10 February 2017

happiness is riding the 730 to uxbridge

On the Buses

Here's a question for you. When was the last time you took a trip on your local bus service? Yesterday? Last week? Last year? 

Before we go on, I realise that if you're currently having to experience the continued Southern trains debacle in the South of England, then you'll probably using buses on a more regular basis than would like. (For those who don't know, Southern have been making life miserable for commuters by constantly striking!) Back to that question, for most, it's probably not that often. We all have cars right? Well, last week I had to wait in the cold and take a bus and it got my thinking! 

Aren't buses a fabulous transport method? You can sit back, or if sitting over the back wheel, have your knees constantly smacking your chin. Look at the views, although if it's wet or cold, or wet and cold, you can't see anything because the windows have steamed up! Find when you get off that you've been sitting on a piece of old chewing gum. Which you can't get off! Have to endure the hyper loud screams of school kids, if you, unfortunately, catch the bus when its the end of the school day! 


The 730 to Uxbridge 

My bus journey was the fantastically imaginatively named 730! Where do they decide these numbers? Why not a Route 4? Or go the full hog and call it The UX Route or something similar? 

Apparently, there is some logic to numbering, although a quick search as to why just confused me even more! Some have numbers referring to whether it,s a local or longer distant route i.e. 200 for local, 300 for schools etc, others say it refers to a district or that it has historical significance! I admit I got bored after that! If however, you do want to read more, then click here and the blog That Gormandizer Man will reveal all. 

The 730 takes its passengers on a journey through the great and good of the Chiltern Hills and beyond. Starting or finishing in Hemel Hempstead a rather nondescript town (although Boxmoor is beautiful) and maundering its way to Uxbridge, a rather nondescript town (although the canal is pretty), on the edge of London, via a number of towns and villages on route. 

Glamour it ain't! 

It's not the most glamorous of routes, even if it does go through some lovely countryside. It doesn't however, have to go down muddy roads or navigate sheer drops, whilst passing cars on a road that's not big enough for a bus, like in Nepal or up some Alpine pass! The bus route does have a certain charm, and it's very convenient so I shouldn't moan. It also arrived on time which was a blessing. 

As I boarded the bus, rattling and fumbling around for change to pay the driver. 
(It's a right pain having to have or as close to the right change. I always have to buy something to get the right change before catching the bus! Usually, something I don't need!)

Strolling down the aisle I noticed I was probably the youngest person on the bus by about 80 years! I exaggerate of course, but I was certainly the youngest. Everyone (that would be all 5 of them!) gave me a little stare and then continued about their business. The journey was pleasant, if a little uninspiring, but it served its purpose, getting me from A to B safely, so who I am to argue with that.  


Mrs Bonds Dentures! 

I think we should all take buses, to work, for a day trip, for no reason whatsoever. Where else can you hear about the issues facing Britain today? Not on the Tube! A place where everyone is deadly silent, afraid to even speak. 

"Did you hear about Mrs Bond's dentures, Maud?" "No" I reply butting in on Maud's conversation. "Well she lost her dentures down the toilet.""Never!" I say an air of exasperation in my voice. Alright so this isn't actually true, but I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't conversations similar to that on most daily bus routes, and that is why we should use them. It warms the heart that you can have a good natter on a bus, so long may it continue. 

Happiness is riding the 730 to Uxbridge 

We need our buses, need our local bus routes taking us through places we would never dream of going through before. We need our buses to transport us to the heart of our towns and cities or tiny villages. We need our space to chat about things and right the world's wrongs. We need our 730 to Uxbridge and beyond!  

So as long as you able to withstand the start/stopping and the occasional load of screaming school kids, then why not take your local bus. You'll discover and learn far more than you'd ever have realised. Including perhaps why Mrs Bond's dentures were lost! 


27 January 2017

travel trumps guide to chesham

Travel Trumps 

"A new year, new ideas." That's what I said to myself as 2017 got underway. Beyond the Back Garden was launched first, and today we kick start the second. Welcome to our new feature..

Travel Trumps

No its got nothing to do with the new President of the United States of America! It's based (a little) on a popular children's card game called Top Trumps. 

I've had the idea to do some mini guides, but in a different way, for a long time. Not just long written pieces with some pictures, (nothing wrong with them trust me, I'll still be doing them from time to time.) I wanted to feature some lesser known places, add in some fun facts and information, places to go and eat, etc. Little guides that everyone can use, without pages of information. Give a sprinkling of ideas and then allow the reader to explore and self discover. That's where the idea for Travel Trumps came about (see below.) 

First up: Chesham, a small market town in the heart of the Chiltern Hills (which just so happens to be where I'm from!) 

travel guide

I hope you found it to be a interesting and fun feature? Your comments as always would be most appreciated. That way I can develop it and improve for next time. Thanks for your support, happy travels. 

16 January 2017

espresso base

Is this London's Best Cafe?

Walk down any British high street these days and you'll probably be able to count at least 5 or 6 different cafes and coffee shops. Ranging in size and style from the independents to the chain stores. Cafe culture has increased to such a level that in London alone there are....(lots!) It's actually impossible to count as there seems to be a new one open everyday! As an example, the largest of the major chain cafes in the UK; Costa, have over 1500 dotted around the UK! And that's just one chain, not forgetting Starbucks, Cafe Nero and the others I've forgotten.

london cafe
Courtyard of Espresso Base - taken by the author

Our Insatiable Thirst!

With such an insatiable thirst for coffee, hot chocolate and smoothies its no wonder that this industry accounted for £7.9bn in 2015 to the UK economy (source: Daily Telegraph). The trouble is are they any good? We all know what the large cafe providers are like, and what they offer, so many of us play safe and go to them, myself included. However the real treats are really found in unexpected places and are often small independently run establishments. Whilst out on one of my London strolls, I came across Espresso Base. Having tried a coffee or two and met with its owner, I can say that this is a cafe you really need to seek out if you're in London. Is this London's best cafe? Quite possibly. 

Espresso Base 

This is no ordinary cafe, and here's why. 

1) It's an outside cafe. Perfect when to sun shines. 

2) It's next to a splendid church on Bloomsbury Road and has an amazing courtyard (about 5 minutes walk from the British Museum.)

3) The coffee is fantastic and made with love and passion, really. 

4) The owner (Gennaro) wants you to taste the coffee in the right way; without sugar! You have to pay extra to have it. 

It's in the perfect location, set in the churchyard of St George's Church. Large office buildings dwarfing. It's a great way to fill a space, that would otherwise be left to gather rubbish. Lined with wooden chairs and table, the epicentre of the cafe is hidden under the canvas shell at the rear. I hope the pictures of its grounds do it justice? I could have happily sat there for hours looking for all the little nuances, like the chalk board signs and the ornaments that are hidden away, looking to be discovered. 

london cafes


cafes in london

This is a cafe that requires your full attend, from the moment you order your drink to sitting down and enjoying the churchyard. Think about it, how often do we really take notice of the surroundings in a Costa or Cafe Nero? They are so generic and uninspiring. Espresso Base certainly isn't. A word of warning, its not open every day (Fri - Sun), and is closed from around 4pm. Check the twitter link for full details  https://twitter.com/espresso_base

Final Word

Its perhaps best to leave with one of the quotes from the cafes many customers (see below). Couldn't sum it up any better myself. So our call to action is to seek out this gem, give it a try and then decide for yourself, and let us know. I love it, the person on the message board loves it, I'm sure you will love it. Happy coffee drinking.

london cafes

Where's your favourite cafe? Or perhaps you think you have the best coffee in London? Why not drop us a comment and I'll come and test it out. 



© Sketches in Travel. All rights reserved.