Sunday, 18 March 2012

Westfield Stratford City

Westfield Stratford City
With all the recent talk of economic problems you might easily have missed the recent opening in Stratford of the UK's Europe's largest urban shopping and leisure centre, municipal and other facilities, covering 1.9 million square feet.
Shopping centre interior
During the 2012 Olympics, Westfield Stratford City will provide the main access to the Olympic Park and large screens will be displayed along the centre's walkways showing the main sporting events.

The large number of retail stores makes Westfield Stratford city a serious alternative to the 1.5  mile long Oxford Street in London's West End. The complex contains many retail outlets including many of the big names such as John Lewis, Waitrose, and Marks and Spencer.  It also has hotels and a leisure complex which includes restaurants, a cinema, and casino.  Nearby will be a new purpose-built community of 5,000 homes, offices, schools, and public spaces making this a major metropolitan centre in East London. The centre is well worth a visit if only for the views it offers of the Olympic Stadium but if at all possible avoid going at the weekend as the shopping concourse can get as busy and hectic as Oxford Street at its worst!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Stratford and the 2012 Olympics

Stratford City development
Not so long ago it was a pretty safe bet that any tourist visiting London had never heard of a place called Stratford. I am of course referring to the Stratford in East London rather than the birthplace of William Shakespeare!  To most Londoners the name used to conjure up visions of depressing concrete towers, industrial wastelands and teenage gangs.  This place was definitely NOT on the tourist trail! 

All that has changed now that Stratford has become the main site for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  The area will be home to the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Park, as well as a huge retail, leisure, and residential development called Stratford City.

In the years since winning the Olympic bid the area has been little more than a large building site, for the most part cordoned off from public view. 
Olympic Stadium from the Greenway
With the 2012 Olympics fast approaching, much of the building work has now been completed. The Stratford City development is now open (more about this in my next post).  The Olympic Park buildings are all nearing completion, with the Olympic Stadium itself now finished.

If you want to see the Olympic Park it's now possible to do so.  For a really close-up view you might be able to join an organised tour of the site itself but places are very limited and demand no doubt very high.  Failing this, perhaps the best way of seeing the park, and in particular the Olympic Stadium, is either from the the viewing platform in the View Tube (a cafe made from shipping containers) or from the adjacent Greenway footpath.
The View Tube

River Lea

To access both the Greenway and View Tube you will need to get the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) from Stratford to Pudding Mill Lane (1 stop).  From here it's just a short walk - simply follow the signs past a security checkpoint (don't worry, they're not going to search you!), eventually reaching the Greenway footpath.  To your right you will see a bright yellow building which is the View Tube.  For additional views of the Olympic Stadium you might want to walk west along the Greenway for a few hundred yards until you reach the bridge over the River Lea.  From here retrace your steps to get back to Pudding Mill Lane DLR station.  The Olympic Stadium can also be seen from the new Westfield Stratford City complex which I'll be talking about in my next post.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Welcome to The London Blog!

Trafalgar Square
The London Blog is about exploring London.  Some of the stuff I'll talk about may already be familiar to you but whether you're a visitor or someone who lives here, I'm hoping you'll discover places you didn't know about before. I've lived in London for over a quarter of a century, yet despite this I'm forever discovering hidden corners I never knew existed!

Strand on the Green

Most people will be familiar with the major attractions (e.g. Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace etc.), so I won't have much to say about these. Instead the blog will be concentrating on the slightly less familiar places - for example, you may well have heard of Greenwich but how many have ever heard of Strand on the Green?  For those who don't have time to venture this far out of the centre, I'll also talk about hidden corners right in the heart of London - every year, millions of visitors pass within a few hundred yards of these places without ever knowing of their existence!  Large cities are never static places, so I'll also be looking at what's new in London. With the 2012 Summer Olympics fast approaching the landscape is changing rapidly so there's going to be lots of new stuff to see.

The aim of this blog is to try to pass on my own personal experience of exploring one of the major cities of the world. As a photographer, I'll be attempting to illustrate this with my own images.

The London Blog is open to comments, so please feel free to correct any inaccuracies or add additional information of your own.