A TOWN NAMED ROTTENEGG: Monarch Airlines encourages people to visit unfairly named locations

London – VIJAY SHAH via SWNS digital

You are probably right now in the midst of booking your summer break to somewhere in Europe. Perhaps it is somewhere well-known, cultural, fun and touristy. Some place like Barcelona, London, Venice, Valletta or even Belgrade. However, maybe you want to sample a different, new and off-the-beaten-track destination this time round. How about Hell, in Norway, Piles in Spain, or God forbid, the simple hamlet of Twatt in the Orkney Islands, off Scotland. While visiting destinations with giggle-inducing names might give Instagram bragging rights to some teens, most families would baulk at the idea of visiting a place name that sounds like an intimate body part. Step forward, flight company Monarch, has launched a campaign as part of their ‘Year of Nice’ to encourage people to get over their misgivings and give places like Windpassing (there are four of them in Austria’s Niederoesterreich region) a chance, as they are often locales with beautiful scenery and attractions to discover.

One in six British holidaymakers would be put off going to a place if it had an unsavoury name. Yet they are missing out on some truly unique places. Why not take a seat in Piles, in Spain’s sunny Valencia region, not too far from the Costas of the Catalan coast and the arty metropolis of Barcelona. Despite it’s name’s awkward resemblance to a painful condition, Piles is very comfortable, with its own clean and flat beach. Also in Spain, you can head over to Andalusia and visit the traditional town of El Moron, a decision that will not make you look like an idiot. Ironically, El Moron has produced one of Spain’s most eminent archaeologists, so it is clearly not a town of tanned hicks.

For staycations closer to home, try the hamlet of Nasty in Hertfordshire, an hour’s or so drive from London. This picturesque and quintessentially English cluster of twenty or so buildings is anything but nasty, and many Londoners have in fact moved there to take advantage of the fresh rural air and bucolic countryside, even if they are reluctant to tell their friends in the big city where exactly they have upped sticks too.

For more oddly-named villages and towns to inspire you, take a look at the video below, featuring presenter Laura Hamilton.

 

SOURCES/VIDEO CREDIT:

SWNS digital/72Point http://www.swnsdigital.com/

 

UNITED AIRLINES: Airline cremates world record size rabbit without owner’s permission

Chicago – VIJAY SHAH via ASHITHA NAGESH, GEORGIA DIEBELIUS and Metro

The American air carrier United Airlines, which has suffered a massive PR blow recently after a doctor was assaulted and dragged off one of its planes, faces yet more controversy after it emerged the airline cremated a deceased giant rabbit without informing the pet’s owner, according to UK tabloid paper Metro today.

Ten-month old Flemish Giant rabbit Simon, the son of current world record holder for biggest rabbit, 4ft 4in (1.32m) Darius and measuring at 3ft (91cm) himself, was found frozen to death in the cargo hold at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. He was travelling from Heathrow Airport, near London, UK to a new home in Chicago.

 

Picture posed by another giant rabbit.

 

It was reported that airport ground staff at O’Hare has placed Simon in a freezer instead of a suitable pet carrier, resulting in his death. Simon had remained entirely trapped in the freezer, which was set at a temperature of around 0-2 degrees Celsius for the entire 16-hour duration of the flight. His former owner, rabbit breeder Annette Edwards, demanded that a post-mortem be held on her pet, but came to discover that Simon’s body was sent for cremation without her being told. The cremation took place this past Friday.

Edwards told The Sun newspaper: “I had been asking United over and over again for his body so that I can have him examined here in Britain but they never got back to me,

‘All I want to know is how he died. He was fit as a fiddle when he left my house, and then 24 hours later he’s dead”

Simon was said to have been travelling to the home of an unnamed celebrity, based in Kanton in Ohio state who had taken on the responsibility of being his owner, and the celebrity was reported to be upset at Simon’s passing.

At the time, United Airlines claimed that the rabbit was still alive upon arrival at Chicago, and that he was mistakenly placed in a freezer at holding on the airport premises. A United staff member told The Sun: “The rabbit arrived fine but there was some sort of mistake and he was locked inside a freezer overnight.

Everyone thought he was just having a nap or something. Nobody realised it needed to be taken out.’

‘We know from the inventory that that the rabbit was alive when it reached the airport. So it happened in the warehouse. It has all been kept very hush hush but none of us know who froze the rabbit.”

A United spokesman countered the allegations, saying at the time of the incident: “That assertion (that Simon froze to death on the flight) is completely false. Simon was cared for at the PetSafe kennel facility which is kept at room temperature (on average 70°F (21°C)).

‘He arrived at Chicago O’Hare airport in apparent good condition at 10:25 am (local time).

‘He was seen by a representative of the kennel facility moving about within his crate about 11:00am. Shortly thereafter, a kennel representative noticed Simon was motionless and determined that he passed away “

SOURCES:

Metro, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED

“United Airlines ‘cremated Simon the giant rabbit without the owner’s consent’” – Ashitha Nagesh, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (1 May 2017) http://metro.co.uk/2017/05/01/united-airlines-cremated-simon-the-giant-rabbit-without-the-owners-consent-6607998/

“Giant rabbit died in care of United Airlines ‘after being put in the freezer’” – Georgia Diebelius, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (29 April 2017) http://metro.co.uk/2017/04/29/giant-rabbit-died-in-care-of-united-airlines-after-being-put-in-the-freezer-6604933/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Colby the Flemish Giant” – Rhiannon Boyle, Flickr (4 October 2008) https://www.flickr.com/photos/anomieus/2912690917

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

PHOTO MOMENT: Hold that pose!!

 

“Hold that pose!”

“That’s the trouble about being a squirrel photographer….all my subjects seem a bit nuts!”

 

**********************

Two red squirrels frolic about in the snow, while one realises her dream of being an ace photographer. The pages of Squirrel Vogue and National Geographic await.

This photo comes from the wildlife and travel collection of Zoraida Palacios, who describes herself as a defender and protector of animals. She is also an art lover with a degree in administration. The tweet was created by Britannia PR, known fully as Britannia Communications Partnership Digital Communications Agency. This public relations agency was ranked number one in a list of 500 agencies in March 2015 on Klout, Peer Index, Kred and Social Authority. Their Twitter account often shares amazing example of scenic and natural photography, as well as images from around the British Isles. They are based in London.

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Britannia PR, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Britanniacomms
IMAGE CREDIT:
Zoraida Palacios, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/ZoraidaPalacios

OBAMA: US President to cut short India trip after death of Saudi King

The United States President Barack Obama, who is currently on a tour of India, will cut short his diplomatic trip in the Asian subcontinent after the sudden demise of the Saudi king Abdullah, the Associated Press news agency (AP) reports.

Obama had visited India for strategic talks for a three-day period, of which the itinerary included an open-air audience with India’s new prime minister Narendra Modi, but the sudden death of the long-reigning King Abdullah ibn Abdilaziz Al Saud yesterday after being admitted to hospital with a lung infection has caused a sudden change of plans. The Saudis are one of America’s key allies in the Middle East. Indian officials told AP that President Obama will be heading immediately to Riyadh to pay his respects to the monarch, who was widely applauded in the West as a reformer who favoured some elemental women’s rights and helped preside over Saudi Arabia’s march forward as a regional power. He was only hours away from making a scheduled touristic trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra, just outside Delhi, when the passing of the Saudi ruler was announced. An official, Pradeep Bhatnagar, who is based out of Agra, said that American counterparts informed him today that Obama would not be visiting the ‘monument of love’ and would immediately jet off to Saudi Arabia, according to AP.

The US president had intended to hold a series of meetings with prime minister Modi on Sunday (tomorrow) and then arrive in New Delhi to be a special VIP guest alongside India’s political elites for the country’s yearly Republic Day celebrations and parades the following Monday. US officials have stated that the Saudi trip is a detour and that Obama will continue to press on with his India tour at an unspecified later date.

Josh Earnest, a spokesperson with the White House – the official presidential residence – said that president Obama and First Lady Michelle would travel to Riyadh on Tuesday this week and meet with the newly-crowned Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. Salman is the half-brother of the late King Abdullah and previously held the portfolio as the kingdom’s defence minister since 2011, according to Wikipedia sources. The US had planned to send a separate delegation headed by Vice-President Joe Biden to Riyadh, but spokesperson Earnest said that these plans were dropped after the White House realised that Biden’s visit would clash with Obama’s departure from India. Biden will not now be attending the Riyadh function and will remain on official duties in Washington.

President Obama’s visit to India comes during a period of strengthening relations between the two superpowers. AP reported that Obama and Modi had got along very well and had built a good rapport as leaders of two of the world’s largest democracies. The Indian prime minister, formerly the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, visited Washington in autumn 2014, and invited the US president to return the compliment as a guest for India’s Republic Day on January 26th, 2015.

It took us by some surprise,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. “There’s a great affinity between the United States and India and our people, but there’s also a history that is complicated and that would have made it seem highly unlikely that a U.S. president would be sitting with India’s leaders at their Republic Day ceremony.

There have been tensions in the past, mostly over India’s nuclear programme, which some US observers feared would exacerbate tensions with nuclear arch-rival and neighbour Pakistan. Washington has also been perturbed by India’s reluctance to open up their carefully regulated state industries to more foreign investment and to tackle rampant infringement of often US-owned copyrights and patents, such as in pharmaceuticals and digital media.

The two countries have however enjoyed good relations particularly in the trade, science and education fields. Officials in the US also hope the warm ties between the two leaders will also help address issues such as the Indian contribution to tackling climate change, including the limitation of carbon admissions from its rapidly developing industrial areas, as well as provide American business leaders with new opportunities and linkups with big business in Asia.

After some deliberations from White House advisers, Obama was cleared to pay a visit to Modi at New Delhi. As well as attending the Republic Day celebrations in an official capacity, he was also scheduled to meet with local and US business leaders as well as attend bilateral meetings with India’s prime minister. Barack Obama has the new distinction of being the first American leader to visit India more than once. He previously visited for an economic summit held in 2010.

Obama’s tour of India is expected to be loaded with symbolism with fewer ‘substantive advances’, although significant issues such as climate change, economics and defence ties are expected to be on the agenda for discussion. Modi will also use the visit to help protect his country against any aggressive political complications from either China or Pakistan, according to AP, as well as neatly coinciding with his election promise to revolutionise Asia’s third-largest economy.

Indian political commentator Ashok Malik, speaking to AP, said expectations for concrete deliverables during the visit are “below the standards usually set by U.S. presidents when they travel across the world for a three-day visit.

The tête-à-tête with Obama also marks a significant sea-change for PM Narendra Modi, who was once denied a US visa in 2005 after protests at his alleged but unproven involvement with the Godhra incident of 2002, which saw religious riots paralyse the state he governed at the time.

 

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Andrew S. Ginsburg, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/GinsburgJobs
“Obama to cut short India trip to visit Saudi Arabia” –  Julie Pace, Ashok Sharma & Muneeza Naqvi, AP Mobile/The Associated Press (24 January 2015) http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=k9MBhS0r
IMAGE CREDIT:
Getty Images via Zemanta.

PRUDENTIAL RIDELONDON: An East London travel guide

Cyclist enthusiasts still buoyed up by the highlights and camaderie generated by the great Tour de France‘s passage through the streets of Britain and which culminated in London, will now have another reason to celebrate, as the Prudential RideLondon cycling extravaganza makes its presence felt this August.

Billed by its organisers as a “world-class festival of cycling”, RideLondon will see hundreds of Lycra-clad and two-wheeled athletes travel through the capital in aid of charity. The event, which is supported by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, Surrey Council and Transport for London (with publicity handled by PR agency London & Partners), is scheduled to take place on the 10th August 2014.

(c) V. Shah/Pudential RideLondon/Half-Eaten Mind via Flickr.

While this day will see the mountain bike become the king of the road, other road users are being advised to plan ahead as many roads and bridges on the RideLondon route will be affected. Many will be closed off in order to provide clear passage for the participants, in much the same way that roads in east and central London were temporarily closed for the last leg of the Tour three weeks ago.

The Prudential RideLondon event is a multiple award-winning festival of cycling which was developed by London’s overall elected Mayor alongside London & Partners, and Transport for London, the government agency in charge of running and funding the city’s transportation networks, including its Underground lines and distinctive red buses. Alongside the London-based partners, the event will also see the involvement of Surrey County Council, the local government body for the county of Surrey which lies south of London. The event is managed by the London & Surrey Cycling Partnership, and is part of the London Marathon event family which aims to promote uptake of physical activities.

Last year’s RideLondon was described as a ‘huge success’. It rode into the record books as the world’s largest inaugural mass participation sports event and cyclists and organisers managed to raise an astonishing £7 million in aid of various charities. On the Sunday 10th August, an estimated 24,000 riders of varying abilities will take on this challenging 100 mile run through deserted streets across London and Surrey in the first part of the rally, named the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100. Then after this is complete, 150 professional cyclists from across the globe will be pitted against each other in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic, which is a longer, 200 kilometre variation of the amateur route. This will be broadcast live on the BBC, public service broadcaster to the British nation. The starting line for both rallies will be at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London. From there, riders will work their way through London’s eastern flanks, taking in Hackney and Tower Hamlets boroughs before heading south for the county border where they will encounter acres of scenic countryside as they ride through Surrey. They will then retrace their route back to an iconic finish in the centre of town at The Mall.

On this August weekend, other road users will need to be aware that many roads will be blocked off to vehicles meaning that there will be a significant impact on traffic flows in the local area and also possibly major roads leading out from the affected area. As the roads will be closed for the day, motorists will need to either replan their routes or alternatively utilise public transport. Most road closures on the RideLondon route in the eastern parts of the capital will begin at 5:00 in the early morning and end at either 9:30 or 10:30 in the morning.

This route will be closed from 5:00 am to 10:30 am:

  • Waterden Road, Stratford – a road leading from the Olympic Park.

These following routes will be closed from 5:00 am to 9:30 am:

  • The A12 main road between Redbridge borough and Blackwall Lane, including A102 Blackwall Tunnel and Northern Approach.
  • The A12 main road also leading from the Blackwall Tunnel to Redbridge borough.
  • East India Dock Road (A13), in the Poplar area and possibly through all of Tower Hamlets borough.
  • Aspen Way, between Poplar and Blackwall.
  • Limehouse Link – tunnel in the Limehouse area of Tower Hamlets.
  • The Highway (A1203) in Shadwell.
  • East Smithfield (part of A1203 road) also in the Tower Hamlets area.
  • Minories – a road in Aldgate near central London.
  • Tower Hill – the road leading south-west of Minories.

The above times are for the first race (mass-participation event). The listed roads and tunnels will then shut again for a rolling temporary closure between the hours of 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm for the professional segment of the Prudential RideLondon. The only exception to the above will be the A12 from the A102 Blackwall Tunnel to Redbridge which will remain open during the time of the professional rally. The ‘rolling temporary closure’ is when special motorcycle-based escort teams will hold back normal road traffic to allow the racers to pass the route and minimise the likelihood of any accidents. This will cause some inconvenience to drivers on these roads so it is recommended to avoid them as much as possible during the hour the professional race will be passing though in.

The routes for the cycling events will need to be made secure and will therefore be cleared of all vehicles to ensure the safety of cyclists, spectators and local residents living along the routes and side streets. The A12 main road, A102 Blackwall Tunnel and A13 will reopen to traffic after the last amateur cyclist has vacated them. If you have your car, van or other vehicle parked on one of the above listed routes, you are advised to move your vehicle to a different location the night before at the latest. Parking will be temporarily prohibited for safety reasons from 12:00 midnight on the Sunday 10th August. Any vehicles not relocated or parked up in a suspended parking bay will be removed from the route. Roads coming off the route will have access only to local people and business owners/staff during the race. The usual Sunday parking restrictions will be in place unless otherwise notified.

For those looking to get about via public transport, the good news is that there are no pre-planned or event-related Tube line or station closures for the Prudential RideLondon. However, trains in certain areas may be more packed than usual as spectators will be travelling to and from the event in the East London. This overspill may also affect buses, trains and DLR routes as well. As the weather may be warm, please bring a bottle of water or drink with you to avoid dehydration, dizziness or fainting and do not leave your manners at home. Some buses may be diverted temporarily, suspended or will terminate earlier than their usual final stop as buses will also be banned from using the affected roads when the race is in progress. Check online before you travel. Many bus stops on the cycle route will also be out of service for the race’s duration, along with some Barclays Cycle Hire (‘Boris bikes‘) docking stations nearby the routes affected.

As far as central London bridges are concerned, most will be shut until the evening. The exceptions are Waterloo, Blackfriars and London Bridges which will remain open all day. However expect there to be a lot of traffic as drivers using the closed bridges will be concentrated on the three open crossovers. For London’s emergency services, 999 emergencies will remain a priority for the police, ambulance and fire services. Emergency vehicle access around the route area is prioritised and remains as normal. These services will also been on standby for participants and spectators of the events, in co-operation with local hospitals and police stations.

Pedestrians crossing over roads that are part of the route will notice that all zebra and pelican crossing points will have uniformed event marshals who are there to help supervise the use of these crossings. Many of the usual crossings will be out of service but alternative and safe crossing points will be set up where it is easier to get across the road. Please be patient during the event and pay close attention to instruction given out by the marshals and stewards safeguarding the routes.

If you need assistance with access queries regarding using the affected area for matters such as social care or medical visits, weddings or other planning needs, then a special helpdesk will be on call during the RideLondon weekend. Call 0345 894 9773 during the hours of 05:00-1900 on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th August. Alternatively, email them at helpdesk@ridelondon.co.uk.

USEFUL WEBSITES:

www.tfl.gov.uk/prudentialridelondon

 – Transport for London travel check website to plan journeys nearer the event time.

www.prudentialridelondon.co.uk/routes

– Complete details of all cycling routes for RideLondon, from the event organisers.

www.prudentialridelondon.co.uk/roadclosures

 – Information on road closures in central, west, south-west London and Surrey from the event organisers.

www.prudentialridelondon.co.uk

 – General information on the Prudential RideLondon cycling races.

www.prudentialridelondon.co.uk/charitabletrust

 – Details on the London Marathon Charitable Trust.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Facebook: /RideLondon

Twitter: @RideLondon

 

SOURCES:
“Prudential RideLondon 10 August – Event information for east London” – Prudential RideLondon (leaflet)
IMAGE CREDITS:
“2014-07-17 20.35.11” – Vijay Shah, The Half-Eaten Mind/Flickr (17 July 2014) https://www.flickr.com/photos/110818734@N02/14492142479/
Getty Images via Zemanta.
 

 

 

 

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/

PURE EVASION: A posh Tunisian travel agency; a myriad of serene holiday snaps

By Vijay Shah

As any business nowadays knows, it is common sense to have a Facebook presence. With its 800 million active users, according to its own published figures, Facebook has a wide-ranging and international consumer market that even the smallest business could potentially benefit from. This is also true for any organisation that needs an audience; from national governments to charity appeals. Even this little blog, among the millions of blogs out there (30 million estimated using the WordPress platform alone) has its own Facebook page (it’s here!). You do not have to be earning a ‘pretty penny’ to make your presence felt on Facebook. Essentially you have hundreds of thousands of eyes and screens that you can use to showcase your or your organisation’s work, activities, and ideas.

This article is not an attempt to give a crash course in setting up your own business or any tips-and-cheats guide to winning a legion of social networks fans. I do not have yet that much expertise in the field, unfortunately, but it does show how if you make your Facebook page visually appealing, it can draw people in like moths to a light bulb, but even those photos can take a life of themselves which can transcend their humble placement in a webpage on somewhere like Facebook or MySpace.

This morning I stumbled across a company through a page I follow on Facebook called “Chicha”, a French-language setup dedicated to promoting the art of water-pipe smoking, otherwise known as shisha or hookah. By the way, ‘chicha’ is simply the French rendering of the Arabic word ‘shisha’ – the ‘ch’ digraph is pronounced /sh/ in French. “Chicha” normally is adept at posting close-up shots of various hookah pipes or people using them, so it is basically your typical hobby page.

Today was a small unexpected surprise though, instead of the usual fare of shelves of mini hookahs or double-piped Khalil Maamoon monsters, I instead stumbled this picture of a brightly coloured city scape which you can see below:

The beautiful image of Rio that caught my eye (c) Original copyright, Calxibe.com
The beautiful image of Rio that caught my eye (c) Original copyright, Calxibe.com

At first appearances for me, bearing in mind that I had just been kitchen cleaning and was frankly relieved/tired that it was all over, was that this was the skyline of  Hong Kong’s city centre. I guess it would have been easy to see why, as the urban areas of this financial powerhouse and Special Administrative Region in China are packed to the brim with neon lights, futuristic buildings and a hectic nightlife. On closer inspection, I soon realised this to be the fun-in-the-sun city that is Rio de Janeiro. While this picture could easily be of any major coastal city, the clue is in the Sugar Loaf mountain in the top half of the cityscape.

I love this picture. The colour contrast is pleasing to the eye especially with the purple of the dusky sky, layered above the earthy browns and greens of the hills and islands, finished off with the dotted green-yellow lights of the city itself. Urban and man-made, and the glory of nature, fitting together without overwhelming each other…but it can overwhelm the viewer. Looking at this photo, I feel relaxed yet breathless, in absorbing the buzzing activity and sheer scale of this tropical neighbourhood – the complexity of Rio’s man-made environment, set against the tranquility and omnipresence of the city’s surrounding natural features.
Pure Evasion is a private travel club and holiday company based in Sousse, Tunisia. The club specialises in offering travel packages to exotic tropical locations and caters mainly to Francophone tourists. They cover all of the main tourist hotspots in Asia, Africa principally, through exclusive and tailor-made tours. Pure Evasion does not promote its business too heavily on either its homepage or its Facebook page. It seems like a small agency, which may be a bit worrying for those used to package holidays but unfortunately I cannot say if Pure Evasion is just an unreliable one-man/woman operation or if its assumed size offers holidaymakers a personalised experience where one or two specialists cater to your every whim.

There is not much in the way of a company ‘about’ description and the destinations are described as like mini-entries for a Wiki site (but with a lot of useful facts and figures for would-be visitors), but Pure Evasion do not seem overtly concerned about written details and terms & conditions. They let their pictures do the talking. I have selected some of my favourites from the Pure Evasion Facebook entry…have a look and let your worries evaporate, your mind wander, and let dreams evade reality.

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All pictures copyright of the Pure Evasion Facebook page.

PURE EVASION-

B23, Cyber Parc Hammam, Sousse 4011- Tunisia

Tel: +216 98 255 619

http://voyage.pureevasion.com/

See the Facebook page for Pure Evasion @ https://www.facebook.com/PureEvasion

SOURCES: Facebook Newsroom, WordPress, ‘Chicha’ (page on Facebook), Pure Evasion.

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.