Los Angeles, a space shuttle and a very excited me

My adorable nephew’s fourth birthday is coming up, and as the far-away-Aunt, I want to get him cool things that he won’t just toss into the toy pile.

So this year I decided to get him a space shuttle.

Rewind back to February, a dry, blue skied day and I practically leapt out of bed with the best. idea. ever. Let’s go see the Space Shuttle Endeavour!

Rewind even further back to October of last year when the Endeavour made it’s final flight around the skies of Los Angeles on the back of a 747. It was a big deal, to say the least, putting the local media into a certain frenzy. Toyota jumped on the bandwagon, shooting a commercial (and other promotional items) of its Tundra pulling the shuttle through the streets of LA. I just so happened to live cycling distance from an excellent viewing platform: the beach just below LAX. As it made it’s final pass over LA, I got a sneaky peak of it.

Endeavour Flight 2 Endeavour Flight 1

It’s now housed in a special hangar at the California Science Center, an easy hop, skip and a jump from the westside on the Expo Line. If you live on the westside, really there’s no excuse for not making a day of it, parking up for free at Culver City Station and paying $1.50 each way. Seriously. Get out of your car already. There’s plenty of parking! (Btw, it’s paved now.)

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20 minutes later…

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There’s a fun walk through exhibit that some will find more interesting than others. There are some technical bits, there are some dirty bits (space toilet, anyone?) and there are some really cool bits. Like the wheels that they encourage you to touch. So I did. I touched wheels that have been into space. How many people in the world can say that?

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Jealous?

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Just a wee peak inside…

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And the best part is revealed:

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It’s actually quite a patriotic experience. Not just because there’s a giant American flag in the back, but also because it really does signify an extraordinary time in US history. One step for mankind… one step toward the reality of Star Trek. A few of us are still waiting for that transporter device.

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DH standing under the shuttle.

Oooh, tiles.

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In case you need it, if you want to get rescued, go here.

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See? Space can still inspire. Even when it seems like no one is watching, really, deep down we are all enamoured by the mystery and unknown possibilities of space exploration.

The Endeavour, having flown many missions, taking its crew to repair an injured Hubble telescope even, may not be in orbit anymore, however it’s providing a different service, perhaps one the designers never considered: one of educator. There likely won’t be any more shuttle launches in my lifetime, but that little girl above might just be around to see the next big thing. And my nephew will now be armed with some of the coolest space knowledge ever.

By the way, did you hear that Voyager 1 may have finally left the solar system? How cool is that?

One year ago in South London, aka taking a walk down someone else’s memory lane

Outside my window right now it looks like this:

The Channel

But one year ago, the view looked like this:

Lewisham-Catford 2

Both days were beautiful, sunny spring days, the kind of days that really stick in one’s memory long after one leaves. Okay, to be fair, that top photo is what it looks like almost every day in Los Angeles. Isn’t that just boring? Sun sun sun!

Blah blah blah, I say.

If I had to chose a winner of a day, it would definitely be 11 March 2012, the day my man took me on a little tour of his old hood, Lewisham and Catford. And of course, I brought my camera.

My London knowledge is mostly centered around west and southwest London, with the recent addition of north London to the mix. It’s when it gets to southeast London that my knowledge gets fairly lackluster, my opinion formed of what my man told me, what my friends told me, what I saw on telly, and that one time back in 2001 when I went to the Greenwich Observatory on my first visit to town. Shame, I know, all those years living in London and the furthest southeast I’d gotten to this point was Bermondsey.

Lewisham has a bit of a reputation for being a bit rough. Perhaps that’s because it hasn’t become as gentrified as other parts of London; it still keeps its urban roots. Ten minutes by train from London Bridge, it’s definitely not a shopping mecca. It’s shopping centres are serious blasts from the past, built in the 60s and 70s and in desperate need of some of that regeneration money that’s being poured into the area. The shops are not Westfield standard. You won’t be buying anything Vuitton here unless it’s a knock off. But in saying that, it’s kept some of the local heritage alive, the fact that American Apparel and Gap haven’t moved in keeps the daily Lewisham Street Market authentic.

Lewisham was actually not so bad once you got to the pedestrian shopping area. Of course, that may have been the sun blinding my eyes. The walk from the station to the high street is down a busy road that’s not quite as pretty. But if you walk left around that first roundabout, you’ll see a little bit of green and an old church that could use some help – and in front of it the River Quaggy, which at this point is what’s knows as an urban stream. Think a really small LA River – once it used to be a natural waterway, but now it consists of run off and is likely redirected because of the population around it. I even think that part of the Quaggy is actually subterranean, but I’d have to look further than just Wikipedia to find that out. Ho hum.

So here’s some photographs of lovely Lewisham to show you what I mean:

Starting with a boot scraper from St Mary’s Lewisham.

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Can’t. Get. Enough.

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A little further down the high street you’ll find the gorgeous old Lewisham library. Not sure what the building is used for now, but it is in incredible nick for its location. Might be used as a government building as it is attached to the Births & Deaths office. Anyone know?

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Now originally I thought that the tower blocks pictured above might have been built on land destroyed by bombs in WW2, as Lewisham was indeed ravaged by German bombs. However, that’s actually not the case  in this instance. This is the the location of Lewisham Park, and it was once surrounded on all sides by houses. But these three tower blocks were built during the mid sixties, an era where councils thought it better to buy up (if applicable, sometimes they just moved residents if they were already council tenants) all the houses along this stretch of the high road and build purpose built tower blocks instead and named them Malling, Kemsley and Bredgar. This practice happened all over London, in many instances to get rid of areas the government thought to be slums: families living in one room, no indoor plumbing, that sort of thing. Little did they know that by building these forward thinking homes in the sky, they were actually creating the very slums they tried to eradicate.

Wow, deep.

Further down Lewisham High Road you hit Catford. Poor Catford really had the shit beat out of it during the 1960s and 70s with some truly appalling architecture. The obsession with tearing down beautiful old buildings and replacing them with brutalist office blocks and residences continued. Lots of brick. Lots of concrete.

But these days it’s probably best known for it’s Cat:

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Its shopping centres continue in the same vein as Lewisham…

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And at least there are small businesses about, like this Chick Chicken! Word of advice: avoid all fast food chicken shops in the UK unless you want to play russian roulette with food poisoning. Luckily I’ve not succumbed to such a fate, but many others I know have. What were you thinking, boys?

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… a stall where you can get a mobile phone case, a banana and fresh fish inside (take that, Asda!).

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Looking down Catford Broadway.

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A bit of old Catford… I think this alleyway into the Catford Conservative Club is a front for organized crime.

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VW driving crime lords. Why not?

Okay, so Catford’s history may a bit prettier than its present, however I think the area has a lot to offer the interested photographer. Fulham it is not – but even Fulham has its rough edges. One day someone’s going to get wise about Catford and spruce it up, because in the light of day, it might not be a bad investment.

I wish I took more photos, but at this point my dogs were barkin’. In Catford.

Get it?

From Clerkenwell, Leicestershire, Birmingham to Shropshire and all I got was this lousy cold

I’ve been a very bad blogger.

But I have a very good excuse.

I promised you photographs of stately homes, British countryside and some more photos sheep. Well I might have a few pics of the countryside somewhere in my bag of tricks, however most of my holiday was actually spent in bed.

Alright you, get your mind out of the gutter. I came down with the flu on Christmas Night, shortly after opening presents, and stayed sick until after I returned from the UK.

Poor me.

Happily I did get strong enough to get off my butt and in to a Selfridges to buy a suitable New Year’s Eve slash Most Awesome Wedding of the Year dress. And shoes. And a jacket to match.

Don’t judge. I just spend four days in bed. I totally deserved that black structured jacket with gold lapel from The Kooples. After all, I missed the Boxing Day sale.

Awww.

Of course this means that my photograph taking, otherwise known as photographing (though that word always seems so weird to me. Go on, say it out loud. See?), was pretty minimal. Here’s what I took around our fabulous hotel, The Zetter Townhouse in St John’s Square, Clerkenwell.

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Besides The Zetter and a couple of glass clad office buildings, with a pub and bistro on the ground floor respectively, is this lovely curved bank of windows belonging to the Museum of the Order of St John. It was, of course, closed when we arrived due to something called “Christmas”, however I was able to at least get a few sneaky pics off and perhaps one day I’ll visit this once priory church, replete with its twelfth century Crypt and Cloister Garden:

View to the cloister garden

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And across Clerkenwell Road, St John’s Square continues with an ancient gate and some other museumey stuff we could not visit due to our ill timing.

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Here’s a view back to the north side of St John’s Square. You can just see the Townhouse to the left behind the Zetter itself, the building with the red Z.

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It’s all very pretty and quiet isn’t it? Well, that’s what you get for the day before Christmas Eve in Central London. Clerkenwell is so quiet, you can almost here a pin drop.

Would you like to learn a little historical tidbit about Clerkenwell? As it turns out, the area took its name from the Clerks’ Well. You guessed it, there is an actual well, with actual water that is still bottled and drunk to this very day by lucky guests to the Zetter hotel. Who knew?

I didn’t, but Wikipedia did know. One day I’ll have to go hunting for the window that still overlooks part of the well. The little American tourist inside me is just dying to get a look.

These shots were taking on our way to our favourite Clerkenwell pub, The Craft Beer Co. And there I went crazy with the camera phone and snapped this nugget:

The Craft Beer Co

And on the way back, I was well impressed by the lovely lights in the Zetter hotel’s windows. But was secretly glad I was going to be spending my time in the Townhouse instead.

Zetter

We spent Christmas Eve eve shopping up Oxford Street, and frankly we were too busy, jet lagged and cranky to take any photos. And I’m convinced that the cesspool of germs that is Selfridges on Oxford Street is what made me ill in the first place. Sniffling, sneezing, flu ridden last minute shoppers, the lot of em.

So we properly escaped with the family’s pressies and boarded our chariot to the midlands:

Train from St Pancras

And from then on things get hazy. Not much more to say about that. Except at one point, the boy wakes me up to discuss getting a rental car, and I’m sure I heartily agree since I was sure as hell not exactly helping him have fun on his holiday, and he shows up with this beauty:

Quashqai-15

And how this Nissan Qashqai saved our bacon, I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say that there was much flooding in many a country road over the next week, especially around the wedding location in lovely Shropshire, and this little 4×4 skipped over the flooding as if they were the smallest of puddles. Our contact at the local Hertz got herself a box of chocolates for the free upgrade.

To catch everyone up on the rest of my trip, really there’s only a few more photographs.

Whilst sat in traffic in Birmingham to get to the nearest Bullring parking lot with spaces:

West Midlands

I love Birmingham’s Selfridges. Might be one of my favourite buildings in England. I have so many fond memories of spending my Boxing Days here with the in-laws, so it was a joy to come on New Year’s Eve eve where it was far quieter, yet the sale was still strong.

Selfridges

Bespoke balloons at the bachelorette dinner, The Lion + Pheasant Hotel, Shrewsbury:

Bachelorette Dinner

And then we attended a lovely wedding and a fantastic reception/NYE party!

Gorgeous centerpieces:

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Plenty of Champagne:

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A completely original Pork Pie Cake cut with a Sword!

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And a gorgeous couple dancing their first dance over their own branded logo in stunning purple accent lights.

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Seriously, what a fantastic, romantic night!

A few relaxing days later, our holiday was finished off with a tidy Jager Bomb shared with available friends and family who saw us off the night before we flew (with a tidy hangover, mind). That’s right, I did a Jager Bomb with a bit of gentle coaxing from my sis in law and new brother in law.

Bless!

Since then things have remained both busy and quiet, with a few weeks of work and now a quiet March with a couple of days in Santa Barbara Wine Country in our future.

Now that will be worth a bit of photographing, don’t you think?