Back in town

I’m on the train back to the provinces after a fleeting visit of around 36 hours to London. It’s been incredibly tiring as I’ve tried to pack in as much as I can in the time I’ve had. The daily travel cards I’ve bought – at a fairly reasonable £7 each – have done their fair share of taking the load off my feet; especially today, when I’ve had a rucksack and tripod with me after checking out of my hotel in Earls Court. The Oliver Plaza Hotel is named optimistically but there’s nothing unusual in that. It’s a pretty good deal for those wanting easy access to central London. Clean, quiet – at least, as quiet as it gets in budget hotels that close to the centre of the city – and a powerful shower and firm mattress made it comfortable. (Despite the tiny 8-foot-square room, which I found perfectly adequate as I was on my own.)

Yesterday afternoon was a bit disappointing, as I’d had a great deal of difficulty trying to decide what to see and where to go. The National Gallery was a highlight, as always, but I spent much of the rest of my time tramping the streets taking snapshots. Being in the concrete jungle of the Barbican Estate was interesting but I came to realize that my interests have changed quite considerably in the last ten years or so. Where the concrete perspectives drew my camera lens when I was in my twenties, I felt completely uninspired and left after a couple of snaps to return to the riverside.

It was a great pleasure to finally meet Konstantin after quite some time exchanging banter online, and to compare his first-hand experiences of a decade in London with mine in Switzerland. After a couple of pints at the Tattershall Castle, a ship permanently moored opposite the London Eye which serves as a pub and restaurant, I headed back out into the city to get some nighttime shots along the river. This transpired to be much more my thing and perked me up considerably, so that I returned to The Queen’s Walk on the south bank of the Thames today and photographed the people and views between Westminster and Southwark bridges. A final timelapse sequence of The Shard and the river at Cannon Street bridge rounded off my photographic day.

London doesn’t appear to change vastly between visits, but I noticed a remarkable change since my last visit in 2007. Although the city is mainly as dirty and fast-paced as it ever was and boasting a few new skyscrapers on the skyline, what struck me is how many new restaurants have opened up, and how spruce the city is looking. All along the South Bank, the city has gone to town, modernizing and improving the previous concrete complexes and where once were bedraggled frontages, now are glass-fronted restaurants and welcoming terraces, all illuminated by night in a range of brightly colored floodlamps.

It would seem that the arrival of the Olympics has forced London to do something about its shabbier areas and make the city more inviting; I hope that other parts of the city have benefited from this treatment too. It’s a great improvement and one which I hope will continue long after the Games have moved on.