Travels: London: Sunday 27th August 2000

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Highlights

The Art of Star Wars exhibition and at last seeing Star Wars Episode 1; Docklands Light Railway; Island Gardens; St Katherine's Dock


I got to the station at 08:23 and found there are new, flatter display screens, fainter than the 1990s ones. The WH Smiths was closed though thankfully it opened at 08:30. I caught the 08:34 to Liverpool Street. On this line West Anglia Great Northern seems to use older rolling stock than on the Kings Cross run. For instance there's some bench-style seating - backs to the windows. This is probably to allow more people to stand during the rush hour.

In Cambridge it was already getting hot in the sun, with only occasional cloud breaks. When we reached Elsenham there was fog and the train stopped for a while. There was another stop near Bishops Stortford. The fog cleared south of Harlow, though the air was cooler. The carriage filled up. We passed through Stratford, where there are now Docklands Light Railway and Jubilee Line interchanges, arriving at Liverpool Street at 09:57 (2 mins. early).

I walked around the Broadgate development, seeing the parts I'd missed before and in particular the famous (in art circle) statues. Then I walked out the other side of the station to Bishopsgate and spotted the famous pub Dirty Dick's about 150m to the left up the street.

I arrived at the eastbound Circle Line platform at 10:15, noting there were far more people going in the other direction. At Tower Hill lots of people got off the train with me. For the Tower Gateway DLR station one turns left out of the Tube station, walks about 200m following the signs and goes up an escalator.

There were a lot of tourists in the station, seemingly off to the Disaster Zone. To get to Island Gardens I had to wait till 10:49 and travel three stops to Westferry and there wait 11 minutes for a southbound (Lewisham) train. For some reason the driver broke into travel guide mode while passing through Mudchute - something to do with soccer (Millwall) but it was inaudible. We arrived at 11:20.

[Greenwich Foot Tunnel entrances] The station still looks new. One emerges on Manchester Road. After crossing the road, there's a walk down to a slipway (an old ferry point?) and just downriver is Island Gardens and the north entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. I saw a couple emerge walking with bicycles. Fortunately the lifts are still working! Opposite is the historic Royal Naval College, now owned by the University of Greenwich. The air was warming up now.

I returned on a packed train - this time with British folk off to the Disaster Zone. There were more people about around Carary Wharf than last week - unsurprising as this was about two hours later in the day.

From Tower Gatway I walked around the complicated road system to St Katharine's Dock, reviving memories of my 1987 trip. The area was only just be revitalised then - the change is stunning. It's now full of posh boats, warehouse flats and shops & cafes to match.

[12:15] The Dickens Inn (recommended by many) appears to be old but is a recent creation. It's very spacious inside, with wooden surfaces and tables in cosy spaces, and an outside seating area. Half the space inside is dedicated to bar food. Sadly the menu was very limited - chilli con carne and a standard Roast were the main items on offer. I had Old Speckled Hen (Greene King) at 1.30/half - it was the only beer not from the bland Scottish Courage range. Unusually for bars these days, the OSH wasn't chilled, showing that the landlord may really care about real ale.

Next door is an Indian restaurant, posh-looking but empty on this occasion. [There seems to be limited interest in Indian meals at lunchtime!] Nearby is the fine sailing ship The Grand Turk, as used in ITV's Hornblower dramas.

I went throught to the river bank to see the view and the two sculptures there once again: a sundial and a girl+dolphin. From there I went around the outside of the Tower site, alongside the moat they're apparently planning to fill again, and into the Tube station.

I travelled to Moorgate and found the exit was familiar from my trips via the Barbican c1983.

[13:20] I went into the Barbican's Waterside restaurant (quieter & cooler than the terrace) and had a delicious banana cheesecake plus cardboard cup of Pepsi for 4. Inside and out there were a lot of street performers, many in bizarre costumes. By now it was very hot - so much for the forecast of cloud and rain.

At 14:00 I used my timed ticket to enter the Art of Start Wars exhibition - this was the penultimate day. About half the space related to Episode 1. A bit of everything was there: costumes, preliminary art work, matte paintings, models, looping documentary, props...

Next I walked round to the Museum of London (SW corner of the Barbican) - this took 15 minutes. As I was tired and short of time, I didn't want to pay 5 for a short visit and instead returned to the Arts Centre, passing the fragment of Roman wall on the south side of the complex.

I descended to the cinema lobby - quiet and cool! I bought a coffee and waited till the 16:00 showing of Star Wars Episode 1 - the Phantom Menace. As the Warner Village cinema in Cambridge is so bad, I had no opportunity to see the film before. I found it to be hugely enjoyable, with an engaging plot and excellent action sequences, all backed by excellent special effects.

Upon leaving at 18:15, I found it had just rained after all. I arrived at Kings Cross for the 18:50 train (the next Liverpool St. one was about 19:10).


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