Blitz in London

Oct 18th, 2015, 12:54 PM
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Blitz in London

We had decided to go to Monschau, I had a first plan, had selected a hotel, but the weather didn't play along. Decision was taken to go to London. Scratch preparation. We were thursday 10 30 pm.
Hop. Some clicks on, seelction of a seemingly extraordianry hotel thanks to TripAdvisor. 4 30 pm : kids are back from school, car loaded, fully tanked.
First mistake : we didnt" check when the Frenchs were on holiday. These people have qualities but like to clog the roads when we want to use them. So it was total chaos around Lille and we arrived 15 min too late.
Eurotunnel is superbly organized : they scan your registration, then post your name on the scree and tell you 'sorry you are late, you can get on the next one for 19,95 €. Click.

Folkestone. Bloody Brits drive on the wrong side but ok. Pitstop somewhere, second mistake, we follow the signs to London instead of GPS. We'll arrive by the south instead of the east. Long way towards London, and speeding cameras are efficient... Arriving in London - perfect. Aw... friday evening, lots of congestion, roadworks... spending nearly one hour to make the last 10 kms.

Ok. found a parking spot close to the hotel (St Pancras Inn). Hotel ok (far from deserving the rank of 23st but still ok). Great welcome, formalities done. Going to Pancras, finding a very nice restaurant (gilbert something : good but awfully expensive, service very nice). Good night. Excellent breakfast. on the way by down. Only 10 30... going to Camden, stop at a library. I like to read in english, and my daughters start to do the same.

Camden high street is quite fun, lots of funky shops, clothes that nobody can wear unless being bizarre. Lots of Frenchs everywhere - ah yes, they are on holiday... Went along the canal and ended up in Regent's Park. Lunch in Queen Mary inner cicrle. Fish and chips, ordered in French (they really are everywhere), fighting some pigeons who were doing a good job : one attacks my peas, another one my fries (!) and the third one my fish.

From there direction Oxford street for shopping (daughters, remember ?) nice people.
Wandering in SoHo first, quite lovely, then on Oxford - demonstration of pro-Palestinians blocking the way, we avoid carefully.

Beginning to feel tired, forgetting the idea of a show (alas), stopping somewhere to eat icecream (and sitting - it is impossible in London to sit in pubs, they are overcrowded)...Very helpful and smiling people, selling excellent icecream.

Ending in Picadilly circus, getting a taxi, back to hotel. A bath, then selecting (on Tripadvisor) some nice restaurants in a street nearby. First one definitely closed, second one not open, third one half pub half restaurant, so avoiding (child with us). Japanese or Chinese ? We choose . . .wrongly. One of the worst chinese since quite a time. Back to hotel.

Getting early this time... Excellent breakfast. Gone at ... 11 am, hum, revising the plans. Going to Tower of London with the car, finding a parking, casting an eye on tower of London, booking a cruise to Westminster. Disembarking, must go back one hour later.
Visiting Westiminster Abbey, ah, no. Sunday. Lack of planning does this.... Ok, going to whithell, showing 10 Downing street to the children. Visiting the Bqnuet room from the old Whitehall palace - very beautiful. Ceilings painted by Rubens I think.

Going back to the boat... arr, quite late for that, changing our plans. So going to Trafalgar square, buying some tourist stuff. Then Taxi to Tower of London, eating close by (burgers, nice). Then the rush stops. Going back to the car, then home. No more traffic jams, 2 hours less to reach home than on the way in.

A very nice if not totall hectic, chaotic and overcrammed week-end.
For all the things we still wanted to do, it will haver to wait for a next visit.

London is still one of our loveliest cities, a great mix of ancient places and building, history everywhere, punky side and modern buildings. And the same mixity in people - white collars, blue collars, no collars, white, black, Asians, Pakistanis, etc etc. Plus tourists everywhere and nobody seems to be sleeping in this city.

Hoping I enticed some of you to go to this fabulous city.

pariswat is offline  
Oct 18th, 2015, 01:10 PM
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Great little report . . . but whatever possessed you to drive everywhere? Sounds like you had fun anyway!
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Oct 18th, 2015, 01:18 PM
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I enjoyed your report. It seems to convey lack of planning, chaos, and fun.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Oct 18th, 2015, 01:25 PM
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Interesting report, but why on earth did you take the car instead of the train???
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 18th, 2015, 02:44 PM
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Thank you for this report. I know it takes time to compose and post them. I am glad you did it exactly the way you did it, too, and no, I do not want to know any of the above answers. Why be like everybody else?
Dukey1 is offline  
Oct 18th, 2015, 09:57 PM
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Congratulations on driving: just about the first post I've seen here on its painlessness compared to the airport-style horrors of SNCF's ghastly Gare du Nord.

There's no difficulty on a Friday night finding a weekend's parking (for free) near St Pancras: virtually all the streets west of the station and north of Euston Rd are free (and safe and have available spaces) from 1800 on Fri to 0700 on Mon.

It's Soho. SoHo is some obscure village's attempt to copy it, 400 years after Soho's first recorded.

If you live in Paris, faffing about round Lille inevitably adds hours to the journey: not just because of the permanent congestion on the A1, but because it's dozens of miles longer than the A26 or A16. Tolls are higher too.
flanneruk is offline  
Oct 18th, 2015, 11:52 PM
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Lille is Lille, always a mess.
bilboburgler is offline  
Oct 18th, 2015, 11:58 PM
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Why not drive? I drive into central London occasionally at the weekends and have no problem parking around Knightsbridge, Berkeley Square or Fitzovia. It's less expensive than the train for one thing, especially if there are several of you. Lots of people drive to France/mainland Europe from the UK so why shouldn't it work the other way? It doesn't strike me as odd at all & it isn't, it is a fairly commonplace thing to do.
Odin is offline  
Oct 19th, 2015, 12:09 AM
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is not SoHo in Manhattan; New York?
No wonder why you got a bit confused. ;-)
ribeirasacra is offline  
Oct 19th, 2015, 12:14 AM
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Without any planning, the cost of Eurostar is quite huge for a family of 5...

Coming from Waterloo, Belgium, we have basically 2 choices : Lille or Gent. We wanted to avoid Gent on a friday evening but it was not the good choice

And the car gives you a total flexibility, as well as the opportunity to travel with way too many bags.
pariswat is offline  
Oct 19th, 2015, 12:32 AM
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<> Where is the mess, I drive there couple times a year, was last there in August and I didn't notice any mess.
Odin is offline  
Oct 19th, 2015, 01:12 AM
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I wonder who they were copying when they named the NoHo neighborhood. Or TriBeCa? Dumbo?
bvlenci is offline  
Oct 19th, 2015, 01:48 AM
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I too enjoyed your report. It sounds like you had a fun weekend. Lucky you weren't affected by tunnel walkers - it was closed again last night because of them I read.

Coming from Utrecht we usually do battle with Antwerp and Gent. Both places to be avoided on a Friday (or pretty much any) afternoon/evening!

I admit I have never been to London for a weekend. Not even when I lived on the outskirts of the place. Maybe you have inspired me .
hetismij2 is offline  
Oct 19th, 2015, 04:12 AM
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I personally wouldn't choose to drive in and around London, but it's your trip, it didn't appear to stress you, so more power to you. I enjoyed the report a lot btw.
RM67 is online now  
Oct 19th, 2015, 05:37 AM
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One question. What did you do about the congestion charge, or were you outside the zone?

Travelling with five from Belgium the car makes financial sense, especially at such short notice.

My youngest son went to London last year with his partner. He took her to see War Horse, since she is an equine vet, and has wanted to see it for ages. Somehow he managed to find really cheap flights to London City.
I'll have to look into that, it is probably the only way I will visit London.
hetismij2 is offline  
Oct 19th, 2015, 07:40 AM
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too many experiences around the south of Lille, used to travel to Roubaix a lot and my staff from that side of town used to have to start the day earlier that those to the east etc etc.
bilboburgler is offline  
Oct 19th, 2015, 07:40 AM
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'One question. What did you do about the congestion charge, or were you outside the zone?'

Normally I was outside unless I went inadvertently through one... future wil ltell I gues ;-)

'it didn't appear to stress you, so more power to you'

No, that's one thing I learnt with time... when I can do nothing about something, I just follow the flow.
Well, mostly.
pariswat is offline  

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