Archive for June, 2007

Big Ben

[2007.06.29] Left office late today around 7:20pm, and not sure where to go after news that London police foiled a terror plot today. So I just took a walk along Victoria St. towards river Thames direction. This is mostly an office area I guess because the streets are not crowded at all after 7pm.

Just after a while, the familiar Westminster area of architectures start to show up everywhere. The first I guess is the Westminster Abbey, where all the Royal people buried inside - really kind of bad place. Around the south side of the Parliament Square, there are all types of small or big tower, palace or church shaped buildings; among them, I know the “House of Parliament” and of course the Big Ben tower. In fact, right at the moment I passed by the tower, the Big Ben rang bell at 8 o’clock.

Going a little further, comes the Westminster bridge, stretching over the river connecting to South Bank. The river Thames is small and dirty, far away from expectation. And London Eye is not that impressive either, just like the wheel at Walnut Creek Festival.


Visiting Buckingham Palace

[2007.06.28] The office is pretty much empty at 6:00pm, but it is still too early to go back Hotel. So I decied to go by Buckingham Palace, Green Park, Hyde Park area and have dinner on the Fifth Floor of Harvey Nickol’s. Buckingham Palace is Queen’s residence, and the
surrounding area is quite decent clean buildings. In front of the Palace, the Queen’s Gardens attracts more attention than the Palace itself inside iron fence.

As I walked toward Green park,there were two lines of people waiting along one fence door, with one police car block the traffic and several police on BMW motors, waiting for some one coming out the Palace. Two cars came out, and the police car and motors followed and disappeared; there were a string of all types of cars coming out Queen’s house, and went to different directions. I realized that today is Brown’s first full-day in office as Prime Minister, and a complete new Cabinet. It seemed that the new Cabinet was reporting to Her Majesty Queen on its first day. Quite a historical day!

It’s a pleasant walk along Constitution Hill in Green Park. And right outside the park, it is a Wellington Arch and a small square which connects to Hyde Park. Harvey Nickol’s is just outside of park. As described by the travel book, it is a main shopping destination in London, but I don’t think it can even compare to the shops in San Francisco Union square. However, the price tag of everything is very high, e.g. a jean at 200 pounds, kind of rip-off.

Had a dinner at Yo Sushi on The Fifth Floor, an ok Sushi bar. Maybe I am too spoiled already with food in Los Angeles and San Francisco.


Walk in the rain

[2007.06.27] It was raining in the evening, so I just had a Singapore Laksa near my hotel. Since the night does not get dark until 11pm, I decided to take a walk in the misty light rain.

Along the Cromwell Rd., there are many classical buildings painted in fairly fresh white, make the street a little upscale. I think most of them are apartments. Maybe students at the Imperial College and the Royal College of Music live those buildings. Just walked by two blocks, the Natural History Museum stands on the other side of street. It looks like a typical grand Church, which I guess was designed by Prince Albert. Right next to it, it is Victoria & Albert Museum. Unlike his wife, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert is not interested in ruling, but is a talented artist and architect. He set forth the design and construction of magnificant structures in this Kensington area.

When I got to Knightsbridge, it is getting late (although still plenty of daylight), I took a two-level bus and sat on the upper deck to view the city while going back.


Exploring Chinatown

[2007.06.26] It is time to pay a visit to Chinatown and check out the restaurants. It is not far from Victoria to Chinatown area (but I don’t know the exact place). Getting out of Leicester station, following people to a pretty shaddy backstreet, where lines up many Chinese restaurants on one side of street, while the other side looks seemingly deserted buildings, with a sign reads Lisle St. After walked out the ally, there were many more people on a bigger Whitcomb street, and turned around to Gerrard Street, which is much more bigger and more crowded, pedestrian-only street. Now all types of Chinese restaurants show on both side of streets, but strangly, there are not many Chinses shops. After turned around and back to Lisle street, I ate a decent Chinese meal of Duckfeet in a hotpot. After dinner, I walked down toward Picadily Circus where I can took Tube. Several Casinos, and many music shops line up along the way.

As approaching Picadily Circus, it was like going to ancient enropean street, magificant building and structure, Opera house, and a large status in the middle of Circus. It was quite a scene even in the night around 11pm, lots of people wandering around.


First day in John Lewis office

[2007.06.25] I took Tube from Gloucester Rd to Victor station in the morning. Victor coach station is a busy central station where is also national railway station and Gatwick express station. It is very close to Buckingham Palace too, so I plan in next couple day I will walk to the Queen’s residence during lunch break.

John Lewis office is not far from the station, right on Victor Rd. People at Jonh Lewis seem to be friendly and laid-back. They come to office around 9am and start to leave at 5:00pm. You do not see people in office after 6:00pm. During a meeting, they chatted more about some stories and upcoming “treasure-hunt” on Wednesday - it is for the colleagues as a group to go to many pubs, one after one, and have drinks! British drink lots of beers, while French drink wine.

The night in London is rather strange, it seems never go complete dark, you just feel it is getting dark, and that “getting dark” period last until 11:00pm, and in the morning (because jet lag, I wake up/or stay up until 4:00am), it is getting daylight around 3:30am. This is around Solstice time, northern part of earth has very long day, and London is probably at the same latitue of Canada. No wonder.

No fancy food today. Breakfast at Burger King, lunch in John Lewis cafeteria, and dinner at KFC. I am sure I will start to explore other alternatives tomorrow. I don’t need American junk food here.


Hello London!

[2007.06.24] As Boeing 747 hovering over the spawling city with many large and small green spots, I could see the Thames river and some palatial buildings through between the pockets of clouds. Yes this is my first time approaching the great city of London.

After a short ride of Heathrow Express to get into city center, an old-fashioned taxicab (a really old car) swinged around the large green area of Hyde Park/Kensington Garden to get me to Holiday Inn - Kensington Forum, where Natural History Museum and Imperial College is just several minutes away. Even after more than 10 hours of traveling, I decided to explore the surroudning area of Kensington. Wandering around the Hotel, I checked out Waitrose to buy daily supplies, and most of things are really expensive with current exchange rate of 1 pound = 2+ dollars. Also found a Underground Tube station (London’s subway) and bought an Oyster card which is travel pass of getting around London. In the evening, I tried to take the Tube, which is really like very old crampy tube - no comparison to San Francisco’s BART, to a nearby shopping center where has famous Harrods and Harvey Nick’s. Unfortunately, the shop closed already at 6:00pm, and it was raining. My water-proof jacket helped me in the misty rain.

It is Sunday, June 24, 2007. And it is going to come with a week of quite big events. First, I learned that Tony Blair stepped down from PM post, and Gordon Brown will be move to 10 Downing St soon. Second, the Wimbledon Grand Slam (Grass Court Tennis) is going during next two weeks.