Blog Archives

A BEACH IN LONDON?: Rooftop Beach to return to Brixton this May

 

London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH

For Londoners, a trip to the seaside usually means a forty-plus minute drive through heavy traffic and with screaming friends/kids/radios to the Essex coast or Brighton, but from this May, you can be beside the seaside on a rooftop in south London, courtesy of Brixton’s Rooftop Beach. This event brings together sand, sun, buckets, spades, street food and seasonal cocktails for a fun day out without having to book the coach.

The Rooftop Beach, organised by fresh pop-up bar maestros Brixton Rooftop, takes place from May 26 to 29, 2017 over the Bank Holiday weekend. The event is a reincarnation of Brixton’s hugely successful Brixton Beach, a 1980s Miami themed occasion held in 2016 by the same people behind local events South Pole Saloon, Brixton Beach Boulevard and Big Apple Brixton. South Pole Saloon was rated “Best Pop-Up London 2015” by Design My Night. As the clocks turn back and the summer cranks up, the Rooftop Beach will feature bars and music, all on a few tonnes or so of imported sand for that squishy sandy feeling between your toes, minus getting tangled up in seaweed or a lost jellyfish. The beach’s massive interest among people looking for their next eclectic social fix can be gauged from their Facebook page alone, where 5,700 people have planned to attend with another 35,000 interested in visiting, so this promises to be a roadblock

The beach is part of a contemporary pop-up trend of temporary entertainments and establishments that have become a hallmark of city life in London. In the past years, temporary beaches have become a feature on the banks of the River Thames, for instance, drawing in thousands of tourists, office workers and locals looking for an easy way to enjoy the beauty of the coast without having to travel far or book off two weeks from work.

The Brixton Rooftop Beach is tickets only (see sources below) and takes place at Brixton Rooftop’s HQ at Pope’s Road, Brixton, SW9 8JH London, United Kingdom.

 

SOURCES:
“The Rooftop Beach is back in Brixton!” – Brixton Rooftop, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/events/292095127872148/
“RA: Brixton Rooftop” – Brixton Rooftop, RA/Resident Advisor Ltd. https://www.residentadvisor.net/promoter.aspx?id=68709
“About” – Brixton Rooftop, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/pg/BrixtonRooftop/about/
“BRIXTON BEACH BOULEVARD” – designmynight London https://www.designmynight.com/london/whats-on/pop-up/brixton-beach-boulevard
Sevim Tonbul.
IMAGE CREDITS:
“Ruislip Lido” – diamond geezer, Flickr (2 June 2013) https://www.flickr.com/photos/dgeezer/9061773614

PARAMOUNT RESORT: New theme park to launch 2020 in south-east England

Sunny Atwal (contributor)

Vijay Shah (reporter)

London Town is about to get that bit more exciting as a new entertainment park and tourist attraction gets ready to attract film buffs and day trippers to an area brimming with both film history and cultures that draw in film makers from all over the world.

While not exactly in London itself, but on the Swanscombe peninsula in north Kent, about forty or less minutes from the centre of London by train and less by road, the London Paramount is a ‘world-class’ entertainment resort that will be opened by famous Hollywood studios Paramount Pictures very likely in another five years’ time, and will be an ambitious project and a first for the Hollywood studio in the UK.

The resort is being bankrolled by investment firm London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), who are in the final stages of consultations with the public on the project. LRCH have created a website outlining their plans for the theme park project, along with downloadable materials on the new park and how it will benefit tourism and local communities.

Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, CA

Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, CA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

London Paramount will feature an exciting variety of themed rides and attractions for everyone, especially youngsters, families and groups, as well as crazier rides for the adventurous thrill seekers looking for that next adrenaline fix. In the centre of the resort will be the Entertainment City, which will play host to a selection of indoor, covered and open-air experiences as well as a variety of cafes, bars and restaurants. From time to time, the  City will also be a venue for live shows and music concerts that will set south-east England ablaze. There will also be a special ‘Paramount and Friends’ carnival taking place every day that will see Paramount characters such as Betty Boop, Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and the stars of Madagascar parade and meet-and-greet fans alongside many spectacular shows featuring some of the Paramount studio‘s most iconic characters.

For the more sedate and relaxed, London Paramount will also host West End-quality theatrical and general productions as well as showing of films and other programmes from Paramount, the BBC and Aardman studios, home of the much-loved plasticine comic duo, Wallace and Gromit. There will also be live comedy acts invited to perform at Paramount’s first ever resort on these shores.

The resort plans to opens its doors in 2020, with new rides and attractions appearing shortly afterwards. Highlights include the Port Plaza, paying homage to Kent’s maritime heritage; the Myths and Legends castle, based on the castle that appears on the film studios logo, designed after its founding in 1911 and the oldest Hollywood logo in existence; the Paramount Port Bay, featuring canals and pleasure barges, and the excitingly jaw-dropping Adventure Isle. Other attractions include a 1,500 seat West End theatre, Europe’s largest indoor water park and specially-created wildlife habitats to promote conservation of the animals and plants that call the river Thames’ banks home.

It is expected to attract up to 40,000 visitors per day with a range of hotels and restaurants being planned close by to cater for them.

The London Paramount project is projected to bring a massive financial boost to the Ebbsfleet and greater north Kent region, with the park and associated creative hubs and shopping centres bringing in 27,000 jobs and revitalising the area and local communities as well as having knock-on effects commercially and creatively for the rest of Kent and London.

For more information visit:

http://www.londonparamount.info/

SOURCES:
“WELCOME TO LONDON PARAMOUNT” – Paramount London Entertainment Resort, PPS Group http://www.londonparamount.info/
“RIDES AND ATTRACTIONS” – Paramount London Entertainment Resort, PPS Group http://www.londonparamount.info/the-project/rides-and-attractions/
“Paramount Pictures” – Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramount_Pictures
“BENEFITS” – Paramount London Entertainment Resort, PPS Group http://www.londonparamount.info/benefits/
“THE PROJECT” – Paramount London Entertainment Resort, PPS Group http://www.londonparamount.info/the-project/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:ParamountPictures01.jpg” – Gary Minnaert, Wikimedia Commons (21 January 2007) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ParamountPictures01.jpg

CORY LEE: Wheelchair-using traveller pens ‘open letter’ to hotels for more disabled access

Twenty-five year old wheelchair user and self-confessed ‘travel addict’ Cory Lee, the blogger behind ‘Curbfree with Cory Lee’ has reignited the controversy around the lack of suitable disability access for wheelchair users in the hospitality industry by penning an ‘open letter‘ encouraging hotel owners to make staying at their establishments easier for their differently-abled patrons, the Half-Eaten Mind blog exclusively reports today.

The letter, which appears on Cory’s blog, was originally published on the 19th December 2014, but the traveller tweeted the article again recently as many hotel firms and owners have yet to make their facilities completely all-inclusive. Lee is highly complimentary towards the many hotels he has stayed at over the course of his travels but then draws attention to what he calls “unique challenges when it comes to navigating even the smallest things”, he writes in the letter.

Wheelchair ramp and disabled parking space

Wheelchair ramp and disabled parking space (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The blogger then exclaims that he ‘finds it a breath of fresh air’ if he is lucky enough to find a wheelchair-friendly hotel in the places he visits. While he is appreciative of those hotels who already offer good access to wheelchair users, in particular the offering of special ramps, wide paths, decent space for wheelchair access and lifts, he implores hotels to do more to make their stays enjoyable and comfortable for disabled travellers. Lee reminds hotels that the differently-abled community in the United States have a large amount of disposable income, and cites a 2001 issue of the Disability, Inc. publication that states that this community has collectively $220 billion of discretionary spending to tap into, meaning hotels who do not offer disabled-friendly facilities could be missing out on extra income by excluding a community with a lot of money to spend.

In his bid to get hoteliers thinking about improving their disability access, Cory goes on to make some suggestions himself in the letter. He advises big chains and smaller hotels alike to invest in such facilities as stair lifts for people with mobility issues, roll-in showers, and even setting aside special tables with higher legs for disabled restaurant customers, which will not only get the hotels good reviews from disabled guests on popular review sites such as TripAdvisor, but could also increase the hotel’s profit margins as more disabled patrons stay in their rooms.

Lee also offers tips to hotels to help play their part in local disabled tourism, including offering maps of the local area highlighting disabled-friendly top attractions, as well as public transport and restaurants, saying that it would be “a small gesture on your end that is a real kindness to us”.

Cory Lee has travelled all over the globe and has run a popular blog promoting wheelchair travel. His niche blogging has earned him attention from the mainstream media, disability publications and within the blogging community. He has appeared in articles by USA Today, The Huffington Post and in the travel guide series Lonely Planet, and has also made speeches all over the US on disability issues.

While many hotels, particularly the bigger chains such as Ibis, Hilton and Radisson Blu, offer access for wheelchairs as standard, many smaller hotels are unwilling or unable to afford to make the necessary adaptations and install equipment to ease life for their disabled hotel stayers. Lee’s open letter to the hotel world, written from the perspective of a wheelchair user himself and on behalf of many others everywhere, may be that nudge that will open up new experiences for thousands of disabled travellers alongside benefitting the global hospitality industry and making travel a possible option for more.

SOURCES:
The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind
WordPress Bloggers, Renate Flynn, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/renate_flynn/lists/wordpress-bloggers
Curb Free w/ CoryLee, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/coryleetweets
“AN OPEN LETTER TO HOTEL OWNERS. FROM WHEELCHAIR USERS EVERYWHERE.” – Cory Lee, Curbfree with Cory Lee (19 December 2014) http://www.curbfreewithcorylee.com/2014/12/19/wheelchair-accessible-hotel-rooms/
“ABOUT CORY” – Cory Lee, Curbfree with Cory Lee http://www.curbfreewithcorylee.com/wheelchair-travel-blog/cory/
“CORY IN THE MEDIA”” – Cory Lee, Curbfree with Cory Lee http://www.curbfreewithcorylee.com/wheelchair-travel-blog/cory-media/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:WheelchairRampAt2500AugustineBlvd.jpg” – Niteowlneils & Maksim, Wikimedia Commons (21 February 2005) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WheelchairRampAt2500AugustineBlvd.jpg

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON: Contactless Travel

On the 16th September 2014, Transport for London (TfL), the London authority in charge of the city’s public transport formally ushered in a new way of paying fares for its customers. This new paying method, which TfL has branded ‘contactless travel’ enables commuters with special credit or debit cards to use these cards to pay for their daily travel without having to buy tickets or top up an Oystercard, making it ideal for occasional users or tourists…or anyone unfortunately unable to access their usual means of fare payment (lost Oystercard/photocard, for example). Many banks and building societies in the UK now offer credit and debit cards with a distinctive ‘sound wave’ logo. Using radio waves, a scanner can pick up the signal from a card with this logo and deduct money from the customer’s account without the need to enter a PIN and with minimum hassle. The technology works on a similar principle to the longer-established Oystercard, a plastic card with an inbuilt chip that the customer can load up with credit or season tickets and simply place on the reader when passing through platform gates or boarding a bus. TfL have already enabled the technology for a while on their bus routes, but the 16th of September marked the day when contactless travel became widely available across London’s buses, tube, Overground, DLR trains, trams and National Rail trains.

Contactless payment cards are special cards that enable purchases up to a maximum of £20 per transaction without the customer needing to sign a receipt or enter a PIN code. Using a patented wireless technology, they enable seamless payment without fuss. The technology can be applied to all kinds of payment cards: debit, credit, charge or pre-paid.

For Londoners and tourists, contactless travel is very useful, provided their bank has issued them with a compatible card. Most banks are already offering the new cards as standard for recent customers and card renewals, so they will soon become widespread. The benefits of contactless travel include it being much cheaper than paying by cash. While you can still pay for many tickets on the London transport network with coins and notes, the city’s buses have stopped accepting cash fares since June 2014. Commuters do not have to carry around and top up an Oystercard, which is convenient for when in a hurry and they do not want to miss the next train or bus. This also saves on queuing time at ticket halls, which are soon to be earmarked for closure anyway as TfL makes rapid changes to its services in the near future. If a commuter uses the same contactless payment card for every journey they make, they can benefit from daily and weekly fare capping at the stated adult rate, making travel more flexible and convenient. Commuters who sign up for an online account with TfL have the added and secure advantage of being able to register their card and view up to a year’s worth of journey and payment history linked to that card on the TfL website whenever they feel like it. The technology is secure, meets the strict security standards demanded of TfL by the card payments industry and no TfL employee will have access to commuters’ purchasing history.

(c) Romazur/Wikipedia

TfL customers who are unsure whether their card is a contactless one or not (UK bank customers only) should look at the front of their card, where their name, card number and account details can be found. If a symbol that resembles a Wi-Fi signal or sound waves is visible, then the card offers contactless payment. More information on contactless cards can be found by visiting the website of the UK Cards Association at theukcardsassociation.org.uk . Commuters who have only just received a contactless payment card in the post and have yet to start using it should first make a ‘Chip and PIN‘ payment elsewhere so the card can be activated for the transport network. Customers from outside the UK who want to take advantage of the TfL contactless travel programme are advised to visit this website instead before using their card to make sure it is compatible for using for payment whilst travelling. The website is by TfL and can be found at tfl.gov.uk/contactless-payment-card . Visitors and tourists should note that international transaction fees or other charges from their bank may apply when using their contactless card on the London transport network. Commuters concerned about the security of TfL’s new payment scheme can learn more about this at the following link – tfl.gov.uk/contactless .

When using your contactless payment card, you should treat it the same as an Oystercard and always remember to ‘touch in and touch out’. This means placing your card briefly on the provided reader at the station gates where you begin your journey and you must then repeat this with the same card at the gates of the station you exit from. For buses, you will only need to touch the card against the reader once. Be sure to keep different contactless cards and Oystercards separately as keeping them all in one wallet, purse or handbag could result in the payment reader deducting the fare from the wrong card, a situation referred to by TfL as ‘card clash’. Card clash can also occur if the reader detects several contactless cards and does not know which one to read. This can result in the ticket gates refusing to open, or a red light flashing on the side of the reader’s face. The presence of a flashing red light means that the card was not read and can result in the maximum fare being charged. More seriously, this could result in a Penalty Fare (or even two maximum fares from two different cards) being charged or, in the worst case scenario, prosecution, which will place the onus on the commuter to prove they had intended to pay the fare. Special plastic holders for Oystercards can easily be obtained from station and newsagents, and many companies across London give Oystercard holders out as free gifts.

Touching in and out applies even if you find the gate is wide open and you are able to walk unimpeded through it. Failing to touch the card readers at both ends of a journey could result in your card being charged the maximum fare, as TfL will not be able to determine when or where you started or ended your commute. In addition to the normal yellow-fronted readers, contactless commuters need to also be aware of the presence of pink coloured ones that they may need to use when changing trains. If you forget to touch in and out, not only will you be charged more than you should have been, but the extra charge will not count towards your daily or weekly fare cap.

If you touch in and out at the same station but without making a journey, for example if you change your mind and take an alternative route or form of transport, your card will still be charged but the fare will be refunded if it is the only time you do this within the last seven days. Any charges and repayments from TfL can be seen on the online account your card is registered with, if you have chosen to do so. If you forget to touch out at the end of your journey and are charged the maximum fare, you can apply for a refund online once a month.

Unlike Oystercards with PAYG credit, the fare for the journey will not show up on the reader’s LCD as you pass through. TfL do not allow this for contactless cards as they need to calculate the total cost of your travels for the day overnight and then be displayed on your online account on the following day. So if you travel on a Monday, you will not get the total breakdown of your journey times and fare until Tuesday. Commuters are encouraged to register their cards online because it means they can not only view their payment and travelling history, but also can request refunds and also receive email alerts if an issue develops with the card that could prevent the commuter from travelling.

As with Oystercards, the card will need to be presented if asked for by a revenue protection officer during ticket inspections. They will be carrying a handheld reader which will read your card as with TfL’s own travel cards.

If you have any questions or queries, you can get help from TfL’s customer service team via the following contacts:

SOURCE:
“Contactless travel” – Transport for London (leaflet hand distributed at Euston Square tube station in Euston, London)
IMAGE CREDIT:
Creative Commons CC Search http://search.creativecommons.org/
“File:Oyster Card Top-up Machine.JPG” – Romazur, Wikipedia (17 September 2012) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Oyster_Card_Top-up_Machine.JPG is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.>
Getty Images via Zemanta

 

PHOTO MOMENT: Khewra Salt Mine

with Arif Shah (contributor)

Khewra Salt Mine, Pakistan – World’s 2nd Largest Salt Mine. – Waqt News

This striking image of a cave system which seems at first impression to be made entirely of amber, is in fact taken at part of a salt mine in Pakistan, said to be the world’s second largest in size.

The image was originally posted by the Facebook page of Waqt News, an Urdulangauge news channel from Pakistan and was shared by a Facebook friend of mine from Peshawar in the north-west of the country.

Waqt News began news reporting operations in December 2007. It is a subsidiary of the internationally renowned Nawa-i-Waqt Group, which comprises of the national dailies Nawa-i-Waqt (nawaiwaqt.com.pk) and The Nation (nation.com.pk) as well as the weekly magazines Family, Phool and Nida-i-Millat. The Group is a respectable hallmark of Pakistani journalism, popular with the country’s educated elites and is one of the largest media conglomerates in the country alongside the Dawn Media Group. Nawa-i-Waqt is dominant in both the English and Urdu-language newspaper and magazine sector. Waqt News is located in Lahore.

The Khewra Salt Mine, alternatively known as the Mayo Salt Mine is situated in Khewra in Pakistan’s Punjab province. It is Pakistan’s oldest and largest salt quarrying operation and the world’s second largest. It attracts up to 250,000 tourists and was said to have been discovered by the Macedonian emperor Alexander the Great in 320 BCE (BC) before it was fully exploited during the Mughal era around 500 years ago. Khewra’s mine produces more than 350,000 tons per annum of about 99% pure halite. It has been calculated that the mine’s total reserves of salt could be as much as 600 million tonnes.

The mine runs over nineteen stories, of which some are open to interested visitors. There is a railway track made for use by the miners and tourists to reach the attraction’s cavernous interior and a small mosque (Badshahi Masjid) that has been built deep in the mine from Himalayan rock salt, a highly prized form of material that can be made into sculptures and trinkets. There are also reproductions of famous Pakistani monuments chiselled entirely out of the salt, that visitors can see while they stop off on the train. The Khewra mine is run by the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation which took over after Pakistan’s independence in 1947.

Links:

Waqt News http://www.waqtnews.tv/

Nawa-i-Waqt Group http://www.nawaiwaqt.com.pk

Khewra Salt Mines – Pakistan http://www.tourism.gov.pk/khewra_salt_mines_punjab.html

Khewra Salt Mines – PMDC http://www.pmdc.gov.pk/?p=KhewraSaltMines

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
“About” – Waqt News, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/waqtnews/info
“Khewra Salt Mine” – Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khewra_Salt_Mine
IMAGE CREDIT:
Waqt News, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/waqtnews

MAURITIAN CULTURE: Kreol festival attracts journalists to Mauritius

An 40-strong team of journalists and artists will be converging on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius today for the International Kreol Festival, being held at the Domaine Les Pailles arena in the western suburbs of Mauritian capital Port Louis. The International Kreol Festival is a regionally renowned celebration of Mauritian culture and music, from the staccato beats and African-inspired music and dance of the island’s sega music, to the sampling of Mauritian delicacies such as ‘gato piment’ (chilli cake) and ‘poutou’ (dried sweetened coconut dessert).

Mauritius

Mauritius (Photo credit: Samovar Group)

The journalists have flown into Mauritius from a dozen countries, according to Mauritius’ French-language newspaper L’Express. However neither the journalists’ news organisation nor their countries of origin are mentioned in the L’Express article. Accompanying the media team are several foreign artists. All the visitors will have a chance to experience the Mauritian culture just as an islander would live it. Staying at the hotel “Zilwa Attitude”, the reporters and artists are being treated to tours of Mauritius including beach trips , town visits to places like Goodlands in the north and the chance to witness that most beautiful of sights, a fiery tropical Mauritian sunset. They will also be waken every morning to a freshly-made traditional breakfast, consisting of ‘gato pima’ (also known as gateau or gato piment) accompanied with locally produced bread.

It is hoped that the positive experiences of the journalists and artists will help further Mauritius’ popularity as a friendly holiday destination with a vibrant, hospitable and fun island life. In addition, the visit will help reposition the island republic, home to 1.2 million people, as a hotspot of culture – moving away from the usual image of Mauritius in travel brochures as a island of hotels, sun, sea and sand. The island for years relied on sugar and textiles as the mainstay of its economy but tourism is now the largest contributor to Mauritius’ GDP, with finance and information technology also being important sectors economically.

A video of performances at the International Kreol Festival in 2011.

The Kreol (Creole) Festival is a cultural tourism initiative by the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, the government agency responsible for promoting the island’s sights both nationally and abroad. It is a grand celebration of Mauritian music in particular with concerts attracting tens of thousands of Mauritians and foreigners alike. In 2012, also at the Domaine Les Pailles, more than 30 local and regional artists performed on stage, including Sir Samuel and Tairo, who are popular reggae and dancehall artists from France. Joining the French duo live on stage last year were Mercenary (Seychelles), Dominique Barret (Reunion) and from the offshore Mauritian island of Rodrigues, singer Black Rod. Many Mauritian singers of the sega tradition are also an established feature of the Kreol Festival.

Out of all the islands where French-based creole languages are used, Mauritius was the last to open up an official festival of Creole culture. The first concerts began playing only in 2006 after the festival was opened by then tourism minister Xavier Duval as a gesture towards Mauritians of mixed African and French heritage, who were often overlooked in previous Ministry of Culture projects.

RELATED NEWS from Zemanta

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय } on Twitter LINK
lexpress.mu on Twitter LINK
“Une 40e de journalistes et artistes étrangers au Festival international kreol” – lexp Societe/lexpress.mu, L’Express LINK
“Huge success for the 2012 edition of the International Kreol Festival” – MTPA Tourism Office/Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (27 November 2012) LINK
“A wild Success – Mari sa !” – Louis de Lamare, Festival International Créole LINK
“Festival International Kreol 2011: Grand concert au Domaine les Pailles.” – lexpressmu,YouTube GB LINK
Google Maps LINK

LONDON BRIDGE EXPERIENCE & TOMBS: A photography collection

(c) The London Bridge Experience & London Tombs.

(c) The London Bridge Experience & London Tombs.

By Vijay Shah

I have just returned from a day out to central London with a good mate, visiting the London Bridge Experience and London Tombs deep underneath the famous eponymous bridge. The attraction’s main entrance is under the bridge in a secluded alley accessible by an unassuming set of stairs from Tooley Street.

The London Bridge Experience revolves around the London Bridge, its use and its history, from the simple crossing the occupying Romans built for their provincial capital of Londinium, right up until to the establishment of the current modern concrete bridge opened by the Queen in the 1960’s to soothe London’s growing traffic levels.

It is not the scariest attraction in the world, but it comes tantalisingly close. Live actors are really absorbed in their roles and enthusiastically take you through a quick whistle-stop tour of the bridge’s history, including a ‘classroom tutorial’ of the morbidly venerable art of “hanging drawing and quartering”, complete with experimental corpse.

We felt our stomachs turn as a friendly butcher/entrepreneur allowed us to sit huddled in the pews of his humble chapel before trying to flog it to us for the respectable price of 200 guineas. For those not so deep in the pockets, there was always the option of freshly-caught skunk to sample, from his dingy 17th century meat shop.

You soon find yourself in the company of a mad scientist as you learn about the ‘Great Stink’ when London’s river Thames was heavily polluted with sewage and corpses of the poor. The stench was intense enough during summer to shut down Parliament and drive people out of the city. We passed though a ‘time tunnel’ with swirling rainbow lights and a metal walkway that yawled to one side, making you think it would completely upend itself and send you falling into the Twilight Zone. Fortunately I was able to hold down my chicken coronation sandwich, Mars drink and Boost bar with relative ease. Revolving vomit doth not make thyself very well-likede.

The London Tombs involves passing in a weird conga line through a series of dark tunnels and rooms, some resembling Chucky’s bedroom or the operation theatre of a defunct psychiatric ward. Decapitated heads and other bodily extremities suspended from the ceilings vie with spooky spiderwebs to scare the living crap out of you.

The guy in the tank top who went around armed with a revved-up chainsaw; while trying to hack off chunks out of us and 27 or so assorted foreign tourists deserves the award for most scary scene actor. I should get the award for bravest soul there. I was at the start of the conga line of doom and had to be the guinea-pig that bore the brunt of the demented noise, flashing lights and disfigured corpsey things that spewed from every dark musty corridor…I definitely needed that Dr. Pepper from the vending machine afterwards.

Apparently legend has it that the tourist hotspot was built over the graveyard of long-buried medieval townspeople, many of whose skeletons were discovered by builders working at the site. Human remains included the skulls of murderers and traitors who were beheaded and had their heads positioned on spikes as a warning to others.

Actors and other staff, as well as the London Tomb’s visitors, have reported sightings of spirits and even the ghoulish laughter of children deep beneath these labyrinthine catacombs.

Proceeding henceforth is some of the pictures I took around the venue and outside its premises, while I and my friend were killing time before the 4:00 pm start. Photography of the venue’s interior is forbidden and mobile phones have to be kept on silent, so I snapped everything of interest outside.

Comments in italics are comments I wrote for most of the photos when I posted them just now on Facebook. This is for the benefit of those who do not have me as a friend there but want to have a taste of my sometimes hilarious, sometimes stale sense of humour.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“The Funky Pigeon store at London Bridge station…I always thought these guys were strictly online!”

The outlet of the DIY greetings cards store Funky Pigeon built into an alcove at London Bridge tube and rail station.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“Hi, we’re Network Rail…welcome to our fine city…experience our five star service…with delays and engineering works unparalleled in the history of crappy transport management”

The rail network owner’s welcome sign greets the hundreds of thousands of visitors passing every month through the station’s turnstiles.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“Nearby rival the London Dungeons. Thankfully no West Ham vs. Millwall style fights broke out between the two venues”

Neighbouring attraction the London Dungeons, just a few yards down Tooley Street.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

The ticket office where last-minute visitors pick up their ‘scare fares’. My mate had the intelligent foresight to buy our tickets online, at a slightly discounted price.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“Where Jigsaw goes to get tips….”

The Circus of Fear – one of the seasonal attractions that the London Tombs set up.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

If you’re scared sh**less, there’s always the option of a stiff manly JD and Coke.

A local drinking establishment offering fine beverages and a few games of snooker.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

The Shard – London’s tallest multi-purpose skyscraper. The venerated deity of the Half-Eaten Mind. The Blog’s very first post was on the life story of this edifice.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“The Shard…still being a Shard.”

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

Nearby advertising, tailor-fitted for the bridge!.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“Looks like a sick game”

A closer look at the bridge’s advertising hoarding. It is for the soon to be released fourth installment of the massively-popular Halo games series.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“A view across the Thames looking towards the docks of Shadwell, Poplar or some other ex-maritime dump.”

Looking towards the river Thames towards our beloved East London.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

The river side leading towards Tower Bridge.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

The sunset is clear and ethereal, I swivelled myself around to take this picture of the riverine skyline. Ignore the chavs in the foreground.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

The London Bridge City office complex, a shining example of our city’s contemporary architectural finesse.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

Another view of the same building, with its stairwell and courtyard. The mud of the Thames at low tide evokes a sharp reminder of the natural and man-made coexisting, yet entirely separable and worlds apart.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

I think that is HMS Belfast moored there, possibly for tomorrow’s Remembrance Day celebrations.

The Thames is the lifeblood of London’s commerce and tourism industry. Indeed it was the training ground for Britain’s erstwhile empire-building might and it’s still very potent military prowess. I had never realised that ships ever required camouflage. I would have expected it to be blue or a silvery grey with some wave patterns for that extra special covert surveillance touch.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“A local haunt for skateboarders”

We witnessed some youths doing gnarly tricks with their skateboards next to this monument as well as a nearby multi-storey car park.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“Funky disco pavement.”

These LED lights formed a mysterious futuristic accessory to an otherwise drab London pavement –  something more to be expected of Tokyo. It must be impossible for parents of young children to even get to the other end of the street such is the allurement of this feature…”Mum, Dad, look, Christmas lights, oh wow….I want one!

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“Entrance…to the Crypts. Cue thunderclaps and dramatic organ music”

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

A night time scene at a typical central London bus stop. Always packed as to be expected, but then the lights of the city invite people closer to its crazy flow and hedonism like eager moths to the light bulb of new experiences.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

Keyring with a real scorpion incarcerated in resin

One of a couple of souvenirs I picked up from the gift shop at the end of the gruesome Tombs tour. There were also similar keyrings and necklaces with creatures trapped in the modern-day version of amber, ranging from metallic jewel beetles to chunkier scarabs. There were even desk paperweights with tarantulas in them. Sure to keep the Post-It thieves off of pillaging your workstation. Manufactured by Millennium Arts.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

A spooky dogtag perched here on my denim-covered knee..a pun on those ubiquitous ” I Heart London/NY/Huckabees/my neighbour’s pot stash” T-shirts that were all the rage in the Nineties. The picture below has the same tag’s reverse side.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

“All the style and PR power of a business card but without the sharp corners and paper cuts”

LONDON BRIDGE EXPERIENCE AND LONDON TOMBS

http://thelondonbridgeexperience.com/

EMIRATES AIR-LINE: Fly across the Thames!

A CGI interpretation of the new cable car system (c) News Limited Australia

What would be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think ‘cable car’?. Skiing, snow, Alps, Switzerland, Grenoble? …trying to get quickly to the top of the mountain before the novices completely wreck the piste?.

Well not quite. A new urban cable car system has recently been opened across the river Thames in London that may well show tourists and Londoners that being suspended in a cabin several hundred feet above the ground need not be exclusive to ice-cold mountain ranges.

The Emirates Air Line is London’s first cable car and offers panoramic views across the city as you travel over the river. It is part of the revamping of London which is accelerating as the capital gears itself up to host the Olympic & Paralympic Games this month.  The system came about with funding and sponsorship from the airline firm Emirates as well as guidance and support from Transport for London and the city’s mayor, Boris Johnson. It serves as a connection between the O2 shopping centre/arena in North Greenwich and the ExCel centre in Custom House, east London.

London’s federal city mayor Boris Johnson at his first ride along with flight attendants from the sponsor Emirates (c) Arabian Aerospace Online News Service

The Air Line provides a much-needed and far more exciting way to cross the Thames, where previously it meant a journey either by Tube, river boat or car. It will also provide investment and tourist cash to what was once a badly neglected part of London. Londoners and tourists will be surprised at how easy it is to use. All you need is a special ‘Oystercard’  – a blue-coloured plastic card that can be purchased for £5 ($7.80) from special machines at most Underground stations. You can alternatively pay the fare with cash, but it does work out cheaper with the Oystercard. Frequent users can obtain multi-trip tickets which will attract bigger savings.

Emirates Air Line extends for 1.1 kilometres across London’s arterial waterway at a height of 90 metres, running from the Greenwich Peninsula to the now-rebranded Emirates Royal Docks, located near Royal Victoria DLR station, which is part of the Docklands Light Railway that covers much of east London. It is a unique travel experience, giving passengers amazing views of the city’s most formidable landmarks, such as Canary Wharf, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Thames Barrier and the new Olympic Park. The construction billed at around £38 million and the components were sourced and manufactured mostly within the United Kingdom, therefore providing a boost for the local construction and manufacturing sector.

London is a crowded city with over 8 million inhabitants. It is just as well that the Air Line cable cars can carry more than 2,000 passengers per hour in both directions. Cabins arrive at the pick-up points every 30 seconds and total journey time is five minutes (peak) and 10 minutes if off-peak, when it is less busy. The cabins and line are fully accessible to all passengers, being designed with step-free access and additional space for bicycles. Each cabin can carry up to 10 people at a time, making Emirates’  first venture into land-based transportation family and group friendly.

Children under 5 years get free entrance. All children under 12 can only ride with an attendant supervising adult. For everyone else, boarding passes can be purchased from the terminals at either end of the Emirates Air Line, or you can top up a Oystercard at any shop or Tube station that has the Oyster blue livery/signage visible.

The official logo (c) Turquoise Brand Ltd. Inc.

FARES:

Adult Single – £4.30 (£3.20 with Oystercard)

Adult Return – £8.60 (£6.40 with Oystercard

Child (5-15 years of age) Single – £2.20 (£1.60 with Oystercard)

Child Return – £4.40 (£3.20 with Oystercard)

Oystercard discounts also apply to pensioners holding Freedom Passes and to anyone holding a Travelcard (either Oyster or printed card version). If you buy a multi-trip Boarding Pass, you can reduce the cost of a single journey to only £1.60.

OPERATING HOURS:

Summer timetable (to 30th September 2012)

Mon-Fri: 0700-2100

Sat: 0800-2100

Sun: 0900-2100

Peak times/peak hour services (the busiest times for passenger usage): 0700-1000 & 1500-2100

For real-time service updates, you can visit the Emirates Air Line at www.tfl.gov.uk/emiratesairline or follow on Twitter – @EmiratesAirLDN

Looking towards the O2 from 90m above the Thames © Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.

This article was written using information distributed by Transport for London.