I spent four days there last week and enjoyed it. Herewith words and pictures.
I stayed at the London Bridge Hotel, a perfectly decent place just at the south end of that bridge. Since my visit last May, they’ve upgraded the WiFi and made it free; good on ’em; plus the breakfast is excellent.
The City · Mornings, I walked northward across the river and considered The City, which is the part of the city at the north end of the bridge. It’s under construction.
Well, for the moment anyhow. Times are troubled, obviously; the newspaper headlines scream crisis and panic every morning and afternoon. I spent time talking to finance people, Sun customers, worried people but not the names you’re seeing in those panicky headlines.
London is about money and it’s been about money for a long time; three and a half centuries if Sam Pepys is any guide.
Still, I like the City for its raw energy, its remarkably sharp-dressed women, its compactness, and the unselfconscious higgledy-piggle.
FOWA · That’d be, in full, Future of Web Apps London 2008, something over a thousand Webfolk gathered in a thing called “ExCel”, a charmless conference center that’s near, well, nothing, and has the atmosphere of a second-rate venue in a random US suburb. Well, it’s big I guess, if that’s good. Did I mention it was remote? Depending on traffic, you can get to some parts of France quicker than to some parts of London.
We weren’t alone there. Across the hall was the Fruits and Vegetables association, but that and the other features of the location were mostly obscured behind a solid phalanx of beaming young faces—mostly female—whose crimson shirts proclaimed “I love my church”. They smiled at everyone, including the fruit-and-vegetable people and web geeks.
Here are a couple of people I photographed at the event. Todd Fast was there to talk about Zembly, a new Sun thingie that is general-purpose under the covers but currently positioned as a social-network (i.e. Facebook) app builder. Facebook is dead to me personally, but a ton of developers want to build apps for it, and I have to say the Zembly buzz around that was very positive.
This is Paul Downey (AKA @psd), who does the coolio Web Architecture, um, pictures. I’d like to call them “mandalas” except for they’re neither round nor spiritual, but I would anyhow. This picture came out sort of grainy and satanic-looking; I have another in which Paul’s just this bloke with a smile, but grainy and satanic is way more fun.
Travel Advice · Specifically:
Don’t attend any events at ExCel unless you have to.
If you do, don’t stay at the Ramada Docklands, which is a long walk from the venue, where the thunderous air conditioning doesn’t switch off, and where Internet costs £15/night and varies between slow and stopped.
If you are stuck out in the ExCel neighborhood, my condolences, but do go grab dinner at the “Fox@Connaught”, a pleasantly quiet and uncrowded roadhouse by the hotels with decent food and beer.
If you’re traveling from the Distant East back to Heathrow, take the Docklands railway to the Jubilee Line to the Piccadilly line and just stay with it all the way to the end. Unless it’s rush hour you’ll get a seat most of the way, and in terms of convenience and speed this matches or maybe beats both a cab and the extra transfer over to the fast train from Paddington.
Oh, and by the way, Heathrow’s new Terminal Five, if you’re proceeding straight through it without trying to transfer, sucks somewhat less than the rest of the airport, but that’s not saying much.