Tag Archives: London

An Amsterdam-to-London adventure

I hadn’t planned to catch a train from Amsterdam to London. I had my flight booked and an easy 45 minutes or so in the air already planned.
Yet the weather had a different plan…
And this is the story of how travel disruption turned from very stressful into a nice adventure :-)

Monday 11 December 2017. Snow, fog and strong wind cause the cancellation of 95% of flights out of Schiphol airport.

When at 5pm announcements were made that also my flight (initially scheduled for 2pm then delayed to 7pm) was no longer going, panic seeped in! I have to be back in London within 24 hours due to more travels planned, and there are no seats on other flights until Wednesday, I cried to the desk agent – how the heck am I going to make it?!
To add to the misery and mayhem, also all trains from Schiphol were cancelled due to bad weather conditions. The only way out of the airport was to catch a taxi. Welcome to a two-hour queue then :-(.

Based on the EU regulation Nr. 261/2004 on “compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellations, or long delays of flights”, I was reassured that my airline would reimburse any additional expenses incurred (within set limits). So I went ahead with taxi and hotel booking in Amsterdam for the night.

And to get to London? Then train will have to be! Intercity from Amsterdam to Brussels then Eurostar from Brussels to London. It would take me most of the following day but at least there were seats. And a chance to get home!

It was sunny with blue skies in Amsterdam the following morning. I took a stroll around Amsterdam Centraal train station to enjoy the snow. But it was soon time to catch the train.

And here I am, on board of the Intercity train to Brussels. Slower but much cheaper than the Thalys, it felt like being back to the days when train journeys across Europe (good old InterRail!) were the norm. Slow travel. Stare out of the window. Enjoy the moment.

The scenery was lovely – snow covered the fields, the streets, the roofs of the houses. White everywhere, shining in the sunlight of a beautiful day with bright blue skies.

The train drove through Den Haag, Rotterdam, Dordrecht, Roosendaal, Antwerp, Mechelen. And eventually reached Brussels, 3hrs and 20minutes later.

The Brussels-London stretch wasn’t as interesting. I slept most of the two hours on the Eurostar, it was dark outside and in the tunnel under the Channel. I had finally relaxed, knowing that I would make it home in time to unpack my bag, repack it for the tropics, and fly out again the following morning!

As for my claim for a refund, once I got home I immediately submitted it online, uploading all receipts for transport, accommodation and meals costs incurred as the result of the flight cancellation. (Update Jan 2018: in less than a month I received full reimbursement of all additional expenses!).

If your travel plans are ever disrupted in a similar way and you find yourself stuck, try and see the bright side to it as you can turn it into another adventure :-)

The Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes

A new exhibition has just opened in London. Set under a huge tent in a car park by the Southbank, it features some of the Lego artwork by award-winning artist Nathan Sawaya. The focus here is DC Superheroes. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the like – so to be clear.

But who is Nathan Sawaya, I hear you ask.
Former attorney, he quit his day job in 2004 to become an artist. A LEGO artist! His artwork combines the creativity of an artist and the precision of an engineer. His production is now featured in museums worldwide and his global touring exhibitions have attracted enthusiastic comments from art critics. This guy has already become my hero.

As the owner of Lego keyrings in the shape of Batman and Batgirl, I felt that this exhibition was something not to be missed. So I went on its day two.

And I loved it!

The exhibition features more than 120 original pieces ranging from Superheroes (real scale as well as half size) to reproductions of iconic covers of DC Comics magazine. All is made in Lego bricks and I can only begin to imagine the painstaking effort of building the pieces to such incredible level of detail!

 Some may wonder whether this can be defined art. Well I think this is definitely a form of art and all credit goes to Nathan Sawaya for taking Lego into the art world as a medium!

Magical Lantern Festival in London

The Year of the Monkey is here!

According to the Chinese calendar, Monday 8th February 2016 is the first day of the New Year.
London’s annual Chinese New Year celebrations are the biggest in the world outside China, and usually revolve around a main parade between Trafalgar Square and Chinatown.
This year, however, an additional event is having a huge success around town: the Magical Lantern Festival!

Set in the gardens of Chiswick House, in West London, this huge installation is described as an extravaganza of lights and illumination, and will entertain you for well over an hour.

Giant hand-sculpted lanterns are scattered along the exhibition trail, with subjects ranging from animals to plants and flowers, to fairytale scenes. It is totally amazing and you will feel like a child in a magical playground!

And when you reach the end, all you want to do is to turn around and do it all over again…

A photo from my archives: Live 8 London

London, UK, 2005.

2nd July 2005.
A string of concerts took place in 10 different locations around the globe. Watched by an estimated 3 billion people, it was defined the greatest show on Earth!

Someone from the London hostel where I was staying had a spare ticket for the “Live 8 screens area” in Hyde Park. I took it. The opportunity to be part of this huge event couldn’t be missed, and it didn’t really matter that we were not allowed into the area where the Live 8 concert itself was held. It was only a few hundred meters away anyway.

So armed with bags of crisps, snacks and drinks we went. And from 2pm until late night we watched world famous bands and singers appear on stage and deliver some of their best music (check out the line up here). The crowd sang and danced all the time, and the atmosphere was incredible!
For a non festival-goer like me, Live 8 London remains a great memory, and its upcoming 10th anniversary a good excuse to post this photo of my (now long lost) ticket!

Where do we go from here?

My travel & photography blog has been suffering. I have been neglecting it. 2015 was supposed to be another year of extended travels. Instead, I have only crossed the border twice and only for short trips.

Things won’t change much any time soon. I start a new job on Monday and my travelling will only appear in the form of a very long daily commute. I am dreading it already.
But hey, crossing London from one end to the other on a daily basis, and using public transport, is not for the faint-hearted! Brave hearts are required: jam-packed trains, frequent delays, and the long time it takes to reach your destination, leaving you with little leisure time. Can YOU do it?!

Maybe I can use the commute time to write more about past travels, work on new features for the blog, and update you with stories of London commuters. How about “Stories from the London Underground”? (mmmmm I am sure someone has done it already, but this time it will be MY point of view!)

So suggestions are welcome!
In the meanwhile, watch this space: my Out Of Office Reply may not be On, but this blog will continue :-)

Millennium Bridge, London

London "Millennium Bridge"
London, Millennium Bridge

Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian bridge in central London and connects the two banks of the River Thames approximately from the Tate Modern gallery to St Paul’s Cathedral. Nicknamed the “Wobbly Bridge”, it is crossed by thousands of tourists everyday and provides great views of St Paul’s Cathedral from across the river.

As I captured in my photo, pigeons love resting on the bridge, giving an opportunity for some interesting photographs!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

Nighttime along the river Thames in central London.

Featuring in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

A dialogue between two cities (London and Luang Prabang) via their most common forms of public transport and places of worship.

Featuring in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

Photographing the PrudentialRideLondon 2014

UKPhotogallery_001Have you ever heard of the Prudential RideLondon?
No?
Ok, let me tell you about it. The Prudential RideLondon  is a festival of cycling events that takes place in London and Surrey around mid August. The key events are the two main races: the London-Surrey 100 (open to amateur cyclists via a ballot) and the London-Surrey Classic (for professionals).  It’s great to watch! Well, it’s not as popular as the Tour de France – yet! – but it’s a fantastic event.

Around 23,000 cyclists took part in 2014. I was going to be one of them. I had won a place.
Then things changed. And I ended up as photographer for one of the charities!
It all started with a series of emails and a portfolio submission. Then  an email saying “Yes you are in”. A meeting in a pub on a Friday evening, with a printed brief of what the charity expected and a map of the allocated sites, sealed the deal.
Uh, and there was also a t-shirt to pick up.

And then Sunday 10th August arrived. The day of the race! The weather forecast was terrible so I packed up rain gear and a change of clothes. Then Wimbledon Hill, here I come!

The rest is history: six solid hours of sports photography, mostly in torrential rain, always looking for the best spots along the cycling route as it unwinded in the Wimbledon area, never taking my eyes off the road so that I wouldn’t miss opportunities. Soaking wet after an hour but not giving up!
Here’s the tired cyclist who is puffing after climbing the steep Wimbledon Hill.
There is a sprinter who whizzes past the crowd all focused on the timing.
Over there a mother with two kids who are trying to spot daddy in the group of cyclists that’s arriving. Their smiles as he cycles past and waves at them are priceless.

All my praises go to the cyclists who braved the adverse weather conditions and defied rain, wind and hurricane to take part in the race. When the sun finally came out, the atmosphere around was incredible!Chiara

I will leave you with some of the photos I took on the day. And a mention about the charity I did this for: it’s called Bliss and it gives vital support & care to premature babies in the UK.