Relocating to a Northern Town

Our last day in London had arrived and time for some new adventures. We are heading North to a town in Yorkshire called Halifax. Sharon’s mum was born in Halifax and still has a lot of family there so we are heading off to spend a few days with them.

We are getting a “Grand Central” train from Kings Cross. There were a few options with different trains and times but the advantage of Grand Central was they had a few trains that went from London to Halifax direct, no need to change a Manchester or Leeds.

Ordered one of the iconic black cabs to take us to the station, could have taken the tube (only a few stations away) but a few lines have been closed over weekends. To compete with Uber a few drivers had their own app developed that works exactly like the Uber app, even with in app payments. One thing I really like about the black cabs is they can carry a massive amount of luggage as well as passengers

We were at Kings Cross with heaps of time to spare so we had some breakfast there at the station. On the train the seats were comfortable, not a heap of space for luggage storage though. Luckily we were one of the few families with suitcases. Train picks up a bit of speed too, just over 200kph in some sections.

Our train was the William Shakespeare. He unfortunately missed out on train travel by something like 250+ years. Who knows what he would have thought of trains, but I’m sure they would have provided many inspirations for more tragedies. Traineo, Traineo, wherefore art thou Traineo?

Sharon’s cousin Steve was at the station to meet us in Halifax. We dropped our luggage at the hotel then headed off to spend the afternoon and evening with the rest of the family.

Off to the Chop House

On our last night in London caught up with my cousin Kristy and her partner Mark for dinner. Great restaurant (Hix Oyster and Chop House), food was of course fantastic. The owner Mark Hix who did exceptionally well on the TV show “Great British Menu” so Sharon was super impressed we were dining at one of his restaurants. Another foodie box ticked off the todo list.

As a bonus the restaurant was just behind the apartment where we were staying. Mark showed us some of the interesting buildings and stone work in the area

Quick Flight and Coffee

Today we took the quickest and cheapest Emirates Airline flight we have ever done. £3.50 one way. It could be argued it’s also the most expensive flight I’ve ever done, since the trip is only about a kilometre. On that basis the flight from Sydney to London was way way cheaper as it was only 2p per km.

However you cut it though it’s an inexpensive and quick way to get a great view over the Thames and London. There is a tube station on the south side and a DLR station on the north side, so doing this as a round trip from central London couldn’t be easier. They take Oyster cards too. As you head south, on the left is London city Airport runway so you can get a good (if not slightly scary) view of planes taking off.

After our flight we took the Tube north to Angel so Sharon could tick off one of her foodie wish lists, lunch from Ottolenghi. Unsurprisingly it was packed when we arrived, so we grabbed a few things as takeaway and ate them in a church ground park just down the road.

Delicious looking cakes too

I hadn’t coffee’d yet, so a bit of quick googling recommended the CoffeeWorks Project, just a bit further down the road towards the station. Coffee was very nice, maybe not as good as Black Sheep though.

Some nice looking food shops in this part of town. As we were having coffee the rain started so we took our time before leaving.

Coffee on the Wall

It was really wet again on Thursday morning. Bit of a theme that it’s raining really early then clears up through the day, with the odd shower throughout the day. Sharon and Emma were booked in for the Churchill War rooms (I’ve done them twice already – they are fantastic)

I decided I’d check out the London transport museum and the London museum across the road. Went over to Covent Garden where the transport museum is, but decided to wait till we are back in London in a few weeks before using my ticket (last nights tour included free entry) as they have a display in a few weeks I’d be interested in.

Checked out the shop though, many interesting books to buy, all of which I have no luggage space for, so didn’t buy anything.

At the transport museum they are selling furniture and cushions decked out in transport fabric that normally adorns the seats on tube trains. It’s not cheap, that square foot stool is £175. I wonder if they charge extra for used chewing gum, tube dust and questionable stains found on the real tube ?

There is a book on the Barbican

And a brutalist architecture map, in which the Barbican is a standout feature

Lots of stairs in Covent Garden

Came back to St Pauls, where I grabbed another fabulous coffee from the guys at Black Sheep and wandered around to look at the remains of the original Roman London wall. There is a street here that follows the original walls path (more or less) and amazingly they named the street “London Wall” there is not a heap of it left, but you can see parts of it. After the WW2 bombing more of it was exposed, and you could see how many parts of it were incorporated into the foundations of Victorian buildings and their walls.

When you know a little bit more about the cities history some of the place names make more sense. The Barbican was the fortified building outside the wall. I’m sure the original barbican looked much nicer than the building there now. There is also Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Newgate etc, which as you can guess were gates in the wall.

After this I went inside the Museum of London (free entry apart from special exhibits) and checked out the Roman London display.

Then wandered down across the millennium Bridge to Borough Market to meet Sharon and Emma for lunch. In the evening I caught up with a few of my friends from the London office for beers and a curry. (Sharon and Emma were booked in to see a play at the Globe)

We went into Brick lane, ended up back at City Spice where I’ve been a few times. Brick lane can feel a bit pushy with the restaurant tours trying to get you to go inside to eat. Just keep walking if you are not interested. You should be able to get at least a free drink per person and 20% discount thrown in.

Hidden Station Tour

Last night I did one of the London Transports “hidden London” tours where they take small groups of people through disused parts of London’s tube network. I’d been very very lucky to score a ticket to see Down St station.

This one is the most popular one they run since the station played an integral role in the running of the train network during WW2 and Winston Churchill used it as a safe bunker during part of the blitz.

I’d been chatting to my mate John about the rail train I’d done last year over a coffee and he mentioned that Transport for London sometimes run these tours. Sure enough that night he received an email from TfL about upcoming tours and sure enough they lined up with the dates I was going to be in London, so I quickly booked one. They vary in price, and this one is the most expensive. It was £90, however for the history geek / train spotter etc it’s worth every penny. It also includes free entry into the London Transport museum in Covent Garden.

You meet the tour inside the lobby of 10 Brick St. I expected to be waiting outside a fire escape or something but it’s a nice lobby in a serviced office building with chairs and toilets etc.

Spot on time we were greeted and taken to a conference room and told a bit about the team, the history and the rules of the tour. You are going into a working train line, it’s not dangerous but you need to know what the escape plan is if there is an issue and how to use the torches they lend you. When a train passes you have to switch it off. Being on a train platform with trains thundering past in pitch darkness is an experience in its own right.

One of the escape plans should anything untoward happen is they flag down a train passing on the Piccadilly line and you escape on that. At this point I think everyone was wishing there was an issue so we could all do that.

You learn about why the station fell into disuse. Essentially it’s in a wealthy area where few people wanted to use the tube in the early 20th century, the entry was was hidden on a side street (Down St), it took a while to enter and exit due to the long tunnel and there are other stations at the ends of Hyde park. It had the odds stacked against it. Ironic that it’s now one of TfLs most prized tourist destinations. It’s also used for tube line ventilation, there is working singalong equipment and other engineering equipment there, so even though it’s not used for passengers it plays an important role in the tube network.

You will need to descend and climb about 120 step during the tour.

The old station entrance. The tour starts and ends here, but the meet and greet happens in an office building around the corner.

stairs with the old two man lift shaft in the middle. This picture is taken looking up.

Old signage in the station

some modern signage so the engineers know which platform is east and west

Old telephone switch boards and equipment.

Old bath and toilet

We were well below the sewer line. They had special equipment installed to pump out the sewage

At the end of the tour you get a fantastic booklet all about the station and the tour.