Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Farewell London (for a while).

Well, we weathered the storm very well on Sunday night – James slept right through it, which was a miracle!  Everything is alright at home in Sussex we are assured by our neighbours,  that’s another miracle considering there were 90 mph winds recorded on nearby Isle of Wight. 


Yesterday we went over to Camden for some lunch and a bit of a wander round.  The storm damage began to emerge as we walked through Mornington Crescent.


Considering it was a bit of a showery day Camden Market was still very busy.  We noticed that a huge amount of money must have been spent on the numerous, and marvellous,  horsey sculptures which adorn the Stables area of the market.


Having “done” Camden we decided to walk to Kings Cross where, on the way, there was more evidence of the previous night’s storm.

The evening had us enjoying a last night out in the West End where we met up with several people we’ve got to know since we’ve been in London – it was a great end to a great few days.  Today we took ‘Chance’ on the short trip to Packet Boat marina at West Drayton for the winter period.


The trip was made all the more eventful by a continuous string of fallen trees – either in the canal or across the towpath.  This tree luckily fell short enough of the moored wide beam for us to just scrape through.


The towpath all the way down the Paddington Arm faired less well than the canal itself, with many obstacles for walkers and cyclists to negotiate


We caught this man trying to scrabble through the branches with his bicycle.


Further down the arm we spotted a lighthouse in Southall – Hmmmm!


Getting to end of the Paddington Arm we approached Bulls Bridge and then turned right onto the Grand Union Canal.


As we heading north towards West Drayton we passed the huge Nestle factory.  With the wind being in the right direction we were treated to a gorgeous sugary aroma.


After a 4 1/2 hour trip we arrived in Packet Boat marina and got nicely settled into our berth.  The first thing was to purchase a 32 amp plug in order to couple up to the shore power as ours is the normal 16 amp but, while Doug went off to use the marina tumble drier, James got the tools out and connected us to the shore power.

We’re not winterising ‘Chance’ at the moment as we hope to be returning on a regular basis.  So, with only a few jobs to complete, we hope to get the car packed and travel back to Sussex tomorrow for a bit of  terra firma for a short while.

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Lull before the Storm

On Saturday evening, after our great day out with the St Pancras Cruising Club, we went back to their club house (in the old Victorian water tower) for the annual Halloween party.


We had a great time meeting a lot of the members…………….


……. and spending an enjoyable time with Frances (Mrs Commodore), who tried hard to be a witch but she’s far from it! Doug’s not drunk, he’s just in mid laugh.

Yesterday was an opportunity to do some ‘walking in the park’ as it might not be there after the forecasted great storm expected during the night.  We had a very good Sunday lunch at the Bayswater Arms before walking across to Hyde Park.


Close to the Serpentine Gallery Doug took some persuading to pose for this photo.  He’s not convinced that two big stones are a particularly good example of modern art.


We stopped for a while at the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain which was very pleasantly quiet.


The Serpentine, with the cordoned off Lido swimming area in the foreground.  Not very enticing at this time of year but many hardy Londoners still use it through the winter months.


The wonderful peace of the park ………..


………. is dramatically shattered as you emerge onto Knightsbridge at Hyde Park Corner …………


………. and cross towards the marvellous Wellington Arch (which we must go to the top off one day).


Close to Hyde park Corner is the Australian War Memorial, which usually has water cascading over the thousands of place names etched into the marble.  Today the water was switched off and a workman was painstaking cleaning each tiny name. He’s obviously learnt not to look too far ahead!


We walked down a very quiet Constitution Hill to the Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace.


The area around the Palace was traffic free, which must be the case on Sundays, and so it was a pleasure to be able to wander around at leisure ………


……… and then walk up the Mall (also traffic free) to Trafalgar Square…….


…….. where there was a very well attended Diwali festival in progress.

After some refreshment in Soho we got back to ‘Chance’ to weather the storm that was brewing.  Our London visit is coming to an end soon and we’re due for just a tad more canal cruising – hope we haven’t forgotten how to use the tiller!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

St Pancras Halloween Cruise.

Today we took part in the St Pancras Cruising Club Halloween event, with a cruise down to Kensal Green from the club base at St Pancras.


We left ‘Chance’ behind on this occasion, taking the tube to Kings Cross, arriving at the club house for coffee and croissants, before being  invited by Andrew  (the club commodore), and his wife Frances, to join them on their boat ‘Doris Katia’ for the trip.


On getting to Camden locks we were treated to an open air exhibition of ‘not-very-much’ by a somewhat animated “lady” who was definitely ‘on’ something.  We asked her what it was as we all wanted a pint of it ourselves!


‘Doris Katia’ lead the flotilla of narrow boats through the Camden locks which, as normal, provided us with plenty of onlookers.


There were quite a few boats on the canal today, most of which we met in tunnels or bridge 'oles, but we luckily met this rather unique one on the straight. With its low roof line, lowered cratch and mat black finish, it’s deservedly known as the “stealth boat”. (not sure whether it stays under radar detection though)


After Camden locks Andrew gave James the tiller and then promptly disappeared inside the boat for the rest of the trip! (to perform other organisational duties we think).  James was quite at home of course and enjoyed both steering a different boat and the ever-changing autumnal colours along the Regents Canal.


It was a different feeling steering a traditional stern, rather than ‘Chance’s’ cruiser style.


It was rather windy for the trip today but the rain held off and we were soon approaching Little Venice.


Another half an hour and we arrived at Kensal Green.  Joined by the rest of the St.Pancras flotilla of over a dozen boats we temporarily took over the moorings outside Sainsbury’s.

We had a lovely lunch of home made pumpkin soup with Andrew and Frances on board ‘Doris Katia’ after which we joined many of the crews in the Decenters Chapel at Kensal Green Cemetery for a Halloween quiz.  We then returned to ‘Chance’ by tube train to recharge both our own and boats’ batteries as we’re re joining the St. Pancras group for their party this evening.

We had a super day with everyone but special thanks to Andrew and Frances for the invitation to join them today. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Another day of learning.

As we’ve had a couple of recent late nights, we’ve also had a couple of lazy days to compensate.  However, today, it was back to enjoying the sights and sounds of our capital 


This afternoon, before catching the tube to Greenwich, we spied a very nice, recently taken “layered photograph” for sale, which just happened to have ‘Chance’ moored in the distance.  So, with photo purchased, it was back to the tube ride ………..


……….. where, nearing Greenwich, the Docklands Light Railway takes an exciting swoop down under the River Thames – a bit like an Alton Towers ride!


We couldn’t resist having some lunch in the fantastic Pie and Mash Shop in Greenwich …………..


……….. then a quick walk around Greenwich Market ………..


……… before walking through Greenwich Park and up the hill to the  Royal Observatory.


There’s so much to see there, including some wonderful reminders of  times past.


This is the remaining section of William Herschel’s 40 foot reflecting telescope – becoming famous, in 1781, for his discovery of Uranus.


There’s a lovely view of the city of London from the Observatory – Canary Wharf, dominant on the other side of the Thames with the city to the left of centre.


A close-up of the Thames and the city from the roof of the Observatory.


Between 1750 and 1850 the (Bradley) Meridian line ran through the centre of the middle building (where the roof is covered in lead).  When the Airy Transit Circle Telescope was erected in 1850 the worlds prime Meridian Line was moved 19 feet to it’s present position.  The difference in position represents just 1/50 of a second in time – not worth worrying about in Victorian times!


The Transit Circle telescope is still in working order and, up to 1954, had been used to make over 600, 000 observations.


The crowds of tourists were queuing outside for their chance to put one foot in each hemisphere but, inside the building, right next to the Transit Circle telescope, we had the Meridian Line to ourselves.


Our last port of call was the magnificent 28 inch refracting telescope – the largest and most powerful in Britain (and seventh largest in the world).  Music is playing in this room which is an art form called “Longplayer” and is a continuous musical composition written to play, without repetition, for a thousand years  - makes you think doesn’t it!


There’s always something to do somewhere in London and, with the weather mild and sunny again, we had another great day.  After getting back to ‘Chance’ for a breather this evening we’re looking forward to our last Friday night “on the town”.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A cultural day out.

We made our way to the British Museum yesterday (to see if we could learn something!)


Our first impression was that it was going to busy.  We didn’t include the  museum during our last visit to London in the summer for this reason but it seems it doesn’t matter what time of year it is.


The Egyptian exhibitions were, as expected, very busy – possibly due to our human interest in the macabre!


We did manage to get a few shots of the Egyptology without too many people in it and we could certainly see why so many gather there – the exhibits are very impressive.


The clocks and watches collection was extremely interesting also  (thanks to Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly).  Many exhibits are very old like this 1580 clock, which is one of only three surviving, made by Queen Elizabeth I’s clockmaker.


Some clocks weren’t quite so old – like this one, which is same as ours!


We don’t have one of these though – the Easter Island statue of Hoa Hakananai’a (pronounce it as you will!).  Seeing all these wonderful antiquities (including such things as the Elgin Marbles, which we walked past and didn’t notice at first) it makes one wonder whether it’s been right to “pillage” so much from other countries in the past.


James particularly wanted to see the Rosetta Stone which has been so important in the deciphering of hieroglyphs and has allowed us to learn so much more about the lives of people 3000 years ago.


Enjoying the architecture of the building should be very much part of a visit to any of the grand museums ………..


……and the Great Court, with it’s one time controversial roof, now stands proudly as part of the buildings historical development.


Most of London’s major museums are too large to take in a fraction of their contents and, with the large numbers of visitors you have to encounter, it soon becomes tiring – so that’s probably why the old Museum Pub which stands opposite looks so inviting when you come out.

During the evening yesterday we met up for a meal with friends, Adam and Adrian (nb ‘Briar Rose’) as they were both in London.  We had a great time with them at ‘Fire and Stone’ in Covent Garden before they left to prepare for their busy work schedules.  For the last part of the evening we went across to our favourite watering hole in Soho where we enjoyed another evening of “United Nations” socialising, chatting to people from Kuwait, Paris, America and of course London.