Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Today not only the Ripper walks - we all do!

Some interesting statistics to date:
* Number of individuals who have read the blog to date (11:50am Tuesday 9 June 2009 GMT) is 3105!
* N
umber of page hits is now 10,127!!
Number of photographs taken to date is 29,853 - that's an average of 169 per day! But there have been a couple of 600+ photo days!! And today it is 800+!!!
Days on the road - today is day 178

It is amazing me how many people have read the blog and there are obviously some of those who are following it given that there are about 3 page hits per person. Never expected that!

Today we go down a block for breakfast to The Swan pub where we get a full English breakfast for a miserly £7.95 each. The plate was just barely big enough to hold it all. And as if the planned tube strike is not enough, London wants to make sure that everyone is fully miserable today as we wake to drizzle.

Michael plans to walk through Hyde Park and go to the Natural History Museum but I am staying off my feet today and will load the remaining photos on to DVDs so I can delete them from the PC. After spending a whopping 3 hours talking with Ally and Leith (nice to see his face after all these years), I finally get to copy the pics!

The drizzling rain has finally ceased, so it's off to the Natural History Museum through London's glorious Hyde Park. People have taken advantage of the break in the weather and it appears they have all converged into the parklands! I can't blame them for although it is still overcast, the air isn't cold but cool - rather nice for a promenade. There are people jogging, strolling, perambulating, sitting and reading or just staring. Families are out and about, and tourists out and about snapping with their varied and assorted media - I can certainly relate to that!

Just as an aside, throughout our travels we have encountered beggars (professional or otherwise), gypsies and buskers in want. We've encountered them from Beijing to Barcelona; from Lisbon to London, this morning I was to meet one whom I was unable to assist through design and not request. You see, this particular needful fellow accosted me from the fenced-in bushes, and sat in front me in supplication. As I stooped he cautiously retreated, so I continued my walk and to my surprise it followed... However, with the dexterity of rodent it ascended the fence and there perched itself, again in supplication! A rare opportunity for me indeed to photograph a squirrel at such close quarters! Regrettably, I was unable to reward my companion for its persistence.

So, I finally reached my destination after passing various tributes to the late Princess Diana of Wales - a fountain; a circular watercourse; a memorial and a children's playground. Do you know there isn't a memorial to Drs Frederick Banting and George Best - the discoverers of insulin..... Albeit, I did pass the Royal Geographical Society sporting a statue of Ernest Henry Shackelton!

The Museum is an amazing piece of architecture, in fact the building is just as interesting and impressive as its contents. Since my last visit months ago, the museum has changed the layout of many of its permanent exhibits, which seem an improvement on the former. To avoid boring the heck out of you, check out the Natural History Museum's web site.

After spending two hours at the museum, I thought it prudent to return to the hotel otherwise I wouldn't have time to visit the HMS Belfast, which is permanently moored on the River Thames and this evening join a 'Jack the Ripper' tour. So I decide to use the Tube system...yeah, right. The pending Underground service strike, which is to commence from 7pm this evening, is already causing chaos. Services to the western Central and Circle Lines are already experiencing disruptions due to signal failures, hence a smooth service cannot be guaranteed. So, I opt for 'shank's pony' as it is only a half hour walk to the hotel.

No sooner had I arrived at the hotel and gotten myself in order for this afternoon and the evening’s activities - I'm off again. I head for Lancaster Gate Tube station (which is just around the corner), and I catch the train on the eastern Central Line for the Bank and change trains for the Tower Hill station. A brisk walk from Tower Hill then across the Esplanade and join the throng which is crossing the Tower Bridge - from both directions. This Bridge, out of all of London's landmarks, must surely be the most impressive and most trod!

I reach the southern end of the Bridge, then along the Thames riverside until I arrive at the Belfast. There is a mass of people wandering the ship's decks and turrets; even the ship's mess now converted into a cafe is brimming with visitors. The aroma wafting amidships is a mixture of oil and coffee....yum! However, after wandering the ship's decks and reading the information panels, one gets the impression the aroma was quite different when the Belfast was still in commission! The ship's restoration and the onboard exhibits, and the use of wax figures to represent crew members, is most impressive. Yeomen are also on deck to avail them should any visitor require further clarification.

After spending two and half hours exploring this fine ship (and the cafe's coffee is nice and strong!), I take my leave and head a shore to find somewhere to have dinner before my rendezvous with 'Jack'. I eventually settle on having dinner at a pub called the 'Minorities', which is nestled below the Tower Bridge. I have their Vegetable Kiev with a fresh salad sans chips and potato, which makes for a delicious and tasty repast - no photo as I was quite hungry!

Dinner taken care of, I return to the Tower Hill station and rendezvous with the guide for the 'Jack The Ripper - THE Tour'. There are fifteen people in our group and the guide is named Dickie, who certainly proves that he knows his stuff. We are taken through the streets of Whitechapel where the murders had taken place. Regrettably, some of the streets where the dreadful crimes took place were obliterated during the Blitz of 1940. So with our imaginations ably guided by our host, one could visualise the location and the macabre sensation which accompanied the discovery of the crimes. Mind you, the tour took two and half hours which was a combination of the crimes, the suspects, the constabulary and history of the Whitechapel area and indeed the history of the Detecting division during the Victorian era. Dickie also provided quips and information on the various occupants and groups who lived and worked in East London.

Overall it was an illuminating day - that even includes travelling on the London Bus system during a rail strike. Suffice to say I would have arrived much sooner at the hotel if I had walked from Tower Hill....c'est la vie!

Tonight I am determined to do the London by Night Bus tour. Now, as twilight does not fall until 9:16 pm tonight, I opt to take the 9:30 pm tour. This bus is also open topped while the other two that ran earlier (and in the light) are closed top buses. We are travelling through the city, me clicking frantically left and right and at 10:45 pm there is still blue light in the sky above the yellow of the city lights that is reflected on the cloud cover. Honestly, it was not truly dark until after 11 pm. And you would not believe the number of people still out and about - some obviously still going home from work, others out to party. Gosh, you can have that lifestyle - when do they sleep?? Still, London is absolutely beautiful by night and part of me understands how people want to be out in it (that would be the non-sleepy part of me)!

And just how lucky can I be? I am the ONLY ONE on the tour tonight - pity the poor driver/guide. He could have had an early night! The traffic is horrendous - all the more so because of the tube strike. There are huge queues of people waiting for buses all across the City. I am sitting upstairs, hair streaming behind me in the summer breeze. Actually, I am freezing the proverbial - it is all of 11°C before you factor in the wind chill - not as cold as Perth when I spoke with Allyson at 5°, but still cold enough.

I walk back in to the hotel right on midnight having taken 660 photos tonight! (I've since lost about 40% due to a camera that is trying to focus in very low light, or the glare of streetlights, while moving - grr) I'm frozen to the core so Michael orders coffee (for him) and hot chocolate from room service and we are delivered pots full - with about 6 cups in each, steaming hot and delicious. Its now after 1 am, so I am off to bed. Ciao

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