London Tube closures 2-3 July 2016

Remember – You can always click on the Planned outages link on this blog page for up-to-date weekend information when no current blog post appears.

The weekend looks to be somewhat annoying in central London — Here’s the link for what is (or isn’t) happening.

Circle line is shut between Hammersmith and Tower Hill via King’s Cross / St. Pancras both days.

Similarly, line closure on Hamm’smith/City from King’s Cross / St. Pancras to Barking as well as between King’s Cross / St. Pancras and Barking on the Metropolitan line.

District line has no service between Turnham Green and Richmond but only on Sunday.

London Overground has a couple of closures – Gospel Oak to Barking on both days; Willesden Junction to Richmond is down on Sunday.

Sunday will see no service on TfL Rail (the new Tube extension from Liverpool St) between Liverpool Street and Stratford.

There is a long term closure on the stretch of London Tram from Wimbledon to Dundonald Road until October sometime. Also the stretch from Reeves Corner to East Croydon is down this weekend.

Ongoing station closures are –

Holland Park station is closed until early August.

Paddington station Bakerloo line trains not stopping until mid-August.

Road closures and diversions are numerous – central London, Battersea, Chiswick and Blackheath. Wimbledon and Southfields will be the usual Fortnight mess until the 10th.

 

Posted in General magpie travel, London travel, News from Britain | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A day trip to Mostar

I’ve been working on this post on and off for a couple of years and could have sworn that I’d posted it already. Oops! I also confess that it’s longer than more recent posts; in any event, here it is.

In 2012 (see? told you), I booked a package tour to Croatia and Slovenia. I arranged my itinerary so I could squeeze in a quick visit beforehand – on my own – to nearby Mostar, in Bosnia-Herzegovina (aka B-H). Rick Steves’ TV program made this destination look both exotic and approachable and it’s a popular day trip from Dubrovnik, Croatia, where the package tour started. I’m not exactly sure what I expected from Mostar but I came away with mixed feelings, something that’s never happened to me before or, at least, not to such a great degree. Maybe, just maybe, I finally found myself at the edge of my comfort zone.

A travel office near the cruise port in Dubrovnik had day tours to Mostar. The tour bus picked up a handful of us tourists the next morning at the Hilton Imperial near Pile Gate in the Old Town, a short downhill walk from my B&B. After a couple of other pickups, we were off.

The bus made stops at a roadside refreshment area in Neum, the only Bosnian town on the Adriatic and also at Počitelja small Bosnian village on the road to Mostar; both subjects of a previous post. The border crossing was an interesting experience – there are few “real” such crossings in Europe any more though the migrant/refugee crisis is changing that in some places. Since this was before Croatia joined the EU, there were four border encounters on the round trip – each country with its own station and guards, though my passport was only stamped once (better than none at all). So anyway…

After the pitstop/snack buy in Neum, we left the coastal highway and headed inland, to Počitelj, approaching Mostar from the south. We passed acres upon acres of farmland which looked stressed, perhaps from a drier than normal year and with no additional irrigation apparent. The few houses, gas stations and other buildings were widely scattered, adding to the feeling that this was an economically depressed part of the world, even if the olive trees and grapevines had at least some cash crop potential.

The name Mostar comes from a word meaning “bridge keepers” (mostari) and there was a wooden bridge here across the Neretva River long before the first stone bridge was built.

war damage still widespread in Mostar

war damage is still widespread in Mostar

A local guide met us in Mostar to give us some history, take us around the Turkish / Muslim Old Town and introduce us to the restored Old Bridge. The guide pointed out a large piece of bombed-out concrete wall partly hidden behind scrubby trees and straggly vines across the street from the (completely rebuilt) Franciscan monastery on the western (mostly Catholic) side of the city. The war-bruised rubble used to be the movie theater, destroyed during the last war. Keep in mind that when people in any part of the old Yugoslavia talk about “the last war”, they are not talking about WWII – they’re talking about the period between 1991 and 1995 when different regions of that crumbling nation sought independence not just from the old regime, but from the incursions of other former Yugoslav republics. Mostar does, in fact, have a new movie theater. It opened in 2011. More than fifteen years to rebuild the movie house! By contrast, the rebuilding of the bridge took only seven years, from 1997 until 2004. Priorities. I suspect that the EU funds contributed for rebuilding the iconic bridge seemed a better (more public?) investment than bringing back the movie house. More than 15 million dollars had been spent repairing physical damage sustained during the Bosnian war by 2012, but there is still so much left to do and 15 million, frankly, sounds like chicken feed, even in this region where money buys -or should buy – much more than in other parts of Europe. >>>> I’ve since learned that much of the damage remains because ownership of various properties has not been resolved (the Bank of Yugoslavia is gone and with it, mortgages and other records) and because, as so often happens when large amounts of money move around, not all funds for rebuilding were accurately accounted for and used as intended. An oft-repeated tale with all-too-predictable results. This map of B-H showing population distribution shows, at the very least, how fragmented the country remains – and, given the division in Mostar itself, how even the map is oversimplifying things.

Franciscan church, Mostar

Rebuilt Franciscan church and monastery, Mostar

 

From the monastery, the path to the Old Bridge snakes past a long bazaar of small shops lining narrow cobbled streets. Rugs, copper coffee sets, household goods and brightly colored clothing, blue and white glass charms to ward off the evil eye – all grabbing your attention, tempting you and slowing your progress. Keep moving, folks and shop later!

Mostar Old City Kujundžiluk or Coppersmith Street

Mostar Old City – Kujundžiluk or Coppersmith Street

The restored Old Bridge, the centerpiece of the Old City, looks bigger on television than in real life; things always seem larger on TV somehow. The bridge arcs between two huge piers. When the bridge was first built by Mimar Hayruddin in 1566, during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, it was an engineering marvel, given its dimensions and the use of a single, semicircular load-bearing arch but its success was treated with pre-emptive scepticism – the architect’s funeral plans were made ahead of the bridge’s completion, so unsure was the sultan that the bridge would stand after the scaffolding was removed. Luckily for the architect, those funeral plans went unimplemented.

approaching Mostar's restored Old Bridge

approaching Mostar’s restored Old Bridge

Only 13 percent of the original stones were usable for the rebuilding job; the rest came from the same local limestone quarry. The 16th century bridge was reinforced with an ancient mortar made from egg whites and goat hair; the new mortar was a more modern mix applied only where mortar was used on the original bridge. I find myself wondering why they couldn’t “stick” with the eggs and goat hair – have they lost the recipe? The stuff obviously did the job – the bridge withstood 19 months of bombardment until finally giving way under relentless fire on 9 November, 1993.

The surface of the bridge’s walkway is not a TV highlight, but it’s the one bridge feature that stuck in my memory as I crossed the bridge. The slope is steep and slick; raised blocks of stone set into the surface provide traction. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I crossed the bridge mostly looking at my feet, rather than the views. The handrail helped. And I was there on a dry, sunny day. Hard to imagine what it’s like to cross the bridge on a cold, rainy night, especially while carrying shopping bags or after a spell of serious drinking! (Of course, the locals probably already know just how long a stride so they don’t trip… or fall… or slide home).

rugged footing on Mostar's bridge

rugged footing on Mostar’s bridge

At only eight years young, the bridge gleamed in the sun. The cafes and bistros along the Neretva River’s eastern side are perched as high as the bridge. These are some of the best spots to snap a picture while you grab a snack or a Turkish coffee.

Mostar bridge seen from the north

Mostar bridge seen from the north

A constant attraction on the bridge are the jumpers – young men prepared to leap from the top of the bridge into the river more than 60 feet below for (a lot of) euros. There were only a couple of these brave and crazy guys the day I was there. One was preparing to jump, not having collected enough money for the deed – supposedly around 50 euros; to be sure, the collection routine lasts much longer than the jump itself. Another fellow was down on the river bank, splashing around in the water to get used to the temperature. The water can be cold enough to stop a heart on some days, according to our guide. Nutsy. Just nutsy.

The cobbled streets and tiny shops of the old town soon gave way to more modern streets and buildings. The souvenir stalls continued, but in between were restaurants and other small businesses. A tiny outdoor market was selling clothing, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables and olive oil. This was early afternoon, so it was hard to know how bountiful the market would have looked early in the morning. Except for some tables near the street, the market was kind of empty. This part of Europe is far enough south to have a lengthy growing season but, as I mentioned at the beginning, the surrounding farmland looked to be strugging, so maybe even the agriculture has yet to recover adequately from the war. Or maybe this wasn’t the main market; Mostar has a population in excess of 100,000, so perhaps this little setup may only serve the locals working in the town center. (There were several better-stocked roadside stands along the bus route, likely more for the benefit of the tourist buses than locals).

Mostar's outdoor market

Mostar’s outdoor Tepa market

Our walking tour of Old Mostar complete, the guide announced we could go off on our own or continue with her to see a restored Turkish merchant’s house. I went along to the Turkish house with several others.

Turkish house courtyard Mostar

the  Turkish merchant’s house gracious courtyard, Mostar

A modest wooden gate opened onto a courtyard paved with rounded white stones, laid in circular patterns. A metal fountain tossed water into the air at the center. The stone walls along both sides of the courtyard reached to the roof, providing shade for the benches below at different times of the day. The timbered house was set back from the gate, an open air loggia at the front of the upper story, roof timbers exposed to view. Inside, rugs covered the floors.

Family photographs and pictures of Mostar hung on the white plaster walls, carved furniture filled the small porch and interior rooms. The ceilings were lower than we are used to, adding a feeling of coziness. The entire property filled a footprint not much larger than a typical two-car garage. Inside, rooms were furnished as they might have been long ago.

Turkish house bedroom and clothing

Turkish house bedroom and clothing

Mostar Turkish merchant's house - a fresh air pantry

Mostar Turkish merchant’s house – a fresh air pantry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back from the Turkish House, I came to the new cemetery just a few yards away on the next street. This little space had been a public park before the Bosnian war but during the conflict snipers made access to the regular cemetery farther away impossible, even at night. The park became the final resting place for the war dead. Headstones glare whiter than white in the blazing sun of midday. Most are simple columns, others are a fan or flower shape. I have yet to discover the significance of this shape of headstone though I gather they are uniquely Muslim. For once, the web doesn’t seem to know everything. Doing the math on the dates of birth and death showed that most of these men died in their teens or twenties, barely out of boyhood; only an occasional 30 or 40-year-old. All died between 1993 and 1995. And they are still here, a sobering punctuation to the stunning weather the day I visited.

The new cemetery in Mostar's Old Town

The new cemetery in Mostar’s Old Town

On the subject of comfort zones – even more disturbing than this little graveyard was the view westward from its gate. Atop the heights of Mt Hum, on the Catholic side of the river, sits a huge cross. I’ve read one report saying that the cross was erected on the spot where the (Catholic) Croat forces shelled the streets below. No knife twisting going on here, right?

Cross overlooking Mostar as seen from new cemetery

Cross overlooking Mostar as seen from the Muslim cemetery that was once a vest-pocket park

Much more enjoyable was my souvenir shopping at the coppersmith’s. Our guide noted that the family there were respected local artisans. One of the guys in our group also went inside, looking at the copper coffee sets. I’m not a huge caff-fiend and besides, lovely as these were, day one of this multi-week trip was not the time to add large souvenirs to my luggage. (Don’t you just hate it when practical considerations horn in?)

Copper plaque of Mostar's bridge by Adnan

Copper plaque of Mostar’s bridge by Adnan

Adnan is a third generation copper artist and looked to be in his thirties; much of his work was the flat, slightly raised scenes of Mostar’s Old Bridge in various sizes and there were also Turkish coffee sets on simple trays. Most of the wall art was round, but I liked a squared one, about 8 inches across. Perfect for the suitcase. Adnan was working on a plaque while I was there; he said it took about 3 hours to produce one, hammering the sheet copper to take the shape of the relief mold underneath. The picture was simple but iconic. A banner at the top says Mostar, Adnan’s name is at the bottom along with the year the plaque was made. A minaret towers above in the background. Look closely and you’ll see other dates – the left pier is marked 1566, 1993 is stamped in the water and the pier on the right says 2004. Birth, death and resurrection or, at least, hope.

Folks in Turkish costume were handing out menus for their restaurants and I figured I would look these over and pick one when I was done sightseeing. The place I chose was Restoran Sadrvan. It was easy to find when I decided I needed to eat, the outdoor seating area was shaded and inviting and I was intrigued by the Turkish clothing the staff wore.

When they told me there was a wait for the outdoor tables but not for the inside tables, I decided inside was fine. I was checking my watch by now, wanting NOT to hold up the bus by being the last one back – an annoying (to the tour guides) habit I’ve been succumbing to of… LATE). My table faced the doorway to the patio, so it was almost as good as sitting under the vines and the wasps were inspecting the food and wine outside more than in. My waiter recommended the Mostarian sahan, a sampler plate that was very satisfying. If you click on the restau link above, go to Local Dishes. It’s #54.

Coffee and Turkish delight

Coffee and Turkish delight

A Mostar lunch

A Mostar lunch

 

The perfect accompaniment? A bottle of           Sarajevsko beer.  Very, very good stuff. If Dad had still been alive, I probably would have brought home a can or bottle for him. I ordered the Turkish coffee which, though thick, was no more bitter than an espresso. The little cube of Turkish delight was the perfect last bite. Travel tip – it seems that you need to make eye contact with your waiter to bring him to your table. Closing the menu as we do in the States to signal readiness to order seems not to mean anything.

Made it to the bus on time – the restaurant was only a block from the Franciscan church where the bus was waiting. Whew!

Note – while validating some facts for this blog, I came across an article describing the social and political antagonisms preventing Mostar’s two stage companies from operating within the same building. Granted, the article is two years old but for Bosnia, that’s barely yesterday. A visitor won’t necessarily pick up on continuing antagonism; paid guides and other locals working in tourism-related jobs are anxious to point out a place’s good points and that’s probably for the best. It takes longer to heal emotional scars than to restore buildings and replant trees but even without any obvious animosity, there was an air of unease, possibly aided by the sight of a used syringe on the ground near our waiting bus or maybe just a side effect of my first visit to a non-Christian place.

Here is an account of another traveler’s visit to Mostar. I also recommend Rick Steves’ reflections on Mostar from his book Travel as a Political Act. Steves’ observations better articulate the feelings I struggled with on the bus back to Dubrovnik. Both the articles in the two links above were written by folks who spent more time in Mostar than I did but they expressed similar feelings to my own about B-H in general and Mostar in particular.

Mostar is working hard to attract visitors, not just with the Old Bridge, but by sponsoring music and theatre festivals and by setting up the Mostar Tourist Quality Project. Someone understands that getting the word out in the travel and tourism spheres will improve the local economy and help to heal the wounds of war.

Even if you’re just coming for the day, eat a meal, buy some locally produced souvenirs and tip your tour guide. It all helps. I didn’t bother to barter for the copper plaque. Maybe I could have. Like trying to recover VAT, I figure that leaving all the money I spend where I’ve spent it will do more good than saving a bit of money (in whichever currency) for myself.

All in all, I am very glad I chose to see Mostar instead of Montenegro (the other day trip the US travel agent recommended over Mostar). Comfort zones are meant to be exceeded.

Posted in All Suzanne's travel essays, All Suzanne's travels, Balkan Europe travel, Bosnia travel, Europe food & wine | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BA short haul to charge for food

I know people who fly British Airways regularly, mostly trans-Atlantic.

Be aware though, folks – BA’s short haul flights won’t include food, so keep your sterling handy or bring your own snacks. I’m tempted to advise bringing high-aroma foods (I’ve read recently that highly aromatic own-food on planes is making other passengers grumpy, though bringing your own curries and tacos happens even on flights with food included in the price of the seat). Come on! Besides, will it REALLY ruin your entire day – or week – or trip – just because the person next to you is chowing down on a Big Mac or a tiffin box? Pull-eease!

Posted in Europe from the air, General magpie travel, News from Britain, travel advice, UK | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Best day on planet earth

What follows is my submission to the Rough Guides travel writing contest. The bolded title is one of three themes we could choose to write about. The piece itself is 492 words. The max allowed is 500 words, the min, 450.

I have no illusions about winning. Actually, I hope I don’t win anything. Expectations and all that. I used the competition as a way to kick myself in the butt to start blogging again. It remains to be seen whether it results in a resumption of my travel writing. You never know.

My best day on earth

Everybody’s best day on earth is different. For a beach person, it’s being stretched out on a Caribbean beach. If you love mountains, the view from atop Mt Kilimanjaro or the gorgeous, ever-widening panorama as you ride a gondola into the Alps could define your perfect day. Snorkeling the reef along Costa Rica? Having the absolute best seat for Formula One or the World Series? Surfing in Hawaii? If you want to stay home, perhaps lazing around in the backyard is your idea of bliss but my best day happens traveling far away from home.

I can’t fit everything into just a single 24 hour day. I’m not trying to be coy. My most perfect day consists of travel experiences collected mostly in Europe and there are so, so many; too many to fit into just the one day. Oh well. Here is one day’s scenario, a patchwork of experiences culled from thirty years of travel.

Morning is a cello concert at Sydney Opera House; a hike along the glacial lake depicted on almost every postcard of Banff in Canada; a delectable meal of grilled mussels on a New Zealand beach. These are some of the first bits Scotch-taped into the album of my best day on earth. Then I discovered Europe. How many people do you know fell in love with London not while standing outside Buckingham Palace or gawking at Westminster Abbey, but just queuing up at Customs and Immigration at Heathrow? Nutsy. Absolutely nutsy and wonderful.

At noontime of this best day I’m stepping into Barcelona’s stunning Sagrada Familia church, stained glass windows splashing ribbon candy colors across the floor. Next, I’m being flung around on the dragon roller coaster at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, followed by a trip to Mostar in Bosnia that takes me way out of my comfort zone. A group tour of the Normandy beaches with Dad in May, 2002 ended up being just the two of us as everyone else cancelled in the after-fear of 9/11. Orkney’s archaeological treasures, the floral excesses of Keukenhof’s bulb festival, the amazing sound-enhanced videos projected onto Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate during the Festival of Light and the tsunami-seeming winter surf on Iceland’s west coast fill the rest of the afternoon and early evening.

Dinner is at an outdoor restaurant in Brussels’s Upper Town. I’m eating chicken with morels, drinking chilled white wine. It’s a dripping hot spring evening and I’m able to communicate with the waiter using only French. Mind you, my French is pretty pathetic, but at least he speaks French back to me and not English.

Luck adds to the day, too. I find a nothing-much hotel in Provence at the last minute, very late one summer night and find Arles just outside my window next morning!

This day began three decades ago, the sunset beyond Dubrovnik’s harbor is breathtaking, the Night Watch walking tour of Zurich has run almost past my bedtime. (One of) my best days on earth.

Posted in All Suzanne's travel essays | Tagged | 1 Comment

Bolshoi Ballet – Spartacus 2016

This is not, strictly speaking, a travel post. I went to the movies near home recently to see a ballet but enjoyed the broadcast so much I decided to blog about it. See… my two favorite performance disciplines are live theatre and the ballet. This was both, the Bolshoi Ballet performance of Spartacus broadcast live via satellite from their home theatre in Moscow. OMG!

This ballet has been around since 1968 but somehow I’d managed never to come across it before. Perhaps the Bolshoi holds performance copyright or something. If so, satellite broadcast is the only way to see it other than, say, DVD – assuming it’s available. It has been a staple of the Bolshoi repertoire every year since and, now that I’ve seen it, it ranks near the top with other superb ballet stories, along with Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and Le Corsaire. My favorites are those with the most exciting (and, of course, physical) male roles which requires me to mention my all-time favorite – Rudolf Nureyev – in pretty much anything he ever did, including a surprising (non-ballet) turn as the King of Siam in a traditional 1989 production of The King and I. Doesn’t matter that Nureyev danced with the Kirov Ballet (rather than the Bolshoi) until he defected in 1961. He was an ethnic Tatar/Cossack with a personality demanding attention. What I mean is, both ballet companies tap into the same well of talent, passion and – for that part of the world – ethnic type which generates huge amounts of strength, fire and passion. Nureyev defected from the Soviet Union in 1961, long before Spartacus had been created, let alone performed, so I don’t know if he ever danced the role but, man, if not, we all missed out!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand – the Bolshoi’s 2016 Spartacus. It’s an ancient tale of Imperial Rome with blood and gore, guts and glory, revenge, love and sex – all the Roman vices, if not virtues. Lots more people know the story from film (1960 starring Kirk Douglas – OK, so I’m dating myself) and TV (2010-2013 on cable TV) than from the ballet, I’m sure. Enjoyable as these other renderings are, they can’t compare to this production by the Bolshoi with Aram Khatchaturyan’s music and choreography by Yuri Grigorovich. All these art forms demand suspension of disbelief but I think ballet exercises the imagination in a way that spoken or sung media doesn’t and that’s the magic for me.

The images here are from an Italian source, as is the trailer link farther down the page.

The story is epic, the staging monumental even though spare – this is ballet, not opera, after all. Dancers need SPACE. The vertical space at the Moscow State Theatre seems to go up and up forever; it demands dancers who can fill the air with their presence else they’d seem like ants scurrying about a tiny hill. Mikhail Lobikhin dances Spartacus with gobs and gobs of strength, ferocity and bravado, devouring the gigantic stage in his solos with Nureyev-like leaps – a feat no other dancer has ever duplicated, in my humble opinion – though Lobikhin comes pretty close at times.

Crassus, Emperor of Rome, captor of Spartacus et. al. and so the pre-eminent baddie, is danced by Vladislav Lantratov – cruel, arrogant, completely self-confident – until Spartacus bests him in single combat and then (horrors!) spares him. In addition to a terrific makeup job, he has the perfect Roman profile – strong chin, classic nose and cropped hair in tight ringlets completely replicating the faces you see on Roman coins and statues and golden military dress that might have been stolen from Mordred in Excalibur.

One of the biggest difference between Spartacus and other ballets is the stage time given to the large male corps de ballet. Sure, there are female leads and bunches of girls* as prisoners and whores but it’s the boys* who really carry the tale. Some scenes and bits of the choreography even reminded me of the Jets and Sharks in West Side Story which were lifted and tweaked from the Montagues and Capulets of Romeo and Juliet, of course. *  Note – in the ballet world, the terms are girls and boys. There are other, more familiar terms such as dancer for males and ballerina for females; maybe these other words are simply considered less insulting (more PC?) to outsiders.

The Bolshoi broadcasts are introduced from the stage by Katerina Novikova, the chic woman who heads up the Bolshoi’s Press Office. Her comments are delivered in Russian, French and English. This time, she also conducted interviews during the intervals with Vladimir Vasiliev, the originator of the Spartacus role in 1968 (and a contemporary of Nureyev) and a woman named Aberkhaeva whose notability I missed since I was making notes on things for this post. Can’t Google her, either – maybe I spelled her name wrong?

Stories from the interviews – Vasiliev said the original idea was to have the boys who played Spartacus and Crassus swap roles on different nights but after opening night, the public’s imagination was imprinted with the casting so they weren’t able to exchange parts. He echoed a thought I’ve heard from lots of performers that playing the bad guy is lots more fun than being the good guy. Aberkhaeva told a story about the 1968 Soviet censors identifying scenes in the ballet that could not be presented – too sexy, too provocative, too whatever. Choreographer Grigorovich told his dancers to cut the ‘offending’ scenes for opening night but dance everything as rehearsed for all subsequent performances. Gotta love that!

Tracking down representative videos online is complicated. There are trailers and individual scenes from this production, most too short to do the ballet justice. So far, the best one is a less-than-one-minute trailer for this production. I watched many of the others but this 2016 production has a life and a passion that surpasses all the others you will find online.

A couple of side notes – watching dancers milling about in the background during the interviews. Most were wearing sweatpants or sweaters to keep from tightening up but one guy was wearing a teddy bear mascot/pajama-type costume that looked hilarious though I’m sure it kept him toasty from head to toe. Crassus strutted casually around in his bright red UGGs. The scrim that separated upstage from down allowed upstage to stay dark until the lights were brought up on tableaux of figures that would come to life in the next scene. The scrim was raised to form a giant basket rather than being hauled up completely out of sight. Normally, this would just be an interesting bit of scene design (a subject I studied and participated in at university) but what made me notice it was an identical net arranged in exactly the same way back in October, in Prague. I was there to experience that city’s Sound and Light festival called Signal Fest. This magical fishnet hung in the air outside the Rudolfinum concert hall and changed colors projected on it from behind. A minor artistic connection to another medium.

Rudolfinum blanket at Prague Signalfest 2015

Rudolfinum blanket at Prague Signalfest 2015

 

Posted in European art, European music, not really travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Piccadilly line 1 day strike – 23 March 2016

Looks like the 1 day strike on the Piccadilly line is going ahead today. It will start at 21.00 on Wednesday, and continue until 21.00 on Thursday. TfL says that the trains will run until 22.30 on Weds PM – presumably because trains will already be in motion.

The news release from London Tube is as follows…

“Drivers on the Piccadilly line who are Tube union members are currently planning to strike from 21:00 on Wednesday 23 March for 24 hours. If the strike goes ahead, there will be no Piccadilly line service from late evening on Wednesday and all day on Thursday 24 March. Although the strike begins at 21:00 on Wednesday, Piccadilly line services will be running until around 22:30. Please complete journeys on the Piccadilly line by this time, or travel earlier if possible.

Services on other Tube and Rail lines, the bus network, and river will run as normal but are expected to be busier than usual. Roads in west and central London are also expected to be busy.

If you are travelling between Heathrow airport and central London, please use Heathrow Connect and Heathrow Express services to/from Paddington station.

Extra buses will be provided to help Londoners get around. Buses do not accept cash. Please use contactless payment or Oyster, or a Bus & Tram Pass ticket. Contactless is the same fare as Oyster and you can find out more about it here

The Piccadilly line is expected to run a Saturday service on Friday 25 March, as part of the Easter Bank Holiday arrangements. Details of Easter engineering work can be found at tfl.gov.uk/easter

Please check before you travel and visit tfl.gov.uk/tube-strike or follow @TfLTravelAlerts,@TfLTrafficNews and @TfLBusAlerts on Twitter for the latest information.”

Good luck!

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London Tube closures – 19-20 March 2016 and possible 1-day midweek strike

A late posting, so anyone who cares already knows about some of this…

All closures are in place for both days – Circle Line – entire line; District Line – Tower Hill to West Ham; Hamm’smith/City – Kings X/St Pancras to Barking; Metropolitan Line – Kings X/St Pancras to Aldgate. Also Liverpool Street to Shenfield is shut on TfL Rail.

Check the link for specific issues with London Overground.

Click here for bus schedule changes and here for road closures and diversion, some of which is duplicate info from the bus stuff.

As for the strike, this would be a 24-hour action on the Piccadilly Line starting at 21.00 on Weds, 23 March 2016. I’ll post a separate notice if this changes.

Anyone planning to use SouthWest trains to get to the Boat Race on Easter Sunday should know that the stretch between Clapham Junction and Barnes will be by bus. Probably means hitting the road early would be wise.

Click here for TfL Easter updates and here for National Rail.

Finally, a long-term notice – Holland Park tube station is closed until early August 2016.

In case I get lazy and fail to post more for next weekend (entirely probable) – Hoppy Easter Everyone!

 

Posted in European festivals, General magpie travel, London travel, News from Britain, UK news | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tours International for 2016

Even though I have this tour company on my Hot Link list in the right-hand column, check out a few of their newest tours for 2016.

Shakespeare Tour  in April – one of 6 literary tours on offer

Downton Abbey in September – one of 9 Film and TV-themed tours, along with Sherlock and Wolf Hall.  There used to be a film and TV location map put out by British Tourism but that was 20 years ago and the interest in visiting filming locations has exploded with  the increase in productions and the word-of-mouth / screen of social media.

Richard III  – one of 15 history tours available

Tours International has several other categories of group tours and they will also set up private tours.

Explanation (of sorts) – I’m not compensated for singing T-I’s praises (worse luck), this is the outfit Dad and I booked for our May 2002 Normandy Tour (search ‘Normandy’ for the 3 posts I wrote describing our adventure). A terrific experience; I’d love to take more of their tours myself.

Posted in All Suzanne's travels, England, Europe's gardens, European museums, General magpie travel, London travel, UK news | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

old but helpful Dutch rail card news

The old paper tickets are obsolete on Dutch trains. Now you need a smart card, called the OV-chipkaart. Similar to NYC’s Metro card or the London Oyster and Travel cards, these can be bought as either single use or multi-use, reloadable cards. Next time I get to Amsterdam, I’m gonna check this out. I bought some paper tickets at Tourist info across from Centraal station last year, so there may be a ticket machine there for us wandering foreign types.

Another wrinkle on this change – you may need a card to even get onto the platform. This is already being rolled out near Utrecht… forewarned and all that…

Note – I found out about this 2 years ago, so there may be even more changes that have been implemented by now, especially with the refugee flood. Just click on the chipkaart link above for the latest news!

Posted in Amsterdam travel, BeNeLux, General magpie travel, Netherlands travel, News from Europe, travel advice | Tagged , | Leave a comment

London Tube update – early for Easter 2016

OK OK, so I haven’t been posting the all-important weekend closure schedule for the London Tube in … well, a long time. The world hasn’t ended but it may be time to get back into the habit. Remember, blog visitors, that you can always click on the relevant Hot Link when there’s no specific posting.

Even so,  in the interest of pretending that I need to know this stuff for my OWN travel, here is the latest on plans for work (work??) during Easter WEEK – meaning from Friday, 25 March thru Friday, 1 April. Be careful on that last day – it’s April Foo’s Day (sic)! There may also be scheduling issues on National Rail during the 4-day extended weekend, many on Saturday only, so check the link.

Also, I’ve added a new Hot Link for the Road Works schedule for 2016.

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Spinning on Milan’s bull

So… here’s the deal…

In the center of Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a gorgeous 19th (!) century high-ceilinged open-air covered shopping mall opposite the Duomo, there’s a mosaic of a prancing bull. According to popular myth, you should place your right heel on the bull’s balls and spin around three times (without falling on your face). This is supposed to bring you luck, or maybe grant a wish, or maybe guarantee a return to Milan – take your pick.

No, I wasn’t inclined to do it but there were loads of people who were; at least one guy even set up his camera to get himself on film. 

spinning on the bull in Milan

spinning on the bull in Milan

What I found even more hilarious was the fact that the bull’s jewels are effectively gone, replaced by a great gaping hole in the floor, big enough to drop a tennis ball into – not the sort of ball to impress a cow, even if fuzzy and bright yellow. Guess he’s just a steer now.

Balls all gone!

Balls all gone!

If nothing else, it shows just how thick the concrete is beneath the mosaic floor.

 

Posted in All Suzanne's travels, European art, Italy travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Visiting Richard III in Leicester

If you are an Anglophile and/or history buff (both of which I am) and you haven’t read The King’s Grave, by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones, put it on your reading list. Ever since Richard III – or what was left of him -was uncovered in a Leicester city parking lot in 2012, the discovery has intrigued me and I enjoyed this exciting account of the whole story immensely. The book’s chapters alternate between recounting Richard’s life and times and telling the modern tale of theory, documentation, fund-raising, permissions and ultimate discovery.

Before I’d reached the last page, I was determined to ‘visit Richard’ in Leicester. Let’s not quibble about whether he should have been interred in York Minster instead. His memorial stone in Leicester Cathedral and final resting place in the church’s crypt below is a damn sight more fitting for this last English king killed in battle than the barely consecrated pit where he’s spent the past 520 some-odd years. Besides, much as York might have a claim, they’ve already got plenty of visitor income; Leicester – not so much. It’s just too bad his feet weren’t found along with the rest of him, probably destroyed during previous building works in Victorian times.

Apologies for some of the crummy images; put it down to my excitement! Note the white roses at the base of the statue below. I’m assuming it was the back-up location because the Cathedral didn’t want rotting roses lying all over the memorial inside the church.

projection showing Richard's bones

projection showing Richard’s bones as found

 

Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Cathedral

 

Richard III statue with York roses

Richard III statue with York roses

 

 

Richard's memorial stone

Richard’s memorial stone in the chancel

 

 

 

Richard's morning view above the altar

Richard’s morning view above the altar

 

 

Here is a short video from the BBC of the cortège which brought Richard to the Cathedral last year.

My photo of the funeral pall didn’t come out, but here are links to the designer and the textile. Note that there are two designs, on opposite sides of the piece. Wish I could have included a stop at Bosworth field but the head cold that was settling in for a long stay shortened my day. Next time.

One last thought – one of my all-time favorite books is The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Though a work of fiction, it spins a terrific tale – the main character, while laid up in hospital, tries to figure out the fate of the princes in the Tower and what role Richard did – or didn’t – play in that event. Written in 1951, but intriguing all the same. I expect I’ll be rereading it soon.

Posted in All Suzanne's travel essays, All Suzanne's travels, Archaeology in Europe, England, UK news | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Strahov Monastery libraries

Taking baby steps to get back into blogging…

Fans of BBC Musketeers should recognize these places. In that series, these two rooms play parts of King Louis’s palace. In reality, both are libraries or ‘halls’ at Strahov Monastery in Prague, CZ.

When I first began thinking about destinations for my most recent trip in October, I found a few resources online that named and located various buildings and gardens used in the Musketeers series. Most of these were scattered around Czech Republic and, except for a couple of Prague streets, so far away from each other that I couldn’t come up with an efficient way of visiting them. Soooo, I made do with Strahov. (This post is only concerned with the two rooms used in the Musketeers).

Religious material is kept in the Theological Hall where a collection of globes lives, some dating from the 17th century. Books and other items related to the arts and sciences are in the Philosophical Hall. This seems astoundingly open-minded to have scientific subjects in a monastery at all given all the famous controversies involving Galileo and Copernicus et. al. but many specimens in the cases in the outer hallway  – bugs, birds, plants – may have been considered uncontroversial and perhaps much of the book topics deal with these. Even so, I’d like to have a clearer picture of the timeline of rejection /acceptance of scientific theories in the Catholic church. That’s just me; it takes nothing away from the magic of the Musketeers.

The monastery has had its home here since the 12th century but the buildings and interiors in their current state date mostly from the 18th century, slightly anachronistic for the TV series. Some of the bookcases were gifts from Marie Antoinette – an interesting connection to French history given that the Dumas story is set in Paris!

Theological Hall, Strahov Monastery

Theological Hall, Strahov Monastery

The monastery is open to the public all year and includes a museum of miniatures and a beer garden which serves good food and their own beer, reputed to be the best in Prague (more on these to come, I hope). If you want to visit the monastery, know that it sits even farther uphill than Prague Castle. For both these attractions, take the #22 tram from Malostranská and get off at the Pohořelec stop. There’s still an uphill walk of a couple hundred yards from there but it’s better than hiking all the way up from the river.

Philosophical Hall, Strahov Monastery

Philosophical Hall, Strahov Monastery

One other note – there are lots of other exhibits in adjoining hallways but you can only stand at the doorways to take photos of these rooms. The actors and crew for the Musketeers had to wear special protection over their shoes when filming to protect the floors and, as I recall, were not allowed to touch anything in the room.

Posted in All Suzanne's travel essays, All Suzanne's travels, Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, European art, European museums, Prague travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Tube updates – holiday season 2015-16

The Christmas holidays usually mean reduced services for all public transport in and around Londontown; click on the link for a spreadsheet overview of the week ahead —  Planned Works for the holiday week. Closures and off-normal service schedules begin at 20.00 Christmas Eve when the whole system will go dark. On Boxing Day, the Tube will start up again but there will be no London Overground service until the 27th.

Good news for drivers, though – the Congestion Charge in central London will be suspended from Christmas Day; restarting on Monday, 4 January. Makes you want to drive into London just for that, yes?

Here is the usual schematic for Tube disruptions. Circle, District, Hamm’smith/City and Metropolitan lines are affected, mostly between the 26th and 30th December. London Overground and TfL Rail will also see some closures.

Click here for Network Rail changes smack on the holidays affecting travel to some airports (Really? who was in charge of THAT scheduling?)

Road and bus traffic will have some “issues” around Elephant & Castle, Swiss Cottage, Aldgate, Victoria. The New Year’s parade and fireworks will make for some headaches in central London on the 31st and 1st.

Lastly – in case I don’t manage to shake off my chronic laziness – there is a Lumiere light festival in January from Thursday 14 until Sunday 17 January when stations and roads in the West End and King’s Cross areas will be busier than usual each evening. For more information, visit tfl.gov.uk/lumiere.

Reminders – no long-term station specific closures to report at the moment but the new year hasn’t started yet. Give it time.

One last thought – Life is uncertain so EAT! DRINK! BE MERRY! Skip the gym for now; it can wait until next week!

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The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Tattoo – a corruption of a Dutch phrase commanding a pub to close for the night so the soldiers can be sent back to barracks. The word also was used to allude to military music practice and now refers to elaborate and exhilarating musical performances by military groups. This is an incomplete and utterly dry-sounding description of a widening variety of musical productions around the world, though the spectacle started in Europe, mostly cultivated by British groups and the most famous is probably the one held in Edinburgh.

For three weeks and a bit each August, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo fills the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle with a spectacular nighttime display of bagpipes, drums and horns, kilts and tartans, dance performances and an imaginative succession of images projected onto the Castle exterior to fit the theme of the performance oat that moment.

Performance dates of the Tattoo overlap with the Edinburgh Festival, so if you plan ahead, you can experience both in a single visit to the Athens of the North. Each of these events lasts about three weeks, so the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the Tattoo also see much of the main Festival. In 2014, the Tattoo ran from 1-23 August and the International Festival 7-31 August. There are also other parallel festivals throughout August which may begin and end on different dates. Mind you, Edinburgh seems to be working hard to become a city of year-round festivals of all kinds, so you could probably find some massive citywide event going on almost any time of year.

I’d been to the Edinburgh (International Arts) Festival on my second trip to the UK in 1990. Later visits to this city were in other months and the only reason the Tattoo came onto my radar in 2014 was that I planned to be in London the first week of September. I backed up into August to plan some activities and destinations beforehand. It seemed this would be my best chance to see the Tattoo. Did I mention that I can listen to bagpipes all day? Maybe it’s my Scottish roots or perhaps it’s just that I didn’t grow up hearing them 24/7. Whatever. Love ’em.

The Castle Esplanade is normally uncluttered except for a clutch of parking spots but during Tattoo month, tall bleachers form three sides of a giant rectangle with the Castle entrance forming the fourth side, video screen and stage entrance. Because I left my travel decisions so late, I had very few performances at all to choose from and only a couple with cheap-ish seats. Somehow, I wound up buying a top ticket at the end opposite the Castle gate. Small consolation – the price included the fancy program booklet. In the end, the section I was in was absolutely the best place from which to watch the Tattoo. I was in the top row but above me were a few rows of VIP seats, each with a program and lap blanket in one or another tartan (hmmm… I just realized that these might be very much tied to who was sitting in which seat… as in clan). These fancy seats kept dry beneath a clear canopy. Well-dressed folks eventually filed into that area, including at least one bona fide Special Guest. I doubt these ‘special’ seats were available for purchase on the website – more likely house seats for various upper class attendees. Our night’s special guest was a Vice Admiral or similar, smart in his dress uniform. He sat in the center of the row immediately above me about ten yards away. Performers either saluted him or sent a representative up the steps with some sort of gift. All part of the pomp, a spotlight shone on our Guest at the important moment and he duly rose to return the salute or accept the gift. Impressive.

One thought kept recurring – pipes and drums do get the blood going; the right rhythm, a catchy melody and corpse-waking volume have enticed men to sign up and march off to battle for centuries… too many centuries and too many battles. Thrilling and distressing at the same time but forget all that for now and let the music stir your peacetime blood and keep you a bit warmer on a chilly, drizzly night.

Anyway… the Tattoo last year corresponded with the overall marketing theme for Scotland in 2014 – Homecoming. Pipe bands and groups of other performers came not just from Scotland but from (former British Empire holdings) now Commonwealth nations. There were groups from South Africa, Singapore, Malta, New Zealand, Tasmania, Canada, India among many others. When I first looked at the program and saw these notations, I thought I would be snoozing through some of the bagpipe-less entries. Not at all. The presentations filled the space with mesmerizing pageantry and the projections on the Castle walls tied it all together. For me, the pipe bands were still the best part; the massed grouping of all at the end was spectacular, capped by several minutes of fireworks and a rendition of Auld Lang Syne that included all of us spectators singing along and joining hands with our seatmates. I’m not usually inclined to join in with that sort of happy-clappiness, but this time it felt perfectly right; a terrific end to a phenomenal evening.

The folks responsible for getting the most money from the spectators do know their audience. I bought the 2014 CD which had been produced earlier in the month – a special addition to my collection of pipe music. Haven’t ordered the DVD. I was there, after all. In person. Live. I rather think no DVD, no matter how well-engineered, could reproduce that experience, especially since I don’t have a huge HDTV.

You should go. In the meantime, enjoy the slide show, keeping in mind that these are only a handful of photos from all the performances presented. I apologize for the vague captions; I think the performance order may have varied from the program sequence; can’t remember if the lone piper gave us Scotland the Brave or Auld Lang Syne.

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xx

Posted in All Suzanne's travel essays, All Suzanne's travels, European festivals, European music, Scotland | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A charming evening in Radovljica, Slovenia

In the spirit of hoping to please some of you who are bored rigid with the steady diet of nothing but London Tube closures, I finally completed this post from a couple of years ago to keep you interested until I can do more…

It’s been a couple of years since I traveled to Croatia and Slovenia (and more than a year since my last decent blog post), but some of my most pleasant travel memories are from places in those two countries. Here is one…

One evening when dinner was not included in the tour package, we were offered an optional extra – dinner at a small, family-run restau in the town of Radovljica, not far from Lake Bled in Slovenia. [Note: I signed on for all the optional extras, figuring they would be unique, unmissable adventures]. In this case, it was also easier than doing dinner on my own or trying to figure out who to hook up with for the meal since so many folks were friends already.

Our bus dropped us at one end of the compact main street, allowing us to stroll past the buildings, fountains and churches on our way to dinner. Twilight was settling in, everything looked to be shut for the night, but light from some shop windows added a warm glow to our walk.

I heard no commentary from our guide but Slovenian tourism websites helped me put names to things. Here’s a guide to the slide show below…

Šivec House is a restored 16th century house now an art gallery as part of the Radovljica Municipal Museum. A statue of a boy carrying a book bag and a picture of a woman commemorates Josipina Hočevarjevi, a19th century local woman who had her fingers in a number of business pies and put the profits towards grants for girls’ education (plus ca change…) among other good causes. Thurn Manor is a mid-20th century addition to the town. It contains the apiculture (beekeeping) museum; beekeeping is a very popular activity in Slovenia, going back centuries and is characterized by the folk art of brightly colored beehives found throughout the alpine foothills. Sadly, we didn’t get to see any of these beehives so I had to make do with a postcard. St Peter’s church gleamed even in the half-light.

I forgot to make a note of the name of the restau and searched online without success for a long time. Googling the town, several similar-sounding and -looking places popped up but even after trying to match photos from the web with my own, I couldn’t do better than a weak “maybe”. See, there is Gostilna Kunstelj, Gostilna Lectar and a few others. I thought they might be some sort of chain but Gostilna is simply the Slovenian word for “bar”. Ah. Finally, the Radovljica pages in a Slovenian tourism brochure had some listings. Aha! Gostilna Kunstelj was the one where we ate. OK. Where was I?

We went first to the cellar to taste some of the house’s wines – a Merlot which I’d’ve liked to take home and a surprisingly nice Pinot Grigio (a white that always seems watery to me) – along with bread and smoked klobasa sausage. A short family history related by one of the owners, some accordion music – which continued much of the evening – and finally upstairs for the meal. Barley soup, veal, sausage roll with mild grated horseradish, mashed potatoes and a lightly brined sauerkraut much milder than the German style with white wine that I usually eat at home. More red wine, then an apple-poppy seed strudel for dessert that my Slovak grandma might vaguely have recognized, even though she was born hundreds of miles to the north in Slovakia. A modest meal but very satisfying.

The evening was clear and slightly cool and the town took on a magical air, maybe more so than if we’d visited during daylight. I could easily visit again.

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k

Posted in All Suzanne's travels, Balkan Europe travel, Eastern Europe, Europe food & wine, Slovenia travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Schlepping around Europe October 2015

Sorry, Folks! Once again, I was too cheap to replace my crummy tablet with something more useful so I’m having to rely on hotel wi-fi, which is sometimes excellent (last week in Zurich… gotta love that Swiss precision and efficiency!) or else really not deserving of the advert (London!)

Other than that, my time away has been very enjoyable, though I’m becoming acutely aware that I’m not in the kind of shape I used to be in for all this walking. Not to mention climbing around the top of Mt Pilatus – which is not the Herculean task one might think. Two gondola rides to the top and then a walk ’round the summit before climbing, I don’t know, a couple hundred steps to the tippy top? And in dense fog, too. Even if you’re not in the Alps, Switzerland is verrrry steep. I swear the cows need to have two legs shorter than the others to navigate the vertiginous hillsides. They were just starting to come out of the mountain pastures for the winter when I was there on one of the day trips provided by Best of Switzerland.

London visits bookending time in Zurich have been different from other trips, too. TWO (count ’em, two) Rugby World Cup matches, each outside London so I bought tickets which included round-trip bus, else getting there and back – once to Newcastle and once to Cardiff would have been a pain. The second, yesterday, was in Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium, arguably one of the great rugby temples in the world. Attendance in excess of 72,000. Yikes! The hard surfaces of the structure made the raucous crowd sound even more like a rock concert. On each occasion, I found out just how waterproof (actually… beerproof) my shoulder bag/s were.

Also met an old friend for a visit to the Royal Academy and the current Ai WeiWei exhibition. Phenomenal, thought-provoking stuff. I’m still thinking about how he has physicalized his thoughts and feelings about political topics, not least of which is his six cubes of shadow boxes. Inside each is the same space – his room when he was detained by Chinese authorities for (I’ll say it) no good reason. Each diorama shows him in a different part of the space, whether eating, sleeping or in the toilet and always accompanied by two silent guards standing within arm’s reach. Absolutely bizarre conditions, making his personal resolve all the more amazing.

Now I’m headed for Berlin and their annual sound and light show, with colorful projections and matching music and other audio to accompany it, all being projected onto the public buildings. Looking forward to it. After that, headed to Prague where they will be doing the same sort of thing later in the week. With luck and a continued modest level of strength, the plan is to spend a few days in Milan, seeing the Expo, the Duomo, maybe the Last Supper if I can get a ticket (buffet style?) before returning to London for several days.

The budget hasn’t gotten completely wrecked yet, so I’m hopeful I won’t have to whip out the credit card/s except for hotels.

I’d like to promise more soon, but I can’t be sure.

Posted in All Suzanne's travel essays, All Suzanne's travels, England, European art, European museums, London travel, Swiss travel | 2 Comments

London Tube closures and continuing RWC – 26-27 Sep 2015

Remember – You can always click on the Planned outages link on this blog page for up-to-date weekend information when no current blog post appears.

Check this link for RWC traffic issues for the next six weeks.

Today’s RWC match at Twickenham is England v Wales so I expect the traffic on road, rail or foot will be pretty significant. For general advice on London maps — For all matches at Twickenham, part of A316 Chertsey Road will be closed. Road users should plan alternate routes and avoid travelling in the area.

Here is the link for this weekend.

District line is shut both days in two places – Edgware Road to High Street Kensington as well as Earl’s Court to Kensington (Olympia).

Hamm’smith/City line closure from Baker Street to Hammersmith both days.

Circle line has no service between Baker Street and Hammersmith/High Street Kensington. Fooey.

DLR is shut between Bank/Tower Gateway and Poplar/West India Quay.

London Overground has one closure on Saturday – Liverpool Street to Seven Sisters/Walthamstow Central. Since the Overground system isn’t on my regular Tube schematic, I thought it helpful to post the Overground system map here.

There is a long term closure on the stretch of London Tram from Wimbledon to Dundonald Road until October sometime. Also the stretch from Reeves Corner to East Croydon is down this weekend.

Ongoing station closures are –

Covent Garden station Exit only until early November 2015. Also, on Saturdays and Sundays westbound trains will not stop.

Tottenham Court Road station Central line trains not stopping until early December 2015.

Tufnell Park station Station closed until mid-March 2016.

Warren St station used for exit and interchange only between 0730 and 1000 Mon thru Fri until late October.

Road closures and diversions are numerous – central, City and NW London, Stratford, Wembley, Vauxhall, Bermondsey, Purley and, of course, Twickers.  Click here for bus route changes. There are a bunch of these too!

This link lists major road works chronologiclly thru the end of the year. Most arerelated either to Rugby World Cup or the construction of the Cycle Superhighway (sounds vaguely oxymoronic but what do I know).

In central London, no entry to Northumberland Ave from Victoria Embankment for the next several weeks. THAT will be a pain for drivers and buses.

 

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London Tube closures and start of RWC – 19-20 Sep 2015

Remember – You can always click on the Planned outages link on this blog page for up-to-date weekend information when no current blog post appears.

Check this link for RWC traffic issues for the next six weeks.

Looks as though someone understands that w/e Tube work should stay away from the west side of the city even if the only RWC 2015 match at Twickenham is Friday. For general advice on London maps — For all matches at Twickenham, part of A316 Chertsey Road will be closed. Road users should plan alternate routes and avoid travelling in the area.

Here is the link for this weekend.

District line is shut between Aldgate East and Upminster both days.

Hamm’smith/City line closure between Liverpool Street and Barking both days.

Victoria line has no service between Seven Sisters and Walthamstow Central until Sunday.

London Overground multiple closures all weekend – Liverpool Street to Seven Sisters/Walthamstow Central; Highbury & Islington to Shadwell; Surrey Quays to New Cross.

Sunday will see no service on TfL Rail (a new Tube extension from Liverpool St; maybe it will get a new name in future) from Gidea Park to Shenfield (which is the end of this line in zone 9).

There is a long term closure on the stretch of London Tram from Wimbledon to Dundonald Road until October sometime. Also the stretch from Reeves Corner to East Croydon is down this weekend.

Ongoing station closures are –

Covent Garden station Exit only until early November 2015. Also, on Saturdays and Sundays westbound trains will not stop.

Tottenham Court Road station Central line trains not stopping until early December 2015.

Tufnell Park station Station closed until mid-March 2016.

Warren St station used for exit and interchange only between 0730 and 1000 Mon thru Fri until late October.

Road closures and diversions are numerous – central and NW London, Stratford, Wembley and Woodford.  Click here for bus route changes. There are a bunch of these too!

In central London, no entry to Northumberland Ave from Victoria Embankment for the next several weeks. THAT will be a pain for drivers and buses.

 

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London Tube and Notting Hill Carnival – bank holiday w/e – 29-31 August 2015

Remember – You can always click on the Planned outages link on this blog page for up-to-date weekend information when no current blog post appears.

As a consequence of several proposed and actual strike actions recently, TfL has decided to postpone the start of  Night Tube weekend service announced for September.

District line is shut between Dagenham East and Upminster all three days.

Victoria line has no service between Seven Sisters and Walthamstow Central until Sunday.

London Overground closure all weekend from Hackney Wick to Stratford.

Sunday will see no service on TfL Rail (still dunno who this be) from Gidea Park to Shenfield.

There is a long term closure on the stretch of London Tram from Wimbledon to Dundonald Road until October sometime.

Ongoing station closures are –

Covent Garden station Exit only until early November 2015. Also, on Saturdays and Sundays westbound trains will not stop.

Tottenham Court Road station Central line trains not stopping until early December 2015.

Tufnell Park station Station closed until mid-March 2016.

Click here for road closures and diversions. Among them, Hammersmith Bridge Rd, Hamm Broadway and Shepherds Bush Rd.

In central London, no entry to Northumberland Ave from Victoria Embankment for the next several weeks. THAT will be a pain for drivers and buses.

There are also a bunch of National Rail issues over the weekend. Here is the list.

The big event this weekend is the Notting Hill Carnival. Several stations will be affected. Some are closed, others have extended or shortened hours. Here’s the list –

Ladbroke Grove (Circle and Hamm’/City) station closed 30/31 August due to the Notting Hill Carnival.

Latimer Road station 30/31 August open until 2330 for the Notting Hill Carnival.

Notting Hill Gate station Sunday 30 August exit only from 1100 until 1900. Monday 31 August exit only from 1100 until 1900, no interchange all day. This is due to the Notting Hill Carnival.

Royal Oak station 30/31 August exit only between 11:00 and 18:00 and will close at 18:00 on both days due to the Notting Hill Carnival.

 

Westbourne Park station 30/31 August exit only from 1100 until 1800, open until 2330. This is due to the Notting Hill Carnival.

 

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London Tube latest strike update – 25-28 August 2015

The strike for the Tube scheduled to begin this Tuesday, 25 Aug thru Friday has been suspended. Just the normal chaos will reign.

 

Posted in General magpie travel, London travel, News from Britain | Tagged , | 2 Comments

London Tube strike update – 25-28 August 2015

The strike for the Tube is scheduled to begin this Tuesday, 25 Aug and continue throughout Friday. Click here for the journey planner, which may prove useful in general. Click here for strike updates.

You can always click on the Planned outages link on this blog page for weekend information when no current blog post appears. Apologies.

Let’s hope all parties iron out their differences so that the proposed Night Tube weekend service can begin as announced in September.

Buses will be running but remember they don’t take cash. Click here for a bus map which can be downloaded to your mobile device.

There will also be extra river service laid on. Here is a map for that, also downloadable.

Trams (except for Wimbledon to Dundonald Rd), DLR and London Overground should be in service as well as Emirates and TfL Rail (not sure who dat be). Obviously, the crowds and chaos will be widespread.

One other option – booking cabs and the do’s and don’ts – click here for information and download information.

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London Tube closures – 22-23 August 2015

Here’s the link with information on this weekend’s Tube closures. Nothing inside the Circle line is down – which makes life easier for the tourists. Click here to see how lane closures along Victoria Embankment, among other locations, will foul traffic for the rest of the year. Fun fun fun!

See the Hot Link on this blog page for planned Tube closures on the network for the next six months – handy reference for when I’m too lazy to post a specific blog report.

District line is down for the weekend between Turnham Green and Richmond.

Jubilee line – no service from Finchley Road to Stanmore both days

Metropolitan line – no weekend service from Aldgate to Harrow-on-the-Hill

Victoria line – now through next Sunday 30 Aug – no service between Seven Sisters and Walthamstow Central

Click here for the latest info on accessibility improvements to London’s public transport.

 

London Overground – one weekend closure – Richmond to Willesden Junction and a couple of Sunday closures – Sydenham to West Croydon and Watford Junction to Queen’s Park.

There is a long-term closure on the Trams between Wimbledon and Dundonald Rd until October; result – a new platform at Wimbledon. The stretch between Reeves Corner and East Croydon opens late Sunday – 10.00 am.

Road closures and disruptions listed here. Sorry – can’t be bothered to list them all. Westbound Trinity Rd in Wandsworth is blocked until September. Tottenham is seeing Cycle Superhighway work thru mid-November. There is no southbound traffic thru Blackwall tunnel nights until 5am every day thru Thursday 27 Aug. Westminster has southbound restrictions thru mid-Sept on Abingdon St and lane closures thru late Sept between Parliament Sq and Victoria St.

Central London – a parade from around 18.00 on Friday until 5.00 Saturday morning will create lane and parking restrictions along Edgware Rd.

Various road issues over the weekend in and around Lambeth (Brockwell Park), Farringdon (some sort of procession) and Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf will be chaotic on Sunday due to… well, the TfL email says ‘sporting event’, but not sure if this refers to the childrens’ theatre event that day or the beach volleyball. Or both. You have been warned.

Reminders –

Tottenham Court Road station – Central line trains will not stop here until early December 2015.

Covent Garden station (Piccadilly line)- exit only until early November 2015; westbound trains will not stop here on weekends (keep on confusing those tourists!) Seems to me that Covent Garden access has been spotty for a year or more, sometimes without advance warning. Good thing Leicester Sq and Charing Cross are short walks away as alternates.

Tufnell Park station is closed until mid-March 2016.

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London Tube strike – 5-6 Aug 2015 with maps for download

The strike for the Tube is still on, scheduled to begin  as of 18.30 today and continuing all day tomorrow (followed closely by weekend closures beginning Saturday). Click here for the journey planner, which may prove useful in general.

Please click on the Planned outages link on this blog page for weekend information as I won’t be available to post it. Apologies.

Buses will be running but remember they don’t take cash. Click here for a bus map which can be downloaded to your mobile device.

There will also be extra river service laid on. Here is a map for that, also downloadable.

Trams (except for Wimbledon to Dundonald Rd), DLR and London Overground (except for evening service between Hackney Downs-Chingford) are also in service as well as Emirates and TfL Rail (not sure who dat be). Obviously, the crowds and chaos will be widespread.

One other option – booking cabs and the do’s and don’ts – click here for information and download information.

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London Tube closures – 18-19 July 2015

Here’s the link with information on this weekend’s Tube closures. Big chunk of the Circle line is down – which I think makes for a pain inna neck, as well as a stretch of District line that would normally be an alternative. Click here to see how lane closures along Victoria Embankment, among other locations, will foul traffic for the rest of the year. Fun fun fun!

See the Hot Link on this blog page for planned Tube closures on the network for the next six months.

Circle line – closed all weekend between Edgware Road to Aldgate via Victoria

District line is down for the weekend between Earl’s Court to Embankment.

You can see what a headache the above two can create when they occur in tandem, even though these are the only closures on the Tube this w/e. These are my most used lines when I’m in town, so I’m glad I’m not having to deal!

Click here for the latest info on accessibility improvements to London’s public transport.

 

London Overground – just one late opening on Sunday (11.00) for the stations from Gospel Oak to Stratford.

There is a long-term closure on the Trams between Wimbledon and Dundonald Rd which began this past Monday 13 July and will continue until October.

Road closures and disruptions listed here. Sorry – I’m too lazy to list them all. Hammersmith flyover has roadworks in both directions. Westbound Trinity Rd in Wandsworth is blocked until September. Tottenham is seeing Cycle Superhighway work thru mid-August.

Central London – a parade from around 18.00 on Friday until 5.00 Saturday morning will create lane and parking restrictions along Edgware Rd.

Various road issues over the weekend in and around Lambeth (Brockwell Park), Farringdon (some sort of procession) and Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf will be chaotic on Sunday due to… well, the TfL email says ‘sporting event’, but not sure if this refers to the childrens’ theatre event that day or the beach volleyball. Or both. You have been warned.

Reminders –

Tottenham Court Road station – Central line trains will not stop here until early December 2015.

Covent Garden station (Piccadilly line)- exit only until early November 2015; westbound trains will not stop here on weekends (keep on confusing those tourists!) Seems to me that Covent Garden access has been spotty for a year or more, sometimes without advance warning. Good thing Leicester Sq and Charing Cross are short walks away as alternates.

Tufnell Park station is closed until mid-March 2016.

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London Tube closures – 11-12 July 2015

Here’s the link with information on this weekend’s Tube closures – a couple of closures in the East End some London Overground. Click here to see how lane closures along Victoria Embankment, among other locations, will foul traffic for the rest of the year. Fun fun fun!

See the Hot Link on this blog page for planned Tube closures on the network for the next six months.

Click here for the latest info on accessibility improvements to London’s public transport.

District line is down for the weekend between Aldgate East and Upminster

Hamm’smith/City is shut from Liverpool Street to Barking.

DLR is closed both days from Bank and Tower Gateway to Blackwall, All Saints and Canary Wharf.

London Overground – service disruption all weekend between Gospel Oak and  Barking. Short day service on Sunday – Sydenham to Crystal Palace from 9.30 to 22.00 as well as a late Sunday opening (10.00) on the stretch from Wandsworth Road to Clapham Junction.

Road closures and disruptions listed here. Sorry – I’m too lazy to list them all. Hammersmith flyover has roadworks in both directions. Westbound Trinity Rd in Wandsworth is blocked until September. Tottenham is seeing Cycle Superhighway work thru mid-August. Central London – Oxford Circus/Regent St area will be snarled mid-day Friday for some sort of procession. Overnight Monday into Tuesday will see work around Trafalgar Sq / Strand / Northumberland Ave – get yourself over to the Sherlock Holmes pub beforehand (before 22.00) so your drinking time isn’t disrupted!

Reminders –

Tottenham Court Road station – Central line trains will not stop here until early December 2015.

Covent Garden station (Piccadilly line)- exit only until early November 2015; westbound trains will not stop here on weekends (keep on confusing those tourists!) Seems to me that Covent Garden access has been spotty for a year or more, sometimes without advance warning. Good thing Leicester Sq and Charing Cross are short walks away as alternates.

Tufnell Park station is closed until mid-March 2016.

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Walking map for London Tube – handy on strike days like today (9 July 2015)

Walking times between Tube stations – good to know ANY time! From London Independent – hard to say how long the link will work, so maybe print one out when you get home? You never know when it could be useful again.

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London Tube strike info 8-9 July 2015

As of now, the strike set to begin this afternoon and continue all day tomorrow is going on. There may also be disruptions for some part of Friday.

Check this post regularly for any updates. The regular Tube website has a banner headline saying that all Tube service is now shut down.

Here is the latest announcement from TfL…

==============================================

Tube services have now stopped running as a result of the strike action by the ASLEF, RMT, Unite and TSSA unions. There will be no Tube service tomorrow, Thursday 9 July.

Staff on the bus network, the DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, Trams, river services, Emirates Air Line and Santander Cycles are not on strike; extra bus and river services will be in operation tomorrow.

National rail services are running largely as normal*. Public transport and roads will be much busier than usual, especially during peak hours. Please travel outside the peak times if you can.

Many locations in central London are easily accessible from mainline rail stations, and we have staff on hand to help people find their destinations. Please click the link for a copy of the central London bus map, which you can save to your mobile device.

Oyster pay as you go, Travelcards and contactless payment cards can, of course, all be used on National Rail services as normal.

For the most up-to-date information, including travel advice, please follow @TfLTravelAlerts or visittfl.gov.uk

============================================

London Trams are running; the Emirates cable car is also in service. FirstGreatWestern rail has a map with their services – this is a SEPARATE strike action, planned for 48 hours beginning Thursday and continuing thru start of service on Saturday am, 11 July. Lovely!

And here’s a link to TfL’s Twitter page, in case that’s easier to access.

 

 

 

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London Tube closures – 4-5 July 2015

Here’s the link with information on this weekend’s Tube closures – a couple of closures in the East End some London Overground. Click here to see how lane closures along Victoria Embankment, among other locations, will foul traffic for the rest of the year. Fun fun fun!

See the Hot Link on this blog page for planned Tube closures on the network for the next six months.

Click here for the latest info on accessibility improvements to London’s public transport.

District line is down for the same period between Aldgate East and Dagenham East

Hamm’smith/City is shut from Liverpool Street to Barking.

London Overground – service disruptions Saturday only – Sydenham to Crystal Palace; Sunday only – no service between New Cross Gate to Crystal Palace/West Croydon; closures all weekend affect service between Gospel Oak and Barking as well as the stretch from Highbury & Islington to Shadwell.

Road closures and disruptions listed here. Sorry – I’m too lazy to list them all. No service on the Woolwich Ferry (I didn’t even know there was a Woolwich Ferry), southbound Trinity Rd in Wandsworth is blocked until September and Hampton Court all have some congestion issues. And, of course, the tennis tournament in Wimbledon will make parking down there a nightmare. Yeah, but Rafa Nadal lost his match today, so why bother going?

Reminders –

Tottenham Court Road station – Central line trains will not stop here until early December 2015.

Covent Garden station (Piccadilly line)- exit only until early November 2015; westbound trains will not stop here on weekends (keep on confusing those tourists!) Seems to me that Covent Garden access has been spotty for a year or more, sometimes without advance warning. Good thing Leicester Sq and Charing Cross are short walks away as alternates.

Tufnell Park station is closed until mid-March 2016.

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London Tube closures – 20-21 June 2015 and a successful accessibility test

Here’s the link with information on this weekend’s Tube closures – mostly the bottom edge of the Circle line ‘bottle’ and some DLR on the fringe. Click here to see how lane closures along Victoria Embankment, among other locations, will foul traffic for the rest of the year. Fun fun fun!

Click here to read an Oxford gent’s report on testing the Tube system’s accessibility improvements.

See the Hot Link on this blog page for planned closures on the London Transport network for the next six months.

Click here for the latest info on accessibility improvements to London’s public transport.

Circle line – all weekend – closure from Gloucester Road to Aldgate via Embankment and District line is down for the same period between South Kensington and Aldgate East.

DLR – all weekend – no service between Blackwall and Beckton.

London Trams – the section between Reeves Corner to East Croydon stops running at 22.00 on Saturday and will not resume service until 10.00 on Sunday.

London Overground – service disruptions Sunday only – Wandsworth Road to Clapham Junction as well as the stretch from Gospel Oak to Barking.

Road closures and disruptions listed here. Sorry – I’m too lazy to list them all but watch out for a demonstration on Saturday afternoon in and around the Strand, Trafalgar Sq and Whitehall. Work on the East-West Cycle Superhighway will make a mess along points on Victoria Embankment this summer. Terrific.

Road – Farringdon Rd southbound will be a mess due to Thames Water works works (!) from now until the 28th June.

Reminders –

Tottenham Court Road station – Central line trains will not stop here until early December 2015.

Covent Garden station (Piccadilly line)- exit only until early November 2015; westbound trains will not stop here on weekends (keep on confusing those tourists!) I only hope I remember this if I’m in London before they’re done mooching around replacing those lifts.

Tufnell Park station closed until mid-March 2016 for lift replacement.

 

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