Summer In The City

Meerkat looking directly at the camera and reaching out to the glass with its paw.

As well as the game nights and my trip to Alexandra Palace that I’ve written about recently, I’ve been doing a lot of other stuff as well. There doesn’t need to be full posts dedicated to every little thing, so I thought I’d group it all together into one long and varied post instead. I’ve broken it up with some photos and video links along the way, but you can see even more on my Youtube and Instagram pages too. Enjoy! 🙂

Street Festivals

One thing I’ve quickly learned about London is that there’s a village fair or street festival somewhere in the city every weekend. So I’ve been to a few of those in the last few weeks.

They’ve all been in nice areas that I’d like to explore further, but they haven’t been as good as the StrEatLife Festival I went to at Alexandra Palace. At Ally Pally it was easier to see what was on each stall, by just looking at the menus with my monocular before joining the queues. And people weren’t quite so crammed in there either. Whereas in the case of Carnaby and Seven Dials, there are some relatively narrow streets that everyone is squeezing into, and the signs on the stalls were either very small print or were so low down that the crowds of people were often in the way. So it wasn’t as easy to see what was what, and so they weren’t quite as satisfying. But still, it was good to go down to see them, and they did still have things that I enjoyed.

Carnaby Street Eat – I’ve never been to Carnaby before, and they had everything set out very nicely, with a long picnic table down the centre of the main street, lots of stalls around the place, people playing music, and people dancing from Swing Dance UK. As I said above, it was hard to figure out what was available on all of the stalls, but I did have a very nice BBQ Pulled Chicken wrap from the Whyte & Brown stall, so I’m glad I found that. I had a can of Camden Hells Lager with it as well, which I wasn’t overly keen on, but it was worth a try. I’m much more of a cider person really though. You can see the footage I recorded at Carnaby here.

A long, narrow table stretches down the narrow Carnaby shopping street, with people sat on each side enjoying their picnics. The tablecloth is pink with images of pineapples. Many more people are walking down the street on each side.

Seven Dials Fashion Feast – Again, Seven Dials is a nice area that I’d never been to before, and in both those areas I’d like to get to know the shops better, as there would probably be things like clothes I’d like to get in some of them. Although, in the case of Seven Dials, the shop that intrigues me most isn’t a clothing one. At this Festival there were stalls giving out free Magnums – and who can resist that in the summer?! So I picked up a white chocolate Magnum, along with a £1 off voucher for their Magnum Pleasure Store, which is opening on Wednesday June 28th. That store will allow you to create your own flavour Magnum, which I love the idea of. Apparently they dd it last year as well. So I’ll definitely have to go and try that!

Sheltering from the sun under a Magnum themed umbrella, a lady at the Magnum stall serves a customer. Behind her, the shop wall is filled with an image of a fruity flavoured Magnum. A banner crosses the middle with the Magnum logo, and the words Coming Soon.

King’s Cross Canal Festival – I went here last Sunday, although I didn’t spend too long in the area as it’s been so hot lately! I don’t know if temperatures in the 30’s are a regular occurrence in London every summer, but it’s still something I’m trying to adjust to! It was nice walking down by the canal though, it’s great that the Canal & River Trust are looking after them and promoting them for people to visit, they are certainly parts of the City I want to explore. There were some lovely boats parked up there. Not as much in the way of stalls like the other street festivals, as far as I could see, but still a nice place to stroll around.

Kings Cross Canal with a long barge parked by the path. Next to this, crowds of people are sitting on on a very wide set of big green steps, with food and drink stalls behind them at the top.

But it’s not just street festivals. There are various other places that I’ve had a walk around too.

Garden Squares

After spending a bit of time at the Carnaby festival, I was looking on the map on my phone to figure out where to go next, and noticed a number of the square gardens nearby, which are dotted all over Central London it seems. I worked out that I could go and see a few of them to give me a nice walk before getting the Tube home. So I ended up going to Cavendish Square, Bloomsbury Square, Russell Square, Brunswick Square (which has a big shopping centre nearby) and Red Lion Square. Then I went to the nearest Tube station, Chancery Lane, and got the Tube home from there. It was a nice stroll, and you can see the footage I shot from Oxford Street and the Garden Squares on my Youtube channel.

A family sit on the grass next to a giant bronze sculpture of a man's head. The head is only visible from the nose upwards, as if the rest of the face is buried below the ground.


The next day (after spending a morning exploring the massive Tesco Barking Superstore!), I headed up to Stratford for the afternoon, because I wanted to explore the old Stratford Centre (not Westfield, but the older shopping centre) and the area around it, having not done so properly yet. So that’s what I did. There are some nice shops in there, including many of the usual stores like Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Boots, Sports Direct, etc. And at the other end, on Stratford high street, are all the usual fast food places, along with Wilko, Argos and places like that.

A large red steam train, with the name Robert in a small plaque on the side, on a small section of railway track placed outside Stratford Station.

But what caught my eye most in the shopping centre, and what I had partly been looking for there, was their Amazon lockers. We never had these before where I used to live, so I’m very tempted to try them to see how it works out. It strikes me as a great alternative to having stuff delivered to your house when you might not be in. I know you can have stuff delivered to corner shops and post offices as well, of which there are a couple a short walk from my house. But these lockers could still be convenient, as they’re self-service, and I could pass through Stratford on my way home whenever I’ve been out, in order to pick things up. There’s also another set of Amazon lockers at the big Morrisons store across the high street from there. The Stratford Centre closes at 6pm, making those lockers inaccessible after that time, whereas the Morrisons lockers are on the outside of their building, so can be accessed later I assume. So there are two sets of lockers within a short walk of the station that I’ve now located for future reference.

Next to the shop Linens Direct is a set of yellow lockers (8 by 10). Most rows are narrow in height, but rows 1 and 9 are a medium size, and the bottom row lockers are large. A touch screen sits in the middle rows of column 3 instead of lockers. Large text across columns 1 and 2 reads Order Online Pick Up Here. The words Amazon Locker are written vertically and prominently on the narrow left wall of the structure.

From there, rather than get the Tube home, and because I had plenty of time, I went for a longer walk, all the way home in fact. I had a further look around the high street first, including taking some photos around St John’s Church. And then, on my way home from there, I walked through Stratford Park, West Ham Park and Priory Park. West Ham Park’s the biggest and best of them, but they’re all nice. I just love how many green spaces there are around London to walk in, and it’s amazing how peaceful they are even though you have main roads nearby. So I enjoyed the stroll, and you can see footage from Stratford Station and Stratford & West Ham Parks on my Youtube channel.

A curving tree-lined path, with grass on each side, in West Ham Park.

Victoria Embankment Gardens & Lincoln’s Inn Fields

I took a random walk after the Seven Dials festival and unintentionally, but happily, found myself in Victoria Embankment Gardens, which were very nice to walk through. There’s a lot of interesting statues in there, and I don’t think I found all of them. Well worth exploring if you get the chance. You can see my footage from the park here.

3 large pots, each containing a small tree, sit in front of a striped green lawn area. To the sides, people are walking or sitting on benches. Larger trees are grouped together in the background underneath a summer sky that is almost clear blue, apart from a couple of wispy clouds.

Once I’d had a stroll around there, I walked to another park nearby called Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It’s another lovely area, and the Lincoln’s Inn building nearby is very impressive. There are also free public toilets on the pavement next to the park, which are very useful to know about, especially given the price of some places in London – going to spend a penny can cost a lot more than that!

The large brick Lincoln's Inn building, looking a bit like a church. It has big windows along the structure, and criss-crossing grey diagonal lines forming diamond shapes on the brickwork.

Cycling Events

I’m cheating slightly with that last image, as it was taken the following day, when I also happened to be nearby and went back for another look. The reason being that I can’t show you the photos I took of it on the first day, because of what was going on right next to it.

I’m pretty good at keeping up with what’s going on in London these days, following various Twitter and Facebook accounts and getting email newsletters from places like Londonist, Time Out, Ian Visits, to name three of my favourites, along with newsletters from specific attractions and shopping centres as well.

But for whatever reason, the one thing I hadn’t been aware of was the World Naked Bike Ride! So you can imagine my surprise when I saw a flash mob of naked people on bikes around the park when I got there! Apparently it’s a form of protest against the use of oil and other non-renewable energy, particularly to power automobiles, and the dangers it causes to pedestrians and cyclists. When it comes to cars, buses, lorries, etc, we are indecently exposed to their emissions whether we like it or not, so this is a way of turning that on its head.

And fair play to them I say. It’s different, it’s memorable, it’s attention-grabbing – and I’m writing about it, so it’s clearly serving its purpose of getting the word out there. It’s not something I would ever do myself, but I wasn’t at all offended by it. It’s oddly fascinating to watch really. Although I don’t know how comfortable riding a bike in the nude must be. As someone who works in the printing industry, it brings a whole new meaning to ‘saddle stitch’ I would think!

When I got there, they were cycling around the outside of the park to begin with, but then they all stopped there for a rest. And as I needed to use the facilities anyway, I ended up going with a load of naked men all around me. Not what I’d expected when I’d left the house that morning, but somehow I wasn’t phased by it. If there’s one thing I know about London, is that anything’s possible here, so it’s no big deal. The whole event seemed very well organised as well, as there were staff members making sure people were in the right place at the right time.

I’m not going to show any of the photos I took for obvious reasons, but there’s a heavily illustrated Guardian article if you’re curious. There are some good photos there to be fair.

I did also see a clothed bike ride on the same day though – specifically the Rapha Nocturne race. Again, it’s an event I’ve never heard of and wasn’t expecting to see, but I when I did come across it, I stayed around for a few minutes to cheer along with the crowd. Nowhere near as many people as the London Marathon, but there were still quite a few there. I’ve posted some footage of it here.

And then the next day, as I was wandering to the Strand, I saw what I later worked out to be the OVO Energy Women’s Tour Stage 5. As with the Rapha Nocturne race, there were metal railings along the length of the pavement to set the course, and I did get to see some of the riders go by. But there weren’t so many cyclists nor so many people in the crowd, as far as I could tell. But the people that were there were being very supportive with their cheering, so hopefully there was enough support all the way around the course for the cyclists to feel the atmosphere. It was lovely weather for it, certainly, just as it was for the cycling events I saw the previous day.

As part of the OVO Energy Women's Tour Stage 5, a group of cyclists race down the wide Strand road in London, with cars following behind. A small crowd is gathered behind the metal railings that stretch along the edge of the pavement.

Also on a quick transport related note, I did also take pictures at Tottenham Court Road and Liverpool Street Stations over that weekend. They’re both very different but both very huge and impressive stations. And I have filmed a few buskers at Tottenham Court Road now, which you can see here, here and here. Obviously some buskers are better than others, but I like the variety of stuff you get from them – we never got that sort of entertainment where I used to live! It often adds a bit of joy to the day I find.

Covent Garden

And talking of buskers and street performers, you always get them in abundance at Covent Garden. I spent an afternoon there recently – not doing any shopping, but just having a good walk around. I did spend some time watching, and filming, a comedy magician there. He didn’t do many tricks, but it was as much about the humour as anything else, and it was enjoyable entertainment for 20 minutes. I’ve also uploaded a second video too, showing the general sights and some of the other performers I saw.

Completely covered in gold, a man dressed in a jacket, shirt, trousers and hat holds a beer while in a seated position in mid-air. His right foot is the only part of him in visible contact with the box below, as he's resting his left foot on his right knee.

I loved walking around the whole area and seeing what it had to offer, it’s an amazing place. I do want to explore some of the shops, including for clothing, though I think it’ll be wise to check them out online first just so I know which shops I would want to go to. I don’t want to go in loads of places randomly when I don’t know what they are! There was a sweet shop I found that looked very tempting though, and of course they have a big Apple store which naturally caught my eye. There’s lots of intriguing shops though – and even a Nag’s Head pub near the Tube station, which makes me think of Only Fools And Horses, one of my all-time favourite comedies.

The front of a shop called Crabtree & Evelyn. The door sits between two large windows. Below the windows and completely surrounding the doorway are lots of white, pink and blue flowers, and green leaves.

The London Transport Museum is there too of course, which I fully intend to visit and have a good look around. I loved that place as a kid, so I’m very keen to spend a day there again. And just round the corner is the London Film Museum, which I hadn’t been aware of before, but am very intrigued to look at given the James Bond exhibition they have. So I’ve got plenty of reason to go back to that area again.

Science Museum

Talking of Museums, I paid a little visit to the Science Museum last month. There’s loads to explore there, it’ll take me many visits over a long period of time to get around to it all. But this time I had a look around the Energy Hall, which is all about the history of steam power, and Exploring Space, which is rather dark by its nature so it’s hard to read things, but it has a lot of interesting stuff.

A very large red wheel attached to a steam engine in the Science Museum.

An astronaut standing in front of a large moon lander craft, the body of the craft covered in reflective gold foil. A white sign with black text attached the craft says United States.

London Zoo

Finally, this week I went on an outing with my local branch of East London Vision (ELVis) – who very kindly featured me on their blog this week, talking about Living With Aniridia – thanks guys! You can find out more about the group on their website and Facebook as well. Our last outings were to the Natural History Museum and London Marathon, which was my first time meeting them. They’re a lovely bunch to hang out with.

Penguins at London Zoo. A group of them are on the pebbled shoreline, while others are swimming in the water.

On this occasion, our latest outing was to London Zoo – on a very hot and sunny Wednesday, we’ve been wonderfully lucky with the weather lately! And it was a great day out. In the morning we got to see quite a few things, including penguins, bugs, coral, monkeys, flamingos, pelicans, a macaw, a camel, and meerkats (a favourite for many, including me – they’re so cute!). The lions were hiding away unfortunately, no doubt because of the heat. It was great to chat with some of the other members of the group too, whose names and faces I’m becoming more familiar with as we meet each month.

Round corals of various colours, surrounded by rocks, in a large tank.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the afternoon, as I needed to meet two of my close friends who were also visiting the city that day. So I didn’t get to see the giraffes and other animals that the ELVis group continued to see. Still, that just means I’ll have to go back to the zoo again to have even more of a look around – which was always going to happen anyway, no matter how long we’d stayed there, because it’s a wonderful place. And you can see the footage I recorded at the zoo this week here.

Meerkat looking directly at the camera and reaching out to the glass with its paw.

And that’s it – so many great things going on lately, and in such gorgeous weather too. There are more fun and interesting activities planned over the coming weeks too, including some more experiences that are completely new to me. Who knows, you might even see me on TV next week if you’re very lucky… 😉

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

One thought on “Summer In The City”

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