South Harrow - The End Of The Line.
Vince
random_london
So today Yiota and I met to finish the project we started a year ago. Our aim was to explore London using a random method of generating our destinations. We randomly selected 26 stations (a number chosen to allow an average of one per fortnight) - in theory a realistic goal but with work/study/other commitments it was still a bit of a stretch at times.
 The 26th and final station was South Harrow, which we left until last as it is one of my local stations and it felt right to end it that way. To be honest it was a bit of an anti-climax as there is very little to do or see in South Harrow and its a station I use fairly regularly so I already know it well. Given the limited choices available we combined our 'random activity' with our refreshments and picked up some food we couldn't quite identify from an Indian deli and took it back to my place to eat. Like I said, its a bit of an anti-climax compared to some of the places we have been but I think we both appreciated the nice gentle finish almost as much as we appreciate that the random challenge is now concluded.
 Yiota deserves full credit for the idea and for providing the drive (sometimes literally) to make it happen. Thank you Yiota for your friendship and your weirdness. Its been quite a year and it has been my pleasure to share it (and this challenge) with you.

All the photos from the project are now here: http://s866.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/London/Random%20London%20Project?sort=3&page=1

D.L.R.
Vince
random_london

The penultimate day of the Random London Challenge saw Yiota and I dragging our butts around various sections of the Docklands Light Railway in East London for three of our last four stations.

West Silvertown was our first stop of the day and while it wasnt the ugliest place we have visited it was possibly the most anti-climactic. A new residential district borders on a decaying industrial district with few obvious facilities or points of interest. The fact that a slightly arty bike shed in the station was the highlight of our visist says it all. We promptly decided on a quick exit and moved onto the next location.

  West India Quay is home to the Docklands Museum so finding the fun activity here wasnt that hard. (we bought some crap from the museum shop, having both visted the museum on earlier occassions). An Italian restaurant on the quayside provided a more than pleasant lunch. We rounded this off with a leisurely stroll to begin our journay to the third and final target of the day.

Deptford Bridge has more to do than West Silvertown but very little of it has any appeal. There are some run down shops, run down cafes and a run down market. There is a converted tube carriage which may once have seen action as a cafe but was closed when we visited. We struggled to find any fun but just before we made our final exit I dragged Yiota into a run down pub for a quick half of cider (classy!). On any other day this would have all felt like a bit of a failure as far as the challenge goes apart from three things
1) Even the rubbish bits are still kind of fun.
2) Completing these visits have moved us within one single station of our target of 26.
3)Where we finished in Deptford is only a few minutes away from Greenwich - a favourite place of both myself and Yiota where we pleasantly whiled away the rest of the day by the river. Random and successful and very nearly finished.

Photos are here: http://s866.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/London/Random%20London%20Project?sort=3&page=1

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Bromley-By-Bow, Leyton & Aldgate East.
Vince
random_london
The project seems to be reaching a close with a bit of a sprint finish. There are only a few more of out target 26 stations still to visit. Yesterday we visited three more in East London.

BROMLEY-BY-BOW is quite a nasty station. I used to work near year years ago and Yiota kind of does now. Its not pretty and comes with few facilities or nearby attractions. It was pretty unforgivable that I managed to arrive late for our meeting leaving Yiota to broil in the July heat in such a wickedly ugly spot. (Luckily for me she managed to forgive but I think it was mostly gratitude to finally move away from the place). Our Random activity was to visit Kingsley Hall, just around the corner from the station. Its just a community center now (though a listed building) but has some significance historically. Gandhi stayed here in the 1930's rather than in a swanky hotel so that he could be near ordinary Londoners. The place served as a soup kitchen during the 1926 general strike and the Jarrow Marchers stayed here. More recently RD Liang based his team here during his pioneering work on schizophrenia  (which involved the radical leap of not using restraints and electric shock treatment!). The community center itself was shut when we visited and with the absence of any nearby cafes we cut our random pilgrimage short and made for the next station.

LEYTON isn't much prettier but feels a lot more friendly to visit because there are at least shops and cafes nearby. We took grateful shelter from the sun in the first cafe we found that wasnt a fried chicken outlet - The Cafe Dumetro. It wast the most inspiring looking place and I suspect if it wasn't for the combination of the random challenge and uncomfortable heat I never would have got Yiota to step inside the place. A reasonably nice cake and a cold drink later and we were back on the road feeling somewhat refreshed. Leyton was so dull that finding a random activity was a challenge itself. We settled on buying 'ethnic produce' from the local grocery store. I have no idea what Yiota purchased but she seemed quite happy with it. I bought something called 'Mustard beer' (which actually comes in a miniature beer tankard) and a tin of 'Gefullte WeiBkolblatter' which seems to be White Cabbage with rice (or 'mit reis'). Another rapid exit followed.

ALDGATE EAST was our final stop for the day and the closest to civilization. There is plenty to do in Aldagate East with galleries (including the excellent Whitechapel Gallery), Brick lane with its market and many restaurants), the Jack The Ripper walks and loads more. We (I) selected browsing the anarchist bookshop, 'Freedom Press'. This is much more inside my comfort zone than Yiota's but I think we both managed to find it diverting enough (though it was only me that bought a book). We finished off with a coffee in a really nice cafe before heading off to find some dinner.

Photos are here: http://s866.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/London/Random%20London%20Project?sort=3&page=1

Warren Street
Vince
random_london
Warren Street was probably the most improvised of all of the stations we have visited so far. Yiota and I were having a day out in town and were busily doing other things. We found ourselves in central London with some time to kill in between other activities (wine tasting in the afternoon, comedy gig in the evening) and so decided to hit Warren Street out of sheer convenience.
Our first mission was food so we made a bee-line for a Greek Restaurant on Charlotte Street called 'Andreas'. After a very lovely meal we headed back towards the station, bought some cheap second hand dvds and finished by stuffing ourselves with coffee and pudding. Somewhere in there (along with the wine tasting, browsing borough market and the comedy gig) is our random activity. (Even though most of the day was planned taken as a whole its all pretty random).
Warren street staion itself is fairly unremarkable. Its central enough to be near useful and interesting things but is surrounded by other staions (Euston, Goodge Stree, Russell Square ec) that are just as useful and are often even closer to the good stuff. Im sure it has its fans though.


Photos are here: http://s866.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/London/Random%20London%20Project?sort=3&page=1

Four Stations In One Day
Vince
random_london
With the self imposed one-year deadline approaching, Yiota and I decided to make the most of our Sunday off and crack on with some of the staions in our Random London project. We deliberately hit some of the most remote staions today to hopefully encourage us to mop up the rest (our target is 26) in the next few weeks.

West Acton was the first station we hit this morning and my personal favourite of the day. (It was all down hill after that). West Action is a small station servicing a quiet leafy suburb in West London. We emerged from the station to fins tree lined streets and semi-detatched houses, a small row of shops and very little else. The little row of shops turned out to be quite a significant find as they included a Japanese Deli (sushi rolled while you wait) a Japanese grocers and a Japanese Estate Aents. Who would have thought that Japan's answer to chinatown would be in a secret location in a discreet West London suburb?! Our random activity here was buying some Japanese vegetables for our Swiss friend Claudia which we quickly accomplished after our coffee.

We quickly shuffled our way ontp the Ruislip branch of the central line to hit our second station of the day, Hangar Lane. This is probably my least favourite station in this whole challenge. There is very little in Hangar Lane apart from a giant roundabout and lots of traffic. Our challenge was to find something beautiful in Hangar Lane and we spotted some wild flowers growing alongside the busy road. There didnt seem to be anywhere to get a drink apart from the crappy kiosk shop in the station itself so with the taste of nearby West Acton coffee still in our mouths we declared mission accomplished and moved onto the next station.

Morden is the very last station at the bottom end of the Northern line so was quite a trek to reach from West London. Our friend Claudia met us there (she didnt know about the Japanese vegetables yet, they were a surprise). This is the first time we have be joined by any of our friends on this project apart from our colleague Lee who joined in randomly on the night we did Vauxhall. We stopped in Tooting on the way for some good cheap Indian food for lunch and then pressed on to Morden. The little bit of Morden that I saw seemed to be bus station and some rubbish shops and fast food joints. We found a nice cafe to have a drink in and chose a run down amusement parlour, or 'Cashino' as it had branded itself and chose this as our random activity. Between the three of us we sank a grand total of 80p into their uninspiring games machines before we felt fully satisfied and left.
Morden station itself does deserve a special mention as it is the only station I have ever seen that boasts a free 'book exhange' for travellers to take of leave books (to be read on the various commutes). This is fantastic idea!

Tottenham Hale was our last destination of the day and Claudia had left us by this point. It is a station that Yiota and I had been putting off visiting for a long time because neither of us had been that enthusiastic about the destination. It turns out that we were right! The station seems to exist primarily as a North London stop for the Stanstead Express. There is also a large clone retail park which was as ugly as it was closed (it was Sunday evening at this point). We spent a short amount of time in a drive through Burger King outlet - as much to use the toilets as for any hope of refreshments. We had a very forgettable ice-cream each (which qualified us as customers for using the toilet facilities and that was about it. I set the random challenge low with this one - our task was to spend some time in the retail park and see if we could still emerge with our souls intact. That might not sound like much of an activity but it was tougher than it sounds - but emerge we did and we live to fight on another day.

Photos are here: http://s866.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/London/Random%20London%20Project?sort=3&page=1

Turnpike Lane
Vince
random_london
Turnpike Lane will probably end up being one of the more memorable of the stations in our challenge but not necessarily for the best of reasons. Yiota and I had already finished work and dropped by the V&A on the way to an exhibition at the Natural History Museum before we decided to tackle another station in our challenge.
 Turnpike Lane was the next station of choice, largely because it was on a tubeline easily accessable from the station near the museum.Yiota was keen because travelling to the station would put us near a Greek bakery that she had visited some years before and fondly remembered. Sadly. Turnpike Lane did not yield us the desired bakery and neither did visits to nearby tube stops of Arnos Grove, Southgate, or Bounds Green..Wood Green was the last stop we were prepared to explore in the hunt for the elusive bakery.. Unfortunately while we were looking about in Wood Green my ankle turned on an uneven bit of pavement and I fell and sprained my wrist, which cut the activity shorter than we hoped.
 We stopped for dinner before we began our journeys home and I suggested that we try nearby Finsbury Park as a likely spot. .As it turns out we found a nice Turkish place there.pretty quickly. We also passed three different bakeries which sold Greek style eats (but not the one Yiota was looking for, it turns out that was in Southgate after all).
 So I didnt learn much about Turnpike Lane apart from that it is Located in a busy if slightly run down shoping area. The brief glimpse at the other stations in the region gave me a bit of a feel for the wider area and even if it is unorthodox, this trip must surely qualify as random.


Pictures Are Here: http://s866.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/London/Random%20London%20Project?sort=3&page=1

Fulham Broadway
Vince
random_london
Fulham Broadway is probably the station we have treated with the least respect in our challenge so far. When we visited yesterday it wasnt in the spirit of exploration (or even weirdness) but rather a way of moving the project forward while we were on our way back from somewhere else. As it happens Fulham Broadway is deeply unexciting. The station is bright and airy with long, wide and well it platforms because it is designed to serve tens of thousands of football fans who travel to and from Chelsea FC's nearby stadium. The street level exit from the station is via a dreary indoor shopping centre/leisure complex and there isnt much of interest nearby.
 We performed a quick hit and run visit on Stamford Bridge (the nearby stadium) to tick the box of our 'random activity' and then quickly set of in search of much needed food and bathroom breaks. We hastily settled on a Vietnamese restaurant called  Me Me - I liked the name and am quite keen on Vietnamese cuisine but we rushed our decision for the sake of convenience (pardon the pun).
The food was bland but okay but as a vegetarian Yiota struggled much more than I did but the drinks were good and because we were able to laugh about it the experience was still enjoyable.Luckily the earlier trip to Kew Gardens (Yiota's first time) was pretty special so as a combined day out it was still pretty groovy.

Photos are here:

http://s866.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/London/Random%20London%20Project?sort=3&page=1
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Wimbledon Park & Wimbledon
Vince
random_london
So to fill in time on a pleasantly sunny Sunday afternoon Yiota and I decided to head to Wimbledon where we had randomly generated two neighbouring stations. Wimbledon Park was first up as it gave us the chance to visit London's first Thai temple as our random activity.
 The Temple was suitably blingy and the people there seemed quite open to strangers wandering about (regardless of whether they spoke English or not). The grounds were also very lovely - but this might have been caused by the light headedness of being somewhere nice and relaxing in the sunshine rather than being at work.We didnt bother trying to find anything to eat or drink locally as only a local newsagent was open and we were only taking a short jaunt down the road to central Wimbledon where we planned to stop for dinner, rather than just drinks (this is still local to Wimbledon Park).
 Wimbledon station is bigger and more useful than Wimbledon Park but is also much less pretty. The town centre is as bland and uninviting as any in suburban London. We turned finding a nice place to eat into a literally random activity by taking it turns to navigate at each possible junction. This was fun for about the first minute but it quickly became obvious that we werent going to find decent food this way. We gave up that random activity and eventually settled on a decent looking pub called the Fire Stables. Yiota had what she claims is her first ever English Roast Dinner (or at least a vegetarian version). She also claims it will be her last as it wasnt that brilliant. Time will tell, I may cook her a nice one.at some point in the future and she seemed to finally acquire the taste for Yorkshire Pudding.
 The Photos are here:
http://s866.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/#/user/shaved-ape/library/London/Random%20London%20Project?sort=3&page=1&_suid=1366056779353018538775940622448

Belsize Park
Vince
random_london
It was pretty late in the day yesterday when Yiota declared her interest in doing another station in our project. Actually it wasnt that late (around 6pm) but Yiota had been in work and I'd had quite a busy day off. Luckily our selected target - Belsize Park - is quite close to where Yiota lives and we wanted to find somewhere outside of central London to go for a meal so it fitted the bill quite nicely.
 Belsize Park is in a quite leafy and expensive part of North London, bordering Hampstead and the nicer, more genteel parts of Camden. I had been past the station a few times on buses over the years but had never stopped to explore the area. Its an expensive suburb in which to live but the main street has a few shops and restaurants. I very quickly spotted a shop that was still open called 'Good For You' and we decided to make that our random activity. (otherwise we would have struggled to find anything). Before entering the shop I suggested we buy an item of kitchenware for each others kitchens and surprisingly, Yiota agreed! The problem was that the shop was actually a bit weird. It wasnt so rubbish that you could find objects bad enough to be funny, but it wasnt good enough to find anything that was genuinely nice and useful. Yiota managed to quickly locate the one item in the shop that was actually quite stylish (a nice set of small bowls) but I could find nothing else. In the end we had to agree that I would also buy a set and we could swap them over.
 Following a brief congratulatory 'Good For You!' we headed off for a dinner at the Gourmet Burger Company (which had a branch nearby) and followed this with dessert in a branch of Giraffe cafe (also nearby). I would challenge anyone else to have more fun than that in Belsize Park with their clothes on. Photos are here:

http://s866.beta.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/London/Random%20London%20Project

Chalfont & Latimer
Vince
random_london
Yiota was feeling in a spontaneous mood tonight (which is often good to see providing you are wearing the appropriate safety gear) so she decided that instead of just meeting for dinner we should drag our arses out to Chalfont and Latimer station - something we have been putting off for ages because its so bloody far away..

Here is what I knew about Chalfont and Latimer before our trip tonight:

1. Chalfont & Latimer is in the county of Buckinghamshire. This is still on the tube map but its miles from London.
2. Chalfont is cockney rhyming slang for piles. (Because of Chalfont St Giles).
3. This is one of the most rural stations on the tube map. This may be idyllic on a Summers day out but on a cold February night all advantages would be lost.

Here is what I know since our trip to Chalfont and Latimer.

1. Buckinghamshire isnt quite cockney rhyming slang for 'the middle of nowhere' but if there was any justice it would be.
2. After dark there is even less to do in this place than there is in the daytime - which isnt much.
3. A pub/restaurant in Chalfont and Latimer may close its kitchen completely for a 'deep clean' on a quiet day.
4. Most Londoners would rather actually have piles than live in Chalfont and Latimer.

So we had the fun. Dinner was had in a pub in Bushey on our way home due to the deep cleaning of a kitchen and limited other choices (though we did have a drink before we left). Our random activity was restricted to checking out the local property prices in an estate agents window due to limited other choices. Frankly going to Buckinghamshire should be random enough for any London challenge.

Photos are here: http://s866.beta.photobucket.com/user/shaved-ape/library/London/Random%20London%20Project?

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