Sky Garden sits atop 20 Fenchurch Street. Known locally as the ‘Walkie Talkie’, it boasts two decks of lush plant life, bars, restaurants and stunning 360-degree views of London. Best of all, Sky Garden London is completely free.
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This isn’t an ordinary skyscraper. The building gets wider as it rises, the highest floors literally hang over the streets below it. Like a wave ready to crash it looms over you in intimidating fashion, yet draws your attention completely.
From here you can see the shape changing as it reaches it’s peak, a height of 525ft. A quick show of the ticket and a scan of my bag and I am on the 35th floor in just a few minutes.
A short walk from London Bridge and Bank/Monument Underground, it is easily accessible on foot and well connected by train and bus routes. Tickets are free on their website (linked below) and easier to book two to three weeks in advance. Last minute bookings can be made but I would avoid if at all possible. Tickets go fast and it is hardly surprising.
The 360-degree views of the city make Sky Garden one of the best views in London.
Classic landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and The Shard draw your attention immediately, and signs on the windows help to spot the sights further away. London’s Olympic Stadium can be seen, as can the Wembley Stadium arch on a clear day.
When should you visit?
I visited twice on two very different days in the city. First with Ju, my Brazilian friend living in London. The second time was during the recent heatwave with clear blue skies. Interesting to note that despite the clouds, the overcast day helped make many buildings more visible. The bright sunshine was beautiful but created a haze. When booking, you really don’t need to wait for a less cloudy day. Just avoid fog!
In summer the sun sets outside of the free ticket hours, so it is recommended to book one of the bars or restaurants to catch this. Also as tickets are required for the free trip, you don’t need to worry about it being overly packed during your visit.
It is important to note that the areas are ventilated, so even whilst indoors wear clothes appropriate for the outside temperatures.
Steps run up the east and west of the building, taking you even higher. It is possible to walk up clockwise or anti clockwise and then back down to the 35th floor.
The plant life really stands out in the middle of London’s concrete jungle. A lush oasis that gives you a sense of calm and tranquility, with seating areas hidden within the greenery. Signposts prevent us from getting lost, although getting lost is what this kind of escape is all about surely?
Sky Garden outside deck
Two revolving doors allow access to the outdoor section of the building, the Shard is the first thing to be seen and looks incredible from here. Squint and you will see the tiny double-decker buses crossing London Bridge, along with the commuters that look more like ants. The deck is secured with a giant glass barrier that you have to look through, but being outside feels great at such a height.
Looking south west, the London Eye is visible behind neighboring buildings, along with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Tate Modern and Millennium (the Harry Potter) Bridge. Can you spot them all?
Bars and Restaurants
The easiest bar to find is the Sky Pod Bar, situated right in the heart of Sky Garden. With huge windows and an open plan, it is the perfect place to relax with a bottle of wine and watch the world go by. With your friends or your partner, on a date or even alone (like I did on this day!), it really is perfect for all occasions.
Prices seem to be slightly more than what is expected in London. A bottle of beer will cost £6, although it will hardly come as a shock in such a place. Full menus are available on their website, and the venues available are:
-Sky Pod Bar
-City Garden Bar
Although causal wear is accepted in Sky Garden, smart-casual is recommended if booking any of the above.
Pssst… if you head up on an evening from Wednesday to Saturday, a resident DJ plays live music as you wander the gardens and catch the sunset. From 7pm on weekdays and 9pm on weekends, what better way to end the day in London?!
Let me know if you have been, and add it to the list if not!
Street art has made me more observant as a person. I have learned to keep my head up and look around. Even in the seemingly boring streets around the CBD, there is always an opportunity for discovery.
Wormwood Street is one of those streets. Above it a Korean house seemingly fell from the skies onto a concrete bridge, the work of Do Ho Suh, a Seoul- born installation artist.
Where to find it
Wormwood Street is within London’s CBD, the closest tube station being Liverpool Street. Moorgate, Bank and Aldgate surround it and are all within a 10 minute walk.
The art is easy to find once there, displayed directly above the main road and pavements beneath. I was lucky, stumbling upon it during my lockdown walks meaning a huge reduction in traffic. So much so in fact that I could actually walk down the road and right underneath it without disrupting traffic.
In exquisitely made works, Do Ho Suh explores contemporary arrangements of space and the unstable boundaries of its categorisation along lines of individuality and collectivity, physicality and immateriality, mobility and fixity. Influenced by his peripatetic existence – leaving his native South Korea to study and live in the United States, he has more recently moved between New York, Seoul and London – an enduring theme of the artist’s practice is the connection between the individual and the group across global cultures.
Like an oasis in the desert, the piece provides and escape out of highrise corporate London and into the streets of Korea. Not only does this stand out due to the architectural and cultural differences, it chooses to reside in an area almost inhabitable. Above a busy road, on a bridge, where the rent is probably unfathomable to most of us.
According to Londonist, this installation is part of Art Night and Sculpture in the City, something I have blogged about recently after making other small discoveries. I have another post on some nearby artwork for this project here.
I love this kind of thing, something so unexpected that stares you straight in the face after turning a corner. And a reminder to always keep your head up wherever you go, as every corner is an opportunity for a little escape from normality.
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak I am somewhat limited as to what I can do in London, but I aim to post as much as I can during this time. I promise to have some great posts coming your way once this is all over as I continue to explore London.
Hello, it’s Sam. The guy that has been pretty AWOL so far in 2020, however I can proudly say that I have finally got my sh*t together and found a flat in the process. That and a lot more stability as I am located close to where I work in Old Street and that is certainly a blessing. No tube or buses to work, a simple five minute walk to blow away the cobwebs. I did try to find a place in close proximity however I didn’t expect to find somewhere this close.
I really don’t like spending time on transport.
So no more of these frustrated faces in Pret as I buy yet another coffee to kill the time and avoid going back to my roomshare.
I do like Pret though.
But anyway, less of my rambling. I have a new adventure to share with you.
In January I put two of London’s most popular market destinations up on Instagram and allowed those that follow me the chance to choose which one I would visit. The votes came in, and it was big victory for Covent Garden. Poor Borough Market didn’t stand a chance, but I will definitely be doing a blog post from there at some point due to it being such a historic market in London. Anything 1000 years old is worth a visit.
Now I have to say, after doing some research on IG stories it seems like I may have made a rookie mistake. I placed the vote box right in the middle of the screen, and some of you may know that to swipe through stories, you press the right hand side of the screen. This means that some of the votes for Covent Garden may have been accidents by those simply wanting to skip through my story, I am not sure. It would explain why CG received way more votes, but it could simply be a more popular choice.
Regardless I had a great day there, soaking up the great sunshine we were blessed with.
Here is my visit, as chosen by you, of Covent Garden.
Admittedly I didn’t know Covent Garden was a district, located between St Martin’s Lane and Drury Lane*. I thought the central square and market within was Covent Garden, however it is much larger than that containing many streets, pretty courtyards and hidden gems. It has had a long and interesting history- being a very popular fruit and veg market and even a red light district at one point- to the entertainment hub it is today full of bars and restaurants with Leicester Square right on its doorstep.
To get there, I took the Northern Line northbound to Kings Cross before switching to the Piccadilly Line westbound. Total journey time of 14 minutes, not bad at all.
Taking a right out of the exit barriers I found myself right in the heart of it all. Immediately I was walking on a cobbled street surrounded by beautiful buildings decorated with plants that bring colour, the White Lion pub on the corner immediately tempting me in before I even start to explore. I do come back to this spot later and take a left, for now I will continue down the street (Covent Garden’s main square can be seen in the background) to see what I can find.
What I was not expecting was a restaurant that Mark Wahlberg and his brother opened here in May 2019, the first of the chain to be opened outside of North America. This is the first time I had heard of Wahlburgers and as much as I wanted to go in, I refrained as I was meeting family in Camden Market for lunch later on.
It didn’t look particularly busy, there were many passers by taking a closer look after seeing the Wahlberg cutout outside, but not enough to get them through the doors. I guess it isn’t very well known here yet, I hope it picks up. I would like to pay a visit when I am next around the area, unexpected but a pleasant surprise for sure.
Heading down to the square, the market building is beautiful. I made sure to do a full 360 walk of this before peering inside. A timelapse around the building will be up on my Instagram story soon, so keep an eye out for that!
I am not sure if the tourists above were posing for the camera, there was no one behind me that’s for sure. But soon enough they headed inside and I followed suit through Central Avenue, or ‘Central Ave ue’ as it now appears. Whether the ‘N’ fell on someones head or was stolen for whatever reason I do not know. But this avenue is full of stores selling food, clothing and accessories and for those that spotted it, a famous pub called ‘Punch and Judy’.
Speaking of Punch and Judy, the show was mentioned by Samuel Pepys in his famous diary on May 9th, 1662. On this date it reads:
Up and to my office, and so to dinner at home, and then to several places to pay my debts, and then to Westminster to Dr. Castle, who discoursed with me about Privy Seal business, which I do not much mind, it being little worth, but by Watkins’s —[clerk of the Privy Seal]— late sudden death we are like to lose money. Thence to Mr. de Cretz, and there saw some good pieces that he hath copyed of the King’s pieces, some of Raphael and Michael Angelo; and I have borrowed an Elizabeth of his copying to hang up in my house, and sent it home by Will. Thence with Mr. Salisbury, who I met there, into Covent Garden to an alehouse, to see a picture that hangs there, which is offered for 20s., and I offered fourteen — but it is worth much more money — but did not buy it, I having no mind to break my oath. Thence to see an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that ever I saw, and great resort of gallants. So to the Temple and by water home, and so walk upon the leads, and in the dark there played upon my flageolette, it being a fine still evening, and so to supper and to bed.
Samuel Pepys diary, Friday 9th May 1662
It is referred to as ‘an Italian puppet play‘, and this is the first Punch and Judy play on record in England.
Covent Garden has a very old worldy feel to it. The architecture, the lighting… I feel frozen in time walking around and it helps me to imagine those like Pepys walking around enjoying the shows that we still see today. There is a basement level in the square, opening to two smaller seating areas for the bars and pie shops and the occasional singer/ musician performing to onlookers.
As I arrived a singer was performing a beautiful cover of ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen, casually sitting on the flat bit of the banister at the bottom of the stairs. This was shortly after getting down from a chair of which he climbed onto to sing to the one businessman alone there having lunch. He quickly gained attention not just from his great singing but his entertaining nature, walking up to those passing by and taking photos of the crowds themselves.
There were two acts I caught whilst here, and I regret not getting either of their names. Maybe I will find them online, and I am going to put some clips into a story in IG for you to check out, maybe someone knows who they are.
Crossing the road south we have Jubilee Market selling foods and typical tourist gifts.
And just a block behind this is a store with a really cool feature that I needed to share.
Ellis Brigham is a store for those into mountain sports, and inside is an ice climbing wall for those wanting to try out their new gear. It is hidden away at the back of the store and was such a cool find!
The wall stretches two floors, perfect for a little practice without even having to leave London.
But back into the warmth(?), walking north takes us back to the Underground, past the iconic red phone booths that were very popular with tourists taking shots.
I do love these phone boxes and hope they never leave us (not that this is likely), it is interesting to think what they could be turned into now the demand for such telephones has diminished. I once heard they could store defibrillators and other opportunities are endless really. It would certainly make use of a great space whilst allowing London to keep a part of its identity for decades and hopefully centuries to come.
This has got to be one of the prettiest streets in all of London. Located further north of the Underground (taking a left as you come out of the station) you will find this little hidden corner of bright and colourful buildings. On the morning I was pretty much alone to take all the shots I wanted, businesses slowly opening up and waiting for the afternoon rush.
Below, a man reading his newspaper making the most of the calm in a dreamy corner or Covent Garden. I would recommend Neal’s Yard to anyone visiting London and a must for photographers.
Got myself some inspiration on the way out…
The first selfie of the day!
The guy behind doesn’t look best pleased though, probably has to deal with tourists everyday. But that is what you get for living and working in London.
Now for any of you Harry Potter fans and/or collectors, this store is for you. I found it walking back from Neal’s Yard and the enthusiastic guy at the door won me over.
I am not sure what wand he was using, however you are absolutely spoiled for choice inside. Replica wands from the movies lined the walls and they looked great.
At first I tried to take pictures when the employees weren’t looking, in case for whatever reason I couldn’t take photos. I don’t know why I thought this, I guess it was because some items were very pricey. However they later told me it was fine to take shots on any type of camera.
I am in love with this Batman mask. Would love to have bought it!
This store was easy to find, take a left out of Covent Garden Station, cross the road and keep heading north past the pub on the corner and you are there. With the variety across two floors there is definitely a gift to take back to wherever you call home, or for that crazed Harry Potter fan we all know.
What’s that, that crazed fan is you?! I knew it.
I kept heading back to the station to not get lost, and it was a good base as most of the things I wanted to see led back here. Another is Floral Court, on the same street as the White Lion and again very beautiful.
Designer handbags with arms sticking out of them could be found, as well as a nice looking cafe named Arket, although the lack of ‘M’ was throwing me off a little. Same thief that stole the ‘N’ earlier? Possibly.
The Lamb and Flag is a very old pub and was a favourite watering hole of Charles Dickens. It has had a long and fascinating history, the pub was once known for its bare knuckle fights earning the nickname ‘The Bucket of Blood’ and the alleyway you can see below was the location of an attack on John Dryden in 1679 arranged by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester.
Floral Court is another lovely courtyard very close to the Lamb and Flag. I visited day and night and again it wasn’t too busy during the morning. I have learned that if I want to beat the tourists, get up for sunrise.
And how welcoming is this tree house, Dominique Ansel is an award winning pastry chef and I have linked the website below as the venue looks great.
Looking past the treehouse sign, a bright tunnel caught my attention. The Infinity Chamber is made up of thousands of LED’s that at the time was decorated for the Dominque Ansel Treehouse. This design and colour scheme is constantly changing so the chances are you will have a different sight to behold on your visit.
And the sun sets… if anything Covent Garden comes to life even more, the lights come on, people are finishing work and the vibes are good. This was after I went to see my family from the Isle of Wight for lunch in Camden Town, I recharged my camera batteries and started to revisit the places I had been during the day.
The courtyards looked great. The slideshow below highlights some of my views as I walked.
This is one for the foodies. A great place to socialise, Seven Dials Market was once a handful of small food stalls outside, they now take up a large indoor venue that was once a banana warehouse.
It was almost 9pm by the time I got done seeing everything I wanted to see, and decided to head back to the main square to soak up the atmosphere around there. This was the time I first noticed the Punch and Judy pub despite mentioning it quite early in this post, it stated on the window that it is ‘World Famous’ so for that reason I had to head down the stairs to the basement level and grab a drink.
It was cosy, built in 1787 and believed to be named after the performances in the area. I decided due to lack of room inside to sit in the oudoor-yet-still-indoor area, a little cold but fine with a jacket on. I am still not used to paying over £5 for a beer though, this one costing me £6.25.
That’s right, £6.25. I drank it quickly to forget the price.
And as I did a group of people came over to me, recognising the now worn Texas flag on my laptop.
It turns out that they were from Dallas and on holiday in London, Kenneth in the group being very kind and offering me a beer if I ever go back to TX and pay his restaurant a visit. Texans have always been friendly and a big reason as to why I would love to go back there someday.
But for now, I will remain in the UK. I am all traveled out and despite maybe taking a weekend break somewhere in the near future, anything longer than that probably won’t be on the cards for a while. I mean I don’t need to rush anywhere as I have so much to do here so I am okay with that.
And this is it! My first of many travel plans in London, chosen by you on Instagram. I will very shortly add this to my story on Insta, as well as my other social media pages with some video clips to go with them.
I had great fun in Covent Garden and like many places I will be visiting, I couldn’t do it all in one day. But I hope that I have given some inspiration for anyone planning a visit to London, Covent Garden is a must.
Thank you for reading, thank you for voting and I will see you in the comments!
I had a great time up in Edinburgh seeing family. The problem was catching a bad cold once I got back to London that had me in bed for a couple of days when I was planning to post about it. I am back down in London now on my days off work with enough energy, so hello again!
I know the trip to Edinburgh pretty well now, being my sisters current home and my mum’s birthplace. You may know it well now too, as I have posted about it many times. It is a great city. Beautiful, not too busy, easy to walk around… I am always happy to give it another visit. And from my mum’s home in Durham it isn’t a long journey at all. This will cause a little deja vu in some of you that have seen previous posts from Edinburgh, but it isn’t a city you can go to and not talk about again and again.
As I was checking the train times I noticed on the screen that trains were delayed. Pretty standard really. What I haven’t seen before however was a description as to why they were delayed, in particular on this specific and tragic occasion.
It actually told us that someone was hit by a train between Grantham and Newark North Gate. It is very sad to hear and we have no way of knowing if this was fatal, although the chances of course are very high. I was surprised that it mentioned exactly what happened as I would have just expected a ‘due to an incident’ kind of message. My mum and I had the person in our thoughts as we waited for the train, this gave us a reminder of how precious life is. I hope the family are okay.
So many people, it is impossible to know all of the struggles people go through. And despite seeing something like that on a board it is still hard to become too emotional. I have no idea who the person is and what they look like… Is it a boy or a girl? Young or old? Was it someone loving life and were incredibly happy that simply had an accident, or someone that couldn’t live for another moment? All we can do is read the text and try to imagine how awful this news would have been for their family that day. A reminder that just because we can’t see or know about other people’s problems it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Or that we are the only ones that have problems. This helps me to get by when times are hard.
A peaceful train journey was had, and we arrived at our destination.
A cold and cloudy day, but this didn’t really matter too much. It gives the streets more of a dramatic feel, the statues looking down to us below a dark sky that reminds me of a darker history.
Red telephone boxes losing their red over a time when telephone boxes are more for photographs than for calling. They have become pretty useful for those wanting to advertise brands or send out messages to the world in the form of stickers.
Below, the golden toe of philosopher David Hume. It has become tradition for passers by to rub his toe for wisdom or luck. Some do it just to keep the pastime going.
As travel often does, we arrived quite peckish. We met my sister and decided to find somewhere that after midday would still serve breakfast as we were hoping to be there and eating a little earlier. We found this friendly pub (not the one in the above photo however) that would happily do this after the bartender checked with the chef.
I mean who wouldn’t want to go into a pub with a Scottish monkey as a mascot?
We sat and ate, I went for the Scottish breakfast. A little variation from the full english, the weird things you can see on my plate are as follows:
Haggis– savoury pudding, ingredients include sheep heart, liver, lungs and stomach. Interestingly looking this up I learned that traditional haggis has been banned in the US since 1971. Apparently no food consumed in the US is allowed to contain sheep lung.
Black pudding– also popular south of the border. A blood sausage consisting of pigs blood, mixed with oats, herbs and spices.
Tattie scones– (seen underneath my fried egg and toast) basically a potato scone, ‘tattie’ being a sottish term for potato.
It is certainly not for vegetarians/vegans, and I felt a million miles away from this whilst eating it. As I get older I am looking into vegetarianism/veganism more, and although I haven’t set out to be one I think I may at some point give it a go. It is hard changing up a lifestyle that I am used to, but I guess today is easier than ever.
Having this breakfast is like a time machine. In that old pub I felt what it would have been like to eat such a meal with family in the warmth by the fire whilst the cold, dark nights roll in.
Speaking of tougher times, we headed up the Royal Mile to the castle where I discovered a little memorial to those poor souls that were literally burned for witchcraft.
The castle is amazing as it sits right on top of an extinct volcano. The rock formed after an eruption 340 million years ago and later (much, much later!) provided a suitable place for a castle.
Here I am getting my castle fix.
The sound of bagpipes flow through the streets and it is a great sound. It is a reminder of the proud history Scotland has and the patriotism still seen today. And I can’t walk past the monument below without taking a moment to take it in and grab a few shots as I do. Scott Monument is my favourite structure so far in the city, it just looks awesome.
At the time Remembrance Day was taking place for fallen soldiers, hence the poppies and crosses on the grass around it.
The sun decided to come out and really made a difference.
Now I know the Scottish like to drink, but this is on another level. I decided to go for a drink with my mum after we said our goodbye’s to my sister and waited for the train back. We headed to a hotel bar providing nice views of the city.
As I headed to the toilet, I kid you not some guy left his trousers on the bathroom floor.
Trousers!! I must have deleted this picture from my phone so I went back into my Instagram story.
It looked like they were taken off in a hurried manner as change spilled onto the floor. There was no one in the bathroom, however when a housekeeper came in he looked just as confused as I was. I decided that I didn’t want to get drunk enough to forget my own jeans so left after one and headed to two of the cities museums.
A little further down Princes St are two buildings opposite one another. The Scottish National Gallery displaying historical paintings and the Royal Scottish Academy of contemporary art. As I do not know too much about art I preferred the Scottish National Gallery, as the artworks made more sense. They were created by talented artists and I could see the effort that went into them without any further knowledge needed.
Contemporary art is more hit and miss for me. Some of it I liked, like the sculpture below.
Others not so much, such as the colourful thing below with a very hefty price tag.
I try to be open minded but if something doesn’t blow me away on first looking, it has to do really well to impress me after that. I didn’t catch the meaning behind the one above, but looking at it I feel I could achieve that. I just have to assume that there is something more to it that is above my comprehension, or a meaning that is so clever it has to be interpreted in this very way. Maybe if I knew the meaning I could understand just how perfectly the sculpture represents it and respect it a little more. Who knows.
In the space left on the floor I couldn’t help to think what if I brought along the guys abandoned jeans? Place it in the centre of the floor, change scattered around it and see who takes interest. See what meanings would arise. I mean everything has a meaning, I would call the piece ‘despair’.
Art of the times, our fast paced lives, the way we live and the contrast to how we want to live. The struggle to get our lives in order when the easier option is to grab a beer and slowly forget with each sip that our lives aren’t in order. Wearing jeans is a cultural but not a physical necessity to get through life, alcohol blurring the line between what is needed and what is accepted. The small change representing our willingness to waste many tools that help us, not realising that what seems minuscule and a burden in our pockets are small grains of sand that form a beach. A beach isn’t possible without these grains of sand.
I was hoping my next blog post would be celebrating England winning the World Cup in rugby, but after South Africa beat us 32-12 that isn’t going to happen. Still, it was fun to head to the pub at 9am to watch it with a bunch of other England supporters.
And one South African fan that made sure he could be seen from anywhere in the pub…
I was working that day at 2.30pm, so I only had a coffee. Honestly. The weather matched our mood as it poured down, a good day to work. This was the 2nd November, a few days ago so apologies for the late post. And thank you to everyone that commented on my last post regarding the logo. I am always thinking of ways I could add to or improve my blog, and was considering something visual that could be associated with it. I am not very artistic but it is fun to try new things.
Another reason for my absence (as you can maybe see above) is that I have bought a new camera. It is the GoPro 7 Hero Silver, a cheaper version of the still pretty new GoPro Hero 7 series, the Black edition being the best of the bunch. I haven’t used a GoPro before so couldn’t justify the £280 ($360 US) pricetag, Silver has less features but over £100 cheaper. So far I am really enjoying using it, creating time lapses and testing out what it can do.
So far I have done the most trying out on the 4th, as I am now on a weeks holiday and decided to see my mum and sister back up north. This meant taking a train from Kings Cross to Bishop Auckland, from the south east to the north east of England.
For anyone on Instagram I have uploaded my journey to the story, full of quick clips on route. As it has been over 24 hours the story has disappeared, but what I like is that you can permanently save the story to the user home screen underneath the bio section.
Annoyingly when I try to upload video clips onto my blog it takes forever to load and eventually displays an error message. The national anthem video above worked, but since then I have had problems and even that took forever. For that reason I will probably add photos on here and leave the clips for my Instagram. Smaller clips may be possible, I will have to see. But as this is more of a blog than a vlog, I am happy to stick to photos to accompany the writing.
First stop, Kings Cross.
Kings Cross is in easy reach of my current base. From London Bridge Station it is only a couple of stops north on the Northern Line, and once there just a couple of escalators up to ground level and to Kings Cross itself.
The first thing that you notice upon entering the station is the roof. It was part of a £500 million restoration in 2012, and is visually very impressive.
A giant poppy can be seen at the time of posting, representing the poppy worn in respect to those that sacrificed their lives in the First World War. Remembrance Day is on the 11th November, and a two minute silence is held at 11am on this date every year.
Tens of millions of people enter and exit the station every year, as well as St Pancras station across the road from it. Eurostar operates from St Pacras, taking travellers to Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Kings Cross is the station that links London to the rest of the country.
Another thing that Kings Cross is known for is Platform 9 3/4, introduced to this world through the Harry Potter books. A cool feature is permanently located close to platforms 9 and 10 in Kings Cross, with a big line of excited tourists ready to make the magical journey through the wall.
What is your Hogwarts House? I would like to know as I have no idea what mine would be, maybe you can tell through my blog posts? I am sure I fit into one of them! Also, I have a timelapse from this very spot on my Instagram page linked below.
The journey time from London to Darlington is roughly 2 hours and 46 minutes. Paris is in fact a quicker and closer destination, the average journey time being 2 hours 16 minutes.
From Darlington, I would board a smaller train through County Durham, taking around half an hour.
I managed to get first class for a good price from London to Darlington, £37 which includes a little bit more space, breakfast, lunch or dinner (depending on the time of journey) and a couple glasses of wine to go along with it. I boarded just before noon meaning I got to enjoy lunch, which made having a glass of wine just a little bit more acceptable. That and the two Geordie girls on the food cart that convinced me to go for it.
I happily obliged.
Being back in Bishop was nice. Much, much quieter than London but I am happy with that. I took to the almost desolate streets to take a few photographs on my GoPro. Some of these streets may look familiar to you from this post when I first got back from Australia. This time around the weather wasn’t as good, but at least it didn’t rain.
One thing I love about British weather is the ever changing cloud patterns. It is possible to get a new shot every few minutes with the sun constantly being blocked and bursting through the clouds again, brightness levels and cloud colours constantly changing. I love a good gaze out of the window back home and over the rolling hills, watching the sheets of rain make their way through the fields and hitting the window pane, wave after wave.
Below, an abandoned path and stairway that I never knew existed. This is taken on a viaduct that crosses the River Wear, I didn’t jump over the fencing but I’m still intrigued to know whether it still takes you somewhere.
I enjoyed this journey north. The train journey was great, the sun came out towards the end and I loved getting out and taking a few snaps. And from here, a couple of days with my mum before another train journey north again to Edinburgh. We are spending time with my sister to take in some sights and some quality family time.
Thank you for reading, Edinburgh blog coming soon!
Hey everyone, as you can see I made it to London and I am really excited to start blogging around this great city. A city I haven’t properly explored before, I will be based here for the foreseeable future. I work roughly a ten minute walk south of London Bridge (to the right of this shot), the bridge I am standing on.
When I first got to London the weather was great. And despite the odd torrential downpour it has stayed relatively mild. I am hoping that despite the inevitable cold snaps that will come with winter, I will get enough sunshine to use in my posts. I want to spend my first few months here getting out and about whilst I still feel like a tourist.
And with that I have an idea of how I want to plan my London travels. I have been on various travel websites looking at the classic ‘top ten must do’s’ and ‘101 things you can’t leave London without experiencing’ and have complied a list of those I find interesting. Some are obvious picks and others are a little bit different. It is safe to say I won’t run out of ideas anytime soon.
As those on Instagram will know, there is an option to do polls in the ‘Story’ section of the app… usually it’s asking people to choose whether ketchup or brown sauce is better or whether to have a night out or Netflix. I want to use this option to suggest things to do in London, two things of a similar nature. An example of this is let you choose one of two world famous attractions to visit or two markets to explore. You choose, and I go there. I think this will be a great way to help with my decision making on a weekly basis and allow you to have some input. Choices that aren’t successful will be used again later down the line with another option as there will be some that I will be dying to see no doubt.
Travels chosen by Instagram. I am looking forward to giving it a go!
If you have Instagram great, I would love you to join in once I start uploading my ‘this or that’ polls. If not don’t worry, I will be uploading the main posts to WordPress once a decision has been made with the result of said decision and my experiences there. This will give me more than enough to post about every week and I will try to keep them all fun and entertaining.
What do you all think? It is a little different for my blog, I gained some inspiration for this from some bigger names using the Insta feature, such as Yes Theory.
Okay, so the main reason I visited Berlin was because the band Muse were playing in the city on the European leg of their Simulation Theory Tour. And because I have never visited Germany prior to this I thought I would tick two things off the list at once. See Berlin, and see Muse perform on this current tour.
It was a beautiful evening in Berlin, the rain held off and getting to the Mercedes-Benz Arena was pretty simple. What helped was seeing it on route from the airport, knowing it was in easy reach.
Knowing the hassle of lining for food during live events I opted to grab a beer and a burger outside. Enough to see me through the evening, support act and all. I watched through the restaurants windows as the queue shortened, and waited for the best time to enter. After all I knew the majority of people would be seated, and that getting to the front isn’t all that difficult with enough dedication.
Getting in before the support act started meant that only those that truly want to be at the front would be there already. However I am sure many had the same idea as me and would kind of just analyse the situation before making a fairly late surge to the front, after all by staying at the very front from the moment you enter the arena you sacrifice two things. One, precious beer time. There were guys walking around with beer backpacks however they would struggle to reach anyone too far down. And secondly, toilet breaks. From my experience at the front, if you ever wonder why people near the barriers seemingly want to throw a whole pint of beer away unnecessarily as it sprays onto those in the projectiles path, it probably isn’t beer. It’s just easier if you pretend it is.
My dilemma was that I wanted beers, it helps me relax when surrounded by thousands of sweaty people and zero personal space. So I kept an eye on how crowded it was getting at the front, and how hard it would be to get there later on. I bought a Muse cup from those ghostbuster-looking beer guys, knowing that I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep hold of it all night.
And as the support act came on, Des Rocs, I contemplated when would be the best time for a toilet break. I overheard that Muse were coming on around 8.45pm, and as the crowd wasn’t too packed to squeeze through I decided to predict when the support would be finishing up and made a break for it.
I got back when it started to totally fill. And I was in good position. Now I want to let you know that since I have been back I have seen Muse TWICE! Once in Berlin and then London. So I decided to get lots of footage of this gig and just enjoy the London one. Also during the London gig Matt announced that they were filming it for a movie next year, even more reason to put the phone away.
For those that don’t really know this band, their latest album is called Simulation Theory. The band tend to do a rock album, a more experimental one and then back to a more basic rock album. This is the more experimental one, heavily influenced by 80’s music and styles. The artwork and video’s are evidence of this also. The last album tour was for Drones, the heavier style with the band pretty much wearing all black and having an excuse to play some of their heavier songs not played for a while. This tour is a lot more colourful, catchier for the neutral but still managing to get some of their heaviest stuff in there.
The setlist was as follows:
Break It to Me (my favourite song on the new album)
Plug In Baby
Pray (High Valyrian)
The Dark Side
Supermassive Black Hole
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
Time Is Running Out
Take a Bow
Stockholm Syndrome / Assassin / Reapers / The Handler / New Born
Knights of Cydonia
It is almost impossible for me to choose a favourite song, I have a few that are contenders. However the main reason for deciding to see this tour was the ‘Metal Medley’ of Stockholm Syndrome / Assassin / Reapers / The Handler / New Born. Instead of playing all of these songs in their entirety, they played a shortened version of each lasting a total of roughly 15 minutes. Stockholm Syndrome and New Born are two of my favourite songs of all time, so having them shortened was at first a little disappointing, however seeing what they have done with it looked incredible in fan footage from earlier stops on the tour.
I cannot wait to introduce you to Murph…
But firstly, a little footage from Psycho.
This song was made made from a riff they have been playing live since 99′. Pretty incredible that it was only a riff until 2015! It was originally dubbed the ‘0305030’ riff as these are the tabs to play it on guitar.
And as I mentioned, Break it to Me is my favourite from the new album. It’s grungy sound mixed with eastern melodies and a cool sounding solo works really well. Not to mention Matt’s amazing vocals.
Now below is another new song that I love. It was written by Matt Bellamy for Game of Thrones. It really feels like it was made for the GoT world, a great piece of music. I would highly recommend listening to ‘Pray‘ in it’s entirety.
And in my opinion, one of greatest basslines ever written. Chris is one hell of a bass player!!
Madness, a song that really grew on me. I love the passion in his voice during the song and how his glasses bring up the lyrics as he is singing them.
And below, Mercy seems to be their favourite song for firing confetti cannons into the crowd and creating one of the biggest spectacles of the show. Matt decided to sing on his knees with a German flag over his head.
Take a Bow. I remember listening to this song for the first time in 2006 like it was yesterday. I had my chunky white mp3 player and a newly downloaded Muse song from the album which really did get experimental. I remember hearing this opening song and the rest of the album and thinking ‘this is Muse?!’ but in the best way possible. You would probably have to listen to the whole track to hear how unique it is. No chorus, no verse, but a gradual build up into rock, electronic epicness. ‘Death, you bring death’ as you can hear is aimed towards politicians about a certain war.
And another huge crowd pleaser.
This stage set up was probably one of my favourites of all the times I have seen them live. Lots of action, lots of colour from Matt’s special glasses to his illuminated jacket to the vampires spreading contagious thoughts. Thought Contagion is a song that is influenced by American politics and media right now (he spends a lot of time in the USA with his family as his wife is American and he has a place in LA) seeing how thoughts can be spread like a virus and the problems that can bring.
And now, to the part I had been waiting for. The start of the metal medley that I watched in earlier gigs and thought ‘holy sh*t, I need to see this live’.
The opening riff to Stockholm Syndrome and the slow emergence of Murph the Robot truly gave me goosebumps and was a damn impressive sight.
What a moment! Towering above the band, only matched by their incredible sound. Muse truly know how to put on a show and this is evidence as to why they are considered one of the greatest live bands of all time.
Dom killing it on the drums during Assassin, with Murph truly coming to life.
The detail used in his construction is amazing. From the screws as eyes to the details on his back (seen in footage from those in seats slightly behind him) means a lot of credit has to go to the company that created him for the show.
The solo during New Born, the very first song I heard from them back in 2003. I was at a friends house playing Risk the board game and this came on Kerrang Radio. I am still not bored of it to this day and would love to know the actual number of times I have listened to it since then.
Matt being that teasing older sibling to poor Murph…
Fun fact: Matt Bellamy made it into the Guinness World Records for the most guitars smashed on a single tour. In 2004 he smashed a total of 140.
And there goes another one..
And with that, another gig. My 6th, and I would be surprised if I didn’t make it to at least ten in the next few years. Heck it would be in the hundreds by now if I was financially capable, but seeing how the tours have evolved and how the band has progressed in general has been amazing. I am luckier than some to see the amount of live gigs that I have, and they are always a magical experience, whoever you go to see.
I hope you enjoyed the post from the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Did you have a favourite shot or even song that you like by them? Let me know as I am always delighted to meet fellow Musers!
But even in general, it is just nice to be able to share what and who I love with you all, and learning about what you love in return. We all have inspirations and these guys are mine. Thank you for reading, and I will see you all from London!
Checkpoint Charlie is the closest tourist spot to where I was staying. It is largely a reconstruction of the east/west border crossing in Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie (or Checkpoint C) was the name used by the Western Allies at this particular site between 1947-91. It was also the location for the stand-off between Soviet and US tanks in 1961, the dispute over a US diplomat crossing the border. It ended peacefully almost a week later after both armies agreed to slowly move their tanks back.
As you can see above, a replica of the guardhouse sits before a picture of a soldier. A sign to the right of it informs you that ‘You are leaving the American sector’.
After the Berlin Wall was taken down, some sections of wall remained standing. These sections are a reminder of what life would have been like with the wall dividing the country, and many parts of the wall are decorated with paintings, messages, padlocks and at this section, chewing gum.
What I didn’t know which I found pretty fascinating was that there is a line that runs through the city to show where the Berlin Wall once stood. You can see the brickwork below leaving the actual wall and heading into the distance.
Larger sections of wall were found close to the German finance building talked about in Part One. From here I learned that the wall wasn’t just one wall but two, separated by a ‘death strip’ filled with trenches, barbed wire fencing, landmines and armed guards. Sand was used in the strip to detect footprints that would lead to those looking to cross the border illegally. This is why despite the wall being pretty small, the chances of crossing it were very low and incredibly dangerous.
The wall was incredibly long, over 140km in length.
The left hand picture above is the location of President Ronald Reagan’s famous speech, declaring “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!”
The brick trail showing where the Berlin Wall once stood can be seen here.
This is the section of wall that I talked about in Part One, full of artwork and the longest stretch of wall I had found. I am glad I found this before I left Berlin, I love how such an oppressive structure can be used to display messages of love, as well as a reminder for us to not repeat history.
This is all from my Berlin trip, it was only a few days and one of them involved a gig, so time was limited. But I would certainly visit again to see what I have missed, and would love to see more of Germany.
Where else would people recommend I visit in this great country? Let me know, and thank you for reading.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a large area consisting of 2,711 concrete concrete blocks dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It is a powerful memorial in Berlin that was completed in 2004, designed by architect Peter Eisenman.
The true scale of the memorial can be seen from above, although this would have to be from a nearby building as drones aren’t allowed.
The memorial invites you to take a walk between the blocks. No two blocks are the same, varying in size and reminding us that each and every victim was different. Someone with unique characteristics and personality.
The concrete blocks are all grey in colour, and no happy emotions can be gathered from the site.
As you walk, you find yourself getting smaller and smaller as the blocks become more and more intimidating. You almost become lost as the light starts to fade and sound of traffic slowly fades.
According to our guide, the slightly off balance blocks and differing heights of the columns is intentional to give the onlooker a sense of unease and/or dizziness, an unsettling feeling that is still in no way comparable to the experiences of the victims.
This memorial is a must in Berlin, it isn’t often that I will recommend something that would intentionally be unsettling, however a trip to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without a visit.
A short walk takes us to the Brandenburg Gate, built in the late 1700’s and remains one of Germany’s most popular landmarks.
In 1806, the Quadriga at the top of the monument (the lady and horse-drawn cart seen in more detail below) was stolen by Napoleons soldiers. The Quadriga returned to Berlin after Napoleon was defeated. After the defeat the square was renamed Pariser Platz or ‘Paris Square’. The goddess of victory behind the four horses seems to be looking directly at the French Embassy located in the square.
Who recognises the hotel above? Hotel Adlon is a luxury hotel in the square. It is also known for being the hotel that Michael Jackson was seen dangling his baby out of the window, one of the windows under the ‘Hotel Adlon’ sign that is seen on the right hand side of the building from the angle above.
And from the gate the large EU and German flags of the Reichstag Building can be seen. The Reichstag is home to the Bundestag, the German Parliament. The building is well known due the arson attack it suffered in 1933, not long after Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. It became the home of the German Parliament again after a full restoration in 1999.
The glass dome is actually open to visitors, and bookings are to be made in advance. Our guide told us that the glass dome also represents the parliaments desire for transparency with the German people.
Again, I would love if a German speaker was able to help me out here. I am not sure what this protest was about (I assume it is a protest) but I made my way over to check it out.
When I was in Australia I noticed that Muse were touring Europe, and would be in Amsterdam and Berlin just after I got back. They did (a few months after I bought tickets) announce more UK dates however at the time I was torn between visiting these two great European cities. I have been to Amsterdam a couple times now, and this helped me make my decision.
I booked my flights, headed to Edinburgh airport and prepared for my first trip to Germany.
The weather wasn’t great upon boarding. However what better way to get you in the mood for a trip! But with Berlin being not too far away I wasn’t sure what the weather would be like there. Nor did I take a look at the forecast.
I arrived in a wet Berlin, it looked like it had just stopped raining however I thankfully avoided a downpour. I was pretty peckish upon leaving the airport and the first thing I found was a small food stand just outside of the airport as I headed to the train station. I dodged the puddles with my suitcase and headed for the small stand, offering some of Germany’s most popular cuisines.
I bought myself a currywurst, German sausage with ketchup and curry powder.
I got the train to the city, it wasn’t too much hassle nor did it take too long. The food was just enough to keep the hunger at bay as I headed to the centre.
I avoided the British temptations…
Now I ended up getting off at a station when I felt I was in the centre, in classic Sam style I didn’t have a hostel booked beforehand so I planned to head to a coffee shop and do just this. As I was walking down the escalator after getting off the train I met a really nice lady that was a little lost. She asked me something in German and I responded by apologizing that I only speak English, hoping of course that she understood. She did, and spoke English fluently and asked me how to find a certain trainline. Coincidentally it was the only one I knew, as it was the one I just got off. In return I asked where the best place to go is for someone that hasn’t been to the city before, and she recommended Hackescher Markt, a vibrant square in the city full of bars and restaurants. She told me that the line she was looking for went past here, and she insisted I follow her to the train and she would get off at this station and walk the rest of the way to her destination. It was a very kind gesture, we shook hands, exchanged names and went our separate ways.
I believe her name was Anker, the way she pronounced it was ‘anchor’ although I am unsure of the spelling. Anker? Janker?* She told me she was German but not from Berlin, I would appreciate if someone was to help me know what her name was exactly.
Sometimes you meet lovely people like this, she only knew me for 30 seconds however was still more than happy to show me where to go in person. This admittedly put me in a good mood as the guy serving me the currywurst at the airport was maybe the most miserable person I have tried to talk to in a long time. It wasn’t the best first impression but this lady at the train station restored my faith. So I thank her for that and for being a good person.
Update: Thank you to Mona Dee for letting me know the girl’s name is probably Anke, a popular name in northern Germany. Much appreciated!
I had a little wander around the surrounding streets as the rain started to fall.
I noticed the red and green ‘Ampelmann’ from some of the pedestrian crossings had his own store. Seems like he is pretty well known. After reading up on him I learned that before the Berlin Wall came down, East and West Germany had two difference sets of red and green lights at crossings. The west had a generic human figure similar to what we have in the UK, and east had this male figure. Since then the figure has acquired cult status and souvenir shops such as this one.
What I found funny about Berlin is that the rules regarding these Lime scooters are much more relaxed. I saw people riding past police without helmets, in fact I didn’t see a single helmet with any of the scooters. In Brisbane this would have not been possible, a hefty fine was handed out to anyone without a helmet.
As my phone battery was getting low and the rain heavier, I found a place I was guaranteed wifi to book a hostel and get my bearings. I have also quit caffeine in my coffee, and feel so much more focused for it. I enjoy the taste and realised I don’t need the kick, I got addicted in Melbourne and started to feel pretty terrible as a result. I also found it hard to find decaffeinated coffee in Berlin, I guess it is because I can’t speak German as I am sure coffee shops must sell decaffeinated, so found myself heading to Starbucks for my decaf-kick.
I booked a hostel for a good rate near Checkpoint Charlie and headed to the station.
What I didn’t know was that when I bought a ticket I had to validate it in these machines. I just jumped on the first train without using it and only realised upon getting off at my stop after seeing others doing it. Thankfully there were no ticket inspectors around.
I arrived at Kochstraße station, my hostel was just around the corner.
Now I am hoping this is just sheer coincidence but Mr Currywursts title of being the most miserable person I have ever met only lasted a couple of hours, as Mr Hostel receptionist snatched that title with two hands. Holy crap he was a misery, it was almost comical. The only reason he talked to me more was because he had to to give me a key. I was relieved to see it wasn’t just me he was like this with, after going to have a shower in the hostel I kid you not this is what one guest decided to warn us all about on the back of the shower door.
Dude at reception is a miserable c**t that hates everyone.
Vending machine only works 50% of the time. The other 50% is takes your money.
Reception dude hates everyone.’
Even funnier was that someone else decided the following day to write ‘Agreed!’ underneath it, reminding me further that sometimes we just shouldn’t take things personally. Sometimes the behaviour of some is a reflection of themselves and not you. But I started to miss the lovely lady at the train station very fast indeed.
In my room was a lovely Argentinian girl called Jorja. We decided as day turned to night we would have a wander in the city and not waste the evening. We had a sneak peak at Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall. All of these places I will talk about further in parts two and three of my Berlin trip.
Now below is the biggest dome I have ever seen. It looks like an entertainment complex below it with cinemas and restaurants, however the highlight of this place has to be that roof.
And not far from here, the Brandenburg Gate. It looks very impressive at night.
Berlin doesn’t hide from it’s darker past, and the many memorials in the city are a reminder of this and that we don’t want a repeat.
I don’t like taking photos without at least giving some change, so I gave this guy what small change I had. He pulled out a hand fan with the word ‘thanks’ on it before I could take a picture. He didn’t even stop playing, a real pro.
As you can see the weather improved a lot, and remained great for the rest of the trip.
I decided to go back to the huge dome and see it during daylight, it was just as impressive if not more with the light shining through. This area is called Potsdamer Platz.
The following day I did a walking tour, I managed to get the last English speaking tour of the day. The tour leader was from Mexico and moved here a few years back. He was very informative and in a group of six we went to some of the major sights in the city. Some of these sights will be in part 2 and 3 of the posts.
Below, the location of Hitlers Bunker.
The bunker is way bigger than I had thought, you can see above how many rooms it has, I believe it was over 30. This was a fascinating stop on the tour, as despite being the location of Hitler’s death you would have no idea walking past. There isn’t anything but a car park and surrounding flats, the sign above is the only thing there that informs you of the locations significance.
This mural below can be found at Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus, a building that was home to the German Ministry of Aviation. This building survived the war, our tour guide saying that it was preserved by the allies so they could use it as a landmark for where they needed to bomb around it. It is now used as a tax office, so I guess the building itself hasn’t exactly won people over since the war. The mural outside is very impressive though, completed in the 50’s, depicting a happier future for Germans.
Just outside the building, we learned about the Berlin Wall. I have saved the pictures for the next parts however I share this image with you from the area. This hot air balloon rises 150 meters into the air, connected to the ground by a steel cable. An amazing event happened in East Germany on September 16th, 1979, two families made a hot air balloon out of materials they bought and successfully escaped across the border to the west. They rose to over 8,000ft, enough to make them detectable on radar but not identifiable. Their first balloon attempt didn’t make it, and to prevent the police from finally closing in on who did it, they quickly made another and attempted a second time. They made it across, the only injury being a broken leg. Amazing!
Below, another stop on the tour. This is Gendarmenmarkt, a square consisting of the Berlin concert hall and a French and German church to the left and right as you exit the hall. I was like a mirror had been put in the square, with the two churches being seemingly identical.
I bought my mum some chocolates from a nearby chocolate company. I was recommended by the tour guide and they were very good indeed.
Sadly I didn’t stay long enough to check out some of Berlin’s best examples of street art and murals, but I did see some smaller ones on route.
I remember seeing a bar I really wanted to try out when I first got to Hackescher Markt, so I did. Behind the bar was a really friendly and helpful Berliner that was happy to have conversation and let me know of some places to try out.
I told the bartender that I was going to head towards the Mercedes-Benz Arena as this was somewhere I was told to head for a few bars. She said she wouldn’t really go there herself, she preferred the bars along the river at Holzmarkt. She also told me about Resident Advisor, a must for people that want info on the city.
So off I went on a search for another bar.
Now I don’t know if I headed to the wrong place or if it was more of a daytime area, but I didn’t find anywhere lively when I got off the train in Holzmarkt. I probably headed to the wrong place.
And as I didn’t really know the area I went into the first bar I could find open. It seemed like your typical local pub, full of men chatting over a smoke and a beer and occasionally looking over to the obvious outsider. It was decent though, I enjoyed my beer here before heading closer to the arena.
And a very happy and very strange ending to the night came when I arrived at the arena. I noticed some of the Berlin Wall is located here, with some impressive artwork along it. I took some shots as I walked along it and out of nowhere I bumped into Jorja again! She was with some friends from the hostel and I was grateful to be invited along with them to a bar they heard about. It was very busy, we had a lot of fun and walked back to the hostel which I didn’t know was in walking distance. That’s the funny thing being in a big city for the first time, you can spend an hour getting on and off train and could be right next to or a million miles away from where you started. The night ended, I looked forward to seeing Muse the following night and I also look forward to sharing the pictures from some more parts of the walking tour from this day.
I hope you enjoyed part one, as well as all the shots from the trip so far!