Sunday, June 16, 2013
Day 1 Planes, Trains and Drains (Sat, May 25)
We landed at Heathrow on a pleasant sunny spring morning. I was feeling surprisingly good- I'd managed to shift my schedule earlier during the week, got extra rest, and by having an early dinner Friday, eschewing caffeine and catching a late flight, I tricked my system into sleeping virtually the whole flight. With five hours of sleep, I was feeling considerably more chipper than during past trips.
As is our wont, we took the Heathrow express into Paddington, admired the station (the statue of Paddington bear was sporting a cheery yellow striped scarf, no doubt the gift of an admirer), and took a turn about the neighborhood, and found some lunch.
From there, we strolled in the direction of the New London Architecture Centre, where they were having an exhibition called Planes, Trains and Drains, on urban planning for London and the surrounding areas. They'd evidently used the hosting of the London Olympic Games to achieve a number of infrastructure improvements, and the scope (plans that would require revision and extension in 2031 were 'short term') was very impressive. In particular the recognition that improving transport would require not only changes to the transport network, but to foot and car traffic areas in the areas that were getting better service.
They had an impressive model of the city of London:
And are devoting considerable effort toto low rise urban development and increased density. They're also in the process of updating the amazing Victorian sewer system (developed by Joseph Bazalgette) and already carrying much more than the capacity it was designed for. (If you're starting to wonder about people who are so enthused about drainage, all I can tell you is that we're both engineers. Using technology to solve problems excites us.)
From there we went back out into the brilliant sunshine and walked up to Kings Cross to see the new renovation there. It had been featured in the exhibition we'd just seen, and the station had been thoroughly torn apart during our last visit, so we were quite curious. It proved spectacular- they've roofed over a bunch of open areas, keeping the existing station facade, but adapting it into an extensive area of shops and restaurants, a bit similarly to the design of the huge covered courtyard of the British Museum.
And the British museum was where we headed next. We were disappointed to find that the Ice Age exhibition (one of two current special exhibitions) was sold out, but not so disappointed we were willing to throw money at the problem (we could likely have gotten in by becoming museum members...which we would have happily done, were we able to visit more often than once every few years). Instead we walked through the exhibition on the Enlightenment, which was rather apt given how much of the early part of our trip involves the naturalists and collectors of the Enlightenment.
After the museum, some more strolling took us to Busaba Eathai (a longtime favorite of ours) for dinner, and then to Waterloo station to catch the train down to Dorchester, where we were staying for the first few days of our trip.
Here are a few more photos from our first day in London: