Saturday, 13 May 2006

The African Lost City

The brain child of a man who had a Standard 8 (which in international terms means he did not complete his basic schooling), Sol Kerzner went on to create a fantasy-land in the form of The Lost City, with an incredibly expensive and ultra-luxurious palace, with facilities only movie stars can afford. The penthouse suite is a not-so-small fortune per night! More than 5 star material! Luxury in the extreme. This consists of a stunning fairytale hotel, and a waterworld-wonderland. There is a fake sea (with real beach sand and rolling waves), rapids, quite a few water rides etc. A lot of fun for adults and children alike.

He has built an oasis in the midst of this, and created employment for thousands of locals, where unemployment is rife. We never got to go here as kids because we didn’t have the extra money for the excursion, but as a young adult I started to go a few times with friends from Technikon, for pop concerts (Richard Marx), and to spend the day in the sun and sea in The Lost City.

Not being one who enjoys gambling, I didn’t do much of that – but if you DO enjoy gambling, this is a gambling mecca! They do conduct a 'responsible gambling policy', not sure exactly what that entails, but as it can become an addiction, they have obviously taken strides to prevent this. They work in conjunction with a National Responsible Gambling Programme Toll Free Helpline: 0800 006 008.

Easily driveable from Johannesburg (2 hours drive), this is a lovely day outing/week end getaway for the family, or with friends. There is a bus service that operates from some of Johannesburg's finest hotels.

Saturday, 6 May 2006

London's urban hike with Jenniflower

London - Regent Street
Regent Street

A wonderful way to see and experience London: walking. Come and join in!

Begin London's urban hike at the Lancaster Gate entrance to Hyde Park, just off Bayswater Road. Reach Lancaster Gate by underground via the Lancaster Gate tube station. Start the hike sufficiently early in the morning to be able to visit Hyde Park at a pleasant time.

Discover Hyde Park by walking through the park to the Marble Arch. Until late 19th century, Marble Arch was the site of public hangings. From Marble Arch continue east along Oxford Street. This street is London's most important and crowded shopping district. Major department stores are found here. Selfridges, Debenhams, C and A's, and Liberty's are all located on in the area. Do some browsing, but try not to buy anything on the walk, as whatever you buy, you have to carry! Hikers carry water and plasters only! ;)

Where Oxford intersects Regent Street, turn right and continue down this stunning street until you reach Piccadilly Circus. Hamley's is a favourite stop ~ 6 stories of delight for all ages!

(this first photo was taken with my camera phone, so is poor quality unfortunately)

Okay, and then?

London - Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is surrounded by shopping, restaurants, and movie theaters.

This is where I work! I really enjoy my lunch hours, where I amble around to the art galleries, squares and sights all around me. I feel very spoilt sometimes to be working in such a beautiful and historic place. Anyway, that aside, you are on a hike and must try and savour the sights around you, but not be distracted! lol

From Piccadilly Circus, follow Piccadilly to Leicester Square. Leicester Square is where all the movie premiers take place, and where stars turn up in the freezing cold weather of winter in skimpy dresses, pretending not to feel the cold :)

From Leicester Square, walk along Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square.

From stars to columns to squares...

Lord Nelson's Column is found in the center of Trafalgar Square. Before reaching Trafalgar, pass directly by the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery. The National Gallery is located on the north side of Trafalgar Square.

London - National Gallery
National Gallery

From Trafalgar Square, continue up the Strand. This is London's theatrical district. The Strand becomes Fleet Street in several blocks. Fleet Street is the legendary home of the British press.

Wedding bells, something smells ;)

Catch a bus (preferably a red Routemaster!) from Fleet Street to St Paul's Cathedral. St Paul's Cathedral was built by the great architect Christopher Wren. This gorgeous, baroque cathedral was completed in 1711. Prince Charles and Princess Diane were married here. A visit to St Paul's should include the crypt beneath the church.

London - St Pauls Cathedral
St Pauls Cathedral

One can walk up some stairs, all the way up to the cathedral's rotunda. It is a spectacular view :) St Paul's floor plan is a lateran cross. The rotunda is located directly above the center of the cross.

From the dome to the tower to the crown...

Take the St Paul's tube to the Tower Hill Station. The Tower of London is located here.

William the Conqueror began the Tower in about 1078. In subsequent years, much English history has involved the Tower. Imprisonment, torture, murder, and execution have all contributed to establishing the Bloody Tower's reputation. The famous have been housed here awaiting their fate. Henry the VIII imprisoned and then executed his wives Ann Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, and Margaret Vicountessa of Salisbury within the Tower. Elizabeth I was, herself, kept a prisoner at the Tower for some time before becoming queen.

London - Tower of London
Tower of London

The modern Tower is associated with the Beefeaters or Yeoman Warders who wear the distinctive Tudor style uniforms. The Crown Jewels of England are kept here. White's Chapel within the Tower contains a superb museum, including a well displayed armour collection. One could spend an entire day here... But YOU cannot! You have a hike to complete... move on now!

Bridging the water... not swimming it!

After visiting the Tower, walk along the Thames River. There are some British navy ships anchored along the Thames that can be visited (H.M.S Belfast being a particular favourite), or, for the Tower Bridge enthusiasts, there is a walkway along the upper level of the Tower Bridge that can be used to cross the bridge. From the Tower, take the underground to Tottenham Court Road Station, and Bloomsbury, London.

London - Looking out over the Thames, inside Tower Bridge
Looking out over the Thames, inside Tower Bridge

Bloomsbury's fame is often linked to two reasons, the British Museum and the economist John Maynard Keynes. The British Museum is only one block to the west of Tottenham Court Road Station. The British Museum is a favorite of Londoners. The museum's large collection includes exhibits of things from classical times to the present. A half day or more can be effortlessly spent exploring the British Museum.

Meet up with Ben and Abbey!

Next, take the tube to Westminster Station. The British Parliament Buildings are located in the Palace of Westminster. Big Ben is also found here. Walk across the Thames River Bridge for a famous view of Parliament. If Parliament is in session, admission to the strangers' gallery in either the House of Commons or Lords may be possible.

Westminster Abbey is next to Westminster. Since 1050 AD, all but two of England's kings and queens have been crowned at Westminster Abbey. Many of England's monarches are also buried here. Brass rubbings from Westminster Abbey are familiar decor. These brass rubbings can be made from cathedral artifacts. Purchase paper and ink and try a brass rubbing.

London - Westminster

After leaving Westminster Abbey, walk across Parliament Square and north on Whitehall. Downing Street is a few blocks up Whitehall on the left hand side. While visitors are no longer allowed outside 10 Downing Street, the famous residence can still be seen from Whitehall.

...end it off with tea with Lizzy :)

After leaving 10 Downing Street, return to Parliament Square and walk up Birdcage Walk to St. James Park. Walk through St. James Park to the Mall.

Buckingham Palace is at the opposite end of the mall. If the Queen is in residence, one can see her distinctive flag with the three lions of England above the palace. The changing of the guard takes place at Buckingham Palace at 11:30 am every day in the summer and every other day in the winter. Buckingham Palace completes the London urban hike!

London - Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace

We hope your enjoyed your virtual hike with us... now why not do it for REAL? The London experience will be substantially better for first having got out and found the city on foot, this we can guarentee!