Red/White and Spring – London – UK

underground.pngThis Easter I saw the country of Harry Potter, Peter Pan, Paddington and many other beautiful characters. So let’s get the story on!

I start off by saying that this journey started very, very early in the morning, at just 10h after leaving work:

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Even though the bags were done the day before, I still had one last item to choose: Game Console or Ebook Reader?

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I picked the book as my travelling companion and like so, rushed to the airport, got on the line, passed the check, in the plane, in the air and now -> In London.

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From the airport, I took the train and like always, my first photo was taken with the iron machines.

Kings Cross -> you know… Platform 9 3/4!

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In reality, platforms 9, 10 and 11 are not on this side of the station. There are aside and look nothing like in the movie… If anything, they look like there are new, and recently added, as an extension.

It would have been cooler if the authorities moved the platforms 1, 2 and 3 from where they are now, and get the 9, 10 and 11, on the good side. This way, when people come here (and every day, every minute, 50-60 people are in line to make a picture with a wall…) they actually have a pillar between 9 and 10 and they can smile as they remember of the movie.

London has many other stations, and if I were to name just two more, I will choose the following for its best looks on the exterior: St. Pancras International train station.

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It is huge, orange, with arches and arcades, huge statues (modern too) and lots of details wherever you look. Also sorry to repeat it but…

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It has the most beautiful exterior I have ever seen in a train station. So many details, such a beautiful watchtower and wow, wish I could stay at this hotel… Most mornings, I drank my coffee here… when it did not rain so hard. 🌂👫

Did you know that in London a good coffee is 3,5 – 5 pound and an umbrella is 3-4 pounds?

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But in my opinion, the best-looking station as you walk inside has to be Paddington.

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All white arches with black reinforcements and brownish accents make this station more interesting looking than the bronze bear that gives the name.

It is also the only station that brings me memories. When I was a kid, I played (and still do) train-simulators on my PC. And on the London-Oxford route, you get to take the train from Paddington and rush with 120 miles per hour to your next destination. I think every train enthusiast, that has a PC and knows about Simulators in general, has been here virtually. And if he has the “new” Train-Sim World, well, in this case, he walked on the Paddington tiles and saw the green GWR.

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To be honest is cooler to be here in person and see the GWR, green EMU trains. But it makes you sad, when you go back to the simulator, and see there are no people and not so many trains waiting to depart. I mean, as you probably seen in the image above, most lines are full.

In fact, stations are so beautiful in London, but Underground stations, look too bad to even mention. Trains are not just narrow but short too. The tube has the ceiling rounded, and as a guy with 187cm of height, I can say, I was not comfortable.  How come that in London you can see one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe and the ugliest Underground stations? And not just that, but boy oh boy is so expensive…

Well enough with the trains, is time to walk!

While you are in a Capital city, that is crossed by a river, you have to go see it. Most of the action is there!

So, there I go myself!

But on the way there, I stopped at Neal’s Yard to admire this place (quite full at my arrival).

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Moving on, I found a huge Apple Shop, so I bought headphones (since I forgot mine in Vigo) and just outside of it, there was an Apple Market from where I almost bought a t-shirt.

This “apple” market is next to St Paul’s Church (attention, not the Cathedral but the Church).

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Outside of the market area, I found one of the many Egyptian relics, that are all around in London. This is Cleopatra’s Needle (and the two sphinxes). Oh and the Thames of course.

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Royal Air Force Memorial.

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This was the London, on Easter -> rain, clouds and a giant wheel blowing air in the sky.

The London Eye.

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In fact, even when it was sunny, not only it rained but ice fell too, melting on the umbrella, faster than my camera could focus. Well not exactly… In fact, I was kinda waiting for a red bus to show up in the frame. This way I could make my point: This city is all about white, red and black cabs. (in the central area)

A very pleasant city to walk in if the direction of circulation doesn’t make you dizzy too fast.

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Of course, while you are on the Thames River, you wish to see the Big Ben Tower. Me too, but too bad it was on restoration. Probably for the wedding…

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The second restoration place that I saw and I wish not to, was (and still is for a few more weeks/months) Trafalgar Square. Hehe, the zero kilometers of London. (imagine how many people gather here… And ducks too.

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I could have never thought that on April, it would be so cold. Most times I took my camera out of the bag when I really found something interesting, or just another shot that I have to make just because everyone else takes/took/will take it too.

So for that reason, my main occupation was to hold the umbrella and look mostly down on the pavement.

Unlike most cities, here, the walkways are made of tiles (almost on 95% percent of walkways I walked on). Easy to replace, looks good, but sometimes they hide lots of water.

So here I am at an Itsu restaurant (best place to get healthy food, at very low prices, and get energized with a hot soup) trying to get warm at my feet. After this episode, I bought gloves, extra clothes to protect my neck and back… And more soup.

I may sound like I am paid by them, in fact, they don’t even know my website, but I want to say this:

An afternoon tea (which you should take at least once since is like taking the gondola in Venice…) is 20-30 pounds. KFC is 16 pounds. A big cheap sandwich could be 10 pounds… But here you get a soup for 1,99 pounds + hot meal that is healthy for 5 pounds max. Now if you take lots of things… sure you will pay 30 pounds per two people (and in there 2 boxes of rice and duck sandwiches for later).

So take my advice, and eat here if there is no special occasion.

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When I saw this gangway, I felt I was back in Portugal… But then the Underground logo woke me up (Amba Hotel). I like these memory portals…

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Another building that made me remember the Iberian Peninsula, was this radio tower, that looks just like the one from Madrid.

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And since we are on the subject of radio/music, here is one of those places where you have to go if you love music. Is not really a place where you will find The Beatles or Spice Girls (they are at Madame Tussauds), but rather see how music started as a school, in the UK. The first real music.

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And if you think is boring to read or to watch workshops, well, ask for a demo play on a 400 years old piano. In fact, you will be surprised that your favorite cassette from childhood, barely works, but this piano is still top notch. Also, people who work at the museum, are talented and resourceful.

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The Royal Academy of Music was the only museum I saw in my 5-day stay. I knew I could not spare one day to visit the Nature Museum, even if I wanted to see it. The streets are the real museum in London.

After visiting more and more of this great capital (and expensive) I came to realize that maybe London is the Capital of the World. I have not yet seen all, and I don’t think I will ever do so, but hear me out.

To get to any country, you need a passport, right? Same here, but not to New York! There you need one extra thing.

London is connected by underground, water, and air with EUROPE and ASIA. I can say that if you have the courage, you can go on the bike from South Africa to London. You could do that to New York too, but not on the bike 🙂 Maybe you could also walk almost non-stop from Moscow to London (if they let you in the train to do so).

In London, I hear all the languages in the world, and in some cases, I saw what they eat and what they dress like -> meaning they have shops and restaurants. In fact, I bought stuff from a Romanian store (did not know at first) and ate from a Japanese. But you can eat just like in Pakistan, Iran, China, Turkey, Romania, France, Austria, Germany, Egipt, etc.

So from the first train that I took, in which there were just a few of native English people and till I reached about 84 km of walking, I saw portals into different corners of the world.

Take this street, that has identical apartments, and a church at the end:

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Doesn’t it look familiar? The picture below is done in 2014, while I was walking in Brussels.

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So many similarities.🤫 And not just that, but:

In London, as you take the train outside of the central area, you will find the same “Copy-Paste One Building for the Entire Street” type architecture. Just as shown in Harry Potter :))

Here is an example of the more beautiful kind.

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The only buildings that set themselves apart, are the Pubs or the Arms or the Taverns. Most of them have small bricks, painted distinctively, and lots of flowers on the windows.  And they all say they have good food and great beer.

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They usually get full by 5 a clock, and some of them close quite early at 10.

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My favorite place was the Churchill Arms. Just look at this beauty.

Actually, to make this picture, I had to wait 15 minutes or so, because a big truck was parked in front of this beautiful establishment.

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No matter which of the many pubs you choose, take a different one every day and finish  a pint. 🍺

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More about this great city, on next weeks part 2.

MiDe.

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