Dec, 2010 17

getting around, sports Map Out Your Own London Walk

City Walks is a series of decks of cards with small adventures you can do by foot. The deck on London is composed by Craig Taylor and published by Chronicle Books. It includes some areas that might not occur to you as a must see, but are very much worth a look. For instance,he does a walk on Bloomsbury, the area known as the home of the Bloomsbury literary group, which points out many a unique book shop and The British Museum along the way. I found this area of London with one of his cards and the British Museum and the pub across the street from its front entrance has become one of my favorite places in London.

I’ve had my deck for a few years now and love the feature of taking just two or three cards in my pocket and heading out to discover the already discovered and undiscovered parts of London. Each 3″x5″ card in the deck of 50 has a written description leading to your destination (“Follow Gower Place to Endsleigh Gardens and turn right onto Endsleigh Street. Soon you’ll reach Tavistock Square where Dickens wrote Bleak House”) Now those are the kind of directions I need when wandering around on my own. I can find my way to almost any museum, music venue or shoe shop in London; please just don’t ask me to look at a map to do it.

The clever little cards in the deck have the written description that point out places of interest along the way and do also have, for the non-map challenged, a close up map of the area on the flip side of the card. It’s such a great way to discover a new patch of London of a morning or an afternoon. I can’t recommend them enough.

I knew that the series of decks included Paris and New York as I have them, but was happy to see that the series now includes a deck for Walking in London with Children by Emily Laurence Baker and Steve Mack. It’s a clever idea for those parents who are training their child to be world travellers. And the cards are just the right size for a child to hold and read out the directions for their family to follow.

These decks may be available at amazon, but are definitely available here: www.chroniclebooks.com

Come along with me….London calling….

Nov, 2010 29

know how, sports Skate Amongst the Landmarks~in London

I knew that there were outside skating rinks in London each winter: imagine the idea of skating amongst the historic landmarks of London. How very romantic is that? But, who knew there are 17 places to ice skate in London-town from November to March? And who knew the Queen’s Ice Rink was open to us all?  Well “View London” says it is, but I am pretty sure that the actual Queen does not skate there. However, this very rink has 10 pin bowling on offer as well; so something for everyone.

View London has put together this comprehensive list, with times and rental prices provided through their links, for all 17 places that you can skate in London:

http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/whatson/ice-skating-london-feature-335.html

Why not add skating at Hampton Court Palace or at the Tower of London to your London winter travel plans? Get your skates on and…..

Come Along with me….London Calling….

Apr, 2010 27

getting around, sports Walk Like a Londoner… (or like an Egyptian if you prefer)

City Walks is a series of decks of cards with small adventures you can do by foot. The deck on London is composed by Craig Taylor and published by Chronicle Books. It includes some areas that might not occur to you as a must see, but are very much worth a look. For instance,he does a walk on Bloomsbury, the area known as the home of the Bloomsbury literary group, which points out many a unique book shop and The British Museum along the way. I found this area of London with one of his cards and the British Museum and the pub across the street from its front entrance has become one of my favorite places in London.

I’ve had my deck for a few years now and love the feature of taking just two or three cards in my pocket and heading out to discover the already discovered and undiscovered parts of London. Each 3″x5″ card in the deck of 50 has a written description leading to your destination (“Follow Gower Place to Endsleigh Gardens and turn right onto Endsleigh Street. Soon you’ll reach Tavistock Square where Dickens wrote Bleak House”) Now those are the kind of directions I need when wandering around on my own. I can find my way to almost any museum, music venue or shoe shop in London; please just don’t ask me to look at a map to do it.

The clever little cards in the deck have the written description that point out places of interest along the way and do also have, for the non-map challenged, a close up map of the area on the flip side of the card. It’s such a great way to discover a new patch of London of a morning or an afternoon. I can’t recommend them enough.

I knew that the series of decks included Paris and New York as I have them, but was happy to see that the series now includes a deck for Walking in London with Children  by Emily Laurence Baker and Steve Mack. It’s a clever idea for those parents who are training their child to be world travellers. And the cards are just the right size for a child to hold and read out the directions for their family to follow.

These decks may be available at amazon, but are definitely available here: www.chroniclebooks.com

Come along with me….London calling….

Apr, 2010 16

sports millwall, Millwall, MILLWALL!!~Excellent London Football

Look no further: all the excitement of high quality football can be found at The Den on Zampa Road in SE London. There, almost weekly in season, you will find a high standard of English football that has been a South London tradition, celebrating its 125thyear in 2010. London football is a true-grit style of culture that gives the feeling of English pride and is a very authentic slice of culture; it’s not all the Royal Opera and museums, you know! And you are talking to a real culture vulture here.

The fiercely competitive, vastly skilled young men of Millwall will show how feisty, inspiring football is played while their thousands of roaring fans will make you wonder if you are at a rock concert, or at a football game. Ah, the noise-I love it. The English may well be more reserved than us by nature, but I can promise you, all reserve vanishes when an Englishmen (or woman) support their football team. Why not participate in this unique slice of English culture while in London? 

Whether it’s the super-charged defending of Tony Craig or Paul Robinson, or the speedy wing-play of Chris Hackett, or the insightful, seasoned and intelligent playing of Millwall’s highest ever goal scorer, striker Neil Harris, or it’s  dynamic mid-fielders, Jimmy Abdou and Danny Schofield , and the ever-inspiring, hard-charging saves by the world’s best goal keeper, David Forde (can you tell ?!—my favorite player), or any of the other skillful, committed team-players: from the newly acquired strikers Sean Batt or Steve Morrison…..Millwall will provide a glimpse of London life that you won’t soon forget. 

Millwall’s stadium has a family enclosure for those with younger children who may want to enjoy watching the game with other families. To find tickets for that section of the ground where the language is less adult, look here for tickets in the Zampa’s Family Club Block 31-34.  Zampa is the club’s lion mascot:http://www.millwallfc.co.uk/page/TicketInfo/0,,10367~2022494,00.html

 What began as a team of workers from the Morton Jam factory near the docks of London’s waterfront 125 years ago has evolved into what Millwall is today: a fervently proud team of young multi-national men who are marching their way toward promotion to the next division this season, after oh-so-narrowly missing their opportunity in May of 2009.

I have spoken of my love of Millwall before (see my post under SPORTS, dated 11.12.2010…..where you will find how to buy tickets and exact directions for public transport to the stadium). They have become the team that I proudly support. I attend a game each and every chance I get and a Google alert for Millwall news graces my e-mail in-box each day. Millwall shirts adorn the backs of my loved ones in the US, even though my mother thinks my 10 year old nephew should not be rocking up at school with his Millwall shirt that states their motto: “No one likes us…we don’t care”!

 Of interest to we Americans is the Boston-based business man, John Berylson, who owns the team. He has gone, in the short three years he been the owner, from a former high school athlete, Marine and hugely successful business man who knew absolutely nothing about English football (soccer), to a owner who so passionately believes in Millwall’s abilities and their fan’s feisty support. His belief has lead him to pour millions into the team, winning over Millwall’s notoriously passionate, prideful fans in a short span of time. No small feat. So sure was his belief in their lack of wrong-doing, that he paid to have their interests represented and defended before the Football Association last August following events at their rival’s stadium of which they were quite unjustly accused. Following an investigation and hearing, Millwall was wholly, fully acquitted. Berylson’s American can-do attitude came in to play in this instance and he, and Millwall, were proved right.

 While the fans were, perhaps, rightfully leery of an outsider who understood little about Millwall’s vibrant history, let alone the actual game, Berylson has been embraced beyond measure as the force of nature that has taken Millwall from bordering on marginal to successful and has poured nearly 20 million dollars into the team. His acceptance is so much so, that during a vital game in the 2009 playoffs of Millwall v. Leeds, the pre-game stadium was awash in a resounding chant of USA USA, USA”!!! for an astounding 20 mins. as Millwall’s fans toasted Berylson, chanting their definite support of him.

 Added to his needed financial support has been the appointment of a former Watford and Wales International football player (defense and midfield), Kenny Jackett as Millwall’s manager. Post football career, Jackett was a Watford and Swansea manager, and the reserve team manager at Manchester City for a spell.  Kenny Jackett, whose impressive sure and steady guidance took a team who nearly faced relegation in 2008 to a team who fiercely defended their right to be promoted to the next level in a spectacular display at London’s Wembley Arena a short year later. Has has been called, by Graham Fisher, a sports writer, “The Best Manager You Never Heard Of”. From near relagation to near promotion in one year. Picture it: London’s Wembley Stadium, May 2009, nearly 50,000 Millwall fans from all over the world roared them on. They are called the Lions, after all. I felt immensely proud that day, and I’m not even English! The display of waving blue flags and spectacular Millwall pride is an experience that won’t soon be forgotten: from babies to the elderly; the place was a sea of Millwall blue shirts, caps, flags, painted faces and dyed blue hair. 

Narrowly missing the promotion in 2009, the 2010 season has shown a team who charges forward, zooming their way up the table with a very real chance of promotion, despite an early season disaster of prolonged and multiple injured players. Even one of their biggest rival’s manager has recently said that Millwall has become the team to beat. 

Millwall fans are unique in many ways: their passion sets them apart from the average American sports fan, I would think, but their expectations may be different than the average American sports fan, too. I have it on good authority that Millwall fans traditionally have demanded one thing, above  all, from all of their players: a 100%, unceasing commitment. If a player is skillfull, but lazy, it has been explained to me, the fans will get on his back-and stay there. If he gives his all, the fans roar him on even if the player and the team are not doing well. The current team, under Kenny Jackett’s watch is comprised of many of this “I’m in, 100%”” sort of players. Many fans would name Gary Alexander as one of the players who most exemplifies this. It was a sight and sound to behold when, that 2009 day at Wembly, he scored two goals, an astonishing two minutes apart….”Boosh! and Boosh!” The first of the goals was named one of the best ever at Wembly.

“Come on Down to the Den”:Why don’t you and friends or family head down to the Den one Saturday or Tuesday night while you are in London, August through May; feel the Millwall vibe and hear the chants of the most passionate football fans in all of London? 

If you decide to go, e-mail me ahead of time and I will send you a “cheat sheet” of some of the most often sung chants at the ground. You can practice the lyrics and show up on the day prepared to chant your support for the Lions!  Be sure to wear blue.

Come along with me….London calling….

Feb, 2010 08

sports Ready to Climb the Walls?… of London

As Time Out has said, “London’s mountains are noticeable for their absence”, but that doesn’t mean that wall climbing is out of the question. If your London travel includes exercise that will burn off all those pints you plan to drink, consider this:

While in London, you can climb walls at the Monkey Room in the Mile End Climbinig  club. The Monkey room is  said to be an endlessly challenging climbing adventure: http://www.mileendwall.org.uk/  The Mile End Club in East London can be reached by the Central, District or Hammersmith and City Tube lines. Here are the directions from the Tube station to the club, lifted from Mile End’s web-site:

On Foot from Mile End Station:Turn left out of the station and then turn right on to Grove Road just before the huge yellow bridge. Walk for about 5 minutes passing a petrol station and under a railway bridge. Turn left down Haverfield Road just after the chip shop, go through the park gates and bear left in to our carpark. The doors to reception are on the right under the covered seating area”‘

 Or, try a climb at what some say is the best climbing wall in London at the Castle located at Green Lanes in North London (N4) which has boulder walls and a climbable roof in a cave: http://www.castle-climbing.co.uk/. Here are the directions that the Castle offers if you travel by Tube: 

“Manor House is the nearest tube station to the Castle and is on the Piccadilly line. From the tube you take exit 3 and then walk down Green Lanes (away from the park) for about 4 minutes until you see you the Castle on your left.Finsbury Park tube is also quite nearby and is on the Piccadilly line, Victoria line and British Rail overground network. If arriving on the Victoria line you may change here to go to Manor House” .

Additionally, a shivery challenge awaits hardy climbers, in Covent Garden of all places, where, at the Ellis Brigham shop on 3-11 Southhampton Street, W2  an indoor ice climbing wall in a refrigerated chamber is kept at it’s frozen tundra best in a -15C  degree space http://www.vertical-chill.com. Take the Tube to the Covent Garden Tube stop and follow the map provided on the Vertical Chill  site to to the shop. Southhampton Street is a 5 minute walk from the Tube stop. Go on-climb a  massive ice cube in London- if you dare.

Come along with me..London calling….

Jan, 2010 11

sports LONDON’S SPECTATOR SPORTS~FOOTBALL & GENERAL

There is plenty available for the American sports fan who wants to sample English sport or just someone who wants to sample a slice of distinctly English popular culture. Please click on the tabs to the right for general information about English Football, Cricket, Rugby and Tennis and obtaining tickets. 

For participation in sporting activities, you will find tabs for riding horses, boating, walking tours and running routes in the weeks to come.

English Football: 

The most popular sport, by a very long way, is what we call Soccer and the rest of the world calls Football (what we call Football is, in Britain and elsewhere, referred to as American Football).  The season runs from mid-August to early May. This is, by far, the world’s most popular, richest and most watched sport.  English Football is divided into 4 Divisions, the Premier League, the Championship, League One and League Two.  There is promotion and relegation between all these and a top team can be relegated to a lower one.  Also, a small club can be promoted to the elite.  

London currently has 5 Premier League clubs.  These are Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham and West Ham United.  This League is the richest sports league in the world and many of the world’s top players play in it.  Unfortunately, because of this, it is very difficult to get tickets.  Imagine deciding, on short notice, that you’d like tickets to a Red Sox v. Yankees game and you will get the picture. English Premier League matches are nearly all sold out, all the time.  Tickets can be had, but expect to pay very high prices. If you want to try getting tickets, here are two sites that may be useful: www.theticketbay.net or www.onlineticketexpress.com.

You can see excellent quality, affordable football at a non-Premier league level in London  There are 2 London teams in the Championship League: Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers, 4 in League One: Millwall, Charlton Athletic, Brentford, and Leyton Orient and 2 in League Two: Dagenham & Redbridge and Barnet. 

As I have said before, this is my personal view of London, so I make no apologies for what follows:  My team is Millwall.  I am a member of the club and regularly attend matches when I am in London, including a momentous day at Wembley Stadium in May 2009 when, together with 45,000 other Millwall fans, I saw Millwall oh so narrowly fail to win promotion. Millwall fans are the most passionate sports fans I have ever encountered; making all their matches a fabulous stew of singing, chanting and extreme South London pride. Not to mention some excellent football.

Millwall’s owner and Chairman is John Berylson, an American businessman from Boston, who regularly flies over to attend matches. 

Come along with me….London calling

Jan, 2010 11

sports Giddyup!…Horse Riding in Hyde Park

 

It is on good authority that I have this information from my cousin and Skin and Blister (Cockney Rhyming Slang for sister): riding in Hyde Park while vacationing in London is not to be missed. I admire horses from a very safe distance; can even “feel” the romance that is riding in Hyde Park…it would just take much assistance from human and substance to get me to do so! 

Knowing there are plenty of you who love to ride out there, what could be better than a canter, trot or even a spirited gallop through Hyde Park and surrounds, pretending you own the horse and all that you see? Ah, the romance of the notion. 

My family members tell me by using this excellent, reputable company, with a succinct, very well organized web-site: https://www.hydeparkstables.com/index.php/home.html  you will have an A to Z authentic, horsy experience, full of fresh air, beautiful views plus a fair amount of freedom, if you can convince the instructors that you know what you are doing. Hyde Park Stables offers lessons and experiences for novices to experts. Their site beautifully offers you directions to the stables in all manner of ways.

Please keep in mind: These aren’t the typical “dead-head” horses you get on many trail rides in the US- that know what their route is and would walk it whether they had a rider or not.  Hyde Park Stables have real riding horses in sometimes uncontrolled environments (i.e. traffic, etc.). Be prepared for an adventure, (just ask my Skin and Blister who was riding down the mews when a construction worker threw a concrete block from the roof into a trash bin on the street in front of her horse). 

If you ride, you know this: my family members tell me that, though both are highly accomplished horse-woman, they had not ridden in a while when they enjoyed an afternoon riding with the Hyde Park Stables. The days following the ride found them hobbling and wincing as they climbed the stairs in the Tube stations and traversed London on foot. London is a walking city and you need your pins to do so. Make sure to do your stretching and warm-ups to avoid the limping. Otherwise, it’s Black Cabs for the rest of the trip. 

Apparently Hyde Park Stables has an extensive shop selling all riding gear including saddles, if you would like to purchase something to take home. Otherwise, you either bring your own riding boots and attire, or rent the gear you need from them. 

The stables give semi-private and private lessons all year round and have done so for decades. One of the best aspects of this company is that you turn up for your lesson, or your ride, in the mews where horses have been kept for hundreds of years. The location will charm you as will the experience of riding in Hyde Park.

Come along with me….London calling….

Nov, 2009 12

sports Millwall

If you want to experience Millwall in the raw, buy tickets in the “Cold Blow Lane End”. This is the section where all the team songs and chants seem to begin and then travel around the stadium. Football songs and chants fascinate me; an expression of tribal pride that are often witty and sometimes not to be repeated to your grandmother. For seats, my preference is the Upper West Stand, second tier, which offers the very best view of the pitch. If you buy a ticket in Block 4 and hear an American voice cheering Millwall on, it may well be me. From this vantage point, you will also be treated, in Fall, Winter and early Spring, to the sun setting over London-a truly beautiful sight.

To get to the stadium: take an over-ground train from London Bridge station.  It is only one stop and takes less than 5 minutes.  Your Oyster card is valid for this journey. Then get on a train to South Bermondsey where the Millwall statium is. When you get off the train you will see many a Millwall fan in blue shirts and scarves… so just follow the crowd. ( Just in case: you exit the station at South Bermondsey by going down the stairs, follow the walkway for about 200 yards, take the stairs to your left, turn left at the bottom of the stairs, walk about 400 yards until you see Zampa Road on your left. Turn there and you will see the stadium right in front of you.

Match times:
at 3pm on Saturdays or 7.45pm on Tuesdays. The matches are 90 minutes with a 15 minute break at half time.  It is worth getting there 30 minutes early to soak up the atmosphere; to hear London Calling by The Clash to get you in the proper mood for English football.

Come along with me….London calling….

Nov, 2009 12

sports Cricket

Cricket is the main summer sport.  The season runs from mid April to mid September.  Interestingly, a century ago, the three biggest countries in international cricket were England, Australia and the USA.  Then it was decided that cricket was to be a game restricted to the British Empire.  Since we apparently decided  that playing cricket was a privilege we could live without, American cricket gradually disappeared and baseball happily filled the void.

Cricket is an acquired taste.  It can last for 5 days and still fail to come to a result.  There are shorter versions of the game, but they draw big crowds and are hard to get tickets for.  If you would like to see a cricket match, you can get tickets from the websites mentioned above in the football section, but of course these will be at a premium price.  The matches to look out for are when England is playing one day internationals at Lords or The Oval or England, Surrey or Middlesex Twenty20 games (the shorter version of cricket). Twenty20 matches are over in around 3 hours and a result is guaranteed.  One day internationals last a whole day.

While English football is a very good way of experiencing English popular culture,  English cricket is a very good way of experiencing the quieter, more laid back element of English life.  Therefore, you may like to go to one day of a 4 day County Championship match.  So what if you fail to understand the proceedings; it is so quintessentially English.  Just buy a pint of beer, sit in the sun and enjoy.  London has 2 cricket clubs.  These are Surrey (www.britoval.com) who play at The Oval (travel to Oval Tube stop on the Northern Line) and Middlesex (www.middlesexccc.com) who play at Lords (travel to St John’s Wood Tube stop on the Jubilee Line).  You can go and pay at the gate to get in.  They are quite sparsely attended, so you will have no problem getting in.

A word to the wise: I once made a huge error in judgment by asking a cricket loving Englishman about the rules of cricket. We began our conversation on the train leaving London King’s Cross and one hour and 15 minutes later, as I got off at my destination, he was still explaining them to me. Moral of the story: don’t speak to a cricket-obsessed Englishman unless you have time to spare!

Nov, 2009 12

sports Rugby

Rugby is a bit like American Football, except the players do not wear padding or helmets. The players seem to fall down less than American football players, though. Just my uneducated observation. The season runs from early September to early May.

Although there are a number of Premiership rugby clubs in the London area, there is only one actually in London.  This is Harlequins, who play in Twickenham.  You can buy tickets from the club website www.union.quins.co.uk or by calling the club at 011 871 527 1315 from the US or 0871 527 1315 from the UK.  To get to the Twickenham Stoop stadium, you need to get an over-ground train from London Waterloo to Twickenham.  Your Oyster card is now valid for the journey since the changes to the system in late 2009.