Back to London

Days 258/260, Tuesday – Thursday 18-20 September 2012 – London and Dartford.

I was a wee bit jaded when I got up on Tuesday morning, another early start as I wanted to say goodbye to Mel and Richard before they went to work and I was on the 9:30 bus to London again. I did enjoy the coffee and bacon sandwich at the bus station before though and, as always, uneventful journey into Victoria bus station.

The good news is I am not feeling any ill effects from my run, I do not have any aches and pains and apart from running out of puff halfway up stairs with my pack on my back I almost feel like I could nip out for a run. I was expecting day two or three to be quite sore as it is usually the case after a decent run. It must be a sign I should have gone harder!

For the next two nights I am staying with a friend near London Bridge station in Borough – about two hundred metres from the Shard, the latest tallest building in London. I met Kevin at Dan and Van’s wedding in Da Nang, Vietnam way back in April, Kevin is an old friend of Dan’s and has been living in London for many years. I arranged to meet him at McDonalds which gave me a good excuse to trough a couple of chicken cheese burgers!

Kevin lives on the twelfth floor of a twenty storey tower block and the views over Tower Bridge are stunning, especially at night.

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Kevin and I spent the afternoon catching up and then went round the corner to a local pub for a pint or three, it was quite cool out of the sun, but a glorious day to be sitting in a garden bar. This area of London has really gone up-market since I worked around here in the mid-1980’s, lots of young white collar workers striding home from work, young hipsters with beards on single speed bikes, in the pub there was an actor who I have seen recently on TV or in movie, but I could not place his name damnit!

Early evening Kevin and I caught the tube to his partner Phil’s place in Kensington. Kari, a young Norwegian woman they met in India a while back is staying the night and cooking dinner. It was a good night, Kari cooked a good risotto and talked almost non-stop the entire time, it was very hard to get a word in, a very passionate woman.

On Wednesday, after a monster lie in and a massive breakfast Kevin cooked, I went for a walk out along the Thames for a bit. I had intended to walk down to Greenwich and back up again, but did start to notice the effects of the run, no soreness – just tired legs. I also planned on going to visit the Tower of London, which is one of my favourite places in London so needed to save some leg for that as there can be a bit of walking involved.

So, that was what I did next. The new quarter between London and Tower Bridges is quite stunning, all new glass and chrome buildings, but tasteful and heaps of open space. I really liked it, plus of course they left the access to the river bank.

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It cost 20 pounds to get into the Tower, outrageously expensive IMHO, but it is a great place to visit if you are into castles and the old English history of kings and queens and battles and plots, which of course I am.

I visited the white tower and its massive collection of arms and armour – I have fond childhood memories of walking round the armour.

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And then the crown jewels, my memory of this is massive crowds – not so bad today!

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And a general walk around the site for a couple of hours.

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Needless to say, I really enjoyed the afternoon, though I was disturbed by the amount of people who voted yes to this!

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After the Tower I took a slow walk back along the bank of the Thames and snapped a few shots of the Shard – I just cannot help it, it does dominate, but it is a stunning building.

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I had dinner with Kevin and Phil in the flat and for a change watched a bit of TV.

Thursday was a not quite so long lie, but I still didn’t rush out of bed. Today was shot day and I was off to the London Travel Clinic, for what turned out to be two rather than one shot. I was expecting Yellow Fever but I also need a booster for hep A and B, those along with 100 anti-malaria tabs meant it was an expensive morning. But better than being really ill in Zambia I expect.

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I took a short walk around Borough market before heading back to Kevin’s and saying my farewells before heading off to my uncle Jim’s house in Dartford. It was great to catch up with Kevin and Phil again, I will probably stay there again the night before I fly out to Africa as well.

Dartford is 35 minutes away by train, conveniently from London Bridge station so no faffing about catching tubes between stations. Both my parents are from Dartford and I have visited numerous times over the years and have pleasant memories of Jim’s. Jim lives in the house he was raised in and I haven’t been here since my nana passed away many years ago. All my stuff had been moved there from my other uncle and aunts house so I spent the afternoon and evening chatting to Jim and sorting my stuff – there is more than I remember!