Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Day on the ELL

Even though I got a really late start (not out the door until 11:30 am), the sun didn't come out, and the train journey through the Thames Tunnel was a bit of a disappointment, all-in-all it was a happy day. My plan for Saturday was to follow the East London Line, which is partially new and partially reincarnated and is a line I've never been on before, from Dalston Junction to Rotherhithe, alternately riding and walking between stations, and exploring some new or new-to-me bits of the East End. The overground train service has greatly improved since I last rode it from Hampstead Heath -- new carriage stock, smoother and quieter.

When I got to
Dalston, I discovered that the two stations, one on the older overground line and the brand new one on the East London Line, are a few blocks apart. I took a long route between the two stations, walking through a very bustling Ridley Road Market and around the Eastern Curve Garden, which is where I took the photo above (by the streetartist Stik). From there, I rode down to Hoxton, then visited an open artists' studio in Cremer Street (not planned, but I can't resist an "Open Studios" sign) on my way to see Ben Eine's "The Strangest Week," which he painted on a hoarding the week that David Cameron took one of Eine's prints as a present to President Obama.

Pushing on, I walked down Shoreditch High Street to
Middlesex Street to see another brand new Eine mural and the alphabet letters that he's painted on corrugated metal shop shutters along the street. At that point I thought I was running late, so I hopped a bus on Whitechapel Road, not jumping off at the Whitechapel Gallery as I'd planned, to Whitechapel Station. Spooner rang me just as I was getting off the bus, and we arranged to meet in Rotherhithe around 3:30, which gave me some extra exploring time.

I decided to get off at
Wapping Station to wander around a bit, without a map but with some images in my head of things I might see there. This proved to be the best bit of the day -- I've always meant to roam around Wapping, but have never gotten there before. It's full of wharfs, stairs down to the Thames (tide was quite high when I was there), cobbled streets, old churches, and although there's lots of trendy (expensive) housing there now, I could easily imagine the place full of sailors unloading the boats, stumbling drunk down the streets, visiting opium dens, thieving and murdering and doing all the other things that 18th and 19th century sailors did, just as Dickens would have seen it.

A tuna & sweet corn panino and a beverage in hand, I hopped back on the ELL, rode under the river and got off in Rotherhithe, emerging from the bright and shiny new station within seconds of Spooner. We had ample time to walk around
St Mary's churchyard, see the bluecoat school (bluecoat schools are 18th century charity schools that always have statues of a boy and a girl wearing blue, placed in alcoves above the door) and the watch house (where the watchman kept an eye out at night for bodysnatchers or "resurrection men").

Spooner went down into the remains of the entrance shaft to the tunnel, but I was too creeped out be the looks of the rickety steps and 3-foot high entrance to go in. He heard a lot about how the shaft and the tunnel were constructed, but I'll just read that online. I won't say much about the train ride through
Brunel's tunnel except that it was a regular ELL train that did not slow down and had no additional lighting for the occasion as TfL had promised. The guide kept yelling at us about what we would have seen if we could have seen it.

We decided to separate ourselves from the group when we arrived at Wapping Station. We walked down Wapping Wall to the
Prospect of Whitby, the oldest riverfront pub in London, for a pint. Along the way, a couple asked us for directions to the Wapping Project. I told them to keep going down Wapping Wall and it would be on the left, hoping that was correct and that they wouldn't be wandering lost around Shadwell Basin due to bogus directions from an American who didn't have a map and had never been there before. But I was right -- the Wapping Project is actually just across the street from the pub. It's a Victorian hydroelectric power station that's been converted to a restaurant and art/performance space. We were very glad that we stopped in -- it's quite cool and would be a lovely place to have dinner sometime when they've lit all the candles that are placed on top of the remaining engines and other machinery.

Our last stop was back at
Hoxton Station. From there, we walked to the garden of the Geffrye Museum to see a fiber optic installation called "Sitting the Light Fantastic" by Kei Ito. Fortified by a quick dinner at Song Que, we headed for home and were back in the flat by 8:30 pm. It's now 12 hours later, and time for us to pack and leave for Liverpool. No blog posts until I get back into town on Tuesday.

Distance: 9.88 miles (24,080 steps)


  1. I thought the street art was "self-portrait of jet-lagged Yankee" til I read the post. Good gracious, girl, I don't know how you can pack all this in esp. with bum knee. The market sounds cool. Also, looking forward to alphabet street pix. The guide kept telling us what we would have seen if we could have"--hee, hee! Wapping sounds excellent--your description makes me think of Knopfler's "Down to the Waterline." Tim wants to know if you and Spooner will sing a duet of "You'll Never Walk Alone" in Liverpool in honor of the football team--their fans' anthem.

  2. Sounds like lots of fun exploring. Please translate things like "a hoarding" for us Americans.