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Published: October 30th 2013
I took a train from Edinburgh to London. It wasn't cheap (the cheapest option was flying), but it was the most comfortable and it also gave me 4 hours to read a book that I had picked up in a hostel in Cape Town which I really enjoyed ("The Passage
"). I had my tickets printed out at the house I was staying in and after arriving at the station I just got on the train.
Out of all the boxes I checked when I bought the ticket online, I guess I didn't read the "fine print" where it said that I had to present the printed papers in an office to get the actual tickets before boarding the train.
I found out about all this when the train was well underway and the ticket inspector asked me for my ticket and I gave him the papers with the proof of purchase. He then mentioned all that I explained in the first lines. I thought I was going to have to buy another ticket on the spot. Fortunately the ticket inspector let it pass.
My purpose for going to London was mainly to stop and visit friends while
4th Swiss-Chilean reunion
With Anne-Lise Weinberger
on my way to France.
In London I stayed with a Swiss-English friend of mine, Anne-Lise Weinberger. I met her in 1999 in a World jamboree in Chile and since we've stayed in touch and seen each other roughly every 5 years in different parts of the world (I made Anne-Lise's introduction in a former post
She's been living in London for some years now and offered to host me during my stay in the city. It was perfect timing because just 1 or 2 days before my arrival she had moved to a new flat with a Russian friend, Anastasia Sharikova.
As I arrived on a Monday, Anne-Lise was at work, so I headed to her office near Hyde Park. After arriving there and a short hello (she had to get back to work), I dropped my backpack in the reception of the building and then went to walk for a few hours to kill time and wait for her to get off work.
I walked along Hyde Park to Oxford Street, had lunch in a side street nearby, bought a map in Picadilly Circus, ended up in St James's Park and
went by Buckingham Palace before returning to the Anne-Lise's office right in front of Buckingham Palace Gardens.
After I met her we took a bus to West Brompton where she's now living. I got settled in with all my stuff in a comfortable sofa-bed the living room (which was full of boxes, of course). In the evening we went to have dinner in a pub nearby called the Atlas. It was a lovely evening talking and catching up after not seeing each other for more than 6 years.
The next day I woke up late and went to have a walk along the south and north banks of the River Thames. There's always something going on and the times I've been in London I've found just walking there very enjoyable.
I started my day tour going to a graffiti-covered tunnel called Leake Street Tunnel
, near the Waterloo Train Station. It's apparently one of the top 3 places to see graffitis in London. While I was walking around I saw a few people doing some art work in the tunnel.
Every day Anne-Lise sent me e-mails with a list of specific things to
do that day. A good source of information for everyday activities is the "Londonist
In the evening I met Anne-Lise again after she finished work and we went to have some drinks with cousins of hers. There's always a lot of people in the pubs after work. We stayed in the pub for several hours and we also had dinner there (some type of curry rice I think). And then back to the house.
Wednesday I decided to visit some areas of London I hadn't seen before. I went to an area in East London called "Shoreditch
". I got off the underground in the Blackfriars Station and walked from there. This is an area where upcoming-hipster, immigrants and workers mix. A lot of graffiti, urban art, restaurants, markets, hipster shops, etc.
From Shore Ditch I ended up walking along the Regent's Canal where a lot of "residential" boats are tied to shore (very similar to what you see all over the canals of Amsterdam, but to a lesser extent). I didn't have any plans for that evening as Anne-Lise was going to the Opera with a friend, so I stayed until late wandering
Meet at the pub
Myself, Mark, Lizzie, Peter and Anne-Lise
around and taking night photos as well. Over the days I went by the typical tourist places and sights (although I didn't go into any museums or pay to get in any attractions this time): The Tower of London, London Bridge, Picadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey, the Big Ben, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, the Docks, etc.
On Thursday I met with a Scottish cousin of mine, Alec Laing (the son of Charlie and Anne with whom I stayed in Edinburgh
). We went for a few beers at the Nicholson's Pub in Clapham Junction. We were also supposed to meet a mutual friend there, Andrew Smith, but he was late from work.
Here's the link of the post about the last time I was in London
(6 Degrees of Separation in London). In this post I talked about Paul Engeham (who's mentioned later on this post), Alec Laing and Andrew Smith and how the 3 of them connected. And as sort of a side note
and continuing with this idea, a few days ago I received a comment on that same post, from another blogger
who mentioned a book called "The Tipping Point
" by Malcolm Gladwell. It also mentions the "6 Degrees of Separation theory" when it talks about people
he likes to call "connectors". It's all better described in the link I posted (The Tipping Point).
Anyway, it was great seeing Alec again. Last time I'd seen him was a few years ago in a place in Chile called "Las Tablas" where an aunt of his lived. He was then about to get married to his now wife, Omaima.
The talk mainly focused in my travels and his current life working in London and life with two kids (that I hadn't met yet).
Alec had to leave as he had to go to a dinner that evening. 5 minutes after he arrived, Andrew Smith walked into the pub. I also hadn't seen him since the last time I was in London and in which I stayed at his house for about 5 days. Alec and Andrew hadn't seen each other in a few years as well, so it was a shame they missed each other.
Andrew lives near Clapham Junction and the plan that evening was to have dinner at his house. So we headed there straight away. There I saw his wife Francesca and their two kids Alexandra and Hamish
(who was just a few months old last time I was there).
I had a great time with them and it was really nice to be able to catch up again. Andrew, just like Alec, has had a big career change in the last years (both met while in the Army), so he's also been adjusting to a new job and with two growing kids.
Friday was a pretty hectic day for me. That day Anne-Lise was flying to Switzerland for the weekend right after work, so I met her for a coffee at a place near her office. It was a great way to end yet another reunion (wonder where/when the next one will be). Thanks Anne-Lise for everything!
It was a really nice day and after saying goodbye to Anne-Lise I went for a walk in the city and had lunch near Trafalgar Square. While I was near Trafalgar Square I managed to get in touch with Paul Engeham, a retired UK Navy Officer whom I've known for several years now. He asked me if I could meet him at the MoD (Ministry of Defence) at 4pm after he finished work.
I knew he was having a busy week, so it was good to have some time to catch up.
I went into the MoD (same as the last time I when was in London in 2006) and went to his office for a cup of tea. I only had time to stay for about an hour, as I was going to go see Alec & Omaima at their house and meet their kids. Paul took the time to show me around the building and tell me a bit of the history behind it. And in his office we talked a bit of current affairs in the British Navy and Chile and Argentina (his area of expertise at the moment).
After seeing Paul I had to run to the get in the underground and arrive at the station near Alec's home. Neither of us had much time that day (I was going to meet with a Russian friend afterwards), so I made it a short visit. I spent about 45 minutes in their house, met their kids Hector and Cecilia, had a beer, a group photo and also took the time to show them (and
Omaima, myself, Hector, Charlie & Cecilia
especially Hector) some videos
about me diving with sharks in South Africa
. Hector seemed very keen in the sharks and the diving in general and had his own book about a man who only thought about diving. In all it was a great short visit and I was glad I made the time to see them.
And then the final rendez-vous that day: I got in touch with a Russian, Denis Nayshul, whom I met in Amsterdam while backpacking in Europe in 2006. He was now living on London and we agreed to meet up for some beers. I asked Anastasia (Anne-Lise's flat mate) if she wanted to join us and she said yes.
I left from West Brompton with Anastasia at around 8pm and met Denis outside of the underground station in South Kensington. Anastasia was familiar with the area and she recommended an Italian restaurant nearby ("beers" thus turned into "dinner").
It was a Friday evening so the restaurant was full and we had to wait for about 30 minutes to get a table (which we didn't really mind).
Anastasia has a lot of experience working in shipping companies and Denis had worked managing shipping
companies accounts or something of the sort (I don't remember exactly), so they had a topic in common there. I didn't know how the evening was going to turn out (as, to be honest the three of us didn't really know each other), but it turned out to be excellent.
And thus ended my stay in London. I didn't go there much on "tourist mode"; as I said in the beginning, the main purpose was to re-visit friends, which I think was greatly accomplished.
On Saturday morning I went to the St Pancras train station to get on a train to Paris and start my 7 week stay in France; the last country on this trip before going back home.
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