Travels: London: Saturday 5th August 2000

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The crowds!

Main purpose: general sightseeing in Southwark and Covent Garden

I had quite a long list of objectives in mind, such as the new Dali Exhibition at County Hall and the Bankside Gallery but in the end I skipped galleries and mainly walked around in the fine weather.

The WH Smiths at Cambridge Station has the sensible facility of an honesty box outside by the racks to allow for quick payment for a newspaper, saving having to go inside and wait for the till. I grabbed a paper and caught the non-stop 09:15 ("Cambridge Cruiser"): it was a long train, made up with two train sets, and my carriage was about 30% full.

In North London the train passes the "Bounds Green Service Delivery Depot", better known as a train shed.

By 10:14 I was at the Kings Cross Thameslink station, about 300m east of Kings Cross station. The area is very run-down and seedy, as is the first 300m or so of Gray's Inn Road. The first train through was for the Sutton branch (through Elephant & Castle - the one I took last time through); I had a 10-minute wait for a Brighton branch train for London Bridge. The railway station (as distinct from the Tube one) is large, with useful shops such as Boots (I bought snacks for later).

Once again I went along Tooley Street past the London Dungeon and an even longer queue along the pavement - a least 200m long. I think the only way I'm going to see the Great Fire of London exhibition there is to visit first-thing on a weekday nearer Christmas! [You can buy tickets online, thankfully.]

I went into the Britain at War Museum (for 5.95 I think) and found it to be a very evocative display of ordinary life during World War War II. I took 30 minutes to go round it (I tend to go round museums quickly when on my own). Definitely recommended.

I walked back through the Cathedral precinct and into Borough Market. There was an impressive range of fresh food on offer. Going along Stoney Street again but this time turning right down Clink Street brought me to the ruins of the Bishop of Winchester's palace hall and then the replica of the Golden Hinde.
Alongside is the Old Thameside Inn, actually a new building and labelled as a Nicholsons Free House, which is owned by the Bass pubs group. There's a big terrace with seating and displays identifying the buildings one can see across the river. The only beers on were Bass, Adnams and Tetley plus Fullers London Pride, so I had a half of the latter (1.15).

I walked back to Stoney Street and into the Market Porter. There was an impressive selection of beers and a long list of coming guest beers on the wall, including Old London Bridge Brewery, Falstaff, Swale, Carlow, Four Rivers and Oakham. I chose a half of Okells Summer (4.2%, 1.15). However there was annoying loud music playing, with the Test Match on telly silently.

Next up was the Wheatsheaf again. This time the beers were Lidstone's Orange, Castle Rock's Elsie Mo and Milton's Minotaur. I had a pint of the Elsie Mo (I'd had some in Cambridge recently) for 2.20. The pub was as yet quiet, with the cricket on the telly plus sound. It was refreshingly cool inside, it now being hot outside in the intermittent sun.

I was on the lookout for Fish!diner, which I'd seen before, but missed it this time. [I found it again on my next trip.] I was also on the lookout for the Old London Bridge Brewery, listed as being in Park Street, but also failed to find it. [I later found it's just across the road from the Market Porter.]

By 13:20 I was at the rear of Tate Modern and noticed the large London School of Economics residences block there had many tourist parties coming and going - they rent it out over the summer - nice little earner.

I walked along the river bank to the Oxo Tower and went up to the bar/restaurant/viewing gallery level. The view is certainly spectacular. One strange disappointment for such a posh and trendy place: on going to the loo, I found it to be tiny and mostly occupied by a cleaning lady, so I squeezed into a cubicle, only to find the seat lid was completely loose!

I rested a while on the grassy area just upriver, next to Gabriel's Wharf, then carried on wandering along the 1977 Jubilee walkway to Waterloo Bridge, through the huge crowds and many street traders, entertainers and so on. Here and generally during the day I saw many Micro Scooters, mostly being carried, particularly on the Tube. I saw my first one in Cambridge the previous week.

On reaching the Waterloo Tube platform, the first train was full so I waited for the next. I travelled to Leicester Square, walked around the area taking pics and ended up at Covent Garden Tube station, only to find it was full of tourists cramming into the narrow entrance down to the platform. I realised it would be far more pleasant walking to the next station, Holborn, taking about 10 minutes.

After a short Tube journey, I arrived at Kings Cross at 16:00 and caught the 16:15, returning to Cambridge at 17:01.


Some days later the authorities announced a crackdown on illegal street traders around the London Eye.

Article on This Is London - my next trip to the area.

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