London highlights

Earlier this year Mr.A and I moved to London, believing we were making a long term shift, but as it turns out it wasn’t meant to be, at least not for the time being. Long story short, we’ve happily returned home to Stockholm after living in London for four months. It’s been a helluva ride, but in all the chaos we’ve had some good days in this bustling, spirited city. Let me share some high points from our short-lived adventure ūüôā

Sky Garden atop the Walkie-Talkie

One of the best vantage points for great views of the city of London is the Sky Garden. The top three stories viz. 34th-37th floors of the skyscaper at 20 Fenchurch Street, nicknamed Walkie-Talkie for its typical shape, have been transformed into landscaped gardens open to the public for free. You do have to book an entry slot but that’s quite easy with their online booking system. You can even make a special occasion by reserving a table at one of the restaurants, or keep it casual by snacking at the cafes. Obviously, the highlight is the 360¬į views of the city, combined with the greenery indoors. Mr.A and I enjoyed the perspective. The garden complete with full-grown palms is quite a delight to stroll in, too.

Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum

Once Saturday we rode the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) that winds through the towering skyscrapers of Canary Wharf before coming out the other side of Thames to the Greenwich station. A short, but rather steep, walk uphill through the Greenwich Park brought us to the Royal Observatory. To tick off places from my Geography lessons has always given me a certain thrill, so this was no different. Taking a picture with our feet in two hemispheres, straddling the Prime Meridian was cool, of course. The real treat on the hot day was the cool breeze on the hill accompanied by splendid views of the skyline. We also went into the National Maritime Museum, which has free entry to its permanent exhibitions, to examine ship models and read up on Britain’s naval history. Since a lot of it was associated with the East India Company and it’s influence in our own history, the days ended up with much reflection and thought. Happy Weekend, I say!

St. Paul’s Cathedral

A trip to the city of London would be incomplete without a visit to¬†St. Paul’s Cathedral, architect Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. A magnificent structure, both from the outside and inside. The ticket price includes either an audio guide or a guided tour. We opted for the latter and were so happy following our learned guide, a charming octogenarian who made such a pleasant impression that Mr.A & I decided we would do something like he was doing when we grew old ourselves! Totally worth the slightly pricey ticket. Note however, you can save a little if you prebook online. We loved our culture trip around this 300+ year old building which has seen eons pass by and has so many stories to tell.

A walk around Hyde Park

This giant park despite being in the heart of the city, surely takes one away from its madness into an oasis of calm. Even though there were hundreds of other people, it did feel like a different world within. People seemed so much at ease walking their dogs, enjoying their ice creams, feeding ducks and even parrots (it’s true!), strolling by the Serpentine, playing a casual game of football, and what not. Mr.A and I went to the Park just before sundown and had a lovely time watching all this pass by us in a beautiful golden glow.

Brick Lane & Shoreditch

Brick Lane surely teleported us into another world. Once a settlement for immigrants from Bangladesh trying to make a new home in a new country, today it is a hep center buzzing with student activity, fashion and art. There is a considerable number of restaurants all boasting the best food from the Indian sub-continent, but make sure to research where you want to eat since our experience with the food was not one of our high points here. Graffiti-watching along Shoreditch and Brick Lanes was totally rewarding though. Some amazing street art can be found in small nooks as well as huge walls. Once can surely spend a lot of time being fascinated, especially one like me that has a thing for street art ūüėČ The pictures warrant their own blog post, so I’ll write more about them soon.

Barbican Conservatory

The Barbican Conservatory was a surprise find that I chanced upon in some toplist about London, and decided to drag Mr.A to check it out. It did not disappoint at all. The Barbican Complex with its brutalist architecture captured our imagination, how stark and severe it looked, somewhat reminding us of the buildings in central Delhi, perhaps one influencing the other, who knows. In the middle of the austere lines, sits the cosy world of green in the form of the conservatory, housing London’s second largest conservatory. Amongst 2000+ varieties of plants, also live some turtles and fish in sparkling ponds. There is an impressive array of chillis and a gorgeous desert garden housing cactii of all shapes and sharpness. Entry is free on Sunday afternoons, a refreshing activity before the start of a new week.

What are your favorite spots in London?

Malaga murals

Seeking out magical murals with Mr.A on the sunny streets of Malaga this summer… perfect vacation treasure hunt ūüôā

 

You may also like other posts about street art from:

Azulejos / Blue-and-white murals

Azulejos are beautiful blue-and-white tiles adorning many a mural in Portugal. While traveling around Lisbon, Porto and Faro, we’ve come across several churches, restaurants, train stations and such, covered with gorgeous scenes in blue and white tones, each telling a different story, each unique in its details. You know how I love collecting pictures of street art over my travels. These murals were in a category of their own. I immediately fell in love with these works of art.

Have you been to Portugal? What did you think?

 

Croatia Day 7, 8 : Zagreb

… Continued from Croatia Day¬†6: Motovun, Hum
We spent most of Day 7 on the road, stopping here and there, at no particular destination. The drive from Hum to the capital Zagreb was  about 200km, we finally arrived at our apartment hotel by sundown and settled in for the last leg of our awesome Croatian road-trip.

Highlights

  • Next morning the plan was to walk through Zagreb’s Upper Town. Mr.A and I started our tour at the¬†Ban Jelańćińá Square &¬†the ManduŇ°evac Fountain. Next, up to the Kaptol dominated by the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Then onto the colorfully umbrella-ed Dolac Market where local farmers bring fresh produce every day of the week. Strolling through¬†the happening Tkalciceva Street, we passed¬†under¬†the¬†Gradec Stone Gate, dating back to the 1200’s. Here locals and tourists light candles to the Virgin Mary even today. Next stop was the colorfully¬†tiled St.Marks¬†Church. We toured Gradec some more, listening to piano music floating in from a ballet school, such a pleasant¬†touch to our afternoon! And then ended up somewhere in the Lower Town. The final high-point was the fun funicular ride up to the¬†Strossmayer promenade. At the top, we were¬†enchanted by the bird’s eye-view of the city warmly¬†lit by¬†the setting sun.
  • Tkalciceva Street¬†(pronounced tkal-chee-tseva) needs special mention when one is talking about Zagreb. This is the city’s hep street lined with scores of restaurants, cafes and fast-food joints that to satisfy any craving you might have. Of course, the cuisine is not limited to Croatian food, but a large variety from all over the world. This is where you will find the best dressed Croatians sipping on their coffee, meeting friends and family, hanging out with friends, and generally enjoying the good life. Mr. A and I happily joined the scene strolling through to the very end.We even witnessed some sort of horse procession! We rewarded ourselves with an excellent lunch and coffee ūüôā
  • You might have noticed that I have a thing for street-art¬† ūüėČ and Zagreb had lots to offer on that front. Zagreb’s prominently young population is owed¬†to its universities that¬†attract students from not only the rest of Croatia but also neighbouring countries. As such, it is not surprising that graffiti show up on its walls as an expression of the young voices. Also, there are several inspiring installations all over the city in the form of sculptures &¬†statues.

And that brought us to the end of our amazing week in Croatia, the fascinating, versatile land of natural & cultural wealth. We could wish to stay on much longer, but it was time to head back to new adventures. And there is always a way back to places we love, isn’t that right?!

Berlin & remains of the Wall

When Mr.A & I visited Berlin, we wanted to see the Berlin Wall up close. I researched a bit on the internet and found the best suggestion on traveldudes.org. They talk about three spots where the Wall is best preserved. We went to each of them and at each spot one may experience a different feeling.

1. Topography of Terror: 

Website : http://www.topographie.de

Address : Niederkirchnerstraße 8, 10963 Berlin

I shared some pictures from this site in a previous post about exploring Berlin. Topography of Terror is a museum that documents the reign of Hitler through the years and how Germany, and the world at large, was affected by the Nazi era. In fact, the museum stands at approximately the same spot where the Gestapo once had their headquarters. A section of the Berlin Wall still stands before it, a grim reminder of the past. The studies and photos are very detailed and quite an eye-opener even for a well-read traveler. One might come off a bit overwhelmed by this visit.

On a separate¬†note, if you want to rent one of the lockers, make sure you have a ‚ā¨1 coin, the cafeteria will probably not help you out. The closest metro station would be Potsdamer Platz.

2. Berlin Wall Memorial and Documentation Center: 

Website : http://www.berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de

Address : Bernauer Straße 119, 13355 Berlin

This memorial has a kilometer and a half stretch of the Wall. The events that took place here are documented through pictures and artefacts at the Documentation Center. There are a couple of floors, so allow yourself some time. A watch tower at the Center provides a wider view of the Wall and what used to be two sides of divided Germany. To reach this site, take the metro to Nordbahnhof. Incidentally, Nordbahnhof used to be one of the ghost stations on the Eastern side that were blocked away during the Cold War. The station also has images and stories of how these ghost stations came to be. Mr.A and I felt quite moved with our experience here. It is hard to imagine what it must have been for the people loving here not so far back in the past.

3. East Side Gallery: 

Website : http://www.eastsidegallery-berlin.de

Address : M√ľhlenstra√üe, 10243 Berlin

The East Side Gallery is often called the longest open air gallery in the world. Here, remains of the Berlin Wall stretch for over a kilometer along the Spree river. Once a symbol of separation, it is now covered with artists’ impressions advocating freedom for everybody. Some paintings have deteriorated over time due to vandalism and erosion, but some work is being done to preserve it, including fences to protect certain parts. To reach the Gallery, one could either hop off at the metro station¬†Ostbahnhof and walk along the wall¬†to the next metro,¬†Warschauer Stra√üe, or vice versa. Walking along the water is also very pleasant. I quite liked this one, given my love for murals, graffiti & street art.

There are, of course, several other places where you may see bits of the wall remaining, but they would be smaller in scale as compared to the spots mentioned above. Have you visited Berlin? Did you make it to any of these memorials? What did you think? I’d love to know!