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London, day 5: 17 September 2006

Started: 2006-09-24 09:07:22

Submitted: 2006-09-24 09:39:41

Visibility: World-readable


1100 BST 17 September 2006

Now queueing outside the O2, formerly known as the Millennium Dome. London Open House offers a "hard-hat tour" of the reconstruction that is preparing this exhibition built for the turn of the millennium for a sports and music arena, scheduled to open next year. It'll also be an Olympic venue in 2012. We're right next to the North Greenwich tube station on the Jubilee Line, built to handle the foot traffic produced by the dome, and never used for its full capacity.

Kiesa in the London Open House queue outside the O2
Kiesa in the London Open House queue outside the O2

Slept 10 hours again last night. Ran down to the nearby mini-Tesco to buy granola and hot chocolate, then hit Starbucks for a cup of non-instant coffee. (True coffee fans will no doubt complain that Starbucks is not a worthy substitute for real coffee, but it's actually brewed, so it's an improvement over the single servings of instant coffee I've been drinking in the room.)

Took Circle Line from Gloucester Road to Westminster (an impressive sci-fi dystopia look, rebuilt for the Jubilee Line extension in 1999), and the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich on the edge of Zone 2. (Kiesa was dubious that a tube station could be in two zones at once, but I convinced her it was valid. I think.)

After this, we'll visit Brunel's Engine House (which, I think, includes a lights-on tour of the first London subway tunnel under the Thames, built by Marc Brunel in the middle of the nineteenth century.) Then I'll need to consult the booklet for more insights.

1130 BST 17 September 2006

Proposed London Open House itinerary:

  1. O2 (Jubilee Line: North Greenwich) page 27
  2. Brunel Museum (Jubilee Line: Canada Water) page 52; open 10am-5pm Sunday
  3. Bank of England (Tube: Bank/Monument) page 19; Sunday: Open until 1600; last entry 1530.
  4. Roman Walls Walk page 22 (Guildhall Art Gallery) tours every 30 minutes through 1520 Sunday

Also interesting:

  • Great Eastern Hotel (tube: Bank) page 20; til 1300
  • 120 Fleet Street (tube: Blackfriars) page 19; open til 1700 on Sunday
  • King's Mews (tube: Holborn, Chancery Lane) page 17

1715 BST 17 September 2006

Sitting in Corean Chilli, at Leicester Square, waiting for food.

Tent spires, the O2
Tent spires, the O2

Saw O2, after queuing for an hour. It was impressive; they gutted the Millennium Dome interior and are building an arena, a cinema, a shopping arcade, and (they hope) a mega-casino. (I'm American, where casinos are limited to Atlantic City, Nevada, and Indian reservations. What does one do to get a casino in the UK?) Despite constant warnings not to take pictures, and vigilant staff, some still tried, and usually succeeded.

Brunel Museum
Brunel Museum

Took the tube from North Greenwich to Canada Water, where we got turned around and eventually managed to locate the Brunel Museum, at the south portal of Marc Brunel's historic tunnel under the Thames using a drilling shield, in the building that housed the engine that pumped water out of the tunnel. (One can still hear rushing water in the stations when the trains are gone.)

Thames Tunnel and tour guide
Thames Tunnel and tour guide

We joined a tour into the nearby station, its Victorian-era brickwork still visible, and took the train one stop north, with the tunnel lights on, so we could see the distinctive archwork between the tracks. (Underground trains typically run on the left, just like the streets. Sometimes tracks are stacked, especially if they are short on space in the stations.)

Thames Tunnel access shaft at Wapping
Thames Tunnel access shaft at Wapping

The northern station had more of the original brickwork visible -- including the access shaft, which is now the tube station's access point, with a non-Victorian lift if one doesn't wish to take the stairs. We got more history, including the conditions working in the tunnel and the banquet held for publicity. We headed back under the Thames and to the museum, where the tour concluded and we were enlightened.

Rotherhithe Station with Victorian brick vaulting
Rotherhithe Station with Victorian brick vaulting

After a Power Bar for lunch, we headed north, through the tunnel a third time, and transfered to the Docklands Light Railway for the single-stop hop into The City. It wasn't quite apparent that our 3-day travelcards were valid, but they seemed to work. DLR looked quite heavy rail, especially running in the same elevated viaduct as trains in and out of London bound for far-off locales.

After some confusion (and running in circles) trying to get out of the Bank/Monument station complex, we found the queue to get into the Bank of England, which had been cut off before we got there so everyone had a chance to get in without waiting only to be turned back. Next on my list was the walking tour of the city walls from Roman times (brilliant thought: a pseudo-Latin postcard for Willy that says "Greetings from Londinium"), we had no idea how to get there, but a bit of luck and following the obvious tourist group in front of us got us there. Alas, they were not serving any more tours that day.

Kings Mews house entry
Kings Mews house entry

That left King's Mews, a modern mews house in Camden, although not very far from The City. We took the Central Line one stop (past St. Paul's station, which was closed for renovation during the weekend) west, walked a bit, and found the four-story house. Its space was at least as awkward to work with as the first house we saw yesterday, but they dealt with it differently, and apparently never lived in it. The space was very interesting, but not always practical -- the bedrooms had now curtains or closets, and barely enough room for a bed. (I would like to see LCD panels for adjusting window opacity, though.) The main staircase was elegant, but left no room to carry heavy furniture up or down. I did like the entry bridge, and the basement dining room that opened onto the first floor, visible from the front door.

Kings Mews house stair
Kings Mews house stair

We had time to visit one more building, so we headed south, back into The City, ignoring the Tube in favor of our feet. Our destination: 120 Fleet Street, the former Daily Express building built in gleaming Art Deco. Kiesa didn't think too much of it, but I thought it was great.

London Open House tourists in Daily Express lobby
London Open House tourists in Daily Express lobby

Next: early supper at Corean Chilli (although Kiesa had an alternate restaurant picked before we got out at a sub-optimal tube station and walked by the place I spotted on Friday). After eating (and paying, which is easier said than done in London -- we have to ask explicitly for the check), we headed to Abbey Road zebra crossing, the crosswalk used in the iconic Abbey Road cover photo. It was dark by the time we got there; light enough to see the crossing and Abbey Road Studios beyond, but too dark to actually get a good photo of me crossing.

Jaeger crosses Abbey Road
Jaeger crosses Abbey Road

We met a Canadian couple (from Manitoba) who were photographing the iconic crossing, and had been on the Magical Mystery Tour (a currently-running tour featuring Beatles sights in Liverpool), featuring the actual bus, although it apparently broke down on the day they were to use it. (They were real Canadians, not just Americans claiming to be Canadian to avoid the "ugly American" stereotype and the Cowboy Bush effect; their accent seemed to be a Canadian variant ("eh") on a Minnesota accent -- which made sense, given their location.)

Took the tube back, arriving early (around 1930 -- "half seven") and tried to figure out what to see in Cambridge tomorrow.

Tube trips:

  1. Gloucester Road via Circle Line to Westminster; via Jubilee Line to North Greenwich.
  2. North Greenwich to Canada Water via Jubilee.
  3. Rotherhithe via East London to Wapping; back to Rotherhithe. (I don't know how to pronounce it either.)
  4. Rotherhithe via East London to Shadwell; via Docklands Light Railway to Bank.
  5. Bank to Chancery Lane, via Central.
  6. Blackfrairs via District to Cannon Street; reversed via District to Embankment; via Northern to Leicester Square.
  7. Leicester Square via Piccadilly to Green Park; via Jubilie to St. John's Wood.
  8. St. John's Wood via Jubilee to Baker Street; via Circle anti-clockwise to Gloucester Road.

For more photos from O2 and the Thames Tunnel, see Photos on 2006-09-17.

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