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Tag: Transport

Barry & Amanda go to Paradise

Barry & Amanda go to Paradise

It may be that this may not quite match your vision of Paradise and, in fact, it probably doesn’t match ours either but it’s there in writing so it must be true.

This trip was to be a test to see if it was going to be practicable to visit Birmingham as a number of day trips by train rather than staying there for a number of days.

We left home at about 9:00 AM and walked to the station and caught the 9:23 AM train for Shrewsbury. It was an uneventful journey of about 50 minutes and we waited at Shrewsbury for about 20 minutes for our train to Birmingham New Street Station and after another uneventful journey of about an hour we arrived in Birmingham.

This was going to be an ‘Indoors’ day, as it was quite cold out, so we were aiming to go to Victoria Square first and visit the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. We found our way to the exit nearest to Victoria Square and emerged into what I think was Navigation Street. Brrrr! We then walked north along Pinfold Street, right up Ethel Street then left at the top which led us to Victoria Square. It was all rather confusing because the centre of Birminham is like a building site at the moment with hoardings and diversions everywhere.

We found the museum quite easily and went inside (entry is free). The travelling time taken to this point is approximately 3 hours although it didn’t seem too onerous.

One has to then go upstairs to the next level where the museum starts at the Round Room. The museum itself is a 19th-century Grade II listed building.

The structure of the Round Room, like many of the other galleries, is worthy of observation especially the large glass-domed roof. The passage to the right of the central figure is ‘The Bridge’ which crosses the street below and this is that same bridge from outside.

The first gallery we visited was the Industrial Gallery which was mostly wood, jewelry and ceramics related items but the gallery itself is certainly worth examining. The construction features a lot of metal, which I assume is cast iron, and note the circular metal decorations at the top of the support columns.

The large columnar structure hanging down in the centre of the picture is one of a number of Victorian gas lights and it has not yet been determined how they functioned.

Needless to say we found our way to the Edwardian Tea Room just beyond the Industrial Gallery as it was now about lunchtime.

This view was taken from the upper galleries that follow on from the Industrial Upper Gallery and it’s also worth showing you this gallery and its roof.

Typically Victorian with more ironwork and the same gas lamps hanging from the roof as in the Industrial Gallery. Rather attractive don’t ya think?

We had lunch here and found it to be very comfortable with very good food. We ended up sharing a table, as it was busy at one o’clock, and had some very pleasant conversation with two very nice people from Suffolk. The conversation included, as one would expect, on how to ride a penny farthing bicycle.

After lunch we moved on through the Round Room into the main part of the museum and, let me tell you, one could get lost in here. After going down one level we found ourselves in the Gas Hall and, no I don’t know how the name is derived. We weren’t particularly interested in the exhibits but, again, it’s a rather nice Victorian building.

Going back upstairs into the maze of galleries we found an amazing choice of subjects.

In that picture above you can see the arch into the next gallery and on the far side is another arch ad infinitum. It is easy to get lost unless, perhaps, you carry a floorplan with you ( they are downloadable on the web).

Amanda specifically wanted to see the Staffordshire Hoard; one of the biggest finds of gold objects in this country and we did actually manage to find the gallery. This is a picture I took later on from the Egyptian Gallery on the floor above.

The helmet above is a replica of the original which was discovered as a multitude of small fragments. The person who deduced its original form must have been an expert on jigsaws.

In the picture of the gallery taken from above you may have noticed in the top left corner there was a small fragment of a freize showing; this is more of that freize.

The frieze is a replica of the Parthanon frieze in the British Museum and is otherwise known as the Elgin Marbles. It can be seen from the Egyptian Gallery.

We had now decided that it was time to move on to our next location and as we were leaving we spotted a small case, near the Friends of Birmingham Museums desk, no more than 2 feet square.

It was a single small pot as seen above but the image is repeated multiple times and is known as an Infinity Box.

This particular box is an ingenious piece of fine craftmanship made from a variety of beautiful woods, including burr walnut, Indian rosewood and white maple, surmounted by an illuminated glass box containing mirrors that enable the viewer to see Infinity from all directions.

It also works if one walks 360 degrees round the case; a fascinating experience.

We finally left the museum to locate our next building. The building in question is that very distinctive one in the centre of the next picture – the Birmingham Library.

The exterior is certainly unique but I can’t decide yet whether I like it or hate it. I do know, however that I like the interior.

For those of you who dislike modern buildings look away now.

That picture gives you an idea of what the interior is like. The building has 9 floors with a lift serving all floors or escalators from the 4th floor down to the ground floor.

Going up to the very top floor gives access to the roof viewing platform.

This platform is on one side of the building only i.e. it does not go all the way round. This time of the year is not the best time for this sort of photograph as the sun is very low and the lighting rather contrasty plus the fact that the place is covered in cranes.

However this platform does give access to this:

This is the Shakespeare Memorial Room.

The Shakespeare Memorial Room was created and designed to house the Shakespeare Memorial Library by John Henry Chamberlain in 1882. He was responsible for re-building the old Central Library after the original building was gutted by fire in 1879 and the Shakespeare Memorial room opened off the new wing of the that building.

The room is in an Elizabethan style with carvings, marquetry and metalwork representing birds, flowers and foliage. The woodwork is by Mr Barfield, a noted woodcarver; the brass and metal work by Hardmans. The ceiling decoration is stencilled.

Controversy surrounded plans to demolish the Central Library in 1971 so this room was re-built as part of the Library of Birmingham.

The next level down, Level 8, is, so I understand, not accessible to the public. Going down to Level 7 gives access to the Secret Garden.

This is one of the Roof Terraces and not the best time of year to see a garden but we cannot change that. We will try and visit again during the summer months. It does however give another high level viewpoint and one with fewer cranes.

There is another roof terrace further down, about Level 3 as I remember, shown below.

So back inside which is a lot warmer than it is out here.

There are an awful lot of books in here. Apart from the shelves you can see in the pictures there are further galleries radiating from the central space which are lined both sides with book shelves.

We decided it was about time we made our way back to the railway station but just opposite the station we spotted something worth inspecting.

That is the Piccadilly Shopping Arcade which was originally built as a luxury cinema in 1910 and was later converted to a shopping arcade in 1925. Nice hand-painted ceiling.

We went back into the station and bought something to eat on the train from Shrewsbury to Knighton then discovered that we had a choice of three trains; one just after 4:00 PM, one just after 4:30 PM and one just after 5:00 PM. Whatever train we choose we cannot afford to miss that last one otherwise we miss the last train from Shrewsbury to Knighton and wouldn’t be able to return home until tomorrow.

All good so far. We decide to get the earliest train which would get us into Shrewsbury in time to have a leisurely coffee before catching the Knighton Train. That was the theory until we saw the train – it was packed with lots of people standing and we didn’t want to be standing for an hour. Bummer!

We decide to get the second train which leaves from a different platform. We find the platform and wait in the cold. The train arrives and that one is also packed. In fact it is so full that we not allowed to get on. Double bummer! One of the local commuters tells us that this happens every weekday.

This is getting serious! We cannot afford not to get on the next train. We go back to the original platform and we wait in the cold again. When the train stops everyone on the train gets off and we are reasonable near the doors that we get on to the now empty train fairly soon and actually get some seats. Whew! The train soon fills up as much as the one we first saw but at least we aren’t standing.

There are no more problems and we arrive in Shrewsbury on time with 10 minutes to catch our next train which is waiting in the platform and, as usual, there is plenty of room.

Well I said this was a test trip and it taught us that day trips to Birmingham are not a good idea. To avoid the rush hour we would have to leave before 3:30 PM which would make our sightseeing day unacceptably short. If we go again, and we hope to, we are going to have to stop for at least two nights. So we now need to find a nice hotel near the centre of Birmingham that provides dinner as well as breakfast.

We shall see.

Trains, Cranes and Cobbles

Trains, Cranes and Cobbles

Chance is a fine thing. Our weather forecasters invariably get it wrong but occasionally a forecast will turn out to be right purely by chance. Saturday was one of those forecasts. It was forecast to be sunny all day and so it was.

We leaped on a train, figuratively speaking, and leaped off at Stratford (one station before our normal terminus – Liverpool Street Station). There are two stations at Stratford now; the one that we just used, which has been there a long time, and Stratford International which is relatively new. It's called Stratford International because the international trains don't stop there (what?). They were supposed to but the train operators refused to stop there because it's only a few minutes out of St. Pancras. However they were threatened with being forced to stop there so they agreed to re-examine the situation after the Olympics. We shall see.

However there are trains that stop there which go to parts of Kent. Well that's foreign because it's south of the river and we are thinking of taking a day trip down into Kent at some point so we thought we'd see what was involved in getting from one station to the other.

This map shows the relationship between the two stations with Stratford International just below the top (Blue lettering), Stratford Station just below that and to the right (grey lettering) and the Olympic Statium lower down and to the left.

The large grey/brown block between the two stations is the Westfield Shopping Centre. It turned out to be a fairly straightforward walk through the shopping centre from one station to the other so we'll know for next time.

Having walked to Stratford International we didn't have to walk back because we were then going on the Docklands Light Railway, henceforth known as the DLR, to Blackwall. We managed to get a front seat looking out the window so I took a few photographs on the journey.

This one is as we were leaving Stratford Internaional because I thought that arch looked rather graceful.

A little further on and we were approaching Stratford and the Olympic Park with the stadium on the right and the strange twisty helter-skelter thing on the left.

One has to be very quick in composing a shot when trying to take photographs from a moving train and it's also tricky holding the camera steady whilst bouncing up and down with the train's movement but I managed this shot of the Millenium Dome as we went past.

We had to change trains at Canning Town to get to Blackwall and this is our next train arriving. They are rather cute. The nice thing is being able to sit behind the front window as there is no driver (they are controlled by computer).

Arriving at Blackwall DLR Station we went to start our walk. The first thing to do is look for the sign pointing to Billingsgate Fish Market and follow the wide paved path going out of the picture on the right.

So we did that. This brought us to a main road and a very short way away to the left was a short flight of wide stone steps which took us up to the edge of Poplar Dock.

It was nice to see, when this dock was redeveloped for housing, that the old dockside cranes were left in position.

Walking along the dock we saw a lot of boats and from here the cranes can be seen over to the left and a red DLR train in the distance on an elevated section of railway. Walking to the southern end of Poplar Dock we were able to cross into Blackwall Basin and see the buildings in Canary Wharf reflected in the water.

 We also caught a glimpse of the Millenium Dome again just beyond these waterside apartments which we saw from the footbridge.

We eventually reached the lock which is the entrance to West India Dock with yet more, and larger, cranes just off Prestons Road. The buildings of Canary Wharf are prominent in the background.

On the other side of Prestons Road is yet another view of the Millenium Dome. That thing seems to pop up everywhere.

We eventually reached the western end of West India Dock and headed east along the other side of the dock and started to see a bit of greenery.

Bearing in mind that the London Marathon comes through here tomorrow we saw very few signs of that. Just a few TV broadcasting vans with dish aerials on their rooves but nothing else. We did wonder if there might be crowd barriers is place specifically to spoil any photographs I might want to take but, no, not a sign.

We reached No. 1 Canada Square which is one of the very tall buildings and went into the shopping centre at its base. This shopping area must go under a large number of the buildings because it is v-a-s-t. There are also free public toilets here if that interests you (and if you can actually find them – we did smilies ).

We did finally find our way through to Cabot Square and emerged once more into sunlight and were surprised by a couple of little attractive cameo views that suddenly appear here from time to time.

We left Cabot Square and made our way north towards West India Quay, not to be confused with West India Dock which we have already passed, and we emerged from the left onto the footbridge in the distance just beyond the cranes.

This view was obtained by going up on to one of the DLR platforms of West India Quay station which is on an elevated section of the railway at this point. Yet more cranes which, I thought, looked a bit like Martian War Machines. Here is another view of the Martian War Machines with the DLR showing in the background in the station from which I took the previous view.

The area on the right of the footbridge includes some of the original docklands buildings which have been restored and fronted by the original cobbled surface. This includes the Museum of London Docklands and also numerous restaurants. Walking along here and looking at all the different menus one is rather spoiled for choice. We eventually decided on one particular menu at a restaurant called Henry's and decided to have lunch.

We were shown to a table in the sun with padded seats, which was nice, and our order was taken very soon after. Our drinks arrived first and our meals not long after that. Table service was very efficient but drinks and meals took longer than we would have expected although not too long so I expect the slight hold up was in the kitchen.

Amanda had roast belly of pork with dauphinoise potatoes and vegatables and I had pork schnitzel with red cabbage and sautéed new potatoes. We both enjoyed our meals and the food really was very good. So much so that I had to refrain from licking the plate. Amanda made the point that her dauphinoise potato was some of the best that she'd had.

The problem started when we decided to have a dessert. We placed our order and waited, and waited, and waited. We queried this a number of times and were told it would arrive soon. It didn't. We finally got our order 30 minutes after it was placed. Both of our desserts were cold items so no cooking needed. The desserts, like our main courses, were very nice and although we were given an apology I said that waiting 30 minutes really was unacceptable. They cancelled the cost of the desserts by way of compensation.

In spite of that long wait I think that it must have been an unusual problem because it was busy and obviously very popular so we will go back if we are that way again and give then another chance. From the point of view of table service and quality of food I would recommend them without hesitation.

We now headed to the Museum of London Docklands shown here in part of the restored warehouse with a cobbled frontage.

The museum is big with a variety of exhibits including some which try to show what the narrow streets of old London would have looked like.

After spending some time looking around we realised that we were both feeling tired and so decided to head for home. Leaving the museum we headed through the grassy Canada Place.

Then through Jubilee Park

and towards the nearest DLR station thence back to Stratford and on the train home. Our second trip of the year (our first being to meet Marie in London on her birthday).


The best laid plans of mice and men . . . .

The best laid plans of mice and men . . . .

Did you know that Google Maps can be used to navigate when using public transport in London? You can use it either on your computer before you go or on your smartphone whilst on the move.

We planned to go to London yesterday. I wanted to go to the British Museum again and Amanda wanted to go to Regents Park to see the roses so we used Google Maps, 'Get Directions'.

First select the type of transport which, in our case, was Public Transport. Our starting point was Liverpool Street Station and my end point was the British Museum. Click the 'Options' link just below the destination box and select the 'Prefer' option. We wanted to use buses so we selected 'Bus'. Click 'Get Directions' and a map should be displayed together with a short list of routes in a box on the left. I chose the No. 8 in preference to the 242 because it got me slightly nearer my destination.

We discovered that the No. 8 terminates at Oxford Circus which, Amanda decided, would be near enough to Regents Park for her to walk the last bit allowing us to travel together on the same bus.

We normally allow 35 minutes between when we leave home to when our train departs. We left home at the normal time and a short while later were held up by traffic lights at some road works which had appeared suddenly this morning. In fact they were still setting up the road works when we arrived to do whatever it was they were planning to do. Then when we were near the railway station we found ourselves in an unexpected traffic queue. Time was getting short! After parking the car we had to do a fast walk across the fields to the station to find that there was a queue at the ticket office. We did eventually get our tickets a few minutes before the train arrived.

Google Maps tells us that the bus stop is in Bishopsgate just outside the station and that it is 'Stop L'.

"Liverpool Street station
London, UK EC2M 7QH"

There are two stops 'K' and 'L' and different routes stop at each stop. The stops have a plate on the very top with the large letter identifier easily visible.

We went to the appropriate stop only to find a sign on it saying 'Bus stop not in use'. Bummer! This is because there are roadworks along the centre of Bishopsgate making the road narrower than normal. We decided to walk in the direction in which the bus would travel and find the next stop which was 'Y'. It was a relatively short walk to where Bishopsgate changes into Gracechurch Street.

The No. 8 bus is supposed to run every 6-10 minutes so we expected not to have to wait very long. Although there was almost a constant stream of buses of every other route we were still waiting for a No. 8 twenty minutes later.

Then we saw a No. 8 approaching. But wait, what do I see? The destination board on the front of the bus says 'Holborn Circus' but it should say 'Oxford Circus'. We ask the driver who tells us that all the No. 8s are turning round at Holborn Circus because of delays further along the route. Bummer again!

What we should have done in advance of our journey is to look on the "Transport for London" web site but which we didn't think of doing.  :oops:

Go to, select 'Live Travel News' then select your mode of transport i.e. Tube, Buses etc. With buses you can enter the route number and get information on any delays or cancellations on that particular route and doing that for the No. 8 gives a list of possible problems.

We decided to go as far as we could i.e. Holborn Circus and walk the rest. We chose the bus because it would have got me significantly nearer the British Museum than the Tube would have done but in this case the Tube would have been quicker and nearer. It was our own fault for not checking TFL's web site for possible delays first.

Travelling on the London Buses should normally be easy and straightforward. Bus stops are obvious and give details of the routes calling at this stop.

There are no facilities on the buses in central London for buying tickets so payment must be made in advance. If you are travelling around as a visitor then you will probably have a Travelcard or an Oyster Card both of which can be used on the buses. If you need to purchase a ticket then there are machines like this at some stops but it is an expensive way of doing it.

This is a view from the upper deck.

Access to the stairs is on the right surrounded by a guard rail and above the front window is an electronic display giving the bus route number and either the current stop or the next stop if the bus is moving. There are also automatic announcements giving the same information.

Sitting in the front seats, when available, gives the best views.

This is our bus driving into the roundabout at Holborn Circus to go all the way round and back the way it came for its return journey.

We walked from Holborn Circus to New Oxford Street where I turned north up Museum Street for the British Museum and Amanda went off to Regents park.

When I went into the British Museum, at around 11:30 AM, the first thing that struck me was the noise; most of which was probably from the multitude of school groups in evidence. I don't remember this much noise on our last visit.

Most of the rest of the world had obviously also chosen today to visit the museum and I don't remember it being as crowded on our last visit. On our last visit we arrived at the museum in the late afternoon which is probably a better time of day to visit as the school groups are likely to have gone by then.

I hadn't managed to photograph the Rosetta Stone on our last visit so I thought I'd try that. It seemed to be permanently surrounded by visitors and I had to wait a long time to get this:

Not a very good picture partly because of the reflections in the glass case and partly because it's very poorly lit.

This shows the three different scripts. The upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek. Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts (with some minor differences between them), it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The close-up photograph again a little spoiled by reflections.

It was a little after this that I realised that I wasn't enjoying the experience, as I'd hoped, because of the cacophany and the sheer numbers of visitors so I decided to give up and walk to Regents Park to re-join Amanda.

I arrived in time for lunch so we had lunch in the Garden Cafe as we did on our last visit before venturing out again into the park. Amanda had come to see the roses in Queen Mary's garden so that is what we did although the weather had turned cloudy but we were expecting that for the afternoon.

There were a LOT of roses here.

When we finished here we went into Marylebone Road, which runs along the south edge of Regents Park, and caught a No. 205 bus which took us back to Liverpool Street Station by a route which was completely different from that of the No. 8. The only point of interest that we went past was the British Library. Perhaps a visit for the future?

Today's visit shows that however thorough you think your plans are they can go awry on numerous occasions. :banghead: