Sunday, 8 January 2012

2012 - Day Out 01: London

Date: 07 January 2012

It is a new year and we start it off with a visit to one of our favourite locations, the City of London, and we also start the year as proper Londoners when we use our Oyster Cards for the first time.

The Magnificent London Marylebone Railway Station
It is an early start on the first trip of the year, and I make my way to Wollaston in time to catch the first bus of the day at 06:42 or so I thought, as I am walking up Cobden Street, it is just after 06:30, and at the end of the road, I see a National Express West Midlands bus drive past, I presume that this is Service 276, the one I need to catch, so I sprint the rest of Cobden Street to Wollaston and as I turn the corner, the bus is pulled up at the bus stop, after looking at the timetable on the stop, I find out that the bus departs Wollaston at 06:36 and quickly board and take a seat whilst I get my breath back, looking at the plan I discover that I didn't read it properly and it was due to leave at 06:36. The bus departs and we head to Norton where Mr UK Buses boards and we start the first trip of 2012, after passing through Stourbridge going past the nearly constructed Stourbridge Interchange, we end up in Brook Road where we alight and walk up to Stourbridge Junction to get our first train of 2012. We only have to wait about twenty minutes before our train turns up. Normally when we go to London we go via Birmingham New Street and catch a Virgin train to London Euston, today we are not doing that, we decide that we will catch a Chiltern Train and go via Birmingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone. We board our train which will take us straight to London without the usual change from Birmingham Snow Hill to Birmingham New Street, so we get a seat, get comfy and for the next couple of hours we just relax, something that Mr UK Buses does quite literally for half of the journey and nods off, luckily he doesn't snore which is a good thing seeing as we are in the quiet zone. I keep myself occupied on the journey whilst Mr UK Buses is asleep and have a play with my new toy, a BlackBerry Playbook, and with the help of the free Wi-fi on the Chiltern trains, I get to keep in touch with the outside world. At 09:37, we arrive and it is a welcome return to the glorious station that is London Marylebone.

The way of the future - The Oyster Card
With no change at Birmingham, Mr UK Buses has catered for me in today's plan, by giving me time to pop out the front of the station to have a "fresh air" break, it also gives me a chance to look at the outstanding station building, whilst I'm doing this, Mr UK Buses is halfway down Great Central Street after he has spotted a few buses to take a few photographs of. "Fresh air" break over, we make our way inside, and we go for our first trip of 2012 on the London Underground, and we get our Oyster Cards out ready to scan on the barriers in the enter the Marylebone Underground Station. Well it looks like they are working as it has let us in and we board our first tube train of the day which is on the Bakerloo line, but it is a short first journey as we alight at the next station which is Baker Street where we change platforms for our next journey. We are now on the Jubilee Line, which takes us from Baker Street to Finchley Road, where we alight and we are let out of the station as the barriers let us through after showing our Oyster Card. Before we made our way to London today we topped up our Osyter Cards which was supposed to have been credited when we scanned them in at the Underground station at Marylebone, as we leave Finchley Road Underground Station, we spot a topping up machine and we decide to check that everything is in working order by scanning our cards where it shows that the top has been added successfully and also we get to see how much the balance is on our cards. We leave the station and we have a few steps along Finchley Road to get to our bus stop where we will catch our first bus in London using the Oyster Card.

We have a short wait for our bus, and on time a London Metroline Service 82 bus turns up which will take us to a place called Henlys Corner. The journey takes just under half an hour and we alight opposite a Holiday Inn hotel, London Golders Green to be exact, which will be the accommodation that Mr UK Buses will be using when he comes back to London in just over a weeks time to watch the Snooker. With the hotel found, we stand outside which is also where the bus stop is located and after a couple of minutes, another London Metroline pulls up which we board to take us back to Finchley Road Underground station, as we leave the hotel we spot a bus station at Golders Green which may be worth a visit on future trips to London. We arrive back at Finchley Road Underground Station, where we make our way back inside and back onto the Jubilee Line to take us back to Baker Street, upon arrival we stay in the station and change onto the Circle Line where we have a long journey and we make our way to a new Underground station that we haven't visited before, Wood Lane Underground Station, a relatively new station as this was opened in 2008, if Mr UK Buses had his way, we would have still been sitting on a tube train in Baker Street as he originally boarded a train that was laying over. As we make our way outside on to Wood Lane we scan the Oyster Card onto the barriers and we both see that on the scanner that the balance on the card is shown with the price shown for the journey in brackets (Finchley Road to Wood Lane is £2).

The BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London
We leave the station and virtually opposite is the BBC Television Centre and I get my camera out ready to take a few photographs of the the Television Centre, but Mr UK Buses has other ideas, and we walk underneath the railway bridge and into Ariel Way and there is a bus station, the White City Bus Station, which opened the same time as the Wood Lane Underground Station in 2008, this bus station serves the nearby Television Centre and also the Westfield London Shopping Centre. With the camera in hand already, we get to take a few shots of the buses laying over. As we nearly finish taking photographs, a bus driver makes his way towards us asking what we are taking pictures of, thinking that we were taking pictures of him and not the buses. This is the first time on trips to London that we have ever been approached by an inquisitive bus driver, but luckily he calms down after we tell him that we are only taking pictures of the buses. After finishing with the photographs, we head back around the corner back to the Television Centre to take some pictures of the most famous television building in the United Kingdom. After looking around to see if we can see any celebrity's we come away disappointed as we see none, and we make our way to the White City Underground Station, which is located virtually opposite the Television Centre and a stone throws away from the Wood Lane Underground Station. We make our way onto the Central Line, where upon arrival at Bond Street Underground Station, we change lines and get onto the Jubilee Line which will take us to our next destination, which is Westminster.

We make our way out of the Westminster Underground Station and we head to Parliament Street, and stop by the Cenotaph to take a few photographs, the last time we was here, the police stopped me to search me before we saw the Remembrance Day Parade along this street. We make our way up Parliament Street and into Whitehall walking past the tourists taking pictures of the guards outside of the Horse Guards Palace, we walk a little bit further where we enter J D Wetherspoons, "The Lord Moon of the Mall" and we rest our feet whilst we have lunch. Mr UK Buses opts for his usual BBQ Chicken melt without the cheese, myself opting for the beer and burger having the chicken variety. I do try and get on the PlayBook, but the free Wi-fi inside this Wetherspoons does not want to communicate with my new toy so I put it back into my pocket. After we have finished lunch, we head out of the pub and around the corner to Charing Cross, where we wait for our next bus, Stagecoach London's Heritage route 15, we don't have to scan our Oyster Cards upon boarding as there are no scanners on Routemasters and we take a seat on the top deck with a pleasant view of London as we are sat at the front. Whilst en route, the conductor comes up with his Oyster Card terminal, but my card doesn't want to scan, so the conductor takes it off me and after a few attempts it does scan, Mr UK Buses has no problems with his card. After a journey time of twenty minutes and nearly a collision with a black cab, we arrive at the Tower of London. We are ahead of schedule, so we catch an earlier First London RV1 which is an hydrogen bus. We make our way and we have a pleasant journey on this "green" bus and a different sound as the bus has no engine. After fifteen minutes we arrive close to London Bridge Bus Station which after a little walk, passing the London Dungeons, we arrive at the bus station. No photographs will be taken here today as the station is currently being redeveloped, so we make our way to the temporary stop around the corner where we wait for a Service 48 bus. We have a good view whilst waiting for the bus as we are outside of a Fitness First gym and we are able to see the treadmills and bikes, the girl in the green t-shirt supplies the entertainment, with a girl in a pink t-shirt arriving just before we leave to have a ride on the exercise bike, unfortunately our Stagecoach London service 48 bus turns up.

Back at our London regular, The Blind Beggar
We board and we haven't got far to go, Mr UK Buses must have been mesmerised by the girl in the pink top as he fails to spot where we have to get off and luckily I spot the bus stop which displays Dukes Place and we run off the bus before it pulls off. According to the plan, we now have a short walk to Aldgate Bus Station, but somehow we don't follow Mr UK Buses directions and end up lost, luckily though for us we head up a street and arrive at Liverpool Street Railway Station. Alongside the railway station is Liverpool Street Bus Station, so we make up for not visiting the bus station at Aldgate by taking some photographs at this bus station. Photographs taken, we are now off the plan, and we catch an Arriva London service 133 which takes us back to where we have come from and we end up at Borough Underground Station. After scanning in, we head onto the Northern Line and travel to Moorgate Underground Station where we swap lines and head onto the Metropolitan Line to take us to Aldgate Underground Station, or so we thought. Mr UK Buses boards a Hammersmith and City Line train and we arrive at Aldgate East Underground Station instead, after this little snag, we decide to stay on the train and we arrive at the next Underground station,  Whitechapel, where we alight and scan our Oyster Card to get us on to Whitechapel Road, as we scan our cards we find out that we have reached the daily cap for the zones that we have travelled in today, we will not have any more money taken off our cards today. We make our way through the market and we arrive at our City of London regular, "The Blind Beggar", see picture right, where we have a well deserved break, whilst in the pub, I am treated to a drink served in a Blind Beggar badged glass, Mr UK Buses has a standard blank glass to drink from.

We leave the Blind Beggar, and walk across the road to our stop, where we will scan our Oyster Cards for the last time today and after a few minutes wait, a Stagecoach London Service 205 pulls up. We board and tap our cards on the scanner and take our seats. This route takes us across from the East End of London to our final destination of the day, passing Kings Cross, our normal railway station of London Euston before arriving at London Marylebone. I have a "fresh air break" whilst walking up Great Central Street to the main station building, this will be my last fresh air break before we get to board our train. We walk inside the station and decide to have a bite to eat at the Burger King which is located inside the station. After our food we quickly pop into Marks and Spencer's to get us a drink for the journey ahead and we then get onto Platform 3 to board our waiting Chiltern Train which will take us back to the second city, we walk through the carriages where we find the last table seat available and get comfy for the journey ahead. It is 17:00 and our train pulls out from the station on time and as we make our way it is getting dark outside, so to pass the time we turn on the PlayBook where I log onto the Chiltern Trains on board Wi-fi and we both have a look at the Internet for the rest of the journey. We cannot complain about the connection, offering top speeds enabling the quick loading of the web pages we look at, whilst on the move, there were a couple of signal drop-outs along the way, but this didn't stop us from searching the web. After a journey time of just over two hours (due to stopping off at more stations than we did on the morning journey), we arrive back at Birmingham Snow Hill at 19:03. We have just under half an hour to wait for our next train to take us back to Stourbridge, so we head out to Colmore Row where I can have a "fresh air" break and we make our way back to Platform 1, where at 19:28, our London Midland train arrives and takes us back to Stourbridge Junction, stopping at all the stations on the journey. We arrive back at Stourbridge Junction where we promptly make our way from Platform 3 to Platform 1 where the 19:59 "Dodger" to Stourbridge Town is waiting, leaving the station on time, we arrive at Stourbridge Town station at 20:02, which gives us three minutes to walk to Stand F along Birmingham Street to catch our final bus to take us back home. Luckily, the driver of the bus is on the phone so we are able to get to our stand at a normal walking pace before Black Diamond's Service 276C arrives to take us back home to rest our feet after a long day out.

The first trip of 2012 is a successful trip, where we have taken heed of the latest technology and used our Oyster Cards for the first time, with everything working as it should be and we weren't disappointed with how it works. The company on this trip was good and we had a stress free and sulk free day out, with only a couple of hiccups which did not affect the day. If the trips for the rest of the year are like this, it looks like it will be a good 2012.

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