventerrace

We muse about the fact that, back in the seventies, if someone had suggested that we’d be riding bikes around London in 2014 we would probably have been, at best, sceptical.  But, here we are!  A visit to the ticket window at Lancaster Gate tube station gets us organised with Oyster Cards and a seven day pass and we grab the Central Line tube East to Bank before changing to a big red London double decker bus for a short ride back to Old Street. Time for a chill out while planning a wander around Shoreditch in search of dinner and maybe some music.

Not a bad day really.


Night flight

etihadOur Etihad flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi was absolutely full with large groups of Muslims heading to Mecca for the Hajj: the pilgrimagehajj2 which makes up one of the pillars of Islam.

Huge family groups were at the airport to farewell those who were to be making the pilgrimage and the excitement was palpable.

Thirteen and a half hours later and we arrive at Abu Dhabi where, even at 6am, the temperature had already topped 30 degrees C.

With a number of hours to kill we retreat to one of the lounges where casual visitors can pay a fee to access for a number of hours and have access to the bar, buffet and bathrooms as well as lounges, power and, of course: wifi!

Tripit just sent a notification to say that our next leg is delayed so we’ll be later than planned into Heathrow.



imagesOnce again we’ve been making good use of AirBnB and other online services to make travel plans. Only a little while now before we head off for London via Abu Dhabi

tripitAnd, Tripit, continues to be a great tool for storing confirmations and creating a detailed itinerary.  Click the logo to find out more.

Both AirBnB and Tripit have apps available for the tablet and phone, so information is at hand with all confirmations, maps, directions etc in one place and auto-synced across all devices.

evernoteAdditional travel ideas from web pages visited can also be clipped to Evernote and tagged to make for easy recovery and, once again, cloud synced across all devices.

Just updated WordPress to latest version 4.0 and added Advanced Tiny MCE plugin which makes the visual post editor much leaner but effective!! Ready to go.