Spring is dead. Long live the Spring! or March is the New July.

Spring only just started last week, and it seems we’ve skipped over it here in London. Yesterday’s temp was over 70F. I actually sat out and sunbathed on my patio – while a pervy neighbour looked on – that’s right, I spotted him spying and had to cut my lie-out short. I wouldn’t have minded if he wasn’t half hiding behind his patio wall. Tsk tsk.

Right, back to the subject at hand. Spring. No one ever said the weather here was predictable, and so far, as an Angeleno transplant, I am very pleased. Every March I can remember from living/visiting here was cold and wet and spent indoors or the pub, wishing for summer. And then summer would arrive for about a week in July, departing again as quickly as it came.

March is the new July! It’s been glorious the last couple of weeks. And to show you how glorious, I went on a walk. Just for you. With my little Olympus Pen. And the pop art filter. I don’t think I will have to explain it. You’ll see what I mean.

I discovered recently that there was access to the canal that runs throughout this area and off to both east and west London. I don’t have much to say about the canals as I’ve not been to the canal museum yet and educated myself properly yet. All I know is that it’s a beautiful place for a stroll.

Starting out in Camden, you can tell spring has arrived as every spare patch of green is occupied by people just hanging out and watching the canal boats meander through the locks.

And here is when the pop art filter really shines. What colours!

I stuck around to watch this narrow boat make its way through Hampstead Road Lock. The pop art filter didn’t do all that well, however I wasn’t really trying. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

When I left Camden, winding down into Regent’s Park, I kept pace with the Downunder London for quite a while until they sped off down the canal, not to been seen by me again.

The sun was bright overhead, so I slopped on the sunblock and adjusted the sunglasses, ready to tackle the as much of the canal path that my Asiscs clad feet could handle.

And I think that’s where I shall leave you today, on the Regent’s Canal, by Regent’s Park, watching the canal boats pass me by.

Highgate Cemetery, or Not Enough Dosh for the Dead

End of the month is always the tightest, budget wise. For all my non UK friends, here we get paid once per month. That means that we are flush at the start, and skint at the end. It’s a vicious cycle that you get used to after a while and really helps you to budget correctly.

That’s one of the reasons why walking is just so popular here. Walking through the countryside (if you have some near you), city (to explore new areas) or even cemeteries. That’s where Highgate comes in. It’s a 3 for 1. A leafy village that feels like you are in the countryside even though you are in the middle of the city.

And for that reason Highgate is one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in London. And lucky for us it’s just north of where we live in Kentish Town. The walk is not far, about 1.5 miles up the road. “Up” being key. It’s at the top of a hill which affords it some beautiful views. Hence wealthy people deciding to build here. Famous people who live/have lived there include: Hugh Grant, Kate Moss and Rod Stewart. Oh, and the Russian Embassy.

Famous people who call Highgate Cemetery home: Karl Marx, Michael Faraday (“Father of Physics”), Douglas Adams (no relation) and Alexander Litvinenko (Russian ex-KGB / British intelligence assassinated in London).

Back to that budget thing. So we were days away from pay day and since it was a beautiful February day, we threw our cameras round our necks and made the walk to Highgate Cemetery. Their website may not be pretty, however it was made clear we could just walk in to the newer section without a booking. The older section is by appointment only. Of course, once we got there, there was a £3pp entry charge. Which I didn’t pay any attention to on the website. And we didn’t have any cash. And there aren’t exactly cash points at the cemetery gates. And so we did not go in.

However I did get some fantastic photographs, taken through the wrought iron fences on the walk to the entrance gate. A teaser, if you may, to what I will eventually get when I go back with my medium format. And the micro 4/3rds. And a tripod…

There is this atmosphere that you just cannot fake at Highgate Cemetery. Perhaps it’s the overgrown nature of it, the light eerily eeking its way through the mossy trees. Cemeteries just have that feeling about them, of loneliness and comfort.

Or is it just me?

Clever Advertising: The Guardian’s Three Little Pigs

A departure from the tour de London that is my usual post, I had to share this fantastic ad from The Guardian. It’s clever, the writing is genius and it’s just so familiar that we completely buy it. I believe.

It also continues to exhibit Britain’s odd obsession with the personification of animals. But in a good way – at least the three little pigs aren’t the spokespersons for the pork industry. Shiver.

The V&A Museum, or How Fun Is It to Take Pictures of Small Things?

First I’ll start with the informative part of this post:

1. Most museums in London are free and request a donation for your custom.
2. Most museums in London are huge so you’ll need several visits to see all they have to offer.
3. The V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) is the world’s largest museum of design and “decorative arts”, which I presume also means paintings and not just cool objet d’art.
4. The V&A is in South Kensington, on Cromwell Road, directly next door to the Natural History Museum.
5. You can enter the V&A from the underground station via a tunnel. This tunnel is very cold and may have loud performing buskers (like electric guitarists) so mind your ears.
6. It’s easy to get lost in the V&A. I know because I’ve tried.

Okay, now that you have all of the information, I encourage you to go online and check it out on your own. But that being said, here are a few photographs!

Here’s the chandelier in the entry hall. I would hate to be underneath this if an earthquake hit! I know, I know. This isn’t Los Angeles. Perhaps it’s just habit that my mind goes straight to earthquake when I see a large glass chandelier (or frankly anything hanging from the ceiling), but the ground does shake in these parts.

The building itself, like many London buildings, is a masterpiece. Just take a look at those arches! Sweet.

I was at the V&A meeting a friend. And we were determined to see as much of the place as possible. We went to floors I didn’t even know existed, walking through cavernous halls where they were busy restoring huge casts of obelisks and doorways from ancient Rome (well, one presumes – I couldn’t find a little card telling me what they were). One of the most exciting rooms was the Architecture room.

They had original photographs, plans and models of buildings like St Martin’s in the Fields and the Parthenon. I had particular fun with some of the models. Models = small things. Photographing small things is super fun! Trust me.

The V&A is always a complete surprise. I’ve only been three times in the last 11 years and I love how their collection isn’t just paintings and photographs. It’s design, furniture, jewelry, architecture, glass, history and so many other things. Go. Seriously. Go now!

Don’t forget the suggested donation!

London Walks, or How I Learned Motorcycle Boots are Not Made for Walking

London is a very walkable city. There, I said it.

And sometimes it’s the only way to see some of London’s most cherished sites, like the Southbank, Borough Market, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Now I’ll let you google on your own about the above goodies. But if you want to see some photos, stick around.

It’s food that brings me to this part of town mostly. And beer. Food and beer, though sometimes not together. Besides that, London Bridge has three things going for it: 1) major rail hub. London Bridge station connects most of the south east to central London in mere minutes. Honestly it will take someone who lives 20 miles away less time to get into town than it does me, and I am only 3 miles up the road. 2) the Shard. 3) Borough Market.

Borough Market is my favourite place to get a quick bite to eat. Or just to have a wander. It’s where I want to do all my food shopping. And it’s possible as it is just a quick jaunt down the Northern Line.

From the courgettes to the chickens, Borough Market is, in my opinion, the place to be for local British produce. In and around the market are pubs and restaurants I can only dream of going to. Roast. Tapas Brindisa. Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House. Okay. I’ve never had an oyster, but I am pretty sure I would like to try them here first.

The only photograph I have of Borough Market from this recent trip is of the fresh organic chickens that became my chicken wrap. For years we’ve been coming here for this particular stand (who’s name starts with a G, but I can never remember it!) that does fresh organic chicken burgers and wraps. And unlike everything else in London, the price has only gone up £1.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I had a meeting in the Leathermarket. It’s on Leathermarket Street, which leads to Tanner Street. Not much leather being made in this neck of the woods these days. Now this old period tannery building contains refurbished office and studio space that is going to do very well when the Shard is finished.

Speaking of:

From inside the Leather Market:

The Shard dwarfs the buildings around it. Taken from the middle of Weston Street.

Here is the full size view from further down Leathermarket Street.

And here is some random wall art indicative of this artsy, warehouse converted area.

So I walked down Leathermarket Street. Past Leathermarket Gardens and over Bermondsey Street to Tanner Street (walking by Tanner House, of course). Warehouse conversions. Gated mews communities. Then left on Tower Bridge Road and she finally reveals herself…

(Tower Bridge through the tunnel under the railway tracks)

It looks much better in person. Promise.

This area is regenerating faster than you can say “expensive rent.” Case in point:

This is the kind of building you find mixed in with the period warehouses, wharf buildings and pubs. I actually think the colours are quite fetching.

I have a confession to make. In all the years of visiting and living in London, I’ve never stepped foot onto Tower Bridge. Shocking I know. So this was a momentous occasion for me. I felt like Bridget Jones, all smiley in the sunshine.

The bridge wasn’t too horrible with tourists, nor was the area around Tower of London, so I was able to actually get a couple of shots off of the Bridge from the banks of the Thames. This replaces the shots I took over 10 years ago. (Between you and me, I need to go back and judge the position of the sun a bit better).

I made my way past the Tower (see previous post for pano!) to Tower Hill station where I thought it would be a good idea to take the tube to London Bridge, saving my poor little feet a bit of misery with the walk.

It was a very bad idea.

Sometimes when you do not want to walk, you end up being forced to walk. I hopped on the District Line one stop to Monument, thinking ah, I’ll just walk across London Bridge to Borough. No worries.

Instead some insane person living inside my brain said, “Hey, why not just take the tube! You can connect to the Northern Line from here! One stop! You know you want to…”

I’m convinced that insane person is dressed like a wee devil, as there were no signs anywhere that said, NORTHERN LINE CONNECTION AT BANK. YOU WILL BE WALKING ALL THE WAY TO BANK STATION, JUST TO COME BACK ON YOURSELF. TURN BACK NOW!

Inconvenient, don’t you think?

I walked from Monument to Bank when all I wanted to do was walk from Monument to Borough. Opposite directions. And none of the escalators were working, to top it all off. I had to walk up and down countless flights of stairs. Now, if you have a moment, just go reread the title of this posting.

Finally I’m in Borough Market, having learned yet again that the Underground is deceiving. I suppose that’s my penance for being a tourist for a day!

And then I had a chicken wrap. With that wrap – which, btw, the lady who served me offered to hold it whilst I photographed it. But I couldn’t be bothered. I was so hungry after my Momument / Bank / London Bridge debacle I just wanted that tasty wrap asap. And then to find some beer.

Riverside pubs line the route between London Bridge and my next destination: Tate Modern. Usually I’d find myself a spot with my sandwich and enjoy a half pint of the visiting ale, and I highly recommend that you do the same should you find yourself on the Jubilee Walkway, but not today. I needed me some art!

Past the Golden Hinde, down Clink Street, The Anchor Inn and onto Bankside, the riverside walkway. Next Southwark Bridge (where I finish my wrap, btw, in case you were interested), then the Globe Theatre and ending up at the Tate.

I said before I was there for the art, but really I was there for the building:

The Tate is housed in an old 1950s era power station. It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who designed, among other famous buildings, the red telephone box now synonymous with England.

Now by this time, my dogs were barking. Motorcycle boots, although comfortable in the first mile, don’t do well around mile marker three. So my plan was to scurry off to St Paul’s tube station and make my way home before the inevitable feet falling off occurred.

But not before I shot off a couple more images, of course:

The view from the foot of Millennium Bridge at the Tate. St Paul’s, the Thames, a bit of bridge. Pure London.

And last looks down the river toward where I started. It looks a lot further away than you think, the lens of my camera making it look much smaller than what the eyes perceive.

In just two short hours, I was able to wander down cobbled lanes, through markets older than the city I was born and over bridges mainly trodden by tourists. All this in sunshine and on a full stomach of organic chicken wrap. If it weren’t for those rascally boots I’d have shot off another round of photographs of St Paul’s. Instead, here’s a final thought for you, taken many years ago: