London: Prime Meridian Of The World

This is a firm bucket list entry for many people – “To straddle the Prime Meridian Line, one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and the other in the West.” To do that, doing it in London is the place to be at the The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, also home to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Set in the Greenwich World Heritage Site area which also features Cutty Sark, Queen’s House, the Peter Harrison Planetarium and the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory is home to an Astronomy Centre, Flamsteed House and Meridian Courtyard with these two latter places costing you £9.50 to enter (Astronomy Centre is free), so factor that in to your bucket list experience. Due to this draw for many across the world, expect the Meridian Courtyard to be busy with people, their cameras and various combinations and ideas to mark the occassion.


I DID IT!

Crossed off the bucket list in 2014 😀


As the Royal Observatory is at the top of a very tall hill you are natually granted an impressive view over the capital and surrounding area.

London: Sights & Sounds of the Thames

When in London regardless of the length of your visit, a trip to central London by the Thames is a must and even better at night-time with key attractions lighting up the dark skies. Even a short walk in any direction away from this river will open you a host of adventures and surprises.

Below is a selection of pictures I have taken over my various visits to London:

Piccadilly, Harrods and Westminster Landscape

Big Ben, St. Pauls Cathedral and Westminster Abbey

The West End


During the day, isn’t so bad either…

Westminster Landscape, Big Ben and Heroes of Britain Memorial

Tower of London, Telephone Box and The London Eye


Of course, there is plenty more to see including various bridges (London Bridge, Blackfriars, Millennium Bridge to name a few), memorial statues of individuals and animals and much more. Don’t want to spoil everything for you! 😀

London: Smart Hyde Park Inn (Review)

In all our travel experiences, unless you have been extremely lucky, we all have that accomodation that after researching throughly (or not), made our decision to go ahead and book, secure in the knowledge that we have a bed/room for as many nights we have booked. Sorted! However, on the ocassion how ever rare, we enter a accomodation and immediately, your gut is telling you that something isn’t quite right. Smart Hyde Park Inn hostel in London, was that accomodation…

Located in Bayswater, London, a stones throw away from the tube station (Circle and District Lines), the Smart Hyde Park Inn is a building filled with original features and décor brushing up more modern additions which doesn’t always work well.

As you can tell just from this review, my first impressons were not great and did not improve beyond that. Upon arrival, I was told to pay extra for a deposit which was not notified on the website and that lockers in your room were £1 a night. The lockers are a very generous size and whilst I didn’t take this up on my first night, I did the following day as I needed to secure important documents and stuff I would miss if they were to go missing. Maybe I am just used to lockers where you bring your own padlock?

Anyways, I’m not one to dwell on not so good times but your breakfast, the typical hostel offerings of toast, cereals and hot drinks which I have nothing to complain about 😀

Staff? Helpful to a degree, but very to the point, short and not at all welcoming. Locker not opening? A nice little torrent of words of how I shouldn’t put too much stuff in it and it was my fault… thanks – First day of using it and trying to open it to put stuff in and discovered I couldn’t. Not going to lie, if I break something, I will admit it and maybe it has happened before, but come on… Beyond this, there was not much interaction.

Cleanliness? To be desired… Certain areas of the hostel smelled appauling, dust evident everywhere, toilets and sinks seemed that they hadn’t been cleaned in a while etc. Not good.

What About The Cost? For four nights in a mixed dorm for 15 people, I paid around £128 (£32 per night) for a bed, linens free of charge. Breakfast was included in the rate, as well as free Wi-Fi in pubic areas.

Anything Else? Bayswater is a lovely location, so don’t ignore the area based on this one accomodation review – There are other places to stay near by!

After looking through my emails, turns out I left a review for this hostel on the website I used to book my accomodation, a few days after my return. Mysteriously, it has disappeared from the website and my account profile. Unfortunate, the email that confirms my review doesn’t contain the review itself.

They need to change mattresses/flip them more often or get better quality as on the third night onwards, I suffered from a bad back pain – A first for me!

Would I Stay Here Again? Now, this review is based upon my experience a couple of years ago so the hostel could have upgraded, standards improved, new owners etc but once burned, twice shy… No thanks! Also, recent reviews on well-known review sites seem to indicate that not a lot has changed …

Edit: All Smart Hostels are currently being refurbished, according to the website.

I did learn from this experience though, don’t get me wrong. Always one for hoping for the best, I am now more cautious of things I read online, particularly if something seems to good to be true or presented with mixed reviews from a variety of websites. I am always aware in life that people are more likely to tell you something when it is negative, rather than positive so I read lots of reviews, weighing up my needs and wants compared to the reviewer.

London: The Alternative London Walking Tour

Alternative London

London, like many tourist magnet places is awash with tours from cycling, coach to walking, so what makes this tour ‘Alternative?’

This is our original tour which was established to showcase East London’s incredible creativity whilst giving insights into important historical and cultural events that have made the area what it is today.

Even though this is much more than just a London street art tour, you are guaranteed to see a huge range of amazing uncommissioned artworks and we are the only London tour company to employ well known street artists and those involved in the creative community as guides.

Excerpt from ‘Alternative London Tours’

Alternative London

Almost squashing up to the wealth and splender of Canary Wharf, the East End of London is an absolute contrast just from simple obsversation in style, construction and history, with the fact that it is one of the most poorest areas in the country. However, that does not mean that the community has a lesser voice or passion than anyone or anywhere else. If you recall one of my earlier posts, Jack the Ripper was known to this area for his murders of prostitutes back in the 1800’s.

I love all forms of art, including the very art that we see everyday in front of our faces, the beauty of nature, laughter, music and many things that usually don’t spring to mind when we think about art. Rather, we think about the big names, influences and periods across time, that we would all like to see just to say that we have. My knowledge of art is limited to what I learned and studied at school yet I have always been drawn to graffiti/street art regardless of its context as it often represents the feelings and attitudes that shouldn’t be ignored but often are in the press, local or national.

Alternative London

The tours are guided by many artists local to the area and my tour guide was Josh – local to the area and a street artist to boot. On the tour, he showed us one of his pieces and even bumped into some of his friends.

Throughout the tour, Josh’s passion and knowledge of the local area shone through from his own influences to others, including the messages hidden behind some of the works. One of the best bits is though, he didn’t fully lead the tour but rather giving support, tips and skills to look out for things for ourselves so by the end of the tour we were equipped, chomping at the bit to find street ourselves from the largest pieces, to the small and the ones very cleaverly disguised that would go unnoticable through day-to-day life… almost apart of the scenary even.

Don’t forget the camera!

This Alternative London Walking Tour runs from Monday to Saturday with tours lasting for 2 hours and they are available in English, French, Spanish and Italian – As the company develops, I hope they expand the languages to include German and Russian with many companies across London and the world do cater to these visitors.

Now, unlike virtually all tours that are out there, this tour works on a pay-what-you-like basis, so whatever your budget this tour is open to all. In hindsight, I wish I had given more than I did, the tour was beyond my expectations and wowed me to that point that I would like to do another one. I didn’t give more because that last bit of money had to get me back to my accomodation and I knew I had to top-up my Oyster card with it, which would see me through to the next day and eventually my travel home.

Every visit to London, you could do this tour – Art is an non-stop, forever changing force in a landscape that is constantly evolving on all levels within ourselves and beyond. No tour of this area will ever be the same because the art will have changed and using the observation skills you will have developed over the initial tour, maybe you will spot things that are not so obvious to others?

Do the tour, you won’t regret it!

London: The Transport Challenge

transport01Fancy a London transport challenge? YES!

Right, this is what you need to accomplish –

  1. Walking
  2. Bus
  3. Taxi
  4. Tube
  5. Train
  6. Cable Car
  7. River Boat

You need to travel on all of these to complete the challenge. There is no time limit, but if you have a few days in the city then this would be a great time to do it over a gradual period, or if you fancy a harder challenge, in less than 24 hours. With real planning, you can do this is less than 12 hours and still have time to explore the sights and sounds of London.

Is there a record?

Not that I know of and this isn’t anything official. This only happened to me when I was in London visiting my Uncle, showing us the sights and realising that I ticked off all of these various methods of transportation in a single day.

However, feel free to let me know how long it has taken you and we’ll see!

Is there a minimum duration for each mode of transport?

One journey needs to be fully completed for each, even if it is just one tube stop, bus stop along etc.

Can I add other modes of transport?

Sure! Car, Bike (pedal, motorcycle), Segway, Aeroplane (from a London Airport to wherever, you could be saying ‘Hello!’ to London or a ‘Goodbye’) and I am sure, many others! The challenge is yours to own but try to meet the ones listed above as a minimum.

Anything else?

Let me know how you do! Photos would be a bonus 😀 Surprise me!!

Oh and research, especially if you are trying to set a great time or use a wide variety of transportation.

London: Somerset House

Somerset House is based alongside the Thames in central London, a neo-classical building that is open throughout the seasons – During the summer, you can dance in water fountains and see films on large screens in the courtyard, often new films from blockbusters to lesser-known but still great experiences, whilst in the winter th grounds becomes an ice rink! As well as this it is a large space filled with inspiring art, photography and historical items across various cultures and periods.

This attraction also does two free guided tours:

  1. Historical Highlights of Somerset House
  2. The Old Palaces Tour

The Old Palaces Tour is a new addition to the rosta and whilst these tours maybe free it is first come, first served basis (limited places) so I suggest you get there early, put your name down and come back later, this is speaking from experience. I booked myself onto the Historical Highlights of Somerset House tour, arriving at around 11am on the Saturday to put my name down and I can tell you that the tours at 12.15 and 13.15 were already fulled booked, with the 14.15 only having a few spots open, with the last and final tour of the day (15.15) not far behind. I booked myself onto the latter and headed off the explore other sights nearby.

Each tour only operates on certain days, so be sure to check the website before you go, as well as any events that may cause these to not run or other parts of the house to be closed off for the day.


The Historical Highlights of Somerset House Tour

In approximately one hour, you’ll discover evidence of Tudor intrigue and Georgian Enlightenment, scientific curiosity and naval power, extravagant entertainments and ‘the King’s Shilling’, as we lead you from the airy lightwells of graceful staircases to the atmospheric Deadhouse.

A new highlight of the tour is The Miles Stair, located in the West Wing and designed by the internationally renowned architect Eva Jiricna, the stair represents her most ambitious stair structure yet. The treads and landings are made from a material called ductal, this product is a thousand times stronger than concrete.

Excerpt from ‘Somerset House’

If you are not aware, I love learning history and yes, I do it for pleasure and therefore as soon as I saw this tour, I knew I had to go on it and it was well-worth the hour. A guide takes you around the house, full of knoweldge about the house as well as the different galleries and items on display – Ask them questions and they happily answer them with passion and confidence of their knowledge, as well as dates, facts and figures. Wow.

The Tudor time of history is a fasinating one both to Britain and the world, one that draws many to London and other places across the UK and is a must-do history topic in the school curriculum. My many travels abroad, people have asked me questions about this period and it has resulted in lengthy discussions and with the recent discovery of Richard III’s bones, as well as the popular Phillipa Gregory book and TV series ‘The White Queen’ has only driven this interest.

I recommend this tour and for the eagle-eyed film buffs out there,  you may recognise some familiar backgrounds to popular films in my photos including Sherlock Holmes (2009) starring Jude Law and Robert Downey, Jr.

London: The London Eye

london-eye01

At 135m, Coca-Cola London Eye is the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel. It was conceived and designed by Marks Barfield Architects and was launched in 2000. It has already won over 85 awards for national and international tourism, outstanding architectural quality and engineering achievement.

Excerpt from ‘London Eye’

To see a birds-eye view of London, this is one of the london-eye01best places to see it, especially if it a clear day in the skies. The London Eye takes 30 minutes to complete one full rotation and it feels like you are almost not moving, the only indication is the constantly changing perpespective of the skyline.

Like Big Ben, Westminister and the Thames, the attraction is always a feature during big celebrations particularly the fireworks at New Years, so it is no surprise why it is such a draw for visitors and on many bucket lists.

There are many types of tickets to choose from to suit your needs and plans, as well as tickets that include entry to other attractions that may interest you. I would advise booking your tickets online, as this can save you up to 15% on the ‘pay on the day’ price. A standard adult ticket purchased online is £19.35 (£23 if bought on the day) and it includes 1 trip on the London Eye with each capsule containing interactive guides, as well as entry to a 4D cinema experience located near the ticket booth at the attraction.

Is it worth the price? At 19.35/£23 a ticket, this isn’t cheap and the price very much reflects the fact that it is in a prime location in the capital city and a massive draw for tourists. Other similiar, yet smaller attractions in the UK do not charge near this much, the York wheel being around £7. If you happen to be travelling by National Rail to the city, take advantage of the 2-4-1 offer on this attraction (and many others), then I feel it is worth the money as it is half the cost between you.

The area around the London Eye is teaming with other smaller attractions, as well as shops, cafes and open spaces which will sometimes have street performers ranging from dancers to singers and even comedians – You’ll be surprised at what you come across!

My View

A panoramic view on a cloudy day, so imagine what you could see and how far on a clear day…

Remember the camera!