Friday, October 29, 2010

A Halloween Stroll

London The Unfinished City
Looking North, from below the MillenniuM Footbridge.

Friday 29th October, 2010.

It was an early start for us, as we were going to London with my Mum. The plan was go with her to Queen Square for her appointment, then we would all go around London as a family.

So, we got up, had a coffee and got to my Mums for 9 O'clock. We then booked a taxi to take us to Croxley Station. Then Alysha called. She had evidently changed her mind and wanted to come with us to London.

So, after a small detour to pick her up, we headed off to the Station. We didn't have to wait long for a train and the journey was quiet and uneventful. We arrived at Baker Street just before half ten and as I was checking the times for the next train, Mum said we wouldn't have time so we hailed a black cab. Within ten minutes we arrived at Queen Square. It was then discovered that the clock on my Mums phone was ten minutes fast!!! Could've caught the train after all.

While Mum went in for her appointment, Emma, Alysha and I headed off to grab a coffee and something to eat. We headed onto Great Ormond Street and then onto Lamb's Conduit Street (I do like that name!). At the corner of Lamb's Conduit Street and Dombey Street, there is a coffee and sandwich place called 'Bel's Cafe'. Although a small shop, the food is amazing. From Bagel's and different types of breads to sandwiches and full English Breakfasts (served all day). There are salads and fresh fruit and a good selection of coffees and drinks, both hot and cold. I have eaten there on all of the occasions that I have ended up at Queen Square and it is well worth a visit. When we had finished we went to meet Mum.

We then caught a train to King's Cross where we changed train and headed for 'Borough Market.' We got off the train at London Bridge and made our way into the market.

Borough Market is one of the largest food markets anywhere in the World, selling food from all around the World. It is said that a market has been in this locale since Roman times but it is first referenced in 1276. 

Borough Market is a marvellous place to shop. It is a mixture of chaos and order and is always bustling with locals and visitors and the ever present tourists. We all had something to eat and drink and much money was spent on gifts and purchases. Lots of photos were taken of the various stalls with carved pumpkins and the vendors in costume for Halloween. We spent well over an hour at the Market before heading off towards the River Thames for a walk along Bankside. Luckily the weather had improved slightly since the morning and, since the tide was out, this gave my Mum and Alysha a chance to go and 'play on the beach', while Emma and I walked slowly on.

Because the River Thames is tidal, the English sea coast continues all the way up to Teddington Lock. The river has a tidal rise and fall of 23 feet and is the longest river in England. 

We carried on along the South Bank, stopping for a look in the Globe Theatre and various other spots, until we found a coffee shop. Then we continued on and took a look around Gabriel's Wharf and stopped to take a look at the book stalls by the festival Hall. By this time Mum and Alysha had walked past us and were halfway across the Golden Jubilee Bridge. We eventually caught them up and this is where we left my Mum. Her feet had started to ache and so thought it best to head home.

So, as Mum got on the train at Embankment, we headed of towards the West End. Leicester Square had a fun fair in it and Alysha tried to win a cuddly toy, but narrowly missed out. We then carried on up into China Town to mooch around, before heading off to Piccadilly Circus to catch a train to Baker Street. Once at Baker Street we went for a wander around the Emporium, while Alysha had a waffle outside. We then went back down to the platform and caught our train home.

All in all a good day out.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Clink & HMS Belfast

London The Unfinished City
Alysha tries to take my head off with an axe.

Wednesday 4th August, 2010.

Today would be the day that Alysha and I would go on our annual trip to London. It is something we have done for the last few years. Sometimes we go to Museums. Other times the Sites and sometimes we just go and see what happens when we are there.

We were up early to make sure the cats and fish were fed and that I had had my coffee and Alysha her breakfast, then we were off.

We got to Watford Metropolitan Line Station at 09:30 and boarded our train to Baker Street. We then changed on to the Bakerloo Line and travelled a few stops to the Embankment. Once we reached the Embankment, we walked along Eastward along the North bank of the River Thames. Along the way I took a photograph of Alysha with one of the Sphinx, opposite the Southbank Centre. I took some shots of the 'Wellington' steam boat and various other touristy pics, too. We carried on along our route and crossed the Thames via the MillenniuM bridge. (Unfortunately it doesn't wobble any more.) Once on the Southbank we walked in to the courtyard of the Globe Theatre for a look-see. I took some pics of the flagstone slabs that are etched with many actors, playwrights and directors names. Outside of the courtyard, by the Thames, there was a street performer who was dressed-up as the invisible man. Of course I got a photo of Alysha with him. We then carried on along the Thames Path towards Southwark. As we walked along Clink Street, we decided that neither of us had ever been in to the Clink Prison Museum. We soon changed that!

The Clink Prison was opened in 1144 and was one of England's oldest prisons, if not the oldest! It covered any area of 80 acres and was in use for nearly 400 years. Conditions in the clink were diabolical. You had to pay to be a prisoner, which meant that you might get food and clean water. If you didn't pay, you had to beg passersby for food at the 'Grates'. Children were held there and they were treated as smaller adults. If the weather was bad the prison was prone to flooding with dirty sewer water and waste. Many inmates caught rats to eat.

Some of the artefacts in the Museum you could hold and try. There was the 'Iron Boot' which looked like a size 15 Iron Welly. Once your foot was inside it, rocks and wood were crammed in to fill the rest of the boot up, crushing your foot. Then water was poured in to cause swelling of the wood, which crushed your foot even more. Then you were made to stand on hot coals, which heated the water and wood causing your foot to fall off! Lovely. There were also torture chairs, neck braces, stocks, racks, ball and chain, cells and a replica axe used for beheading. I managed to set the camera up so that I could get a shot of Alysha pretending to behead me.

On leaving the Museum we resumed our route along Clink Street toward Southwark. We saw the 14th century Rose Window of Winchester Palace's Great Hall which has survived both bombing and redevelopment.

We passed the replica of the 'Golden Hinde II' and passed Southwark Cathedral and went to Borough Market to grab a drink. Freshly squeezed chilled Orange Juice for Alysha and fresh Lemonade for me. Perfect.

We then walked under London Bridge and carried on our walk along the Thames, until we could see HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge and City Hall. We had to stop beneath the trees, opposite HMS Belfast, for a few minutes while we had a light rain shower. It was then that I asked Alysha if she wanted to go on the Ship itself. After a few questions it was a yes. I hadn't been on the ship for many years and Alysha never had set foot aboard. So on we went.

HMS Belfast was launched on St. Patrick's Day 1938 and was commissioned in August 1939. in November of that year she struck a magnetic mine and spent two years undergoing repairs. She returned to action in 1942 protecting Arctic convoys. She played a major role in the sinking of the German Ship, 'Scharnhorst' in 1943. she also took part in the D-Day landings in 1944. In 1945 she joined the Pacific fleet and then saw action during the Korean conflict between 1950-52. She stayed in service until 1963 and was due to be scrapped in 1967. In 1971 the Government placed HMS Belfast in the hands of the HMS Belfast Trust. She is now part of the imperial War Museum. Her forward guns had a range of 14 land miles and are currently trained and elevated on the M1 Gateway, Scratchwood Services, 12.5 miles from the HMS Belfast.

We saw all of the ship in the nearly three hours we were aboard. We got lost, we saw things twice, but we saw it all. The NAAFI, Laundry Room, Sound Reproduction Room, Gunnery Officer's Room, Admiral's Suite, Engine Room, Crew Quarters, Sick Bay, Admiral's Bridge, Captain's Bridge, Armament Store and lots more. Hundreds of photos of Alysha, and Me, in all areas of the ship. We both had a great time.

Once we had made our way back to dry land, we were both starving. It took less than a millisecond to decide on KFC. So, we made our way Westward. We crossed the Thames, via Blackfriars Bridge, and headed towards Leicester Square. Then it happened. Someone, somewhere up above thought it would be hilarious to have a thunderstorm. Well.... The Heavens opened while we were in the open. Luckily a few quick turns down a side road and we were in a maze of covered alleys and arcades. (Good job I know my way around London). Once the rain had eased off we continued to the West End, passed Covent Garden and all the Theatres. Passed old shops and new pubs. Until we hit the West End and KFC.

After lunch, if you could call it that as it was nearly 3 O'clock, we headed towards a little sweet shop to buy some old sweets. Alysha bought two different flavoured bonbons, while I purchased Space Dust and some Chocolate with Chilli Flakes. We then went to HMV, where Alysha bought a the new single by 'The Wanted'. (Don't ask me, but they are number 1 in the charts and she knows their names. And she saw them at Radio 1 last weekend too, and took some photos. So, that told me!) We then got on the train and headed back to Baker Street, where I bought Alysha a Belgian Waffle covered in Chocolate and I had a coffee. We then got on our train and headed home.

Another Great day out in London with Alysha.

Clink Prison Museum

London The Unfinished City
The most notorious medieval prison.

Wednesday August 4, 2010.

I have walked by the Clink Museum on numerous occasions, but had never ventured inside. This was something that I needed to rectify, so I took my eldest daughter along, to see what it was like.

It is a an intriguing museum that makes up for its lack of size with lots of history. Many of the torture devices can be handled and there is plethora of ancient artefacts, too.

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