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Getting Around

We've discussed the food, the street art, the landscape and the weather, but what we haven't discussed is how we got to see all the great sights. Transportation of all kinds will be our topic today.

Although during our previous two visits to the UK we used public transportation it was sometimes scary, or at least stress producing because we were constantly having to figure out maps, what line to get to where, how much it cost etc. Not so this time. Having not one, but two experts along will do that for tourists. Seriously, our travels were worry free thanks to Matt and Tom knowing just what to do at every turn. We marveled as we tagged along behind those two as they wove their way through the streets of London.

Tom works for the Mayor. Did you know that? Well, he does. Transport for London keeps him very, very busy, especially these days as he's a team member planning the transport for the upcoming Summer Olympics. He's a veritable encyclopedia with statistics on everything transportation related. We couldn't have been happier soaking up a wee bit of his knowledge. Furthermore, we were so interested we visited the London Transport museum in Covent Garden which explains the singer out front. Plenty of street musicians and such around there.
The museum was absolutely fascinating. There were old wagons and buses, train cars, and terrific displays on the underground, or as they call it in London, "the tube". We learned that an out of work graphic artist sent in an unsolicited design for marketing the tube which, today, is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. The circle with the line through it. So simple and effective, it is used everywhere!
Before I go further, I took this shot of a tanker carrying cargo I presume, through the airplane window:
Absolutely off topic I know, but I liked it. Everywhere people and goods are on the move!

Previously I mentioned that this trip included bus rides, a better way to see the sights. Whenever possible we sat on the top in the front row--the better to see London you know. Naturally, my camera was on my lap.
Buses, cars, taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians all share the roads. That, I didn't really need to tell you, however, while eating breakfast one morning on Bethnal Green Road, I was surprised to see this added to the mix:
What, exactly, the gentleman was doing pulling a cart like that, I'll never know.

Rarely did we see gigantic folks anywhere. Around here they are an everyday occurrence, however, I suspect all the walking people do in a big city helps to keep their weight down. I don't think it is their diet so much as it is the movement. French fries for breakfast, lunch or dinner anyone?

The scene below is from the Columbia Road Flower Market held on Sundays. The English love their flowers, coming out in droves! How I wish our market were so packed. What kind of outfits are those people on the left wearing you ask? Pearly Kings and Queens, or in this case Princes. Briefly, they are a charitable organization begun in the 19th century. Feel free to click on the link to learn more. Although Matt is familiar with them, he'd not seen any in person before--oddly enough, we saw a King and Queen at the tube station on another occasion during our visit.

Early one morning I went out with my camera, exploring Hackney Road. Even though it was before 7, there were already lots of folks, every one of them carrying some kind of tote or backpack.
You may notice the sign above the graffiti, Wholesale Handbags, which apparently was one of the dominant industries of the area. During our street art discussion I mentioned shop fronts, well here's an example of one.

Not all of the tube stations are underground as seen here:
You can also get around London on water. Every great city has a river running through it and I needn't tell you that London has the Thames:
which Bruce and I cruised down, or would that be up? Anyway we got on a boat, traveling to Greenwhich, of mean time fame. On the other side of the river is the now famous London Eye:
The lines were long when we passed by; fortunately we rode it on our last trip. To see it in a photo does it no justice--those cars are so large about 25 people can stand or sit in them! You may think it is gimmicky, but I'm here to tell you that it is a fantastic way to see London.

We saw lots of MINI Coopers around, but none as crazy as this one:
Can you believe someone actually painted a skeleton on the outside? I STILL missing having a MINI, however, if I ever have one again I can assure you it will not turn into an art piece!

Twice we took the train to destinations--both times the ride was terrific. Once the station was Paddington, the other was St. Pancras which looked like this:
Clean, bright, and efficient. As you can see the city is getting ready for the Olympics. Matt purchased our tickets a few weeks in advance online, ensuring we had good seats. The train showed up right on time, delivering us to Leicester in comfort. The way it all works is that underground trains from various parts of the city run into the railway station; from there you can go just about anywhere you like including Europe using the high speed Eurostar. On our first trip to Europe we flew into London for a few days, took the Eurostar to Paris, a bullet train to Annecy, France, ending our journey by renting a car in Annecy which Bruce drove at very high speeds to Zurich. That is where he got the BMW bug which still is in his blood.

There are new city trains which do not go underground at all which they call the Overground, a name I think is perfect. So often these days, folks think they need to get all clever when the obvious would suffice. One of the not so new overground trains is the Docklands Light Railway which we used to go to the Olympic Park viewing area. If my memory serves me right (always suspect!), it travels to a revitalized area of the city known as Canary Wharf. Lots of sleek buildings there. The station was sleek as well. All this talk about getting around, but so far none about going up and going down. Believe me, there are lots of stairs and gigantic escalators like this one:
A good many of the ones we were on had lots more folks than this! One of the sleek buildings is in the left hand corner.

I've already mentioned bikes as a popular form of transportation. No, we didn't ride any bikes, however, if we'd wanted to do so we could have rented them by the hour from Transport for London. Several areas of the city (Tom would know the exact count), you will see racks that look like this one pictured on the left:
Below the logo are maps which are another great feature we saw. Lots of good maps to help you get around. Matthew has his own bike which now that I've seen the jumble of the streets for myself, makes me a wee bit nervous. Of course, he is a man and all, but for this mom, he will always be my boy. Actually it was Matthew who dreamed up all the activities, got us there without further ado, and made our stay comfortable in every way. He's a good son.


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