Theme: The London Tube

Still on London, the theme for today is  what every tourist to the city would like to try if not forced to riding.  It’s the London Underground or more popularly called The Tube.

I tried on many attempts to see most of the famous sights of London by foot, in a day, but I just could not do it.  It is so huge that it might take at least three days of non-stop walking if I am mad enough to take it even as a challenge.  London, at 1,572 sq.km. is one of the largest cities in the world that The Tube is an indispensable way to travel faster, that is, if you avoid the rush hour.  Last week we did just the opposite!  A few minutes before the “grand rush”, we decided to call our walking tour a day and descended  underground to catch our tube.  The overhead screen reads, “the next tube will arrive in 4 minutes”, so we thought we could rest a bit, stepped back against the wall, leaving about two meter distance between us and the ramp.  Suddenly, a wave of humanity came rushing down the steps, short of a stampede, scaring the hell out of H, my sister-in-law (SIL) and me. 

“Let’s get out of here, quick!”, announced SIL as she grappled her way through the crowd.

Five minutes later, we were drinking coffee at the basement level of a Lebanese Eatery nearby with the main purpose of killing time while the underground mob abated.  We returned after one hour and rightly so, the crowd is gone, everything was quiet again and we caught our tube in peace.

If I get the chance to go back to London on my own, I would like to explore The Tube further.  I shall spend an entire day hopping on and off – outside the peak hours of course -not only to check on all the 287 tube stations but also to do my favorite activity – people watching.  While I was doing my research on this subject, I came across vast numbers of passenger photos revolving around this mode of transport, very interesting, if not funny!

In the meantime, let’s just make do with what I have in my archives :) 

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King’s Cross St. Pancras is the biggest interchange station on the London Underground.

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The best known symbol of the Underground is the bar and circle, also known as the roundel.

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The roundel where the word “UNDERGROUND” written across the bar has become a symbol for London itself.

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Entrance to the Victoria tube station

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Victoria is the busiest station in the London underground.

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Harry Beck, designer of the tube map in 1933, waspaid only five guineas for his original job. His design is still the basis of today’s tube map.

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The tube map gets re-drawn constantly as new stations or extensions are added.

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It is the oldest underground railway in the world with the first section opened in 1863, the reason why the rail tracks and platforms are narrow, creating the most-dreaded rush hour human traffic.

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And the carriages are smaller because people were smaller when they were built in the 1860’s.

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As to the tube widely used for advertising, some ad companies complain that they don’t get the expected response after spending as much as 3,000£ on the London underground.  Well, personally, I love scanning on the posters, same as this lady is staring at one. 

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But the majority are just too in a hurry in catching their tube connections that they don’t even notice the art-sy adverts.

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It’s only while waiting for the train itself that one is forced to look at the ads. 

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One-or several-man concerts are usually found playing on the underground.  This is called busking, as they play music in public for money.  Busking is strictly controlled so only the good musicians are granted license to perform.  If you will notice a coloured half-moon on the station floor, such as the one where this violinist on the photo is standing, it is the pitch reserved for the performers.   

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All 409 escalators of the total 287 stations do the equivalent of two round the world trips every week.

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And this is The Tube,  inside up close. 

London Walk: From Exhibition Road to Kensington Gardens to Knightbridge

The skies were grey over London that day – which is typical and an inseparable part of the city’s landscape – and indeed we should count ourselves lucky that it did not rain, great to keep my camera out of the bag. 

Photographing under low light situations is quite tricky though, most of my shots came out very dark but then I realize, that’s what London is all about, the sober images of old brick-red buildings towering over silhouettes of trees, people and all.  It is exactly that which gives the city a very unique atmosphere.

Let’s start the photowalk, starting at the Liverpool Street station.

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Sculptures relating to the sufferings of the Jews during the Nazi era are scattered in various cities of Europe and they all create very poignant emotions to the viewer.  This one installed in Liverpool Street Station is the work of Venezuelan-born Flor Kent in 2003.  It commemorates the Kindertransport – the name given to the rescue mission by which Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria; Chzechoslovakia, Poland and the Free City of Danzig were saved from the Nazis and moved to England.    

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Catching a connecting tube at the Victoria Station, this image of Queen Victoria is a familiar sight on coins, stamps, jewelry, etc.

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The Victoria & Albert Museum building viewed from Exhibition Road
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Black cabs no more, London taxis now come out in a variety of colours

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….and popularly used for advertising brands.

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Michelin jackets are a common sight in the winter but to have them all in orange is quite an attention-getter!  Seen from the window of the Natural History Museum just across the road. 

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The cathedral-looking building of the Natural History Museum (1881), seen at the corner of Cromwell and Exhibition roads

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Exhibition Road

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They are often called Boris Bikes, referring to London’s Mayor Boris Johnson who, during his administration, that the public bicycle scheme was launched, although it was the idea of his predecessor, Ken Livingston.  Barclays, as the name written on the bikes, is one of UK’s biggest bank and is a sponsor to the scheme.

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A milestone dated 1911 located on the southside of Knightsbridge and east of the Royal Albert Hall.

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Kensington Gore, the curving street next to the Royal Albert Hall. 

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Royal Albert Hall, 1871

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The mosaic frieze outside the Royal Albert Hall depicting “The Triumph of Arts and Sciences”.

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The Royal College of Music, 1882

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Wrought iron gates at Kensington Gardens

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A walk along the plane trees at Kensington Gardens

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 Inside the garden is a seated statue of Prince Albert under a gothic-style pavilion.  It is known as the Albert Memorial (1872).

Designed by Sir George Gilbert, it was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband, Prince Albert who died of typhoid in 1861.
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From the memorial, you can see a good view of the Royal Albert Hall across the road.  The white sculpture forms the outer corner part of the Albert Memorial 

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The four inner corners of the pavilion consist of sculptures depicting Victorian arts and sciences.  This is the Engineering sculpture, the other three are Manufacturing, Commerce and Agriculture.

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The four sculptures on the outer corners represent the four continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.  The one on the picture is that of Europe.

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From Kensington Gardens, we crossed the road and walked through Hyde Park searching for Princess Diana’s memorial but the gate to her fountain memorial was locked so we turned our attention to this interesting statue instead.

Isis, a sculpture beside the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, by Simon Gudgeon

Isis is the Egyptian  goddess of nature and was made the symbol of an ambitious appeal to raise £2.2 million towards the new Isis Education Centre.

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Here is a plaqued dedication of a satisfied group of tourists of the city.  Other dedications come from companies, private individuals and even in memory of a departed loved one. 

At her base there are 1,000 plaques available for personal dedication. Every plaque helps raise vital funds towards the new Isis Education Centre, an exciting facility where young people can learn about the natural world in the middle of the city.

There is a limited number of plaques remaining, so dedicate an Isis plaque today and help thousands of children discover the wonders of nature at the Isis Education Centre….http://www.supporttheroyalparks.org/explore/isis

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Finished with our garden-hopping and night is falling anyway, it’s time to find the nearest underground station, where else but in Knighstbridge.  And oh, since we are already there, might as well take a night shot of Harrods and the London cabs.

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It’s the Sale season, the best time to shop!

Next on “A Pinay in Europe”:  The Victoria & Albert Museum, London

London: People-watching

The original plan of a one-week’s stay in Southeast England unfortunately was cut to a mere three days when H suddenly received a call necessitating us to be in Paris immediately.  The good thing is, we still were able to do London in a day but limited only to a couple of museums, a garden and aimless walking.

But first, let us start with some people-watching snaps:

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The double-decker bus uploading passengers near the Albert Memorial

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Waiting for the bus near the Victoria and Albert Museum

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Walking along the Natural History Museum building with the dome of the Royal Albert Hall in the background

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Taking some souvenir shots before leaving the Natural History Museum

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An Asian tourist videoing the rock display at the Natural History Museum

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An art student doing good progress in her drawing..

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My dream to step foot at the V&A museum has finally happened albeit it was just a quick tour.  Next time, I shall spend an entire day scrutinizing the works of art, like this gentleman.  Entrance is free anyway!  

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A visit to the V&A seemingly is part of every London student’s curriculum.

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The most pleasant moment we had was the coffee break at the V&A café.  The place is a museum masterpiece in itself!

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Time to go home but first, I need to find out the tube connections that would take us to the train station

Theme: Very British

As H and I will be heading for England tomorrow for some important business, I’d like to  take this opportunity to revive this site’s “Theme” days with “Very British” things as a starter.  I will post a lot of photos when I come back in a week’s time, hopefully, about London and its museums, markets and of course, the inevitable “people-watching”!

Meanwhile, enjoy the images:

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The famous line in every description of an English countryside is her “gentle rolling hills and green pastures”, ideal for hiking… when it’s not raining.

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Spring is when the woods of England are covered with carpets of blue bells, absolutely glorious!

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A trip to England is not complete without trying their legendary – and greasy –  fish and chips

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One thing that I admire about this country is their passion for classic cars.  When you see one like this plying on the road, you know you are in England!

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UK is the land of hanging plants or container gardening.

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Every village, town or city would have a Charity Shop, great to buy vintage and good quality stuff for pennies!

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Where would you find breakfast served all day?  Only in the UK!

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The Saturday/Sunday Car Boot Sales is always a crowd-drawer

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Only in Britain that houses sport names!  It is an old custom which began with the gentry naming their manors, halls, and castles. The local folks followed suit and the names are often related to the houses’ distinguishing features such as Oak Cottage, Rose Cottage,  Orchard House, etc.

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Hilarious traffic signs! This one was introduced in 1981 following a children’s competition!

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Clone houses

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In Britain, they drive on the wrong side of the road so if you are not sure where to look, there’s a sign to remind you.

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These brightly coloured beach huts are an indispensable part of the British seaside

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And last but not least, these British reds…

The Cruise Ship Chronicles

Our heart goes out to all the victims of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that sank yesterday, Friday the 13th, off the coast of Tuscany.  The vessel was carrying more than 4,000 people, among them 1,000 crew members of various nationalities including Filipinos. 
This disaster touched our hearts deeply as cruise holidaymakers are a regular sight to where we are in the South of France and to every port cities we went to like Corfu (Greece), Barcelona (Spain), Venice (Italy) among others.  

It’s quite interesting meeting these people of different backgrounds and while we are pleased to play the role of tourist guides when they come asking for directions, we also get to hear their life-aboard-a-ship stories, sometimes hilarious and oftentimes disastrous.  

Just last summer, while having our lunch at a restaurant in Beune,  we got chatting with an American couple who were part of a Rhone river cruise that stopped over in this wine capital of the Burgundy region and how all-ears we were in listening to their cruise experience which started in Arles, in the south of France, culminating in Paris eight days after that.  In the end, they were so appreciative of finally meeting an English-speaking couple like us who gave them a quick introduction to French life, culture and traditions. 

H and I, even if our travelling preference is via the car that also serves as our mobile home, we do dream of going on a cruise holiday when the right time comes.  And if you will ask me where – it had to be the Norwegian Fjords Cruise where we could get to witness the spectacular Northern Lights and the stunning scenery of the Norwegian fjord coast with its steep mountains and charming fishing villages. 

Before I get carried away dreaming, here are some photos about Cruising:

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While waiting for the ferry that would take us to a 24-hour Adriatic crossing to Corfu, Greece, I couldn’t help but gawk at this pretty jaw-dropping sight!

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This P&O M/v Aurora moored in Venice port is a mid-sized cruise ship ideal for world cruising. It can accommodate up to 1,878 passengers in 939 cabins, with a maximum crew of 936.

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Like home sweet home.

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A cruising boat moored in Vienne along the Rhone River. 

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In September 2010, a cousin whom I have not seen for the last 35 years came to Monaco via this ship, Ruby Princess.   Monaco was one of the ports of call of their 12-day Grand Mediterranean cruise holiday.   This ship which has a capacity of 3,070 persons and 2.5 times heavier than the Titanic is so huge it could easily fit ten conventional hotels.

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After a stopover of six hours, they slowly sailed away accompanied by a “harbor pilot” whose role is to guide big ships so they can safely get out of the harbour.

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Cannes is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the French Riviera.  The port can accommodate up to three giant liners in a single day.

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We saw “The World” moored in Venice when we were there four years ago.  It is the world’s largest private yacht—a floating residential community owned by her residents. The residents, currently from 40 different countries, live on board as the ship slowly circumnavigates the globe—staying in most ports from 2 to 5 days. Some residents live onboard full time while others visit their floating home periodically throughout the year.

The World flies a Bahamas flag and has a gross tonnage of 43,524 tons. The vessel is 644 feet long, 98 feet wide, and has a 22 foot draft, 12 decks, and a maximum speed of 18.5 knots. The crew numbers is 250.

The ship has 165 residential units (106 apartments, 19 studio apartments, and 40 studios), all owned by the ship’s residents. The ship carries between 100 and 300 residents and their guests.

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This is our ferry sailing past the mountains of Albania as it slowly cruises its way to Corfu in Greece.

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While sailing on New Year’s Day from Corfu to Venice,  we got treated with cake and ouzo by the cruise management, unfortunately, there were no fireworks!

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A cruise ship moored in Corfu waters. 
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Filipino crewmembers having fun in Corfu town while on a brief stopover from their Christmas Cruise duties.

Note: As I write this, most of the victims have been rescued save for 60 unaccounted for and three confirmed dead.