Drunkenness, Photography, Travel

Sightseeing in London aka All the tall things

After the spectacularly brilliant evening at Rocky Horror the night before, Helen, Kat, Liz and I decided to call up Harry and go sightseeing. We remembered that on our Monopoly pub crawl at New Year, we had wanted to go up the Monument and look at the view over London. This quickly developed into a plan to “do the tall things” in London. We came up with a shortlist including Monument, St. Paul’s, the Oxo Tower and Tower Bridge.

NB. Apparently WordPress lies when it says “Full size” in the image insertion options.  If you want to see any of the images below at full size, click on them 😉

We met Harry at Monument and, after paying out £2 entry fee and waiting like good English people for everyone else to come down, began our walk up the steps. There are 311 of them you know (there is a picture that I think has got all of them in later) and I thought I was pretty fit until I tried to climb them. We had to stop a couple of times on the way up to let people pass but even then I was pretty knackered by the time we reached the top.

Here are some views from the summit:

I’m fascinated by the combination of old and new styles of building and by the sheer amount of construction going on (count the blue cranes!)

Some of the graffiti on the column at the top. I can understand why people want to leave their mark but I cannot understand why they would deface a monument with such artless scribblings. Gavin and others will understand why I chose this particular one and Jonny will have a different but equally valid idea. For some real graffiti art, check out this site.

Tower Bridge, we are going there later

Canary Wharf on the skyline

These are the many many many stairs you have to travel to get up here (and down again). Apparently you shouldn’t point out how little there is supporting the individual steps when you are halfway up.

The inscription on the side of the Monument. I’m not sure what it says if anyone can translate it I’d be interested.

The Monument from the ground. Think I need a fisheye lens to get this right. Unfortunately, when you are at the top you can’t really see the magnificent gold thing.

Some Monumental facts; it was built between 1671 and 1677 to a design by Sir Christopher Wren and Dr Robert Hooke to commemorate the rebuilding of the city following the great fire of London of 1666. As previously mentioned the column contains 311 steps. It is 202 feet high which is the exact distance from it’s base to the site of the start of the fire in Pudding Lane.

Tower Bridge
After Monument we went for a coffee and then Liz left us to get her train home. The rest of us carried on to Tower Bridge. At this point it really started to rain and as we had come out unprepared we got very wet. Upon arrival at the bridge, we could not se any way to get into the towers and up onto the high level crosswalks where we were headed. We found a lift that only came down and a set of blue arrows on the ground. This was fast becoming a very damp level of the Krypton Factor. Following the arrows led us over the bridge and down some steps to the door to the engine room. On the door was a sign that read ticket holders only. Being the most intrepid of our group, Helen bravely passed this sign and asked the man inside where one might get such a ticket.

The advice of the man sent us up the steps and back across the bridge on the opposite side to the one we had just crossed. This took us to the entrance to an exhibition. Here we were able to buy a ticket and were forced by some unnaturally enthusiastic people to pose for a group photograph in front of a photograph of the bridge. We speculated that they probably just wanted out pictures for the fight against international terrorism.

We were then ushered into the largest lift I have ever been in (I’ve seen larger ones but they are for carrying cars up to the top of buildings). Finally we were approaching our destination – the high level walkways that join the towers on either side of the bridge.

Here are some pictures of the view. It is quite spectacular even on a dull and rainy day like it was.

HMS Belfast – London’s floating naval museum (it says that on the sign don’t you know).

Helen crosses over to the other side.

Headquarters of the Greater London Council, home to Red Ken and his pals.

Doesn’t seem to matter what I do, the gherkin always seems to lean…

Don’t know what these buildings are but I liked the look of them and I appreciated the contrast again, this time with the older 60s and 70s architecture and the “ultra-modern” glass and steel things on the riverbank. I particularly like the way that the concrete monolith in the background gets wider as it goes up.

Proof that it was raining. couldn’t get the camera to focus on the tower outside instead of the rain on the window. However I think I like this picture better than the one I would have got if there had been no rain.

The view along the high level walk. Initially I was a bit disappointed that they had glazed these walkways but shortly after we arrived, the weather turned really foul and we were extremely glad to be inside.

These big steam engines used to provide power to lift the bridge. I particularly like the self oiling bearings in the last picture. The engines did not raise the bridge directly themselves but instead were used to pump water under pressure into a stored energy system. This basically consisted of using the water pressure to lift a huge weight (called an accumulator) this weight could then be released and force the water through the system to raise the bridge. It is all electric now.

he device which Kat is sitting nervously on (you’d be nervous too sitting in an unknown piece of mechanical apparatus with Helen at the controls) is a demonstration of how the accumulator works. The glamorous assistant plays the role of the accumulator while the engineer turns the handle and plays the role of the steam engines. When the button is pressed, the assistant descends and the bridge rises.

 I was fascinated by this pipe and the way that it bends. To be honest, I can’t even remember what this piece of equipment was for. If anyone can tell me why the pipe might be bent like this I’d be really interested to know.

We’ve just been there!

Playing with the fountains. Don’t look down the hosepipe!

I just liked the reflection of one glass and steel office block in the other.

I call this one “In search of beer”

At this point the evening took a slight turn for the worse. We went in search of food and drink and Helen led us to a pub improbably called Hornimans (we must take Lance). The food was good and they had some nice organic cider and we had a nice time chatting and putting the world to rights. It was some time during my second pint that I made my mistake. Checking times for trains home to Nottingham I found that the last one was at 10.30. Not bad I thought as it was just past 9 so I had time to finish my pint and collect my stuff from Helen’s before catching the train. Unfortunately I never was that good with analogue watches and it was really just past 10! By the time I realised my mistake it was far too late to get the train so I spent an unscheduled night in London.

The up side of the situation was that there was no need to stop drinking so we had a few more and continued righting the wrongs of the world. The trip home produced some interesting pictures and one video. London can be really pretty at night although one can’t help thinking that all that light is a bit of a waste of energy.

Leave Helen on her own by a fence for more than a few seconds and she will climb over it! Yes that’s the Thames over there and no I wasn’t going to jump in after her.

Another building that I know nothing about but the way that it splits apart and reflects itself way up there fascinated us in our slightly inebriated state. Believe me I have many more pictures of this view but these 2 are by far the best.

 London Bridge (I think) looking like a river of light across the river (of water?). Took a while to get this shot right, in the meantime Helen did this:

That’s it really, we got Harry to his last train home and then went back to Helen’s where I crashed on the sofa. Eventually got back to Nottingham at 12.30, only 4 hours late for work, good job I have understanding bosses! What a thoroughly great weekend, must do it again sometime.


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