Feeling right at home

Britain was wonderful – as I knew it would be. My little UK Tour went extremely well and I had the best of times. Weather was as fine as can be hoped for (the storms hit the country only after I had left), people were lovely, rock was awesome.

I’ll post about the rock part of my Tour later, I’ll do the travel photo post first.

Iconic London

Iconic London

I love being a tourist in a place where I feel like I fit in. I blend in the crowds (well, I think I do, anyway) and I can fluently speak the language and make myself understood without any problems. For a woman traveling alone that does make a difference. I am not that adventurous as such, so the fact that I can read the road signs and so on, it has a relaxing effect on me. I can concentrate on enjoying myself and soaking in the experiences and not on constantly solving problems like “where the heck am I?”…

Delightful art in V&A

Delightful art in V&A

Besides, on both my visits to the UK, I’ve just felt right at home. I have to admit to being a bit of a wannabe-Brit. In comparison to my week in Crete, my week in the UK felt more like I was staying in my home away from home, where as in Crete I was an outside observer. It’s all in my head, I’m sure, but that’s the way I feel. I especially feel comfortable in London and Cardiff. I could easily see myself moving to Cardiff, for example. As an added bonus both cities do have enough tourists milling around that a person with a DSLR camera isn’t a totally strange sight and people tend to ignore the cameras. Which is great!

Moon was being a perfect model - too bad I only have a 17-70mm lens...

Moon was being a perfect model – too bad I only have a 17-70mm lens…

Anyway. Photographically speaking my week was a 1700+ frame trip. No need for extra memory card capacity, the 64G monster card was more than adequate. Perhaps not surprisingly, out of those 1700+ shots about 600 were from the 40 minute gig of my friends’ band, The Magnificent, in Nottingham… But more about that later.

Sunset over Thames isn't the most original of subjects but one that I simply had to shoot. I was a tourist, after all.

Sunset over Thames isn’t the most original of subjects but one that I simply had to shoot. I was a tourist, after all.

My stay in London consisted mostly of walking around. Walking, walking, walking. I sure am glad I bought proper, sturdy walking shoes before I left – my feet would’ve been two bloody stumps by the end of my travels if I hadn’t. As it was, I was just really, really achy every evening, after walking anywhere from 10 to 15 km a day. Which is quite a bit, considering the fact that at home I mostly sit by the computer… A few visits to the gym don’t exactly prepare you for marathon walking, hahah.

Everyone should also have a shot of a Hyde Park swan in their collection.

Everyone should also have a shot of a Hyde Park swan in their collection.

Who says it always rains in Britain? It was a lovely day for a photo walk on this Thursday.

Who says it always rains in Britain? It was a lovely day for a photo walk on this Thursday.

Cloud gazing in Hyde Park

Cloud gazing in Hyde Park

On this visit I saw my first London park, for example. I had never been to one. This time around I walked through Hyde Park with two photographer friends of mine, who were kind enough to come and pick me up from my Paddington hotel and walk me around. For hours. We were joined by more friends on the way and we walked some more. Someone who’s more familiar with the distances in London can estimate our “mileage”, if I tell you we started out from Norfolk Square, Paddington, walked through Hyde Park, then to Buckingham Palace, then through Whitehall / Horse Guards, had lunch at Trafalgar Square, then walked on to the Embankment, over to South Bank, over the wobbly bridge towards St Paul’s – and by that time my feet were killing me after a solid six hours of walking so our entourage ended up sitting down in a pub somewhere in the vicinity of the Bank. Phew. After that we sat there, enjoying drinks and food and jolly banter for hours.

Needless to say I took the Tube back to my hotel that night…

What I saw of the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Heard a bit more.

What I saw of the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Heard a bit more.

But as a result of hours of walking around the city, I did get some nice shots. A lot of mediocre and a fair share of crappy ones, too, but enough of good ones to keep me happy. And wanting more. There’s no way I’m waiting another six years to return to London!

South Bank skaters' corner. Skaters were having a break.

South Bank skaters’ corner. Skaters were having a break.

London in a soap bubble

London in a soap bubble

Nottingham was a new acquaintance to me and as such an interesting place to visit. The tenth anniversary Firefest was naturally the only reason I ventured out to the hoods of a certain Mr Hood, but I had time to do a bit of sightseeing after a Friday of AOR awesomeness. Compared to London and to Cardiff Nottingham seemed a bit bleak, the layers of its industrial past clearly visible. The castle was lovely, although a lot younger than I was expecting (that teaches me to travel without reading up on the places I’m about to visit…) and, well, there were nice coffee shops around the center of town. That’s about what I had time for. Perhaps I’ll get a better look next year, if I decide to travel there again, for the last Firefest ever. Who knows.

Nottingham showed me the really English side of England.

Nottingham showed me the really English side of England.

And finally, Cardiff. The ever so lovely Cardiff. I don’t know what it is about the city, but I just love it there. Perhaps it’s the sea, perhaps it’s the reasonable size of the place, perhaps it’s the wonderfully friendly Welsh people – but this is by far my fave town in the UK. This time around (just like 6 years ago), it was also my Top1 Shopping City in the UK – I never even made it inside a shop in London! But managed to fit in a bit of shopping in Cardiff. Trusty old Queen Street.

Moody Cardiff

Moody Cardiff

Queen Street for shopping, Bay area for Dr Who & Torchwood fan moments plus excellent food, Cardiff Globe for some stellar Finnish prog rock… And the BEST ever little hotel on Newport Road for the finishing touch of a perfect little Welsh vacation. I don’t think I have enough superlatives for my visit. I couldn’t have given myself a better birthday present than this little detour. (My actual birthday was mostly spent by sitting on a bus from Cardiff to London, on a Tube to Heathrow, on Heathrow waiting for my flight and then on the Finnair flight to Helsinki…)

Cardiff Bay and a fannish moment! Ianto shouldn't have died!

Cardiff Bay and a fannish moment! Ianto shouldn’t have died!

This is one of the most photogenic buildings I know. Millennium Center in Cardiff Bay. Love it!

This is one of the most photogenic buildings I know. Millennium Center in Cardiff Bay. Love it!

So there. I’m in love with the UK, Wales especially, and since there are so many places and sights I haven’t yet visited there, I need to go back soon. Scotland, Ireland, Lake District, a national park or two in Wales… Must keep saving up money. Travel fever is a mean thing, it really doesn’t heal by traveling. It really doesn’t.

Going home at 18.05

Going home at 18.05

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3 Responses to Feeling right at home

  1. Bijit Dutta says:

    great, commendable……….

  2. abbey7224 says:

    Never get tired of pics of Big Ben!

    • Johanna Ahonen says:

      It is a grand sight, isn’t it? 🙂 I love how it’s so iconic and a tourist cliche, but still so lovely.

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