Monday 18 July 2011

First Fortnight London Photographs.

Not all of them - I think I've taken around 1200 photographs so far. But just a few highlights.

Westminster Abbey.
I've visited this area twice, and well. It is *amazing*. I couldn't take photos inside, of course, but here's a few of the outside ones.

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The side of the Abbey, and St George.

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Shot of some of the stonework including buttress.

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A slightly closer shot of a buttress, amongst other things.

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Some amazing stained glass in the Cloister area.

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Some very old stonework, supporting the ceiling.

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Decorative ironwork gate leading into the Chapterhouse.

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Fountain in a secluded garden on the Abbey grounds.

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The gate into the garden.

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Across the cloister, looking at the wall of Westminster Abbey.

Of course there's lots more photos in the same album - just click on any of the photographs to go through to it.

London Museum of Transport.
This museum basically covers the history of transportation in London, especially with respect to public transport. I was pretty disappointed with my photography efforts here - I'll have to go back with more time and take better photographs.

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This is actually a kind of peepshow card set, created to advertise the under-Thames tunnel around 1843. The photo is taken looking through one of the eye holes.

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Map of trolleybus routes.

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Cigarette case with engraved tube map.

The War Rooms.
I didn't find these particularly interesting in and of themselves, and it was very low lighting throughout, making photography very challenging.

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An interesting point of detail, having the post and first aid boxes on a pillar.

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One of the more interesting maps in the place.

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An enigma machine.

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Typewriter used during the war to transcribe written notes.

Out and about on the streets.

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Taken on the edge of St James' Park. Whee bumblebee!

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Obligatory photograph of Big Ben.

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Random ironwork gate at number 54.

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Fence outside St Margaret's.

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Detail on hinge at Westminster Cathedral doors.

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Glass sculpture in an open-air mall in Victoria.

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Yay, reflections. This bench was kind of uncomfortable to sit on, though.

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Taxis all in a row.

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Random hairy moss.

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Speaking of random, Random House HQ.

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Geraniums ftw.

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Ornamental lamp post base seen on Pall Mall.

... And I think I'm going to leave it there, for a bit. There are a couple albums I haven't included here, but I'll get around to them, I'm sure.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Awesome things about London

  • Waking up warm. This is very important to me, since I still have the cold I left Australia with, and breathing warm air at night makes it a lot easier to sleep.
  • It's not that cold, even though it is. I think it's got something to do with it being much dryer here - less ambient humidity (even when it's raining) makes it feel a lot warmer. 
  • The tube. There are stops everywhere, at least in the inner areas, even if it's sometimes a little hard to figure out which direction to go in.
  • London is flat. I've found one gentle incline so far, and other that, it's been more level than some tabletops. It makes the city really walkable, and extends my walking distance quite considerably. Makes cycling easier too.
  • Everything is really, amazingly cheap. Eating (and drinking) out, groceries, etc. Except rent. And possibly clothing, although that could have more to do with the shops I've found than anything else.
  • They understand internet here. I have a month-to-month SIM which for 10 quid a month, gets me 250 minutes talk time, unlimited data, and unlimited text. It is quite possibly the only internet connection I really need. So far, the coverage is awesome too.
  • Things to do. I think it will be really difficult for me to run out of things to see in this city. It's really accumulated a lot of historical debris.
Yes, I will post photos. I promise. Really!

Thursday 14 July 2011

Really Weird Things About London

There are a few things that are sticking out to me here, and are kind of really bloody weird to an Aussie.
  • No blankets or top sheet. The only thing above the mattress is a doona ('duvet'). This makes it hard not to overheat at night - or rather, hard to adjust to changing weather.
  • Market segmentation in retail - it's very different here. To get something like an organic face moisturiser or bodywash, I have to go to an upmarket supermarket/department/beauty store, I can't just get it at my local. To a point, this happens in Brisbane too, in that there isn't much choice, there's usually only one brand. Here, there's zero choice.
  • Range in supermarkets. Supermarkets carry so many extra types of things (booze and clothing) here, there's not much choice in other things.
  • Instant/2 minute noodles. Not something I'd expect to miss, but as an emergency relatively safe meal, they're great - except they don't really exist. I suppose not so surprising, given the relative lack of Asian people around. Never before have I understood the term 'Australasia'. 
  • Stand on the right, walk on the left, some of the time. 
  • Luggage on public transport. It's normal to catch the tube to and from international transit, it seems. So there's people with luggage everywhere. Very strange.
  • 6pm peak hour on the tube. Apparently people knock off work later here.
  • No awnings over streets. Or, well, almost none. It does make for a lack of shade - not that it's really sunshiny enough here to worry about. 
I'll think of more weird things, I'm sure.

Friday 8 July 2011

Hell, and how it happened to me in the heavens.

My flights were an experience I'd rather not ever repeat.

Begin Tuesday afternoon, with selling my car. The buyer I had fell through, so I went and saw a dealer - who wanted some paperwork from Qld Transport. This is 5.30pm - and my flight tomorrow at 2pm, dictates getting to the airport around 11am so I can say goodbye to my family and get through security and whatnot.

At this point I stress out. Just a little bit.

I get home and repack my bags so that I won't get charged the earth, have dominos for dinner, and collapse in a stupor of nervous exhaustion around 11pm. I sleep poorly, partially because of nerves, and partially because I have an epic cold leading to both noseblowing and racking, convulsive coughs at intervals.

I'm up at 6am, jittery and tense, because before getting to the airport, I have to provide myself with significant quantities of tissues, breakfast, papers from Qld Transport, and a receipt for the sale of my car. Of relevance here is that Qld Transport offices don't open until 9.30am Wednesdays, and it's school holidays, so they're packed out with tests and such.

Breakfast got skipped, because I can get something at the airport, and there's food on the plane, right?

I get my tissues and head on over to the Qld Transport office. Standing room only. Fortunately, it turns out that the papers I want were simple to get, I had the right documents on me to get them, and I was at the counter for less than 5 minutes.

10.15am, at the car dealer. The bloke I need to talk to is in a meeting. Cue stress.

11am, out of there, being driven to the airport by the wonderful @limobyjames. Stress levels lowering, slightly.

At the airport, I checked in, and as I was walking away from the checkin desk, the lights go down. The power outage takes the checkin system offline, slowing checkin for everyone after me, the poor blighters. Time for a chat and coffee with my family (not enough time) - we're interrupted by an announcement telling people on my flight to go through security now, as the power outage is making it slow. Being the good airport citizen that I am, I bid farewell to my family and head through security - which takes all of about 5 minutes. This annoys me, because while I approve of quick security processes on principle, I could have spent more time with my family. Grr. It's now about midday.

I wait for my medication to settle, and go get some lunch from noodlebox. They take their sweet time, and get my order wrong. I get my correct order at 1.25pm - and my flight is called for boarding at 1.30pm. I eat what I can of my noodlebox in the queue, chug a Coke, and board my flight.

2pm, getting ready for takeoff, I'm told that the gluten free meal option definitely contains dairy. This makes me feel ... not great. It'll be around midnight, Brisbane time, before I can get a meal at Chiangi airport in Singapore, making it about 28hrs between meals for me. My travel agent was informed by Qantas that the gluten free option was also dairy free. I struggle through the flight - the plain rice and greens are safe enough, but not really enough to stave off the tired/nauseous/headachey feeling that I get when hungry. The lemonade and coke help, but aren't food. Of course, I was also constantly blowing my nose and coughing, which I'm sure wasn't any fun for my seatmates, either. The staff tell me they've radioed ahead and that my next flight should have a vegan meal for me.

The descent into Singapore is not something I want to remember. My left ear did not pop for nearly an hour, and my right only with difficulty. I was trying all the tricks, none were working. It was incredibly painful.

12amish, brisbane time, we land in Singapore. My medication has worn off, and I'm staggering from tiredness. I've got a four hour layover here, and I wander around looking for food. I find some chips which are incredibly gross - I get through about two before I can't eat any more. I find some crisps that are better, and have some juice, but it's not enough. I can't find anything else that looks safe. Of course the staff at the fast food don't know what's in their products - when I can get them to understand what 'dairy' means. At this point, I'm not in good condition - people keep asking me if I'm okay. I catch sight of myself in a mirror, and I understand why - my face is entirely red, my eyes are swollen and red, and I generally look pretty bad. I get to my gate, and collapse to await boarding. I'm trying not to fall asleep, because I know I won't wake up - I don't want to miss my flight. I don't dare take my medication, either, because I've had a small amount of food - I don't want to make the nausea I already have worse. We take off at midnight, Singapore time.

The flight from Singapore to England I remember as a series of wakeful moments, where I would cough convulsively, blow my nose, feel guilty about waking my seatmate up, sip some water, and go back to sleep. My tissuebox is emptied when we're over Eastern Europe somewhere, so I fall back on pursepacks and reusing tissues as much as possible. Food situation much the same as the flight from Singapore - no vegan meal for me, stuck with the occasional softdrink or juice, no actual food as such. My head is incredibly painful, my face feels like it's burning, each breath rasps in my throat, and I struggle each time I cough to not retch as well.

We land 6.25am London time. My seatmate (an incredibly kind young man) gets my things from the overhead lockers, and we disembark around 7am. I stagger as fast as I can through the seemingly endless corridors to get to border control and baggage pickup. I think I probably walked nearly a kilometre. Once I get my bags, through customs, I see Steve - we meet and I can't let go. This flight was bad enough to do by myself, but if he hadn't been waiting, I would have been in significantly more dire straits. After discovering that there was nothing worth eating at Heathrow either, we go buy me an oyster card and catch the tube home. Once there, Steve heads off to work, and I grab eggs, bacon, and potato waffles from the mini-Tesco downstairs and cook myself a long-awaited meal. 40 hours without an actual meal, while ill.

Travel with a strange food intolerance sucks, and travel with a cold on top of that sucks worse.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

The adventure begins.

Today I fly out of Brisbane, to go live in London. I'm really going to miss the city, the people, and my comfortable sense of place.

I'll be studying for the next half-year or so, getting more of my degree out of the way. I'll be back in Australia for a bit early 2012, for LCA in Ballarat, seeing rellies and friends, and uni prac work. If you're in London, look me up!

I hope to update my blog and photos somewhat more frequently than I have been lately - as anyone who has been around me knows, my life has been insanely busy for the last few months.

So, fare thee well, Brisbane; I shall see you again in a while.

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