LDN – going walkabout…

If it’s Wednesday, it must be London and a short walk was necessary to find the breakfast room at Imperial College…

Or should I say rooms, because breakfast is provided in one of the biggest student dining areas that I’ve ever been in, and because it was so busy, seats were at a premium, but the food was freshly cooked as the catering staff cooked more to cope with the demand. Given how busy it was, it was also a good idea to load up two cups of coffee before finding a table.

Once fed and coffee’d, it was time to pick up the bag from my room and head off in search of the sharing lunch items to have later in the day. Time to wander around the area surrounding South Kensington tube station.

Yes, there were loads of shops selling all sorts of things (including Lamborghini cars – I kid you not!), but it took a while to find a Waitrose to get a couple of packs of filled wraps and some pain au chocolate bars plus a couple of bottles of water. Once sorted it was time to head up to the RGS and the meeting point with the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum contributors and the trio of moderators who were joining us for all or part of the day.

Once we met up and introductions were made, it was time to take a wander around the Travel Photographer Of The Year exhibition in one of the RGS galleries and the adjoining gardens. Impressive? Oh yes as a certain cartoon bulldog that’s used to sell car insurance might say…

After leaving the RGS behind, it was time for a different London experience for me – getting on a London bus for the first time in about thirty five years! The destination on this part of the day was the Wellcome Trust building and a visit to the Institute Of Sexology (no, I hadn’t heard of it before either!).

Although an hour or so had been allocated to wander around this site, I found myself taking a wander downstairs to the multi-faceted shop on the ground floor (10/10 for stocking the London Modern Babylon DVD guys!) and a double espresso. Once everyone assembled, it was time for another bus, this time down towards Central London and St. James’ Park ( the park itself, not the similarly named football ground in Newcastle-upon-Tyne – only been there once to see a certain band that still had Bill Wyman as their bass player at that time).

After a brief wander through the park, it was lunchtime and starting to drizzle, so lunch was a standing up job for me as I’d noticed that others outside of our party had plumped for sitting down in deck chairs – and were being charged for this privilege!

Once we were fed, we moved on to see the tail end of the Pelican Feeding Time elsewhere in the park and witnessed a couple of witless herons trying to have a free meal for themselves by taking on some of the fish that the pelicans had left behind.

As the herons were failing miserably in their attempts at successfully feeding themselves, we moved on to Horse Guards and caught the mid to end sections of the Changing Of The Guard routine. Fortunately for me, I’d seen quite a few armed police officers in Lisbon a month before my visit to London, so seeing a fully armed police officer in Horse Guards wasn’t that extraordinary to me…

So, where next? Well, I could tell you the location but then I’d – nah, only joking! But somewhere in London are the offices of Lonely Planet and that’s where the bus journey and walk ended up And up as we were given entry passes to get to the six floor of the office block that Lonely Planet hang out in.

And what can you say? A suitable entrance hall with a selection of classic Lonely Planet guides surrounding a seating area, long desks with plenty of occupied and unoccupied computers on them (PC’s not Macs) plus meeting rooms and a library of Lonely Planet guides in both English and the multitude of other languages that they’re published in. A Forum/Moderator shot was taken for posterity by Lonely Planet’s Tom Hall before handing our passes in and heading out for the next bus and our next stop.

And the next stop was? Familiar territory – Camden Town and more specifically Camden Market. Why familiar? Largely because I’ve been to Camden Town a few times to see one particular band (The Skiff Skats) back in the mid-1980’s and also to take a band into the legendary Dingwalls Dance Hall back in my days of managing and promoting bands.

Camden Market is still one of the ‘hip’ places to go in London and yes, there were a few bearded hipsters in attendance that day too. After a wander around the market it was time to get undercover when the rain started, so an all-out personal assault on KFC was called for to get a drink and a small bite to eat at the same time. Once done, it was time to join the rest of the happy wanderers in the local Wetherspoons near Camden Lock.

When the rain stopped, it was time for a stroll along Regent Canal in the general direction of Lord’s Cricket Ground and onward to our eating place for the night – The Cedars.

It’s not the first time that I’ve eaten in a Lebanese restaurant and it’s certainly not going to be the last! As ever, I made a complete hash of trying to pronounce my menu selection (in English it was lamb cutlets with rice), but when the meal arrived, it soon became apparent that whilst I may polish off the cutlets, polishing off the rice might be a different matter. Needless to say, I wasn’t the only member of our group that had the same problem.

Want to know more about The Cedars – take a look at http://www.thecedarrestaurant.co.uk for more details. I suspect that like Arnie S, I’ll be back!

As the night was wearing on, it was time to head back to Imperial College. Now the quicker way back to my bed for the night was out of the question as a Tube strike had started at 6.30pm and it was now around 9.30pm. So it was time to get a couple of buses towards The Royal Albert Hall before crossing the road, heading back to the hall and phoning Caroline before finding a nice pint of cold Guinness and then bed…

Little did I know what the following Tube strike embattled day was going to bring!

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About Keith Rickaby

Fiftysomething writer and occasional photographer who has worked in the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and whilst I'm originally from the North East, I'm now firmly based in't Yorkshire...
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