Make sure you read Part 1 first!
We crossed Oxford Street at a crossing with brand new countdown timers, which although seems helpful are in fact very annoying due to the fact that there are about 5 seconds following the counter reaching zero before the traffic is signalled to pass, and headed a few metres down Regent Street. From there, we planned to catch the number 6 bus towards Covent Garden, because that is the route Citymapper suggested. However, although Citymapper is probably the best public transport navigation tool around, it has one major flaw: it only lists one route even if several would take you the same way. Luckily, I checked the map on the bus stop which showed that both routes headed in the same direction, so after a quick tap on the door and we managed to board that bus.
We headed down Regent’s Street, moving incredibly slowly and watching the hordes of people go by. We were joined by a family who seemed to also be heading to Covent Garden, although decided to head up to the top deck. Next we passed by Trafalgar Square, noting the current adornment of the forth plinth, a giant blue cockerel, and Piccadilly Circus with masses of tourists and building works surrounding the giant LED signs. Later on, we turned off onto Southampton Street while iBus informs us that the stop is ‘for Covent Garden,’ where most of the bus alights.
Approaching from the south side, we avoided the masses of confused tourists emerging out of London’s no-go tube station: Covent Garden and the multitude of street performers who seem to stretch out their act for ever. We look for somewhere to grab a light lunch, choosing ‘Shake Shack’ in the centre which served mainly burgers and hot dogs.
Heading out of the East side of Covent Garden, we head down the quieter back streets to hop on to the RV1 bus, which unfortunately was not a rather more interesting hydrogen variant as many are. Luckily, I have already taken a ride on the hydrogen version, at the other end of the route.
Within a few minutes of setting off, we crossed the river using Waterloo Bridge, getting a great view of the river and immediately go around a massive loop to access Waterloo and the London Eye. At the London Eye the bus fills with tourists, who honestly, ‘didn’t have a clue,’ first rushing on without showing their travelcard to the driver, prompting me to tell a man far too busy talking to his girlfriend that he needs a ticket, and then the rest swarm on after and decide to position themselves blocking up the bus, despite the available space at the back.
We continued along at a reasonable pace, leaving at the stop for the Hop Exchange. From there, we headed walked through Borough Market, somewhere I have repeatedly forgot about when in the area, and after a quick glance at The Golden Hinde, we went into Southwark Cathedral, another place I have repeatedly walked past unaware. I was mostly interested by the impressive organ, the links that the cathedral has with community projects in Zimbabwe and the fact that John Harvard was born and baptised in the parish.
We next headed along the less popular Tooley Street, passing under London Bridge where tourists wait to go in to, ’The London Bridge Experience.’ I then attempt to take us to look at the Shard, although the £30 ticket meant that I would not even consider going up to the top.
The alternative tour involved heading to London Bridge station, through the viaduct providing access to the tube and the through lines to Charing Cross, Cannon Street, and Blackfriars for the Thameslink route, which is no where near big enough and is a nightmare to change using. Next, we headed through towards St. Thomas Street, where along route it is very hard to miss the massive posters telling us how the station will improve… in 2018. Until then, users are going to have to put up with masses of diversions, including non-stopping more trains and diverting them ’round the houses’ through Elephant & Castle and South London. Next we passed the unattractively placed entrance for the View from the Shard. If you have enough money to burn you can always chose the £100 ‘walk up and go ticket,’ otherwise you’ll have to pay £25-30 and wait for a slot.
Next we headed up some new escalators to the new outdoor concourse linking to the bus station, and Southern railway’s terminating services. Off to the side are the entrance to various restaurants and the Shangri-La Hotel located part way up, while within the station are a Cafe Nero and M&S Simply Food, both technically inside the Shard itself. We then headed down another set of escalators back into the viaduct to head towards More London.
Stay tuned for Part 3 including the South of the Thames and the journey home.