Celestial Weasel (celestialweasel) wrote,
Celestial Weasel

The portage of C.W. to Stratford International

So, I had the epic trip, which turned out as follows:

Bus to St. Aldates
Yomp to Oxford Station
Oxford to Bicester Town (Chiltern Railways)
Walk (including setting off in wrong direction) to Bicester North
Bicester North to Marylebone (Chiltern Railways)
Marylebone to Queens Park (Bakerloo Line)
Queens Park to Willesden Junction (Overground)
Willesden Junction to Imperial Wharf (Overground)
Brief wander round the vicinity of Imperial Wharf
Imperial Wharf to Clapham Junction (Overground)
Clapham Junction to Wimbledon (South West Trains)
Wimbledon to East Croydon (Tramlink)
East Croydon to St. Pancras International (Thameslink or whatever they call it these days)
St. Pancras International to Stratford International (Javelin)
Bus from Stratford International to Stratford
Stratford to West Ham (Jubilee Line)
West Ham to Barking (District Line)
Barking to Gospel Oak (Overground - Goblin)
Gospel Oak to Highbury and Islington (Overground)
Islington to Canonbury (Overground) (train taken out of service)
Canonbury to Hoxton (Overground)
Walk to Shoreditch High Street
Shoreditch High Street to Shadwell (Overground)
Shadwell to Bank (DLR)
Bank to Waterloo (Waterloo and City)
Walk to Embankment (via Festival of Britain exhibition)
Embankment to Paddington (Bakerloo)
Paddington to Oxford (First Great Western)
Bus to Abingdon

Field notes:
1. Someone on the bus who I vaguely recognised. Party? Seemed to work for the University's IT bit based on the conversation he was having with someone else.
2. There was some danger that I might miss the train to Bicester Town due to the queues for the ticket machines, about 1/3 of which weren't working. This would have been perplexing having got to the station with 10 minutes to spare though given that the 'to London via Bicester' mission was somewhat decoupled from the round London trip I would have just gone to Paddington rather than waiting an hour.
3. I was surprised by the number of people on the Oxford to Bicester North train, even more surprised by the number of people waiting to catch it the other way, mainly mothers with children.
4. The fact that there is a railway line under the Wolvercote roundabout is one of those things that strikes me as odd every time I remember it.
5. The line from Oxford to Bicester Town was more or less the only one on the trip that seemed slow. Speed is always slightly subjective - reasonably smooth rides through not very exciting countryside are likely to seem slower than more bumpy rides through an urban environment
6. There was a guy selling Italian style coffee (what is the generic term anyway?) from a trolley at Bicester Town, I bought a cappuccino. Presumably he will need a new gig when (if) the station is redeveloped with a coffee shop which I believe is called for in the plan, assuming this is still going to happen. It still appears on maps in dotted lines as being going to happen, so maybe, who knows. I set off decisively in the wrong direction, either the directions on the nearby bus stop signs were confusing because of fractal bus-routes, or I had a brain-fart. Either way, I was saved by GPS, 3G and Google Maps.
7. There are signs to Bicester Village (the shopping thingy) in English and Chinese from Bicester Town, and for the shuttle bus to it in English, Arabic and Chinese from Bicester North.
8. Whilst I was on the train to Marylebone it occurred to me that the house I lived in from ages 0 to 4 backed onto the line, this was possibly a bit too late to be able to work out where it was.
9. The signs at Willesden Junction say 'alight here for Harlesden High Street'. In this context, Harlesden High Street is presumably code for 'horrific post-apocalyptic waste-land'.
10. A good name for the Western bit of the Overground would be the Buddleia Lane, lots of Buddleia everywhere.
11. My two planned places for getting out and having a walk were Imperial Wharf (the newish Overground station in Chelsea) and Hoxton. When I got to Imperial Wharf it was drizzling slightly. It is just across the road from where Rebekah Brook's husband's laptop was found in a bin and the building is on an epic rather un-British scale. It was clear that a walk round the area to admire the luxury flats etc. would take time and planning so I got a sandwich from a Tesco Metro and got on the next train.
12. Once across the bridge as a, cough, North Londoner I felt I was in enemy territory. I do not know the rites and customs of South London.
13. The Tramlink platform at Wimbledon is just a normal station platform. The 'trams' seem aggressively cheap in a 'we are trams, not your effete trains' sort of angular way.
14. Some of Tramlink route is very much at the edge of the conurbation (fun fact I read only this evening, Croydon has a higher population than Iceland). Indeed a few of the 'tram stops' border onto a National Trust property, Morden Hall Park.
15. It appears that a number of train stations were demolished to turn them into tram stops.
16. Nevertheless it is a 'real' tramway in that at some points in Croydon the trams genuinely run on roads, which is moderately thrilling, and the tram stop at East Croydon station is outside the train station.
17. It was absolutely bucketing it down when I got to Croydon, though I am not convinced that it would have been improved greatly by it not being. Lots of building work going on there, lots of cranes. A general 'East Berlin' feel to Croydon, I thought. The Croydon Visitors' Centre was not far from the station but it was raining too hard to find out what delights Croydon had in store.
18. The view from Thameslink of London as you go through it is also quite thrilling, Docklands, The City, St. Paul's, random stuff.
19. The Snow Hill tunnel is disappointing, something I had forgotten - the TfL map is rather stretched at that point so it makes the route from Blackfriars to Farringdon look rather longer that it is, in reality the tunnel is quite short, no sooner have you left City Thameslink you end up at Farringdon, with a feeling of relief that you are back in the North again (City Thameslink is, somehow, an outpost of the South - I think the sign at Farringdon saying 'remember to drop your pantograph' (ooh-er missus) is something to do with that).
20. The new St Pancras International Thameslink platforms are a far cry from the old Kings Cross Thameslink platforms. Much more spacious.
21. Having a wander round St Pancras, I have rather warmed to it, I don't know why the difference, possibly just not being going anywhere in particular. It is a rather impressive space, all things considered, though the champagne bar still strikes me as faintly risible ('we have a long thin space, what can we do with it?').
22. The 'South-eastern' platforms for the Javelin trains and the trains themselves are quite impressive, I was reminded of BART when it was relatively shiny and new and space-age, if not more so. There is, however, a faint bathos in the newest, fastest domestic trains having Margate on their direction boards (sorry Margate, sorry Kent).
23. Stratford International, on the other hand, is rather cheap and nasty looking. Obviously at the moment it is rather empty. Will it really be able to cope with the Olympic traffic? I assume they have done the sums. My initial plan was to walk to Stratford station, but I decided to get the shuttle bus. It is not actually clear to me whether one could have walked, as the whole area is essentially a giant building site. I suspect not.
24. The GOBLIN train was rather more pleasant and, indeed, faster than I was expecting. The line is anomalously a diesel one. The route is surprisingly green and leafy.
25. The Overground train at Canonbury was taken out of service because of faulty doors, the only delay or breakdown of the day. Is one in a day impressive or disappointing? Discuss. There was another one right behind.
26. Got off at Hoxton in the hope of spotting the proverbial Hoxton Media Trendies. But the nature of these things is that there is no there there, as was famously said about Oakland, so some minor sightings. More sightings of Vietnamese restaurants (must go back) and gallery openings.
27. By this point I was getting too jaded to consider the loop of the DLR, so the real circumnavigation finished with the Waterloo and City, fittingly as this was the old red-haired step-child of the Underground.
28. Although I considered Mr Vicarage's fine suggestion of the line from Waterloo to Reading, in the end I couldn't face the slow train to Reading, so that will have to be a trip for another day.

Ludicrous generalisations and extrapolations to follow. Also plans for future trips.

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