Coffee with Nelson and Wellington

On Tuesday I was awake early so thought I’d look for a coffee in Angel. Even Costa & Pret were closed, so the odds were not looking good. Walking down to the end of the street I found an Italian Cafe, run by Italians, so I thought I may have struck coffee gold up here in Angel. The only other customers were 5 or 6 police officers having breakfast. Unfortunately my initial excitement was misplaced as the coffee was average.

After breakfast we headed down to St Paul’s Cathedral for the tour. It was £17 per head,  but considering you can climb the internal stairs for a fantastic view over London, its money well spent. We did the guided tour which took over 1.5 hours (probably 40 minutes more than what was really needed). You can’t take pictures inside the church or crypt unfortunately, as there are some marvellous pieces of architecture inside that is worth photographing. Down in the crypt are the tombs of Wellington and Nelson. Amazingly some of the flags from the battle of Waterloo are just hanging there and will do until they disintegrate over time. No attempt has or will be made to preserve them. Christopher Wren who built the cathedral as well as most of the churches in London post the great fire. The cafe for the cathedral is in the crypt also.

After coffee I climbed the 528 steps all the way to the top of the dome and the view is spectacular. It was a hot clear day. You also get an opportunity to view the internal structure as you ascend the iron spiral staircase. Not for the claustrophobic though, narrow passages, lots of people and small spiral staircases.

We then headed down to the Churchill War rooms, but the queue was massive and we had limited time before we had to get ready for the Globe Theatre, so we will do that another day. After getting ready we headed down towards the Globe and grabbed some mexican for dinner just opposite Borough Market. The play inside the Globe was Romeo and Juliet with an interesting modern bent, think Robocop meets the Village People. The seats we had were excellent with heaps of leg space. After the show we walked along the Millennium bridge on the way back to the apartment.

Coffee @ Heston’s

Today is Sharon’s birthday so we are at the Hind’s Head for lunch. That will be a subject of a later post, this one is just about coffee.

Left London early to get to Bray, and the only real chance for coffee was at Paddington station. My last coffee there was a disaster, so on the theory of no coffee is better than bad coffee I decided to wait. 

We ended up having  pre lunch cocktails outside in the garden so actually skipped coffee. Upped the ante into overdrive and had a coffee cocktail instead. Coffee + alcohol + Heston’s = winning

Under the River

Monday was another busy day for us, it started cool, but soon heated up to over 30c again. First stop for us was Canary Wharf where we caught up with a friend I worked with years ago. Had a great coffee and chat with him before heading off to the Museum of London, Docklands.

This is a great museum, with free entry. It has a specific display on the history of the docks and how central they were to the success of London as a global city and world power. They also had an exhibition on the archeology performed on the new cross city rail tunnel which will start to open in 2018. The city has been here since before Roman times in some form or another, so they have found lots of interesting stuff. There is also a display on the history of sugar and slavery and the part London played in that ugly part of history of the colonisation of the United States.

Before heading out we grabbed another coffee, which for machine made was not too bad. We then took the DLR (Docklands Light Rail) down to Island Garden station, where we got off and took the foot tunnel under the Thames to Greenwich. I noticed the dome above the entry last year but didn’t recognise what it was. It does look strangely like some sort of public lavatory, and I’m obviously not the first person to think this, as it does have that public toilet wee smell about it on first going through the door.

The tunnel is basically just a very large pipe that was put at the bottom of the Thames and tiled. Fascinating piece of 19th century infrastructure still in use. It classified as a public highway so its alway open. As it has the Thames flowing over it, its very cool inside, when we entered it was 30c outside and I’d guess the temp was less than 20. Very nice walk with such a cool change.

We walked up to the National Nautical museum (another free one) where we spent a bit of time, Stand out item is probably turners painting of the Battle of Trafalgar which has its own seperate room. The museum also has a great display on the East India Company with all the money it managed to make with its monopoly on trade and the evils it got up to. After looking around here we grabbed some lunch from the pub across the road.

In the afternoon, I went down to the Imperial War Museum for about an hour and had a look at the Holocaust exhibition they have, whilst Sharon headed into the city for a bit of shopping. Dinner for tonight was at the pub just down on the corner from where we are staying.


Cruise Along the Thames

After our walk around Hampton Court for the day we chose to return to central London on a boat, a trip that takes just under 3.5 hours. We went on “Thames River Cruises”, they have a small dock just near Hampton Court. Tickets cost £17 per ticket, which they sell just before you get on the boat. They don’t take cards though, so make sure you are cashed up before getting on. There is also a small bar on board where you can get a drink. Cruising along the river, drink in hand on a warm summer’s day is just way to civilised a way to travel !

It was very low tide on our entire trip, at one point the boat grazed the bottom of the river as it moved along and some people had to step onto the roof to get off at one of the stops along the way. Being on the boat as it moved through the locks on the Thames was quite interesting, not something I’d done before. Passed under many iconic London bridges, and many buildings all steeped in their own history, including the old Battersea Powers Station, made famous from the Pink Floyd album cover. It is also the largest brick building still standing in Europe.

Once back in central London we headed up to Covent Garden and had a Sunday Roast at the “Nags Head” pub. Then back to Angel on the tube.

Day at Hampton Court

Hampton Court was very high on Sharon’s to-do list for London, and now having been there I can see why. The place is fantastic. It is only about 20km out of London, and is easy to get to on the South West trains that leave from Waterloo Station. In many ways it is similar to to the Palace of Versailles in Paris, although not quite as opulent.

So much British history played out here, if you are interested in the history around Henry the 8th, then you should absolutely visit here. The two main sections of interest where we spent most of our time were the kitchens of Henry the 8th, and his apartments.

The kitchen display is amazing, they even have a fire going on display roasting some meats. The most interesting tidbit of information on the whole functioning of the Royal Court is that they consumed so much food on a daily basis, that the Court had to keep moving around the country as they would soon exhaust all the local supplies. Since this was a time before modern transport, storage and refrigeration, the people had to follow the food. Essentially they were a huge plague of locusts moving around England.

The way food was stored and moved around was really though out, the storage area were designed so as not to allow any sunlight in the corridors and the rooms would remain cool at all times. Even on this hot 32c day this section of the palace was ver pleasant. Although a few hundred years ago when it would have been full of raw fish, maybe not.

After checking out the kitchens we moved onto the Royal apartments, with some great tapestries and stained glass windows. Grabbed a few sandwiches in one of the cafes for lunch then spent a little bit of time in the gardens and looking at the maze made out of hedges before our trip back to London. For the trip back we chose to go back by boat along the Thames.