Sunday, August 31, 2008

The OXO Tower-London

"That's the Oxo Tower, of Oxo bullion fame." The man guiding our boat across the Thames told us. But since we were a bunch of tourists from America, none of us had ever heard of Oxo.

The building was originally constructed as a power station for the Post Office, built towards the end of the 19th century. It was subsequently acquired by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, manufacturers of Oxo beef stock cubes, for conversion into a cold store.

The London building was largely rebuilt to an Art Deco design by company architect Albert Moore between 1928 and 1929. Much of the original power station was demolished, but the river facing facade was retained and extended. Liebig wanted to include a tower featuring illuminated signs advertising the OXO name.

The Oxo Tower Restaurant is a bit pricey, as should be expected in a proper London eatery. Three courses £33.00 for lunch, while most dinners seem to be in the £20.00 neighborhood. As with a lot of London Attractions, there is a 360 degree view to be had online.
It looks like a nice enough place and the view certainly seems worth seeing.

London is a great town for recycling, and old power plants and post offices seem to always be on their way to being new businesses of one sort or another. The OXO tower with its nice tic-tac-toe logo and sharp art deco lines is a very nice building that houses art exhibitions and flats as well as a restaurant.

So when a tour guide points out the Oxo Tower to you, nod knowongly when he talks about Oxo Stock Cubes.

Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hard Rock Cafe London

Standing on Old Park Lane since June 14th 1971, this is the one that started it all. The brainchild of Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, the cafe attracted customers from day one with first-rate but moderately priced casual American fare (available no-where else in London or the UK at the time), warm service and ubiquitous Rock 'n' Roll music and sensibility - Hard Rock Cafe London became an instant classic.-Hard Rock Cafe London.

Stopping by for an overpriced hamburger and a good long stare at the stuff on the walls is what The Hard Rock Cafe is all about. Seems that every city in the world has a Hard Rock Cafe these days, but the Hard Rock Cafe London was the first. The idea that you couldn't buy a hamburger in London restaurants in 1971 is a bit odd, since three story tall McDonald's dot the central London landscape today. If you like American food such as hamburgers, BLT's, Nachos and similar fare The Hard Rock Cafe London is a good place to go.

The food is always great at a Hard Rock Cafe Restaurant, and they do serve drinks so you can be as rowdy as you like. In fact, my own experience at most Hard Rock Cafes is that they are LOUD. So don't expect to sit and have a quiet chat, expect to yell to be heard over the Rock and Roll music bouncing off all the old guitars and records hanging on the walls.

One of the cool features of the Hard Rock Cafe London website is the Hard Rock Memorabilia page. Here is a mosaic of the many cool rock and roll items The Hard Rock Cafe has gathered over the years. What's cool about this bit of business is that you can zoom in close enough to see the autographs on the guitars and read the cover of the Beatles Paint By The Numbers Kit. There's an item you don't see everyday. While this is not as cool as standing right next to an item in a Hard Rock Cafe, it is kind of fun to fiddle around with.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Portia Freeman on What To Do In London

Portia Freeman is a model and one of the stars of BBC's Class of 2008 about a bunch of wannabe superstars. Portia Freeman was seen with Kate Moss's old boyfriend Pete Doherty, so that is one of the signs of being a star, right? Being seen.

Well, Portia Freeman likes Pizza Express, so she can't be all bad.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ripely's Believe It or Not London

Robert Ripley, the cartoonist, the explorer, the reporter, adventurer, illustrator, collector and seeker of the odd and unusual, is a man who lived a life that can only be summed up by the statement he himself created; “Believe It or Not!” His life’s work, his discoveries, his artistry, the tales he told and adventures he lived will forever be the foundation of all that Ripley Entertainment encompasses.-Ripley's Believe It or Not London.

I've been to a couple of the Ripley's Believe It or Nots and found them to be a bit of fun. The oddities at the London Ripley's include a Mini called The Crystal Car covered in 1 million Swarovski lead crystals, in the shape of 10 separate images of American Icons, including the such sights as the Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood Hills sign, and Mt Rushmore. You do have to wonder what this thing would look like on a nice sunny day. There are also things like Shrunken Heads, a Vampire Slaying Kit, and a Portrait of Princess Di made out of dryer lint.

The Ripley's Believe It or Nots that I have visited have been a bit cheesy and silly, for all their oddities and weirdness. The London Ripely's has a mirror maze to add to the fun, though I never really found running into a wall all that much fun myself.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum London is located at 1 Piccadilly Circus in the heart of London's West End. The nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus which has service from both the Piccadilly Line and the Bakerloo Line. Upon arrival at the tube station, please use Exit 4 to Coventry Street and we are located where Coventry Street and Shaftesbury Avenue enter Piccadilly Circus

Monday, August 11, 2008

About My Place-London Maps and More

About My Place is a pretty nifty UK Map and Info utility that is sort of like Google Earth. This is one of those utilities that goes form a satellite scale shot of Earth all the way down to street level maps and offers photo images on certain areas.

I'm not one of those people who is glued to a Blackberry or an iPhone, but if you have one of those mobile devices, you could use this to get around. Or if your like me, you can use it for the occasional virtual visit to London.

The info section has schools and house prices. Now this is kind of fun. Want to move to London? A nice Knightsbridge Flat sold for £2,850,000 on 07 Apr, 2008. A little pricey, that? How about a sweet Camden Town Flat that sold for £382,500 on 03 Sep, 2007? Using the School info tells you how far schools are away from your new million pound hangout. Guess I need to win the Lotto before I get that London flat like Madonna and Gillian Anderson.

Of course, About My Place is not just a mapquest for London, but for the whole UK. Maybe that London Flat is out of the question except for rock and movie stars-how about a place that sold for £82,500 on 27 Jun, 2008 in Inverness? Could run over to Loch Ness and look for the monster whenever the mood struck. Or maybe a spot in Edinburgh that sold for £124,950 on 20 May, 2008.

This bit of business with the Property Prices is fun, but then, I am pretty easily amused.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Life on Mars-BBC at its Best

Both Life on Mars and The Eleventh Hour are being remade for American TV, but its hard to imagine they will be as good as the original shows. We live in a modern world with all kinds of high tech gadgets, why can't the US Networks work out a deal with the British Networks to air their shows here the same time they are aired there? I like to see these shows when they are new, not several years down the road as some US Producer thinks they should look. I mean, they do show new episodes of House and LOST in London, don't they? Oh well, I do manage to see them anyway-eventually.

I've always had a soft spot for any kind of Time Travel story-maybe that whole idea of traveling back and knowing the future-who wins the big game, what stocks will rise, what collectibles will be hot, and all that kind of stuff. The plot in Life on Mars is simple enough, our hero is DCI Sam Tyler who is hit by a car in 2006 and wakes up a DI in 1973. Is it a dream or has Sam really traveled back in time? A recurring joke is that Sam doesn't do the Miranda Rights properly. During the first season he knows such things as which horse will win a big race and he invents the Sports Pub. All good fun things.

The big shocks are that all Police in 1973 are bent as crooked as a fishing hook-expect for Sam. Also, there is no two-way glass for suspect identification, no recording of police interviews, no reliance on CSI to solve crimes and no real desire to find the real criminals. Rounding up the usual suspects seems to be the law of the land. Everyone smokes and drinks all the time. The fashion is big collars and loud prints. And even a police women is given no respect and called a slag to her face. These were the good old days for sure.

This all takes place is Manchester, originally it was to be set in London, but the BBC wanted to branch out a bit. Our hero was a little boy and comes close to meeting himself in one episode. There are flashes of the 'real world'-we hear the sounds of a hospital room and the voices of his loved ones telling him to hang on. He knows he is in a comma, but the knowledge does him no good-he can't wake up and so he has to live out his life in the horrid past.

I really love this show. Sam Tyler talks about all these things that I am familiar with and it is filmed like an old style Cop Show. It feels like Cannon, or Starchy and Hutch, with its mad speeding cars and punch everyone and ask questions later attitude. The station doesn't have an interview room, or a line up room, and seems not to be too big on walls in general. Everyone seems a tad dim and no one respects the new man's odd views on Law Enforcement. For example our hero wants some blood splatter annalist and no one knows what he's talking about. Ambulance drivers are not paramedics and our hero knows more about caring for the wounded than they do.

But they are coming around to his way of thinking as his brand of crime solving works better than theirs-at least some of the time. They fight crime, just like a normal cop show, but our hero is handicapped by the low tech world he finds himself trapped in. He also lives in a shockingly shabby flat and I think it would be a flop house in 1973. He's a single man with a real job for crying out loud, why can't he at least afford a real bed to sleep in?

Anyway-I haven't finished watching the whole thing yet, but I love the way it looks and sounds. I've always been a big David Bowie fan, even though I have often thought that most of the 1970s were just dreadful.

So I'll watch the US versions of Life on Mars and Eleventh Hour and let you know what I think.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Beatles Still Popular in London

A newly discovered tape of The Beatles laughing and chatting during an early recording session has sold for about $23,000, an auction house reported Tuesday.-AP

In the John Wayne movie The Shootist, our hero goes in for a haircut and the barber sweeps up his hair clippings to sell after the gunfighter is dead. He sweeps up the small amount of hair from John Wayne, then shrugs are sweeps up all the hair on the floor.

The Beatles have always had this power to make people spend money and do things that seem a tad odd. Grow long hair, listen to sitar music, and think maybe Transcendental Meditation is the way to inner peace. The Beatles also make you want to own anything the Beatles might have had anything to do with.

My favorite London Beatles connection is, of course, The Abby Road Studios and the world famous zebra crossing in front of it. It's the kind of thing that makes the average person want to run over and recreate the Beatles Abby Road cover. There's a website that features a live feed of the Abby Road zebra crossing so you could take a peek and see if anyone was walking across it at the moment-The Crossing-Abby Road. Looks like a good spot to get run over.

I had a small collection of Bootleg Beatles albums at one time, these were regular Beatles albums like Yesterday and Today or Abby Road, but they had a cover photo you'd never seen before or an extra track that didn't quite sound right. These were kind of fun to have, but they were so clearly fake-I don't have them anymore, maybe they fell back into the alternate dimension they came from.

I missed Abby Road on my trips to London, so it will have to be a London attraction on the list for next time. Maybe if I show up early enough I can my own photo taken wandering across the road.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

London Dungeon and The London Bridge Experience

One of my favorite bits of silliness in London is the London Dungeon. This is a wax museum/haunted house kind of London attraction. We went to The London Dungeon after we visited the Tower of London. It was a fairly short walk across the Tower Bridge to get there. Now it seems that The London Bridge Experience has decided to open a haunted house right across the street from the London Dungeon and London Dungeon is not happy about it. The case is heading to court over what Merlin Entertainments-London Dungeon's Parent Co.-see as an attraction which is transparently designed to mirror the London Dungeon’s concept and marketing positioning.

The Wife is a big fan of Haunted Houses and one of our favorite spots to head to around Halloween is Kansas City, as they have several haunted houses right next to each other. I can see that London Dungeon would not be happy about a very similar attraction setting up shop across the street, but as a tourist who likes this type of attraction, I have to ask why not? Of course, not everyone will want to spend the time or money to see both-so I guess it would depend on how much alike they are.

We have all kinds of odd laws in the U.S. about Adult Business not being close to other Adult Businesses or Churches or Schools or Night Clubs and so on and so forth. London is a big city and it would seem that it could have been easy enough to put this attraction somewhere else-even on the other end of the London Bridge would be better than right next to an already established business of the same type. But then, shops set up next to other shops and the West End is full of Theaters sitting side by side.

If The London Bridge Experience is successful, then will the entire neighborhood convert to nothing but Haunted Houses? And would that be a good thing or a bad thing?