diamond geezer

 Monday, November 25, 2013

As the four regular commuters on the cablecar know, no part of London is quite so exciting as the post-industrial Thames riverside. Whether soaring high above in your own exclusive pod, or pottering around the entertainment opportunities at ground level, you'll enjoy a memorable day out on the Dangleway and no mistake. Or so they say. Here are ten exciting things you can do after your trip...

Five exciting attractions at Dangleway North

1) Visit ExCel: This international exhibition and convention centre plays host to many an important event. And if you don't have a ticket for an event, you can always buy a cup of coffee or a baguette or something. I hope that yesterday's post conveyed some of the excitement of visiting ExCel when you don't have a ticket.

2) Visit The Crystal: German engineering company Siemens have built a spiky glass building called The Crystal in the heart of the Royal Docks in the hope of attracting tourists to a free interactive urban sustainability exhibition. At present, alas, visitors are more interested in sitting in the cafe nextdoor, assuming they even get this far. The exhibition is a bit worthy, a bit over-educational, and a bit empty. Nothing much has changed since it opened a year ago either, except there's now a £7.99 guidebook. Closed Mondays. [previous report]

3) Visit Going Underground - Our journey to the future: This temporary exhibition at The Crystal anticipates the future of tube travel in London. It lurks not inside the main building but in a separate shed round the back (accessible via a door that says it's alarmed, but isn't). Cross the pointless zebra crossing and step inside. Various interactive screens around the walls detail how the Underground might change in the future, although on closer inspection a large number of these turn out to be heating units pumping out warm air to keep this prefab warm.

Woo, it's a tube train! Actually it's only a mock-up of a tube train, about one carriage's worth, with a mirrored wall down one end of the interior so it appears longer. This is a Siemens Inspiro metro, which might be what TfL buys next for its deep tube lines or it might not, there being no actual plans at present. The most striking feature is the slanting front, with its big circular window surrounded by a red rim - I'd say rather more phallic than existing stock. And then you can actually step inside. The interior's a bit grey, but with purple poles and plush seating I can't see surviving a month's vomit on the Night Tube. There's also plenty of space, now that rush hour transference requires maximised standing room, plus a wheelchair zone I can imagine tripping over more often than I can imagine seeing someone using it. And oh, blimey, the carriage has electronic adverts. I suppose this had to come, but it's still a bit of a shock to see screens capable of attention-grabbing video instead of cheap strips of cardboard that occasionally fall out. Admittedly these screens don't animate, this being a simulation, but you'll get the idea. The exhibition is part-sponsored by CBS Outdoor UK, who provide all the adverts on the tube, and elsewhere in the exhibition they boast how interactive, smartphone-friendly, "value-added" advertising is on its way. One of the stations on the mock-up tube map has even been called Ad-land (just up the line from Sustainability Park and Cool Corner) because that's what a privately funded transport exhibition gets you. You have until 8th January to visit, although you're not really missing out if you don't.

4) Visit WakeUp Docklands: It's London's first and only "Cable Wake Park and Stand Up Paddleboard venue", a distinction which perhaps doesn't come as too much of a surprise. The facilities aren't especially usable in the winter, so hardcore watersporters hang out at the floating pub at the end of the dock, The Oiler. I would tell you more, except there wasn't anything more to see, and the website seems to be very very down.

5) Visit the shops: The dockside piazza by the cablecar is the ideal location for all your shopping needs. A Tesco Express provides tasty comestibles, and soft drinks, and toilet rolls. There used to be a Londis opposite but competition closed that down, and now the space has been reworked as an espresso bar and deli. There's up and coming for you. Or why not exchange your currency at the new Bureau de Change nextdoor, before returning to Tesco, because that's about it for shops really.

Five exciting attractions at Dangleway South

6) Visit the O2: You might have a ticket for an exciting event here, in which case arriving by cablecar is considerably cheaper than parking in the official car park. If you don't have a ticket then there are lots and lots of restaurants and a cinema - facilities which can't be found anywhere else in the capital. Fill a few minutes between dining by sampling Sky and Nissan's promotional walk-in exhibits. Or splash out £13 to enter the British Music Experience, Britain's only interactive museum of popular music, which is so under-frequented that you can generally guarantee a queue-free visit.

7) Visit Peninsula Square: When the O2 opened in 2007, this curving piazza was described as "the centrepiece of Greenwich Peninsula" and "a leisure destination for Londoners and tourists". Alas Peninsula Square's not lived up to expectations. The splurty fountain attracts the occasional small child, the living wall attracts nobody, while the video screen displays nothing of any genuine interest. Indeed there's bugger all here, not even a sausage stall or coffee cart, presumably all the better to funnel you inside some more expensive dining experience. In 2013 the square's become a bleak plaza to stride through, and an entirely wasted opportunity.

8) Visit The Emirates Aviation Experience: Still ticking over in a small room by the cablecar is this interactive domestic airline exhibit. A £3 ticket gets you some Lego, some screens and not much else, while the more exciting cockpit simulator clocks in at £45 per half-hour session. And it's only here for a period of 10 years, according to the website, so best hurry. [previous report]

9) Visit The InterContinental Hotel: If you ever came here when this was the Millennium Dome, you might have stepped out the back to enjoy Meridian Quarter. This riverside landscape rubbed up against the zero line of longitude, and was planned as a wetland environment that would gradually develop over time. Alas it's been sealed off and left to decay since New Year's Eve 2000, used as storage space for the O2's backroom operations. The meridian line survives for now, still with 14 national poems embedded into the tarmac. But diggers have moved in alongside and are busy ripping up the reedbeds and boardwalks to build a hotel. I reported on the developer's quest for planning permission back in 2010, but only now is the InterContinental starting to rise. All that's present thus far is an expanse of churned earth and several pillars rising irregularly from the ground like a concrete Giant's Causeway. But by 2015 there'll be a 19-storey, 452-room five-star hotel on this site, complete with Sky Bar and Europe's largest pillar-free ballroom. If you're a rich international investor never fear, a 23 storey development offering 100 serviced apartments is due to be built alongside. And if you live locally already, your view of the Dome is about to be tarnished by a run of disruptive towers, as the Vauxhallisation of North Greenwich begins in earnest. [previous report]

10) Visit proper Greenwich: Let's be fair, the prime tourist location hereabouts isn't North Greenwich, it's a mile or two further south. That's Maritime Greenwich with its Old Royal Naval College, plus the National Maritime Museum and Cutty Sark, then Greenwich Park and the world famous Royal Observatory. If you want a proper day out with heritage and stuff that's actually worth seeing, come here. Don't waste your time at a Teflon tent full of restaurants, or poking round a sustainability exhibition near a Tesco Express. Stuff the cablecar, and visit proper Greenwich instead.

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