London Day 3

Today I was booked in for a tour of Buckingham Palace, however when I arrived to collect my ticket I was told that I needed a printed paper copy of my purchase receipt. Just showing them the receipt on my iPad screen was not enough. The very unhelpful gent at the ticket office directed me to an internet cafe at Victoria Station to print my ticket, but I was unable to find it and missed the tour. Hopefully the good folks at the London Pass (who I booked the ticket through) will be able to do something for me. *fingers crossed*

Here are a few photos from the area...

As I was unable to get into Buckingham Palace, I headed over the Whitehall to have a look at the Churchill War Rooms & Museum. It was not easy to find, but it didn't matter as there was plenty to look at while I was searching for it.

I also went to check out Number 10 Downing Street, but they have sealed this off from the public now, however the very friendly and heavily armed police that were guarding the PM's residence showed me how to get to the War Rooms. This was an amazing attraction, and again I was kind of awestruck to see where Churchill and his Government planned their strategies during the Blitz. The Map Room and the Cabinet Room were pretty much left untouched after the war finished and the lights were switched off on 16 August 1945. The remaining rooms were faithfully re-created using photographs from the time and from descriptions from the people who worked there. The conditions during the 6 years of operation would have been horrendous.. with no natural light, food rations, and no flushing toilets. Also, pretty much everyone smoked, and given the poor ventilation it would have been a pretty foul environment. 

These photos are a bit dark, due to the low lighting throughout the exhibition.

I ended the day by catching up with a couple of Perth friends in the Covent Garden/Soho area. When I got off the Tube at Covent Garden Station, I noticed that it was exit only while they replaced two of the four lifts. This station only has lift or stair access to the deep Piccadilly line trains and so the the only options were to wait for a lift, or take the 193 stairs to the surface. Given that this is equivalent to a 15 storey building.. I opted for the lift. I've been told that this is one of the deepest of the Tube stations.  

Picture by Sunil Prasannan

London Day 2

Today I spent the day by the Thames. First port of call was the Tower of London, which has excellent displays showing over 1000 years of history. The best part was the Crown Jewels which I wasn't allowed to photograph.. needless to say there's some serious bling going on there. Some of the pieces date back to 1661 when the monarchy was restored after the English Revolution. The original jewels were melted down or destroyed after the monarchy was abolished in 1649. Around the grounds around the Tower were a field of red poppies which were placed as part of The Tower Of London Remembers The First World War commemoration. 

The Tower also has seven ravens who are the guardians of the Tower and are there to make sure that the Tower of the Kingdom never fall.

I loved walking around buildings that are older than anything in my own country. You can feel the history oozing from the walls (in fact I think I slipped on a bit of it). 

Here are some photos from the Tower...

Next up was one of London's most iconic landmarks, the Tower Bridge. Had a look inside and went for a walk along the upper walkways which had breathtaking views of the city & river. 

I then spent a bit of time just relaxing on the southern banks of the Thames and witnessed the Tower Bridge open & close a couple of times. 

Here's a few photos from the area...

Next I caught the Tube to London Bridge to endure the London Bridge Experience. This was an interactive tour of the old London Bridge Vaults where sets had been constructed depicting buildings that used to be on the bridge. A group of actors played characters from the time and I found it all a bit cheesy to be honest. It also took ages to get in, so if you're planning on going make sure you allow plenty of time. I enjoyed it - kind of - it was fun in parts. You do leave the experience with the song "London Bridge Is Burning Down" stuck in your head though. This may induce an urge to kill someone. 

There was a very cool market under the bridge, which sold all manner of delicious foods. Mmmmm... foods.... 

Here are some photos from the London Bridge area. 

Finally, I ended the day with a performance of Wicked at the beautiful Apollo Victoria Theatre. The show was excellent with great singing and production values. The show has been running in this theatre for 8 years now. It was... umm... wicked!

Kate Bush delivers with her first shows in 35 years

It looks like I'm in for a treat on Tuesday. The reviews of Kate Bush's first shows in 35 years are in, and they are very positive. I can't wait! 

Kate Bush at the Eventim Apollo on Tuesday 26 August 2014. Pic courtesy of The Guardian

Kate Bush at the Eventim Apollo on Tuesday 26 August 2014.
Pic courtesy of The Guardian

Here are the reviews if you're interested:

The Mirror

The Guardian

The Independent

The Telegraph

BBC News


London Day 1

After the horrors of my first long haul flight, I am finally here in London! The ordeal of flying was quickly forgotten once I was on the train from the airport to Paddington, and could see glimpses of this great city whizzing past me.

I spent the first day doing some random exploring, which was hampered slightly by the steady falling of rain. Apparently this was the coldest & wettest Bank Holiday the country had seen in years. A lot of the buildings in London don't have awnings, so if it rains, you have nowhere to run.. nowhere to hide.

The Tube is the probably the best public transport system I have ever used. I was just randomly getting on and off the trains and seeing where I ended up. I noticed that a lot of the stations don't have escalators or lifts unless they have a deep line tube. I'm not sure how people with a disability manage to travel, but I was quite thankful for the extra exercise.

I got to see a fair bit, despite the day being completely unplanned. Here's a gallery of things that caught my eye on Day 1.

Another thing I noticed is that there seems to be a distinct lack of rubbish bins around London. I carried rubbish around in my bag for a couple of hours before I saw one. People don't use big Sulo bins when they leave their rubbish out for collection either. They just dump all the bags on the footpath. The pigeons seem to love it! 

The men in London are also incredibly good looking. I nearly got hit by a bus, nearly walked into a traffic light, and nearly knocked over a display case at Harrods as a result of this. I expect to need treatment for whiplash at some stage later this week as well.

Oh, and you can buy booze everywhere. I think you can even buy it when you're shopping for white goods.

Finally, there are people everywhere. So many people.


Long Haul

So today was my first long-haul flight. Yeah I know. I'm a couple of weeks past my 49th birthday and NOW I get 'round to doing a long haul flight? Yep. I need to get out more.


Anyway... The only flight from Perth to Dubai with Emirates leaves at 6:00am. So I get to the airport at 3:45am. Just think about that time for a moment. 3:45am. I had completely forgotten that time of day even existed. Of course I'm too nervous/excited/scared to go to sleep, so I just stay up. VERY CLEVER. Then I sit around waiting for 90 mins before we bored. I mean board.  

Now, I'm just over halfway through the flight and I have to say that I would rather stick bamboo shoots under my fingernails, while eating mouldy anchovies coated with DDT. 

My eyes feel like they've been removed, deep-fried, then inserted back into my head... and where did I put the bottle of eyedrops? IN MY CHECKED BAGGAGE OF COURSE. VERY CLEVER. PLEASE LET ME HELP YOU PLAN YOUR NEXT TRIP BECAUSE I'M AWESOME. 

I also neglected to buy a big 12,000 litre bottle of sweet refreshing water before boarding, because I thought (again because I'm just awesome at this) they would have bottles of water on the plane. They do, but they pour the water into something resembling a thimble and bring it to you. Aww thanks! Now can you bring me another 37,842 of those before I turn to dust?

Then there's the sleeping bit. I stayed up before heading to the airport because I though "oh I'll just sleep on the plane". Then I remembered. Sleeping on a plane in Economy class is like sleeping vertically inside a large noisy engine with a tourniquet around your guts. I think I dozed for around 5.9 seconds though. So refreshed now! *thud*

3 hours 53 minutes to go. Once I get to Dubai, I will use all of my available cash to buy a crate of eyedrops and 476 olympic-sized swimming pools of water.