The London Log – part 4 – A building site, another bridge and a horse

Better late than never – although that’s open for debate – the last part of our visit to London, staying at the Caravan Clubs’ Crystal Palace site.

Thursday, and what was to be our last full day away started much the same as Wednesday – cloudy and damp, although some sunshine was rumoured to be putting in an appearance later. (It didn't)

First port of call was Victoria Railway station – we go to all the best places. There was a reason though, we were to meet a friend who was joining us for the day and a little before midday were soon on a bus with Lawrence heading in the general direction of Holborn.

But only to change buses. The destination was to be the Olympic Park out at Stratford to the east, boarding the Docklands Light Railway at Bank in the City. We’d made this journey a year and a bit ago – on our very first outing with Patsy – to see how the Olympic park was developing. We wanted to come back and see what it looked like afterwards.

Food was required first  and the massive shopping centre built on the site provided for a variety of dining options and shortly after, with appetites at least partially sated we went in search of some vantage points. Now, there is a viewing tower on the Olympic site – you may have seen it – a red metal thing looking a bit like a cross section of track from a rollercoaster. For fifteen quid, you can climb this whilst listening to the ‘commentary’ of some celebrity or other. Or, you can go to the top floor of the nearby John Lewis store and look out over the site for nothing. You can guess which one we did.

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When we were here a year last March – before the Olympic games, the site was like a building site. This time, it was like a er, building site. The main stadium, velodrome and aqua park were all there but but teams of fluorescent jacketed workers were brandishing  their tools, whilst lorries came and went. It looked just the same as before! With images committed to digital memory, we headed back to the train station, crossing the bridge, elements of which were built by the company owned by Trev’s brother Malcolm before he passed away last year.

We loitered around Covent Garden for a while, taking in the market and some of the street artists along, it seemed,  with half of the population of planet earth, then decided that beer o’clock was approaching and retreated to one of the area many pubs for a well earned (for doing what?) pint. Food was on offer but there was no where to sit, so another hostelry was located and the days calorie count was pushed yet higher.


Remember the title of this blog? Well, the astute amongst you will have deduced that I am talking about ‘War Horse’ and we had booked tickets to see the play at the New London Theatre, near the top of Drury Lane – and just along from the aforementioned hostelry.

We had wanted to see it ever since the film came out and were not disappointed. With a minimal set, but wonderfully atmospheric lighting and truly masterful puppetry it really was superb – and tugged at the heart strings just as much as the film. Worth every penny of the substantial ticket price.

The number 38 bus took us to Haymarket took where we departed to join the faithful number 3, whilst Lawrence continued on to Victoria and a late train home back to Brighton.

Friday, and a slight change of plan. We were due to stay Friday night and then shoot up to Cambridge first thing Saturday morning to pick up HRH (Trev’s Mum), returning to the site to hitch up Patsy then take both old girls back to Saltdean. We decided instead to do the run to Cambridge Friday lunchtime and travel back from London early evening. Once the awning was down and all the ‘outside’ stuff was done, I wandered off with the camera to have a play whilst Trev packed away the inside.

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A little later than planned we were in the car and heading for the Blackwall tunnel. Everything was going fine until half way up the M11 when the traffic repeatedly came to a standstill. This meant that having picked up HRH, who was travelling surprisingly light for once – luggage wise anyway (!) – we hit the Blackwall tunnel again at rush hour. Add to this major traffic jams on the M25 and you can imagine what it must have been like. I would have put the air-con on but with the fuel gauge predicting imminent disaster I didn't want to risk it. Having eventually got back to Crystal Palace and hitched up old girl number 2 we negotiated south London and eventually got back to Saltdean just before dark.

So, another trip completed. The club site at Crystal Palace must rate as one of the best locations for exploring a city. The facilities aren’t the best although perfectly acceptable and the wardens were helpful and friendly. Sadly, it seems it is due to close when the lease expires in a few years time and will be a great loss, not just to Brits coming to explore the capital but to many European travellers too.

We’ve booked to come again – in October during the next half term break. There is so much to see and do that we’ll no doubt continue just to scratch the surface. I love big cities in general but enjoy London immensely. Yes, it can be expensive – you could spend an awful lot of money here – if you had it  – and whilst a constant supply of cash helps, there’s plenty to do and see that doesn't cost a penny either.

So what’s next. Well, the summer holidays are approaching – and we get over eight weeks of them – a portion of which we plan to spend down in Devon & Cornwall. This depends, to a degree,  when the house sale goes through. We have had an offer accepted on a flat, so the timing of that will come in to play as well.

So, until then…….

The London Log pt 3 - Contrasts, cloudy beer and a (once) wobbly bridge

Tuesday – as already mentioned was wet – it rained pretty much all day, and whilst it was good to relax after a a couple of days out and about – and get the blog started, it still felt like a day lost. I felt like pacing up and down, but given Patsy’s internal dimensions I  would have soon worn the carpet out!

Wednesday was dull and overcast, but at least dry – more or less – as we headed out again, first to Dulwich Village. You could be forgiven for thinking you are in the middle of the countryside here, rather than just a few miles from the noise and vibe of central London. Leafy tree lined avenues, a pretty high street, smart elegant houses and a number of independent schools surrounding tell you there’s some serious wealth around here. There’s also a museum and the Dulwich Picture Gallery is worth a visit if art is your thing.

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Another bus brought us to Brixton and Electric Avenue, home of it’s famous street market. The difference, from genteel Dulwich couldn’t be more stark, although the market wasn’t as lively or as big as I had expected. Lots of bright colours, sounds and smells and it certainly felt much more ‘alive’ than sleepy Dulwich but perhaps not quite as comfortable, although Brixton has changed vastly since the riots of the early eighties.

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Southwark and the Millennium bridge was meant to be the next port of call but the arrival of a rain cloud brought about a slight postponement, so we ended up going across Blackfriars Bridge and paused in Holborn for a tasty hot dog and a cheap but cloudy pint at a handily placed hostelry – i.e. by the bus stop.

The rain conveniently ceased whilst we indulged and we were soon on the bus and back across the Thames by the Millennium Bridge. The footbridge gained notoriety when it opened for being rather too wobbly. A design feature, we were told at the time although it was soon firmed up after people complained of needing sea sickness pills to cross it!

It spans the Thames between the Tate Modern gallery – housed in an old power station on the south bank – and the rather more photogenic St Pauls Cathedral on the north side. We walked across, pausing to play with the new camera at various points and both wishing we’d brought coats, the muddy waters of the Thames below cooling the winds to almost arctic temperatures.

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Ludgate Hill provided more opportunity for lens clicking, then caffeine levels were restored before heading up, for the second time this week to Camden Town.

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I had vague plans to buy some new jeans – black & leather, obviously - and Camden seemed the obvious choice. It was quieter than before  and we perused the shops and markets for a while but still came away empty handed. The camera came out again though to capture some of the shop facades.

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Our final stop of the day, after changing buses in the returning rain at Trafalgar Square, was Gipsy Hill. Some er, research was in order but with no real ale on offer at the first pub we moved on. The second pub restored our faith in humanity, before getting the bus up the hill back to Crystal Palace for another pint and food. Credit where it’s due too – Westow House does good pub grub, but eight, yes, eight real ales on offer certainly warrants a mention. 

Well, this was supposed to be the last part, but look out for the final part of our London trip heading your way real soon, where we finally get to the building site and  see an ‘orse!