We caught the red eye from Dubai, a nicely uneventful flight with BA. Landed at Heathrow at 6.10am, then waited 40 minutes for a parking space for our plane (I am serious). I have booked a car with greentomatocars, and the driver was waiting for us. £50 from airport to Baker Street. The drive took just over an hour. Glad I booked the car, was an easy first step into the city. Because we were late, £10 extra for 'waiting time'. Next time - if I book a car - I will allow more time between landing and meeting the driver. The driver was an Irish chap who had us giggling with his accent and his remarks. He recommended the Tower with the Crown Jewels 'if you like a bit of bling'. He says the queen is 'still quite sprightly', but old Charles is 'a bit of a wet rag'. We drive past a monument with a golden man under a type of canopy. I ask: "what on earth is that?" He says: "oh that's Albert! He died and broke her heart." I remember the story of Victoria and Albert, and DD asks: "Why did he die?" The driver's answer: "I don't know - he just went off and died" In the moment it was really really funny.
The Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes Hotel in Baker Street is a nice place to stay. They had mercy on us, found us a room just after 8am, offered coffee, upgraded us to an executive room. The staff is helpful, friendly, kind, knowledgeable. The beds are comfy, the bath deep and wide, the lift veeeery slow. I am glad we are staying here. Found the hotel through Hotwire, and it is a good stay at an affordable price.
By the time we have booked in, had a shower, had breakfast, sorted out cell phones, and bought travel cards it was almost 12noon. DD and I decided to go off in different directions. I kind of wandered, started to figure out the tube system, ended up on Trafalgar Square.
Had a moment of frission when I saw the South African flag above the trees and fountains of Trafalgar Square. Had Potato and Leek soup in the crypt of St Martin's in the Fields for £3.50. Not great, not bad. Interesting busy place. The afternoon was grey, it rained, I was feeling a bit fragile.
What better to do than to get drunk ... on art. So off I went to the National Galery. OOOOH WHAT A JOY. Van Gogh just blew me away. To stand in front of a Rembrandt. To see the Impressionists. What a wonderful first thing to do in this new city.
Took the bus back to Baker Street through the late afternoon traffic. Found the hotel (!).
DD came in soon after me. She had a great time in Camden Market. She cannot stop talking about all the interesting vintage clothes, retro style, Goths with everything in black, a man in a cape had flirted with her, she had bought 4 T-shirst for £10!
We walk to an Italian restaurant near Baker street. It is Haloween, and the streets are full of pointed hats, witches, children with masks - the restaurant decorated with cut-out pumpkins. We do not do Halloween in South Africa, so all this was new for us. It was now almost 8pm, and I could feel I was crashing after a long day. Asked for our lasagne as take-aways, ate in bed with half a bottle of very nice Californian wine I had picked up near Trafalgar Square, then just keeled over and died to the world!
My favourite places in London
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