Posts Tagged ‘London’

From the motherland

May 9, 2012

Actually the title is a lie, I write this while in the beautiful surrounds of Positano. Before I let the Springtime weather completely take me, I wanted to write a few more words about old blighty, good ol London.

Previously all mentions of London had included the words cold and dreary. While that definitely remains true, I am happy to say that I found the good bits behind the icy exterior.

England to me was always a depressing place that I had little interest in visiting. Much of my opinion had come from the glimpses shown on various tv programs. Usually it showed drab people in rundown looking locations surrounded by grey grey and more grey. Usually there was some drizzle there to boot.

Of course the tv can never really illustrate what a place is really like, and anyone who feels it can is clearly deluded. No as with anything, the only way to experience it is to actually go there.

Completely ignoring the shitty weather, I was first surprised by just how green London was. No not the rolling green hills just beyond the city limits; with their wide yellow belts of rapeseed, but the sheer number of public parks or greens as they call them. They were everywhere and in most cases beautifully well kept little plots of nature. So many of these were markedly statues of some old notable that further added to their interest.

And here I will mention squirrels. Why can’t we have these in Australia? Someone needs to sneak some past customs (yeah good luck with Nazi Germany..er Aussie customs) and start a breeding program. I love these little guys! I probably stood out like tourist scum from half a mile away, my neck always craned back scanning the trees for cuteness. I have a feeling our beefy brush tail possums might eat them for breakfast however.

In many ways London reminded me of a very big Melbourne, though I do have to say I think we peg the motherland in the food and coffee departments. I loved the old buildings, the plinthed statues, the layers of history that were simply everywhere. The entire place was alive with movement and activity and like Melbourne, so utterly multi-cultural.

I was also floored by the cab drivers. These guys were the most polite, friendly and well spoken people I have encountered in a very long time. They were genuinely concerned about their customer, querying in detail our destination so they could most effectively deliver us there. They would offer random facts and information, all with sweet east London accents. Australian taxi drivers could learns few things here. One guy told us the story how his school had sung in Pink Floyds The Wall (showing us the school as we drive past- Islington Green it was called back then) and how he was absolutely gutted as they used the grade 3 students while he was in grade 4.

All in all i came away from London feeling like I had experienced the essence of what makes it one of the worlds great cities. Not only was it nice to see where my brother (and several great friends) have lived and worked for many years, but I have cleared up that tv instilled inspiring that London is a dreary hole – it so isn’t. Individually, many of the housing buildings can be seen that way, I do understand how it looked that way. Taking into account the entire picture however paints an entirely different picture.

I was also blown away by just how effective the bus system was. For tourists I can’t recommend enough cruising around on the top level of a double decker. The way that these buses allowed us to view the city really surprised me.

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Hygge in Copenhagen

May 5, 2012

Denmark has come and gone and I find myself in London. It has been great to see my brother and his girlfriend and explore one of the worlds great cities, but the dominating feeling here is of being cold. Maybe it’s due to not being acclimatized, or maybe I’m just being a panzy but man, it’s so damned cold! Jumping back across the North Sea, I really miss Copenhagen. It surprises me that England can be so dreary in the weather department while just a short distance away, Denmark is enjoying clear blue skies and sunshine.

Copenhagen was just such a surprisingly nice place to spend some time. The Danish notion of ‘Hygge’ – spending quality time with friends and just relaxing, permeated the entire city. From the food to the beautiful old lanes and streets, Copenhagen was an amazing introduction to Europe for a first timer. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring London yesterday, but the weather had me more focused on my own discomfort(again, panzy!) rather than my surroundings. Perhaps we just got lucky in Denmark, but regardless, the beautiful weather allowed us to really enjoy the experience.

I made every effort to sample as much of Denmark as was possible within a mere few days. From devouring delicious pickle covered hotdogs to ploughing into Godzilla sized traditional Danish pork sandwiches. Each day we’d set off from our hotel which was nestled in the dodgy red light district and hit the cobblestones. We capped off our trip with a beer in the fading sunlight in one of the many little squares.

As we wandered around, it still spun me out to see different nationalities speaking European languages. I’d see Asians and Indians walking around speaking Danish and it’s always interesting to hear how their entire voice changes depending on their native tongue. For now it’s off into the English countryside in the dreary grey. I’m sure it will be interesting but my mind is still lingering on Denmark or moreso, Monday and Italy.

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We will link you

March 10, 2010

China is reputedly in negotiations with 17 different countries to build a high speed rail network. In what is expected to take ten years, China would suddenly be linked to places such as India and Europe by a system of trains that could travel up to 320 km/hour. Passengers would be able to jump on board a train in England and arrive in Beijing two days later! Now that is cool – and likely preferable to the extreme discomfort of flying. Sure, flying might shave off some hours, but does anyone other than first class actually feel comfortable in those cramped seats?

We travelled around China in sleeper trains that went nowhere near that speed and while I still found it almost impossible to sleep on them; as they noisily rattled their way across the countryside, give me a pillow and an actual bed any-day to an airline seat. And another thing – whilst we didnt sleep on one, we used these faster trains extensively and despite their extra speed, to ride in one is absolutely smooth as silk. I would bet that sleeping in one would be that much easier.

 Here’s hoping the next step is to build some massive underwater train connection to Australia, as I sure as hell would like to re-include Shanghai on my regular visitation list again.


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