A hazy autumn sun hits the glazed, red tiles of Lambeth North tube station, as I cross the street and head down Kennington Road, in search for my home for the night. Publove’s The Steam Engine is a stand alone building just a five minute walk from the station, and it’s located the famous stone’s throw from the Thames river – if you’ve got a really strong arm that is.
The Steam Engine is a pub, a craft burger restaurant and an upstairs hostel merged into one crafty concept that covers a traveller’s essential needs – a bed, a burger and a beer.
It’s a place with a welcoming feel and a classy décor of old suitcases, tartan seat covers and black and white photos on the walls. I arrive a bit early for check-in, but the staff kindly let me store my luggage while I head back out to explore the local area, which is dominated by the busy Waterloo train station.
Within a few minutes’ walk I stumble upon a great little travel themed café, where I can get my first cappuccino-boost of the day. A lovely place to get lost in a book for a while, before heading back to check-in at the hostel, where I settle into my dorm room that is adorned by a large blue map on the ceiling.
I don’t need any map for my next expedition though, as I grab my camera and head out for a photo-walk along the Thames, because Westminster Bridge is found just around the corner, and from there the photo-opportunities present themselves on a string along the iconic waterfront, which is officially named The Queen’s Walk.
On this visit Mr Big Ben is hiding behind a winter coat of heavy scaffolding, but the London Eye is spinning happy as ever, letting visitors get a bird’s-eye view of the capital. I did it years ago and it’s definitely worth a go, but be sure to book online to avoid the longest queues.
Many sights around here are completely free to enjoy though, and you will always find plenty of good buskers and street performers along this walk, all eager to please their spontaneous audiences – from hopeful musicians to soap bubble blowing entertainers looking for a smile and a penny.
River cruise boats pass working ships on the river just like tourists pass local business people on this pavement. And the bridges pose for my photos with a backdrop of an ever-changing skyline. I pass the skaters performing their tricks beneath colourful street art, and I see curious people browsing the book stalls of an outdoor market under a bridge.
Despite low temperatures the city is full of life this sunny afternoon, and there is plenty of entertainment to be found for any travel budget. Loaded with new photos I head back to The Steam Engine for a nice burger and a pint, at the pub that seems to serve a good mix of locals and travellers.
And after a good night’s sleep under the big blue map I’m ready to travel on in search for new photo-hunting grounds around the UK. But I’ll most likely follow the tracks back to The Steam Engine in the near future.