Camden Road
So following a long break the 'Random London Project' is back on. Camden Road was the slightly less than thrilling location for the re-launch. Neither myself nor Yiota were that excited by the prospect. Each of us has previously worked in Camden and know the area quite well (and know that most of its over-priced and overcrowded attractions are mostly for tourists, crack-heads or the otherwise mentally challenged).
Because we were both already familiar with the area we pretty much whipped through the challenge so that we could get out of the icy weather as quickly as possible and go for something to eat and drink.
Camden Market was the setting for our random activity (although it could have been a random activity in itself). Yiota didnt fancy the street food challenge that I suggested as her standards of food hygiene are higher than mine but we did go for some mulled wine from one of the stalls. I enjoyed mine because it was warm and 'amusing' which is a word rarely used to describe a good wine in any situation, 
 After browsing the market at a fairly rapid pace I led Yiota to the Proud Gallery which is located at the far end of the market. We took in the psychedelic photo exhibition they are currently running. Between this, the market itself and the amusing mulled wine we quickly decided that we had met our random criteria and set of at a brisk pace for food (a really nice Chinese buffet) and drinks (in what used to be one of my regular watering holes, The Bucks Head). So we finished the evening pleasantly enough, have managed to drag our challenge back on to the agenda and have ensured that we dont have any reason to go back to Camden again for a while. It's all good.
I din't get many pictures this time but the album as it stands is here:

Vauxhall station was selected randomly in the same way as the others have been but like Marble Arch we took in the station while we were in the area doing something else - it just happened to be convenient but its still random.
The activity last night (which we are counting as our random activity) was leaving drinks for three of our colleagues. (only two of which bothered to show up so it all fits with the spirit of randomness). Our drinks were in a pub called the White Swan which is on the Pimlico side of Vauxhall bridge but is still only two minutes from Vauxahll station. The other 'high points' of Vauxhall (other that the fact that I used to work there)? You can see the London Eye to the East & Battersea Power Station to the West when youre on the bridge crossing the Thames. (Vauxhall bridge is my favourite part of Vauxhall). It also has a spectacularly ugly and smelly bus station. It manages to assault several of your senses all at once. It also has 'Vauxhall Cross' home of the British spy network (as seen being blown up in the recent Bond film). Thats about it.
Yiota and I also inducted Lee, one of our new colleagues, into the joys of the random challenge. I think he was just drunk enough to appreciate it! He certainly appreciated the novelty of crossing the Thames drunkenly at midnight, an experience all adopted Londoners should have in their mental scrap books. Yiota wanted to add 'taking a drunken Scotsman across the river' to the list of random activities. I dont see why not but we might have struggled to do this if Lee hadnt been with us.

The latest photos have been added here:

Marble Arch
Marble Arch was a bit of a weird one for this challenge. All of the stations so far were the starting points for exploring an area - which is kind of the point of this exercise. Marble Arch is already pretty well known to myself and Yiota and we even had stopped here already for a coffee on the way back from our 'Notting Hill' stop back in the Summer. Instead of using the station as our starting point this time (which neither of us were very excited about) we had planned a day out in the city which happened to start very near Marble Arch (it was a coincidence) and we decided to add the challenge into our existing plans.
 Once the photos were in the bag and we had a coffee we headed for our 'random activity' (which was pre-planned but still pretty random) of a posh afternoon tea, with cocktails, at a nearby Park Lane Hotel. I had found a handy online voucher that reduced the cost from over £90 to around £30. Posh was certainly the word! The setting was immaculate, sandwiches with their crusts cut off, scones the whole works. The cocktail we had was especially nice. I forget what it was called but it had ginger in it and was one of those dangerous creations that didnt taste like it had any alcohol in it even though it contained quite a bit.
 It was a nice experience to have had (and certainly qualifies as random by my standards) but to be honest even at £34 for the two of us it still didnt really feel like it was worth the money. If I had paid the full £96 I would have been choking on those cucumber sandwiches. We followed this by taking a walk through some of the central London parks (Hyde Park, Green Park and St James') which may seem like quite a long, random walk but they pretty much link together and took us directly (and scenicly) to our next activity.
 The London Eye is a surprise I sprang on Yiota. Neither of us are particularly good with heights so it was a bit of a risky choice but I chose a time near sunset so as we rose on the wheel we could have a nice clear view of the city and as we descended on the other side it would be getting dark and the city would be lighting up. This did work and the views were spectacular but the cabin we had was probably a bit more crowded than either of us would have liked.
 Our Final activity for the day (by now quite removed from the random challenge, but what the hell!) was attending the Labyrinth Masquerade Ball at the Prince Charles Cinema. This was a special screening of the film, Labyrinth with an introduction from a David Bowie-a-like. People came in fancy dress (some fancier than others) and there was a lot of audience reaction, quoting and singing along, good natured heckling etc. The film was new to Yiota but not to most of the audience many of whom clearly LOVE this film and it was the atmosphere this created that was the most fun. Sadly after that the day ended and we had to head for our respective homes.
 Obviously none of this was intended to be part of the Random Challenge - it was just kind of tacked on out of convenience, which is okay because otherwise it would raise the bar pretty high for the next station we visit! We have some photos here:

Limehouse and Tower Gateway
So with a pair of stations just two stops apart on the Docklands Light Railway and with the olympics due to start in a week making pretty much the whole of East London a no-go zone Yiota & I decided to do a quick hit and run and get them both on the same day. Yiota took more of a lead today as this was much more her part of town than mine. We both met in Limehouse after our respective jobs/placements finished and immediately agreed to set off for Limehouse Marina.
 We didnt really have a clear idea of what our random act for this area would be. I was content to be lazy and just have a visit to the marina be our random act. (There arent many London underground stations with a local marina). Yiota however remained more ambitious. After exploring the area a little (and Yiota revealing that she hadnt eaten properly for many hours) we found and settled into a nice riverside restaurant. We ordered a meal (for me an early dinner, for Yiota a late lunch) and I spotted Welsh rarebit on the menu - a delicacy from my homeland that we had only just talked about a few days before. I ordered us a portion of this and this became the second part of our random activity - trying Welsh cuisine. Well, cuisine may be stretching a point as its basically cheese on toast but I liked it. (Yiota was less impressed).
 Once we had finished eating we bundled back to the station and made the short trip to Tower Gateway - a station that gets its name from its proximity to the Tower of London and London bridge. Naturally this area was pretty packed with tourists but this only inspired Yiota to create our second random activity of the day - posing like tourists for a picture. I wasnt a fan of the photo some random passer by took of us but I did like the one I took of us both a lot more because its so badly taken! (Firstly because you cant tell where it was taken and secondly because I am almost entirely cut out of the shot - an almost perfect tourist photo in my opinion). After a quick coffee and a walk around our second (even more lovely) marina of the day we decided to head off to our respected homes. We still have a small pool of other stations on our list and will try to hit a few more before Yiota heads off for her holiday.

Today's photos have been added here:

Notting Hill Gate
After I finished work today I met Yiota and we headed over to Notting Hill for our next random visit. The 328 bus passes by Yiota's home and our workplace so we arranged to meet that way rather than travelling by tube to get there. (we are using the stations as a basis to explore, there is nothing in the rules about having to arrive by train).
 Notting Hill used to be quite a run down area - especially in the 1960's & 70's when the relatively cheap housing in the area became home to large numbers of West Indian immigrants. Since the 1980s though the area has gone steadily more upmarket (gentrified or even yuppified are common terms). That bloody awful film with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts made it even worse. The main street is still fairly ordinary by London standards but its side streets are packed with niche boutiques and eateries and the famous Portobello market is just around the corner.
 Our 'random challenge' for the area was pretty low key this time around - we ended up selecting one book each from a good second hand bookshop in the area. Yiota bought something by a Greek author she knew, I bough a 'Dinosaurs vs Aliens' graphic novel and we both left the shop fairly satisfied. We had a look at some of the local shops - but apart from finding possible the worlds smallest casserole dishes we didn't find much of interest. After a quick lunch we left the area in search of fun elsewhere.

We still have Camden Road and Tower Gateway on our list.

The photos are here:

Acton Town (Yiota)
So we started off with Acton Town! After negotiating the rules and rolling the dice for the first time, we ended up in Acton Town, which is, as I found out after the random selection, in Zone 3 on the green and the blue lines (also known as District and Piccadilly) in West London. Vince actually discovered that you can find information about Acton Town station on Wikipedia when you google it! I didn't really bother!

We arranged to meet at the station, which we did. Acton Town was rather nice. It had a few cafes and shops on the main street around the station and Vince said there was also a nice park somewhere around, but as it was raining on the day we decided not to go. So he came up with the brilliant idea to visit the part of the London Transport Museum that was located opposite the station. Little did he know! We walked there to realise that the museum was not really there. What was there, however, was the dirtiest bus stop ever and a security guard that loved his job so much that he was yelling that we weren't allowed to take pictures in the car park of what might once have been a museum! We took one anyway, meeting this way the task of doing something random in Acton Town!

We then went to this cafe that was kind of located in the station. It was very nice, but Vince's coffee looked better than mine. Also, they had some very lovely looking cannoli (that are Sicilian pastry deserts and are called cannolu in the Sicilian language according to Wikipedia) which I really wanted to try. We chose a few different ones that I thought looked nice, but ended up not liking any of them, so Vince ended up having most of then and then getting a rather symptomless sugar rush! After doing everything that there is to do in a place such as Acton Town (ie not going to the park because it was raining, taking a photo at a car park of London Transport Museum against the security guard's shoutting, and ordering cannoli that was either out of date or made for decorative purposes only), we rolled the dice to our next destination.

To make our lives easier, we decided there and then to pick a few stations at once to see if any of them could be grouped and done one the same day. So off we went to Northfields!!!!

p.s. Vince insisted that we HAVE to do every station on the list, including East Ham and Upton Park, but I'm still working on getting them crossed off the list! I also asked to do stations that are very closed to each other (eg East Acton, West Acton, Noth Acton, South Acton and Acton Central!!!) together, but Vince didn't let me have this one either, which means that we are likely to go to Acton another 5 times in the near future! He's such a bully he is!

Starting In Acton Town


The first randomly selected station in our challenge was Acton Town - a station in West London that I have used a few times before (to access Gunnersbury Park) but which was new to Yiota. As it was raining we decided not to visit the park as part of our explorations but to try instead the other 'attraction' of Acton Town, the Transport Museum depot which is almost opposite the station. On closer inspection it turned out that the museum depot isn't open to the public, it's just a kind of storage warehouse so we couldnt actually get in. We set about trying to record the event anyway by taking a couple of pictures in the car park but were told off by an over-zealous security guard. He couldnt quite explain why taking photographs in the car park was forbidden so we took one anyway.
We moved on to explore the high street and find a place for coffee - settling on a cafe that is part of Acton Town station. It was here that Yiota and I tried our first ever selection of Cannoli (a Sicilian dessert) which Yiota didnt really Like so I had to eat mine and hers which left me way too full of sugar!). While we were in the cafe we made our next random selection (and added our amendment so that we can select a number of stations and group any that are close together).


One of the stations selected in our random group turned out to be Northfields - two stops away from Acton Town and it made sense to go straight there rather than travel back out again on a different day. Sadly Northfields didnt have the attractions of a park, a museum warehouse or a grumpy security guard but the High Street was a little more interesting. Yiota and I improvised a random act of visiting a soft furnishing shop under the pretext of shopping for our imaginary children's nursery. It turns out that the pretext wasnt necessary as the shop staff didnt bother us. I did manage to get a nice photo of Yiota sat on a very brightly coloured ethnic 'sitting stool' though. We finished off the challenge for the day by popping into a nearby 'garden cafe' for a milkshake and a smoothie.

Photos for the day are here:

Next stop is Notting Hill Gate - more on that later.

How we started.
When I was talking with my friend Yiota last week about my Monopoly photo project she expressed an interest in doing something similar (not as a photo project, but just for fun). The idea we came up with after bouncing around some alternatives was to visit various places in London based on an entirely random selection of tube stations. I quickly set up a system for selection (using an alphabetical list of stations and a set of dice) and we agreed some rules and objectives.

1. The stations we select must be random.
2. When we get there we must complete the following tasks:

Explore the area.
Take at least one photo.
Have a coffee (or other form or refreshment).
Do at least one 'random' thing in each location.

3. We never repeat a station we have visited during the challenge. (we will roll the dice again to select a different station if this happens).
4. As a provisional target we will try to explore a minimum 26 locations in the next year (ending in early July 2013). This is an average of one per fortnight but we can do more if we want to.
5. Other people are welcome to join us if they want to do so but Yiota and I must be present.

That's pretty much it. We started this challenge last week (which I will post separately). and we quickly made one small amendment. Instead of randomly selecting one station at a time we have randomly selected a small number of stations (five this time) and decided that if any are close together then we will try to visit those on the same day. This is just a practical consideration but we think that its still random enough for the purposes of our challenge.

Time to start...


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