jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 17 [15 Feb 09] – London to Porto

Posted in London, Porto by jn82 on February 16, 2009

The trip from London city to Gatwick started badly when we missed the 10am shuttle bus from Victoria Station. Well we did not know that they had a once per hour frequency anyway. So instead of paying £7 for the 90 minute bus ride, we had to pay £17 for an express train which took 30 minutes only. No choice really as the 11am bus would have made us only barely in time to board the flight.

The very expensive Gatwick Express.

Gatwick Express

Inside. Normal train carriage.

Carriage

After taking our seats and once the train started moving, I started to talk to the guy beside me and found out we were taking the same flight. After a while the guy opposite him started talking to us. It turned out that the guy sitting opposite was a sculptor, and had done a bit of work in Singapore including a massive statue at The New Majestic Hotel and the Botanic Gardens. Only after reaching Porto and googling for the statue did we realise he was a very famous sculptor Zadok Ben-David.

The flight to Porto was pretty uneventful, and lasted a total of around 1 hour and 40 minutes. We flew by TAP (the national airline or Portugal and also a Star Alliance member) on an Airbus 737-200.

CS-TNN “Gil Vicente”, an A732,  today taking us to Porto as TP333.

CS-TNN

Getting to the hostel from the airport was very easy, and we jumped on a light rail metro system and reached the designated stop in around twenty five minutes. The “hostel” was actually a small hotel, much to our surprise, considering the €26 (S$52) for a twin ensuite we are payinga night (picture tomorrow).

After dumping the bags and resting for a bit, we decided to use the remainder of the time that the sun was up for to explore the area around the Ribeira district, a water front area in the city centre facing the Douro River. The first (and only) sightseeing stop was on the Dom Luís 1st Bridge (Ponte Dom Luís I). This is an arch bridge that spans the Douro River between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. At the time of construction its span of 172 m was the longest of its type in the world. On the top of the bridge, only the light rail metro passes on two sets of tracks, while cars and pedestrians use the lower part of the bridge. The view from the top of the bridge is amazing, and you get a bird’s eye view of the Douro and Ribeira district.

Amazing views from the bridge.

Bridge View

Bridge View

Bridge View

Me

Once the sun went down, we decided to have dinner along the Ribeira although it would be more expensive (think Boat Quay dining). Being in Porto, of couse we would have a seafood option, so we both had cod prepared in what I think was pan-fried, and tons of potatoes.

Pan-fried Cod.

Cod

The night time view of Ponte Dom Luís I.

Night View

Link to full gallery of today’s pictures here.

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Day 16 [14 Feb 09] – London

Posted in London by jn82 on February 14, 2009

Had a pretty easy day today, only going to Westminster Abbey in the morning. 90% of the Jubilee underground was out of service, so we had to catch a bus to Victoria station, and then jump on the tube from there. I think if I were to move to London and had a fixed schedule of going to say Place X every Saturday or Sunday, due to all the ongoing underground engineering works every weekend I would be taking a new route to Place X every weekend.

Anyway, Westminster Abbey is where tons of British royals and important people are buried, as well as where each new British monarch has had their coronation at since the 11th century. Unfortunately, photography is again not allowed inside.

St.Margaret’s Church.

St Margret's Cathedral

Houses of Parliament.

Parliment

Front of Westminster Abbey.

Front

Rear of Westminster Abbey (with me of course).

Rear

London Eye and Big Ben.

Eye and Ben

Spent around three hours in Westminster Abbey, then headed to Tottenham Court Road for lunch and to check out some electronics. Short day today with lots of rest to prepare for the beginning of the rest of our trip tomorrow! 1pm flight tomorrow from London (Gatwick) to Porto via TAP.

Link to the full gallery of today’s pictures are available here.

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Day 15 [13 Feb 09] – Dublin to London

Posted in Dublin, London by jn82 on February 14, 2009

Woke up at 5.30am this morning to call the BA ticket hotline, and asked for a refund instead of taking a much later flight into London. Since last minute ticket options with other carriers was out of the question due to cost, I decided to take the sail+rail option which I initially was considering when deciding how to get back to London from Dublin. The sail+rail is a combined ticket for both a ferry and a train ticket, and in this case it would bring us from Dublin Port to Holyhead (North Wales) via Irish Ferries, and then from Holyhead to London on Virgin Trains, with a total trip duration of around nine hours. While this might seem very long compared to the flight option which is only over an hour, it does save a lot of time traveling to and from airports, as well as the costs involved with these transfers, given that most train stations are located near city centres while airports are pretty far away.

Ticket

Ticket

The ferry we went on is called Ulysses, and the trip duration was from 8.05am – 11.40am when we arrived in Holyhead. It was a pretty smooth ride, with a slight fog along the way. I spent most of it planning the remainder of the trip, and managed to finish a tentative schedule till we reach St. Petersburg in mid-May (when the three month rail pass runs out).

On the observation deck leaving Dublin Port.
 

Deck 11

On the plebian deck.
Inside cabin

 

Ulysses unloading vehicles at Holyhead Port.
 

Ulysses

After a two hour and a bit stopover in which we managed to grab quite a bit of lunch, it was time to catch the 1.58pm VT4770 from Holyhead – London Euston. No internet on this train unfortunately, however unlike the London – Edinburgh train, this one was pretty empty and I managed to get two seats to myself, good for a three hour and fourty minute ride. The windows in coach were very dirty and I could not enjoy the view out them.

VT4770 on Platform 1 at Holyhead.
 

Holyhead Platform 1

My “workspace” on the train, coach C seats 47 and 48, facing backwards as the train moves.
 

Seat

Coach seats beside mine (same configuration).
 

Coach seats

Upon arrival in London just before 6pm, we scurried to Leicester Square with our full load backpacks to try and get tickets for either later evening shows for Chicago, Taming of the Shrew or Oliver. Going to one of the “discount ticket” outlets, we ended up paying £36.50 for upper circle tickets for Chicago with a face value of only £30.00 (probably because these two tickets were part of the last three available seats for the show, or for the ticket seller’s allocation for the show). Pretty expensive and not discounted, yes, but it was Friday night afterall and much cheaper what we would pay to watch in Singapore. How often are you in London’s West End anyway right?

After getting tickets for the 8.30pm show, we flew back to the hostel to check in, dump out bags and have dinner, before heading back to Leicester Square to catch Chicago!

Discount of -£6.50.

Chicago ticket

Cambridge Theatre, Earlham St.

Cambridge theatre

Made it to the 8.30pm show with enough time for pictures!

Me

Link to full gallery of today’s pictures available here.

Day 10 [8 Feb 09] – London

Posted in London by jn82 on February 8, 2009

Took a day trip out of London city today to Stonehenge and Bath. Sitting in a coach for hours on end was a good rest from the past two days of walking around the city.

Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is constantly regarded as one of the most overrated tourist attractions, and it is not hard to see why. All you see when you get to the site is a bunch of huge rocks that no one knows exactly their purpose of, or how they were brought there. The audio guides provided only have a lot of speculation as to the origins and reasons of the henge.

Some huge stones.

Stones

Token tourist shot.

Stonehenge

Tip: Bring your own earphones as the electronic audio guides provided have a headphone jack but they do not provide headphones, so you have to hold it to your ear to listen from the speaker.

One hour later and we got to the city of Bath, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is the only place in England with three naturally occuring hot springs, and its name probably is derived from the Roman baths which were built during the period of time the Roman empire occupied England. It is a very beautiful place,with all buildings old and new having to confirm to the same local,golden-col0ured Bath stone for construction purposes, resulting in a very uniform looking city.The tour provided admission to the Roman Baths, an actual Roman bath built during the Roman era.

Layout of the Roman Bath and Roman temple of Sulis Minerva.

Layout

The Great Bath.

Great bath

The Great bath and Bath Abbey in the background.

Great bath and Bath Abbey

Sacred Spring.

Sacred spring

Healing pool cum wishing well.

img_2451

Bath Abbey and outside of Roman Baths.

Abbey

Link to full gallery of today’s pictures available here.

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Day 9 [7 Feb 09] – London

Posted in London by jn82 on February 7, 2009

Today, we started the day off with the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace at 11.30am. I will dispense with a boring description, and instead depict the ending march off after the change had occured as follows:

1. Buckingham Palace. Grand and historical. The band has finished playing and the relieved guard prepares to march off. But wait, what is that in the bottom left corner?

Palace

2. The band marches off, but it looks as if they are heading straight into something nasty.

Military band

3. The platoon commander is right behind as well.

Platoon commander

4. Now it looks as if the guards are headed straight for it too.

Guards

5. Oh dear… straight through it. Guards2

6.  Moral of the story: In life, shit happens and you cannot avoid it.

Shitttttttttttt

Fancy red coats.

Red coats

Token tourist shot.

Buckingham Palace

After the palace, had lunch at Pret and then went off to Notting Hill for Portobello Market. On Saturdays, there are hundreds of street stalls and the regular shops selling antiques, souveniers, tons of weird stuff, fresh food and vegetable and cooked food. This was really the largest market I have visited to far in London, although I think the selection of food at Borough Market was better. I guess if you like antiques or weird stuff in general, here is the place to be.

Directions.

portobello road

Shop.

 Shop

Too many people.

Too many people

Telescopes anyone?

Telescopes?

Timely reminder.

Wise words

My favourite meal.

Humble pie

Following the market, we had a bit of time to kill before dinner, so dropped by Westminster to take a few pictures of Big Ben and have a look around. We will be back here on 13th Feb to visit Westminster Abbey and Parliment.

London Eye, the fake Singapore Flyer…..not!

London Eye

Big Ben.

Big Ben

Link to full gallery of today’s pictures available here.