House Hunting in London by Tube

by CameronM Sat, September 06 2003 05:24

My day started early - damn this silly time-zone business - so I headed off before breakfast to try and find a copy of Loot, which I'd read was a good place to get an idea of prices of rooms/flats in London. Unfortunately everyone, including the newsagents, seems to hate early mornings, so I walked through Bayswater onto Hyde Park and then down to High Street Kensington, where I had also intended to check out a health club. Although advertised opening hours from 6am, by 7:10am the health club wasn't open so I wandered back to Bayswater and finally found a newsagent open and bought the long sought after Loot.

Over breakfast I checked the prices for various locations around London, (this was after CPR was administered when I saw the prices of some posher suburbs). I made a list and checked the Tube map to plan my days excursion to each of the cheapest places. The idea was to get a feel for where you'd live if you had bugger all money to spend but still didn't want to live in Scotland and commute. Luckily the Central tube line runs from nearby Queensway and out towards Acton, so that was the first stop. Bad move, it sucked, I mean East Acton was a dive in all senses of the word (and I was there in broad daylight too), North Acton was an industrial/commercial centre, and Acton town isn't on that Tube line, so that was a waste of time.

Back on the Tube, I headed towards Shepherd's Bush (also on the Central line), which was a step up from Acton, at least you didn't feel like running back to the Tube. I took a short walk around the Shepherd's Bush Common. which is a pie shaped park right in the middle of Shepherd's Bush. I don't think Londoners have heard of sprinklers, the grass here, as in Hyde Park, is more dead than alive, with patches of bare earth (I swear it's worse than my yard on a bad day).

After Shepherd's Bush I journeyed basically right across London to Bethnal Green, which had a huge street market, the first of several I would stumble across. After a wander, a banana and a coffee I headed back to the Tube only to be victim to one of the infamous Tube breakdowns, which meant that the Tube would be delayed upto 20 minutes. Having an urge to keep going (before I fell asleep on my feet) I headed down the road to nearby Whitechapel station. As I rounded the corner into Whitechapel Road, I did a quick double-take, as I saw a scene that could only be described as purely middle-eastern. The local street market, complete with Islamic street-preachers, was in full swing and I was surrounded by shrouded women doing their weekly shop. This sight was so intoxicating that I must have walked straight past the entrance to the Tube and didn't realise until about 500 meters further down the road. Since I'd gone that far I decided to head to the next stations Aldgate East.

Tower Hill station, the stop for the popular tourist destinations of the Tower of London and London Bridge, was next on the line so I decided to take a look around. I joined the hoards of other travellers heading across London Bridge via the Tower of London. It was a cloudy but fine day as I crossed the bridge and enjoyed the views up and down the Thames.

The Tower of London

Tower Bridge

One thing that struck me was the apparent love London architects have for eggs. Let me explain. As I wandered down Whitechapel Road I saw what looked like a giant deformed egg protruding over the nearby buildings. As I walked across London Bridge I not only rediscovered this egg, but a shorter squatter version on the other side of the Thames as well. The egg-shaped building in the center of the photo is located at 30 St Mary Axe (also known as the Gherkin) was designed by Norman Foster and completed in 2003. It was later sold for £630 million in 2007,  so I guess not everyone thinks egg-shaped buildings are silly. The other smaller egg, is the London City Hall and is located on the south bank of the River Thames not far from the Tower of London.

Egg Architecture

You often get an insight into human nature just by wandering around. This was no less true near London Bridge. Some magician (named David Blaine, although I flinch at giving him more credit than he deserves) has just started 44 days in a Perspex box suspended above the ground, with no food, communication and only fresh water. Now I'm sure there's a good explanation that goes something along the lines of "I was left at home by myself when I was child..." but it seemed like a stupid idea to me. As one journalist put it, "many of us have stayed in smaller hotel rooms that that", so what's the attraction? But it seems to be working, there was at least 200 people staring up at the Looney who was just lying there.

David Blaine spent 44-days fasting in a perspex box and lost 24.5 kg

A little down the Queens Walk boardwalk a worker was busy finishing of some paving and surprise…surprise he had an audience. It would seem people will stop and stare at anything, not because it's interesting or deserves our attention, but just because it's there (I guess the magician would be disappointed by this observation).

Even someone repairing the footpath gets an audience

My day finished with a little more suburb searching before heading back to Bayswater for a well earned bite to eat and a bit of TV.

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