Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Attending a Debate at the House of Lords

A friend of mine (a scholar) was one of the panel at a debate due to take place at the House of Lords. She invited me to come watch & I obviously jumped at the chance to view how things work behind the scenes. I had to register and "buy" a free pass for the visit, just so I was given a ticket of sorts.

The entry for debates in the House of Lords, is at the far end (almost at the park next door). So its at least a 5-10 minute walk from the station depending on how you catch the traffic signals.

Do budget at least 10 minutes for a security scanning. The staff are all very polite and helpful, but taking off jackets and belts and putting them on again takes time and there is normally a rush of people before a scheduled debate.

The room we were in was beautiful and cosy. Good acoustics, so as long as the speakers enunciated clearly at slightly louder than conversation volume, it was easy to follow the proceedings.

Most of the speakers and the audience seemed to be in agreement in general, it was the particulars that needed working out. But the debate was conducted so politely and articulately. I wish some other governments could take a cue from this style of functioning and debating.

This was an amazing experience and I feel privileged to have been able to witness it.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Adult Lates at Kidzania

I was one of the lucky few who received a complimentary ticket for one of the Adult lates at Kidzania.(Normally costs around 30pounds a person)

My name was on the list, so I gained entry at the mezzanine floor quite quickly. But by the time I reached the top of the escalators, there was a humongous crowd at the checkin counter and it was not until I reached almost the front of the line, that I saw a sign saying that this line was only if you wanted to deposit your bags and coats (1pound fee per item) - waste of time / unclear signage

A glass of bubbly was next and that was a good thing to calm my irritation down. There were enough staff on the inside to keep clearing the empties.

As I passed through a metal detector, I was handed a map and 40 kidzos (currency) The map did not have too much info on it and there was no explanation as such as to how things would operate. It wasn't until after 2 hours or so, when I realised that I could also earn kidzos, not just spend them.

 There were lots of fun activities to do and once I met my friends inside, it was even more fun. Every individual shop/activity had a queue, so like Disneyland a lot of time is spent just waiting in line.

I tried the
Face painting - costs 15 kidzos - awesome!
Tattoo - costs 15 kidzos - its just a sticker - not worth the cost, unless you have money to burn in the end.
Police Station - earn 8 kidzos - fun
Reporters - earn 8 kidzos - good fun - you even get a printed news sheet with your story (and name if you like) on it.
Recycling paper - earn 8 kidzos - very good
Cadbury's chocolate - costs 12 / 15 kidzos - you just get to fill the tempered chocolate in a mold - not worth the queuing time for me - you get a voucher for 2 tiny bits of chocolate to be collected at exit.
Tour bus - costs 1 kidzo for a ride - earn 8 kidzos if you become the official tour guide and do a good job.
Magic show - free to watch in a lovely theatre - you get to perform if you head to the auditions next door.

The airplane / hospital / dentist / radio show / al jazeera tv show / Kwality Ice cream / firemen booths were all terribly overcrowded. so they seemed like the most fun.

4-5 hours aren't enough to explore even half the place.

I don't see how kids would be able to manage on their own on the inside. They do need an adult with them I would think, unless they are teenagers or maybe tweens. There are a few eating options inside - GBK, The Diner, a juice and coffee bar etc, but they all need genuine cash.

I did eat a burger at GBK, as I wasn't sure if I would get anything at Shake Shack or the main GBK after 10:30pm. But if I had the time, I would have eaten outside in one of the mall eateries.

If you have more than 70 kidzos left at the end, you can open a bank account with kidzania bank (or so I was told), but I just had 30 left and I was told to take it back and use it on another visit or give it to a child who was visiting.

Its fun to visit if you want to feel like a kid again. But I wish there was at least a 5-10 minute video at entry to outline the concept of how the place works. They have instruction videos playing at a lot of the shops - the police station, the fire station and others. Should not be too hard to include a video at the start

City Cruises

Absolutely loved this cruise. We took it from Tower Bridge to Greenwich and then all the way back to Westminster bridge with a quick stop again at Tower Bridge.

Its a bit expensive as a mode of transport to Greenwich vs the tube, but its an amazing experience and definitely worth trying out at least one way.

There is a bit of recorded commentary and sometimes the crew themselves take a hold of the microphone and reveal interesting details about the buildings you are passing (remember they are not tour guides though, so don't expect lengthy historical or architectural descriptions)

I've done a couple of boat rides across the globe that are just modes of transport, not sold as a cruise, and this one is right at the top of the list. Try and wait for a boat that has a top deck if you can, the views and pictures are so much better from here on a good day.

The lower section was also amazingly comfortable. I have never seen such comfortable table seating on a transport boat.

There's a tiny cafe counter which sells pre-packaged food and some hot drinks.

Clean toilets too.

We quite enjoyed taking a break from some hectic sightseeing while just relaxing on the boat for the afternoon.

Big Bus Tours

In bigger cities like London and Paris, we tend to use Big Bus as a full day program rather than a Hop on Hop Off.

Since my brother is visiting, we are doing touristy stuff with him and since I loved my Big Bus London experience a couple of years ago, I opted for Big Bus again.

Their website is pretty self explanatory and easy to navigate and buy tickets online (minor discount available for online booking)

The red line is the one with live commentary and only in English. If you need any other of the languages that Big Bus offers, what you want is the blue line.

The blue line covers all that the red line does and a slightly longer trip around Hyde Park which is very useful if you are staying at a hotel in that area or need to get to Paddington or Victoria stations to catch a train out.

I bought the one day ticket (valid only on that day) rather than the 24 hour one, because we were going to be on the bus by 9 in the morning, so no chance of using it the next day.
The 48 hour ticket is better value for money. Plus you get a night ride around the city. But since we live in London, it didn't make sense for us and my brother had other plans for the next day.

What I really liked when booking tickets was that it didn't restrict you to pre-choosing your date, so you have the option to hold on to your ticket for a slightly sunnier day if you have time flexibility.

Our first guide for the day was Leanne #bigbusleanne who was AMAZING! Such an infectious bundle of energy. she gave us an all singing, dancing, musical experience on the tour. None of the following guides could match up to her energy and enthusiasm levels.

We then stopped for lunch before hopping on to City Cruises (complimentary with big bus) before we completed the circuit.

Big Bus does offer 3 free walking tours. But it won't be possible to attend all 3 of them and complete a circuit. If you take the 48 hour option, you may be able to do 2 of the tours. Then I would recommend the Royal Walk (to take in the changing of the guard) and the evening ghost walk.

You do get a booklet of vouchers, but I don't see myself using any of those any time soon.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Yelp and Paint Jam London present: Newbie Street Art Night Walk

This was a SUPERB event. I have walked around the Shoreditch area a bit, and seen some street art. Occassionally, I have even stopped to take a picture or two of something that really caught my eye.

But Peppe our guide was a gold mine of information. Not only did I learn about a few more artists, I can now recognise their work, even if I don't remember their names *blush*

He showed us why it was important to look up the walls and not just at eye level, to see junked cars converted into art, mushrooms sprouting near drain pipes, pixelated pac man type gifs, modern deathmask 3D art, fossils and dinosaurs. It was truly a whole new world.

The group was a lovely size and very friendly. The weather was chilly, but all of us were having so much fun, that everyone persevered right until the end.

I'm not a big fan of bagels/beigels, so I've never walked into either of those famous shops in Shoreditch. But we stopped to take a break from the cold at the Beigel Shop -  a little sample of those instagram celebrities - rainbow bagels - had me picking up a bunch of them for brekkie.

My brother had just landed in London the previous day and absolutely loved this alternative perspective on the city.

Rating : 5 / 5