Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New US Embassy in London

The US Embassy in London is moving to a new location. If on schedule the embassy in Mayfair will relocate to Battersea in 2016. If will have a positive affect in many ways. The current location has just about become a fortress since the September 11 attacks in America in 2001. Streets have been closed and or relocated. Security is heightened and the natives are irritated to no end. They have been battling to have their area go back to normal. The London congestion charge also added to the headaches for the embassy. The staff, who work in the embassy must pay a fee to enter central London if they drive from outside the zone. The US has not paid that fee as it views it as a tax and embassies do not pay taxes. So the new HQ will be south of the Thames in a congestion free zone. This story continues in the Times.

Not trying to bring politics to my site I have to chastise the Drudge Report for their miss-leading and provocative headline: Obama plans $1 Billion Brit Embassy. Yes, the estimate for the new embassy is expected to be 1 billion. But the US sold the old building for the same amount so it’s not like my beer tax is going to go up over this. And, I don’t think Mr. Obama even cares about this. The planning for the new building was in the making long before he moved into the White House. I am sure that he is being briefed and has comments but a lot of this is out of his hands. It’s not like he or the wife get to pick out color chips and carpeting. Congress allocates the funds so ask them about all of this. Mr. Drudge’s headline implies that the cost and new building is Mr. Obama’s doing and that is miss-leading. The headline should have simply announced that the new design was selected and leave the true details within the story.

The new building will generate electric power and have a moat for security. A moat around a building in London. Where have I seen this before? No word yet what the drawbridge will look like. I can just see the US Marines standing watch with long bows. Oh well, the beer is kicking in so I should end this now. Looking forward to seeing you all there in 2016 for the pig roast and jousting competition

Monday, February 22, 2010

Underground Conspiracy

I am not a conspiracy theorist but if I were I would think Transport for London was engaged in a cover-up. After all they are an underground movement. Ever year in January they would increase the fares and I would set my calendar by them. They would then publish a PDF copy of the rates and how they applied to the different modes of travel. I would know exactly what a one day or seven day travel card would cost. If you wanted a bus-only pass that cost was clearly shown. They no longer publish their PDF copy (here is the 2009 copy). Nor do they publish anything showing the cost of travel that is easy to find on their website. Why is that? Why can’t I go to TfL and see what they offer and for what price? One can use the Journey Planner to find the cost of a fare but I have yet to see the cost of passes. There is information on the web from the Mayor of London and that too was an odd read.

They also made a change to their bus route maps. I had a link to the main page, which has been changed in 2010. It took me a small effort to find the new page. They did this as they saw it as an improvement to better serve their customers. If you are a London resident it has but if you are a visitor like me it can be confusing.

Maybe it’s me? It usually is, but I think an organization offering a product for sale should be clear as to what the costs are. Perhaps TfL needs to consult the Plain English Campaign?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Try New Things

The Times of London reported that the proliferation of English bars and eateries in Spanish coastal resorts is causing the British to stay away. Well, duh! Why would anyone spend good money to travel to some other country only to eat in the same type of pub that is walking distance from home? Well, me for one. But I had good reason. I popped into the Whole Foods in Kensington once. I did it to find it so I could tell others and they were serving Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I had a pint because I had to. But that doesn’t mean you must do the same. The joy of travel is to see and do things you can’t do at home. I love talking to the people I meet as they are as curious about America as I am of England. But I do see why the Brits are staying away. Years ago I noticed that the souvenirs I was looking at were the same Chinese crap that I saw in New York, albeit another name painted on. You should have seen the shock on my face when I first found out that London Fog was made in Baltimore. When I come to England (and Scotland, Wales and Ireland) I want goods made in that country buy the people in that country.

Readers of the Times story reminded other to travel further inland to enjoy the real essence of the country. One can stay in London and all you need to do is get out and explore the nooks and crannies of the city to find interesting places to eat. I always stay in Bloomsbury near Russell Square and it is a world apart from Oxford Street, which is not very far away. Walking up and off of Marchmont Street brings a nice selection of restaurants and pubs. China House is one of my favorite places. Ok, so it’s not English. The North Sea Restaurant may be what you desire as well as the Norfolk Arms or the Lamb sorry, you will have to Google this one). Prices tend to get a little less the further you move away the tourist centers. Use your travel card and head out to the outer zones for more treats, You can make excursions away from central London into day trips and find places like the Spaniards Inn. All for the cost of a bus ride.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Spaniards Inn Hampstead

I am off to London this March (7 thru 22) and I have many plans. I have been to London many times in the past but each trip brings new excitement. I was unable to visit in 2009 and my last trip was in April of 2008. At time I first visited the Spaniard’s Inn in Hampstead. Located on Spaniards Road where Hampstead Lane meets at the tollgate, the road narrows to form a venture tube. Most interesting to watch the cars come to a near halt to get thru.

The first thing I noticed upon entering where the many people enjoying the cool but sunny Saturday afternoon. The Inn is surrounded on all sides by Hampstead Heath, which has miles of walking tails. Tow other items you will quickly see are walking boots and dogs. That Saturday I counted at least four. Dogs, that is. There were more boots than what is in Harrods. Dogs are so well behaved in pubs and they give the place a home good feel. There should be a law mandating all pubs have a dog or even a cat. The Spaniards knows how to take care of the dogs. Outside they can get their paws washed at a wash station and inside they can eat a meal of organic dog food. The owners just have to be nice people.

Turning my attention to more important matters I turned my head to scan the beers on display and found another first for me; Worthington White Shield. Having missed my bus stop I had to hoof it up Spaniards Road and was quite parched. This is such a lovely ale and very refreshing. This would make for an excellent nightcap at home before bed for you younger people. Some of us have late night issues requiring early sessions. But that’s another story. White Shield is a classic bottle-conditioned India Pale Ale that really brings tears to my eyes. For one, at some point I am going t have to leave the pub. And I can’t get it in the states.

See this Wikipedia article on the Inn.