Escape Rooms, Art Shops and the Elizabeth Line – 10/09/22

Yesterday was Nathan’s birthday so we decided to go for one of those Nice Family Days Out you hear so much about. Nathan was clearly in a celebratory mood, as his neck-to-ankle black suggests. It might be that he was dressing out of respect for the Queen, which would explain wearing all black apart from a pair of corgi socks. Or maybe he’d just had his birthday orchestrated by that Summer character.

Anyway, we were off to an escape room in Aldgate. It seemed like an ideal family bonding experience and the room we chose was for 10+, with medium difficulty. Of course, even medium difficulty would prove difficult without coffee so we stopped at Costa next to Aldgate East on the way. We also passed this very cheerful piano in Devonshire Square:

Bolstered on caffeine and sugar, we were in peak mental condition to firstly find the AIM escape room and then escape from it. I feel like the area around Leman Street has been a bit more developed than it was when I used to walk past there but if you spot these horses, you’re pretty much there.

I won’t be sharing any spoilers but we did the Spy Heroes adventure and…..we failed. Sorry folks, we faffed around too much and accidentally destroyed the world. Mea culpa. The medium difficulty is pretty tricky for two kids and two middle-aged brainfogged people but the Gamesmaster was on the other end of a walkie-talkie and he helped us as much as he could. It helps to keep an open mind about what you think certain household appliances *might* look like. It was fun although stressful at times and requiring skills I’m not great at, like reflexes and visual reasoning. Previous experience in intel will not help but experience in AV and computer gaming definitely will. We were near the end when we ran out of time so we didn’t do badly but neither did we ace it.

Nor did I ace the next stage of the day, which was getting from Aldgate to High Street Kensington. Now I’ve been beating myself up quite a bit about this because my reputation as a tube-maestro is in serious peril. But the Circle Line is confusing now it’s no longer even pretending to be a circle and Aldgate tube is confusing. I’ve just found this blog post, which agrees on how confusing it is, and illuminates why and where I went wrong.

When we went into the station, the sign to the left said “High Street Kensington” on it so naturally, we went that way. But when we got to the platform, which was shared by Circle Line and Met Line, there were only Met Line trains departing and the wait for those was either 1 minute or 15 minutes. So we jumped on the one that was waiting and I rapidly calculated what to do next. Nathan suggested that we go in the opposite direction around the Circle but I swear the sign for that direction did not list High Street Ken. And thanks to a picture on the aforementioned blog post, I’ve managed to discern that there is nothing listed past Gloucester Road….just an ambiguous arrow:

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Bless you, Ian Jones!

Anyway, we probably should have taken our chances on the ambiguous arrow because even Gloucester Road is a heck of a lot closer to High St Ken than anywhere on the Met Line is. But my brain was very tired after cracking all those spy puzzles so we ended up sitting on the Met Line for a while, jumping off at Kings Cross so that we would have “options”, waiting 5 minutes for very crowded Hammersmith & City Line train and then changing again at Edgware Road to finally pick up the Circle Line.

But we got there. And our reward was a Five Guys burger:

The reason we’d come to Kensington was to meet our friend Chusty – she of the pink hair on the left. She was coming from South West London so it seemed somewhat of a mind point. Plus, she wanted to go to Cass Arts which was exciting for all the artists of the family.

As Eva excitedly told Bunny today, there were pencils of EVERY COLOUR there. She restrained herself to buying just two in the end – a gold one and a violet one – but she also found a hairband craft kit in the kids’ section downstairs.

There was also a massive drawing table downstairs, which kept them all occupied for a bit. We were lucky to emerge with only Eva’s things and a sketchbook for Roo – I’m sure they could have happily bought most of the shop.

After that, we went to sit on a bench in Holland Park, which is literally next door to the shop. We didn’t feel like walking far, so set up camp just next to the main path and let the kids run off and find stuff to do. Holland Park is amusingly quirky but we have explored it before and we had lots of catching up to do with Chusty. Plus, we were in prime position for drive-by dog pettings as there was a constant canine parade. We disappointed a labrador who was sniffing around for food and complimented a spaniel on the ball she’d brought over to show us. So many good boys and girls!

When we went to leave, creatures of another kind were gathering. I blame Hitchcock but flocks of birds creep me out slightly. What are they planning? And do they mean us harm?

By this time, it was 5PM and Nathan had to be getting home for his birthday curry. We said goodbye to Chusty and headed back north on the Circle Line to Paddington. It may not seem the most logical direction for us to be going but we had an opportunity to finally try out the Elizabeth Line and it seemed like an appropriate week to do that.

It did not disappoint! From the vertigo-inducing escalators to the Art Deco-style lighting, it was magnificient:

Surprisingly Eva, who largely dislikes the tube, was the most excited about all this. I think it’s just the novelty of it:

But once aboard she waxed lyrical about the purple seats and the movable armrests and all manner of excitement. She’s not wrong.

It’s very swift to get from Paddington to Liverpool Street – around 12 minutes I reckon. But I would say that there’s a fair trek through Liverpool Street once you get there. I think it was around 8 minutes from Elizabeth Line to London Overground Platform 6, which doesn’t sound long but can easily result in a missed train if you miscalculate. At this point I could mutter something about Leon at Liverpool Street for a few days ago but I’m trying to move on from that.

It is lovely though and we were all wowed by the lift which goes up alongside the escalator. That’s futuristicky right there.

And like every tube line, the walls were adorned with portraits of the line’s namesake. I most admit I found these disconcerting when I first saw them on Friday night, especially as one kept glitching, but you kinda get used to them.

So happy birthday Nathan, hello to the Elizabeth Line and farewell to Her Majesty. Big week!

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