I wonder if the tourist industry has cottoned on a new and growing segment of the market: the Internet Meet-up? People, who seemingly have little in common with each other, who live in different parts of the world and who don’t even know each other’s first names let alone ever actually seeing each other, are travelling long distances to get together and have a few drinks. The funny thing about all this is that sometimes these “strangers” know far more about each other than most of their friends, so a memorable experience is almost always guaranteed.

This weekend, I travelled to London to meet a number of friends and acquaintances from a website I’ve been part of for years. We met each other in the London Wetlands Centre where one of the group gave us a guided tour of the site. The centre was formerly a disused reservoir but now it’s an extremely well equipped birdwatching site, complete with hides, information displays, a cafe and an education centre. Apart from the planes flying overhead on the Heathrow flight path, you would be hard-pressed to believe you were in the centre of a large metropolis.

The Wetlands Centre Dragonfly

From there we journeyed across town to Holborn, where I met up with a large number of people from the website. It was one of those nights. I vaguely remember talking about “Wanderly Wagon” at one stage. Apparently, it’s quite well known to legions of Dr. Who fans (well, when I say “legions” I mean at least the 3 Dr. Who fans I met in the pub), who figure that Fortycoats was the Irish version of Dr. Who. It’s conversations like this that made the trip worthwhile.

The following day I took the train to Greenwich to see the observatory. It’s wonderful there. The site is undergoing refurbishment at the moment, but nevertheless the visit is a very rewarding one. Fans of Dava Sobel’s book “Longitude” would just love it. I still got a bit of a surprise when I saw the H4 Chronometer sitting beside its more ungainly companions – almost as dissimilar as a MP3 player would be to a valve radio.

The Greenwich Observatory

After getting a good soaking on my way back (the weather over the weekend was bad even by Irish standards and did I come prepared? No…) I settled into a tasty pizza and salad in the centre of Greenwich. I completed reading “The Wisdom of Crowds” there. An interesting book: I may return to this subject in the near future.

The Great Court in the British Museum

My final trip was to the British Museum. Wow! Talk about taking your breath away! The Great Court, with its domed roof, was hugely impressive. I felt like such an ignoramus! Can you believe it: I accidentally happened upon the Rosetta Stone. I wasn’t looking for it, I had even forgot it was in the museum in the first place and suddenly there it was: probably the most important ancient artefact ever found. In the same room were huge statues from ancient Egypt as well as intricately decorated sarcophagi. It was just amazing – what particularly intrigued me was the variety of stones used for the statues. Egypt must be an interesting place geologically as well as every other way

There’s a room upstairs that gives you a feel for everyday life in Roman times. What particularly impressed me were the toys used by Roman children: tiny camels and dolls, babies’ rattles and pull-along horses. Apart from Roboraptor and Playstation 3, are kids much different nowadays? (Don’t answer that).

The Rosetta Stone

The worst thing about a weekend in London is that the time goes by far too quickly. You would need at least a month to really get a flavour of the place. I’ve been there many times and I’ll be back there again, any chance I get.