Monthly Archives: April 2013

Daily Prompt: The Satisfaction of a List

I initially came to post about SUNSHINE IN LONDON (this is a CAPS LOCK BIG DEAL!!) and the alleged beginning of spring (I say ‘alleged’ because I have been burned by imposter warm weather before). But then I thought I’d try my first daily prompt, so inspired by today’s visit to Alexandra Palace, I have created a list of My Top 5 Favorite London Views.

1. City of London viewed from the fields of Alexandra Palace

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If I squint, I can see the top of Alexandra Palace from my window and have always meant to go. Today was the perfect day, as for once BBC Weather didn’t lie to me and it really did feel like 19C. From my place I took a bus north through Highgate Village to Muswell Hill, which are both situated high on a hill (just in case anyone didn’t pick that up from their names.) Consequently, Alexandra Palace has the most gorgeous, sweeping views of the City of London – the Gherkin and the Shard are there, as well as St Paul’s and even the London Eye. What I love most is that the view also consists of vast green fields and valley-type areas filled with typical London flats – just your average neighborhoods, with people going about their daily lives right next to the financial center of the universe.

2. Whitehall viewed from the National Gallery

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From the steps of the National Gallery, you get this quintessentially London view – Big Ben, Whitehall, double-decker buses, a few Union Jacks thrown in there for good measure. It’s not in the photo, but you’ll also see Trafalgar Square, which I like to think of as being the center of the universe, period.

3. Parliament and the Victoria Embankment viewed from Hungerford Bridge

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This is a view that’s particularly close to my heart, as it can be see from a bridge that turns into the street I lived on for my first year in London. The night I arrived, some new friends and I strolled a few paces out the door and were faced with a view of Westminster that took our breath away, and kept taking it away day after day, week after week. It was hard to be sad about anything at all that year, having this in my backyard.

4. St Paul’s and the Millennium Bridge viewed from the Tate Modern

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I adore this one, just because I think any photo graced with the presence of St Paul’s Cathedral automatically becomes ten times more beautiful. This is the Millennium Bridge and the Thames as seen out a window of the Tate Modern Gallery. For all the bridge’s loveliness, I can’t help but shudder when I see it because, as any Harry Potter geek would know, it gets blown up in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (not real life…not real life…)

5. London skyline viewed from Primrose Hill

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Primrose Hill is for lovers (and for hilarious old sun tanning men with their shirts off, but whatever. To each their own). Primrose Hill to me means warmth, lazy summer days, picnics, and good company – and of course, a wonderful city scape view. Here’s hoping this summer will bring plenty of days like this…!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

Sorry little guy...

Sorry little guy…

This is my first Weekly Photo Challenge post – the theme for this week is ‘change’. I decided to go with the seasonal aspect of the challenge, because I am THAT excited about this finally being the weekend the parka heads out of my life and into the dry cleaners’ capable hands!

I came across this tenacious snowman on a recent trip to Moscow, outside the GUM shopping mall next to Red Square. I don’t think he’s long for this world, and I’m hoping the sun’s going to win this fight (though I’m sure he’ll be back with a vengeance next year).

‘Change’ can also aptly describe the city of Moscow itself, from the reign of the Romanovs to the terrors of Stalin to Putin’s vise-grip hold on power…but that’s a whole other story for a different photo challenge!

Here’s to spring finally springing x

Yellow Brick Road Re-Imagined

On the long slog home from SW to N, it’s hard to see loveliness in the Underground. The tube is a dreaded but inevitable medium whose only purpose is to get you from one place to another, and the less time spent in it the better. These past couple of weeks have been particularly unpleasant – it’s still cold enough outside for me to shlep around in my parka, but once underground I become a veritable puddle of sweat (combined with the lack of personal space and the hacking of fellow travellers with lingering colds, it’s not a pretty picture).

There is one stretch of my commute during which all this is amplified: the long, never-ending passage that connects the Jubilee and Piccadilly lines in Green Park station. I’m pretty sure it spans several postcodes and/or city blocks. It’s a struggle just to put one heavy foot in front of the other – a seemingly futile action, as the tunnel rapidly becomes one of those dream sequences where the faster you run, the longer your road becomes, and you just can’t seem to make it to the end.

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Keeping all this in mind, I might be forgiven for completely missing something delightful – something I picked up after watching Geoff Marshall’s video, The Secret Bits of the Victoria Line, on the Londonist blog. I shouldn’t be surprised though…thus is the magic of London, where there is something new to be noticed if only you are willing to open your eyes.

This Green Park tidbit concerns the tiling of the walls, which I previously registered as vaguely swimming pool-like but otherwise non-remarkable. What Geoff Marshall’s video brings to light is that the design in fact has a very particular purpose. When stepping off the Jubilee line (represented on the tube map in silver), the little squares on the wall are all silver. As you walk a bit further down the tunnel, you’ll notice a few blue squares thrown in there, representing the blue Piccadilly line (but indicating that it’s still miles away). Eventually, you see the tiles have switched to being made up of more blue than silver squares, and at the very end of the tunnel, before descending onto the Piccadilly platform, the squares are all blue (hurray – you’ve made it!!)

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So there you have it – a tube map hidden on the walls of a tunnel which, before this, I hadn’t afforded a moment’s notice (other than to curse it). It’s still a trek, but now at the very least I have something to smile at while overheating and wishing teleportation was a real thing.

Boat Race via the Underground

photo-1Last week, I watched my first Oxford-Cambridge boat race. I got there by Tube, just like people did over 90 years ago. I imagine the experience can’t have changed too much from then until now… lots of hooting and hollering, some excellent rowing and more than a few pints while perched on the riverside!

For anyone who likes vintagey prints or the London Underground or both, the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden has a fabulous exhibit on called Poster Art 150 – London Underground’s Greatest Designs, celebrating a century and a half of the tube’s existence. More on that soon!

Battle of the Blues – The 159th Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race

For those still suffering from Summer Olympics withdrawal (NO JUDGMENT HERE), the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race was a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Determined to finally attend said boat race in London (and determined not to spend the entire long weekend indoors), I accompanied one of my favorite fellow Canadians-in-the-UK to the Tideway Scullers Boat Club, perched opportunely by Chiswick Bridge with a clear view of the race finish line (finish…area?) FULL DISCLOSURE: the aforementioned friend attended Oxford University, and the boat club had been rented by Oxford students. I also spent a month doing a summer course at Oxford a few years ago, and own both a university sweatshirt AND a t-shirt. So I may have gone into the whole thing with a clear favorite, which I freely admit now that it’s all over and Oxford pulled off a clean win in every single race. But good effort all around, guys!!

Thames Bank by Chiswick Bridge

Thames Bank by Chiswick Bridge

This race was apparently pretty straightforward – no one jumping in the Thames in protest, no one passing out, no clashing oars (last year would’ve been the race to watch for that kind of head-scratching excitement). Despite the weather, crowds lined the banks with ‘Which Blue Are You?’ paraphernalia, and the atmosphere was fantastic. Because we had the room rented out, we were able to watch the boats set off from Putney on TV and then dart out to the balcony to see the finish live in person. Chants of ‘Oxxxforddd!!’ bounced off the water and appeared to make the win all the sweeter for both winning Oxford teams, exhausted but pumping their fists in the air. It was incredible to watch, and just IMAGINING the effort that goes into the whole process – from the 6am training sessions, to braving winter weather, to the mental preparation to the physical exertion – makes you want to throw yourself down on the nearest couch. I also thought it was really neat how international the rowing teams were – the Oxford Blues even had a Canadian on board!

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Here are some race tidbits I picked up from my friend and her enthusiastic bunch of Oxfordian rowing fans:

– the ‘main’ boat race is between the Oxford men’s team (Dark Blues) and the Cambridge men’s team (Light Blues). The men’s reserve teams (Isis, after a section of the Thames River which flows through Oxford, and Goldie, the name of a Cambridge hero in 19th century rowing lore) race first

– the left side of the river is known as ‘Surrey’ and the right side as ‘Middlesex’. That’s one to Google…

– the women’s races usually take place earlier at Henley, another prime rowing location, but starting in 2015 they’ll happen on the same day as the men’s and in London – hurrah for equality!

– the ‘cox’ is someone who sits in the back of the boat, yelling directions to the team in colorful language that is broadcast straight out to TV viewers, causing the BBC presenter to chuckle embarrassedly. Sorry folks, never know what to expect from those wild coxes (coxi?!)

– the winning cox gets launched into the Thames after the race. Going to take being sprayed with something a lot stronger than Champagne to send those germs packing!

Prime balcony location - parkas were left indoors in all the excitement!

Prime balcony location – parkas were left indoors in all the excitement!