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London:buses, sticky toffee, hotel, restaurants etc

London:buses, sticky toffee, hotel, restaurants etc

Feb 22nd, 2002, 10:45 AM
  #1  
elaine
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London:buses, sticky toffee, hotel, restaurants etc

United Airlines B777 plane. Outgoing I sat on the aisle seat of a middle row and it was the most uncomfortable airplane seat I've ever had. No leg room of course, but something about the pitch of the seats made it impossible for me to find a comfortable position. The side rows with only two seats together appeared to have more leg room and the seats reclined differently; I confirmed this myself as I had one of those aisle seats on the return flight and it was much more comfortable.

Arrived Heathrow on a Sunday morning and took the tube Piccadilly line to the Knightsbridge stop. From that stop the Claverley Hotel on Beaufort Gardens is about a 10-minute walk. There is a closer station exit next to Harrods, which cuts the walking time to the Claverley in half, but it is only open seemingly when Harrods itself is open. The tube ride from Heathrow was about 30-35 minutes and the train was not at all crowded. When I left London it was a weekday afternoon and I didn't want to deal then either with more crowded trains or with the stairs in the tube, so I took a taxi to Paddington Station (about 6 pounds) and then the Heathrow Express train, 15 minutes to Heathrow, for 12 pounds. No stairs at all, but some very long corridors in Paddington and especially at Heathrow. Grab a luggage cart when you see one.

Beaufort Gardens is a pretty, quiet street of white row houses and a few small hotels. The one next door to the Claverley is the Knightbridge Hotel and it was undergoing a complete renovation and is currently closed. I'm going to keep my on it for the future. The Claverley is currently offering discounted rates, which were quoted to me originally on londontown.com. The discount is either due to an overall drop in tourism or because of the construction next door, I don't know which. The construction caused no disturbance to me at night or even early in the a.m.

I haven't made up my mind about the Claverley, I don't have a strong opinion either way. The décor looks like your grandmother's or great aunt's house might look if she is British and hasn't redecorated since 1957. It gives a cozy appearance, lived-in and worn in spots, but very clean.
The staff are young and eager, if a bit unpolished. Whenever I asked a tourist-type question they happily looked up the answer in a guidebook, even when the question was about the hotel's own neighborhood. I stayed in room #16, a very small single with en suite bathroom, for 85#, discounted from the usual 120 #. They also offer, for less money, singles with private but not attached bathrooms. My room had no view nor drawer space, but plenty of hanging space in a wardrobe. Bathroom pretty good, plenty of hot water, built-in hairdryer, towels thin but serviceable. The front desk closes down at midnight--there is a door lock with a code if you come in late. One big bonus is the included breakfast: eggs cooked to order with bacon or sausage and toast, or, waffles, plus a buffet of pastries, juices cereals, yogurt, and fruit. Vile coffee, good tea.
cont'd
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 10:47 AM
  #2  
elaine
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My dinners :
Mirabelle, 56 Curzon St, phone 207 499 7071. Lived up to its reputation for cutting-edge French-ish food. A pretty basement area, with a glamorous feeling. With one glass of wine, 46 #, service included.
Rules, 35 Maiden Lane. Very near Covent Garden and many West End theatres. A bit of "ye olde England" but food surprisingly very good, much better than I'd expected. Plenty of tourists (and others) but not a tourist trap. Service well-meaning but not seamless. Given that most people dining there starting at 5:30 or 6pm are going to the theatre, the food was a bit slow in coming and I wasn't the only one who thought so. By 7:15 several people around me were anxious to get their desserts and their bills. I had steak and kidney pudding, and finally a sticky toffee pudding. Memorable! Who has a recipe for sticky toffee pudding they will share with me? For the uninitiated, it is a steamed pudding (the consistency perhaps of an underdone cake or brownie) with the flavor
(Not the texture, just the flavor) of pecan pie-- sweet, brown sugary, etc. Yum!
The Ivy: loved it! Everyone's favorite London restaurant is now mine as well. Very pretty room and crowd, professional and friendly service, excellent food.

On my last day I wanted to avoid having dinner on the plane so I had a large lunch at one of the Ricoh outposts, this one on Brampton Road across from Harrods. As usual, reliable if unexceptional food. Afternoon tea available as well if you want a casual one.
Speaking of afternoon tea, I took Ben Hanes's advice and had mine at the Charring cross Thistle Hotel. Their Terrace Lounge is comfortable and bright from its large windows. Tea here is not the ceremonial formal experience you will have at the Worchester or the Ritz, but on the other hand you don't have to change clothes if you've been out doing some hard sightseeing. For 13.75# plus service they offer a complete tea of good sandwiches, outstanding scones, and pastries. A la Carte sandwiches and snacks are also available.

 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 10:49 AM
  #3  
elaine
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above should have been "Richoux"

Sightseeing:
Spencer House, St James Place, nears the Green Park tube stop and the Ritz Hotel.
Ancestral London home of the Spankers, Princess Diana's family, though the family hasn't lived in this house since 1926. They had to rent it out as offices to raise money, and now it is run by a trust. Seeing this house was one of the best things I did on this trip. The house was magnificently restored in the late 1980s and I can best describe it as a miniature palace: rich furnishings, mirrors, gilded or silk-covered walls, etc. Open Sundays only and closed entirely in January and August. Admission with a tour guide only, tours last about 80 minutes. Go early in the day (it opens about 10:30) because as the Sunday goes on you'll likely have to sign up and then wait for a tour.

Victoria and Albert Museum
As many of you know, an overwhelming and wonderful place. Almost everyone can find some collection of interest: textiles, shoes, silver, paintings, etc. I chose to go through the newly organized British Galleries, a survey of important developments in British arts and crafts from 1500-1900. I saw everything from Henry Visio's gorgeous writing box to a poster for Coleman's mustard.
There is some hands-on study aids if you like, video monitors, even drawing areas for children. All museum galleries should be this informative, this sumptuous, and this user-friendly. The V & A also have an outstanding gift shop everything from note cards and paper napkins to high-priced reproductions.

On this trip I also visited the British Library, and the Royal Academy which featured an exhibition on seminal art works created in Paris between 1900-1960. I also went to the National Gallery
On a Wednesday night when it stays open until 9pm and it was the one night I didn't go to the theatre. The NG wasn't crowded at all at night, and I was able to linger in front of the Leonard's and the Monist in peace.
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 10:50 AM
  #4  
elaine
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above should have been "Richoux"

Sightseeing:
Spencer House, St James Place, nears the Green Park tube stop and the Ritz Hotel.
Ancestral London home of the Spankers, Princess Diana's family, though the family hasn't lived in this house since 1926. They had to rent it out as offices to raise money, and now it is run by a trust. Seeing this house was one of the best things I did on this trip. The house was magnificently restored in the late 1980s and I can best describe it as a miniature palace: rich furnishings, mirrors, gilded or silk-covered walls, etc. Open Sundays only and closed entirely in January and August. Admission with a tour guide only, tours last about 80 minutes. Go early in the day (it opens about 10:30) because as the Sunday goes on you'll likely have to sign up and then wait for a tour.

Victoria and Albert Museum
As many of you know, an overwhelming and wonderful place. Almost everyone can find some collection of interest: textiles, shoes, silver, paintings, etc. I chose to go through the newly organized British Galleries, a survey of important developments in British arts and crafts from 1500-1900. I saw everything from Henry Visio's gorgeous writing box to a poster for Coleman's mustard.
There is some hands-on study aids if you like, video monitors, even drawing areas for children. All museum galleries should be this informative, this sumptuous, and this user-friendly. The V & A also have an outstanding gift shop everything from note cards and paper napkins to high-priced reproductions.

On this trip I also visited the British Library, and the Royal Academy which featured an exhibition on seminal art works created in Paris between 1900-1960. I also went to the National Gallery
On a Wednesday night when it stays open until 9pm and it was the one night I didn't go to the theatre. The NG wasn't crowded at all at night, and I was able to linger in front of the Leonardos and the Monets in peace.
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 10:53 AM
  #5  
elaine
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I went by tube and Silverlink train to Hackney to see Sutton House. SH was built in 1535 by one of Henry VIII's courtiers and is one the most complete Tudor house left in London. It doesn't have much in the way of furniture, but the building itself is interesting enough for an hour's visit, and it didn't take very long to get there, despite its location outside of "theme park" London. I can't recommend it as a must-see on a first or even second London trip, but as an off-the-beaten-track venue for someone interested in the Tudor era, it was worth the visit. To get there, take the tube (Victoria line) to Islington & Highbury, and then change to the Silverlink train (some signs still call it the North London line but it is NOT the same as the "Northern" tube line). Take the Silverlink 3 stops to Hackney Central. From the station, cross the street to the Marks and Spencer side, and then head round the corner to Mare Street where you will see and HSBC bank. Cross the street to the bank, and walk behind the bank where you will be in a church courtyard with plantings. Keep walking straight through the yard for about 5-7 minutes (there are some signs for Sutton House) and when you can't walk any further, turn right. Sutton House will be in front of you.

I was disappointed with the London Theatre Museum in Covent Garden. Given the riches of London's theatre history, this museum has very little to offer imo. But I give a strong thumbs-up for the Imperial War Museum. Great for all ages. Tanks and weapons on display, but also very informative presentations on the two world wars and later conflicts. The "Trench Experience" and the "Blitz Experience" are walk-through audio-visual displays just scary enough to keep kids interested, and not too corny for grown ups. A little too scary perhaps for very young tots as the lights go out at some points and the ambient noises get a bit loud.

I also spent an afternoon in the City looking at some of Christopher Wren's churches, and I highly recommend both the free information on this that you can get from the tourist office facing St Paul's Cathedral, as well as the book London: The City Churches by Pevener and Bradley.

Re buses: I'm not over my phobia yet but I'm on the road to recovery. I took buses twice, both times the #11 as Woes Fowler recommended. I had bought a one-day travel pass that day which is good on both buses and on the tube. It was also good on the Silverlink north London aboveground railway, which I'll come back to in a minute. Other days when I didn't take buses I bought a carnet of 10 tube tickets; these can not be used on buses. Some day I'd live to have one of you London bus experts show me how to read the details on the bus maps. These free maps
(one for Central London, others for more specific areas) are available at tube stations, including the one at Heathrow which has the largest selection. Frankly as a first-time bus user I didn't find the maps to be all that helpful and I suspect I would have been more adventurous if someone one had explained the nuances of the bus maps to me.


I also saw three plays. Bought my tickets via Ticketmaster, which allowed me to view seating charts before I made the commitments.

I was only in London for 4 1/2 days, and there were so many things I wanted to do but didn't have time for. Why does every one of my trips, of any duration, always end with the thought "If only I had one more day…"?
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 11:01 AM
  #6  
elaine
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sorry for the typos, I typed this in Word and spell check isn't as good as even my jet-lagged brain would have been
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 11:02 AM
  #7  
Sigmund
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The Spankers? Very interesting.

A fine report, enlivened by that little slip.
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 11:03 AM
  #8  
Gregory
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Hi

Thanks for that wonderfully detailed trip report Elaine.




 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 11:19 AM
  #9  
elaine
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hmmm
it's spellcheck that made that Freudian slip and I didn't bother checking spellcheck--just what I get for being lazy
Should be "Spencers" of course but draws more attention this way I guess
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 11:22 AM
  #10  
bobbie
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Welcome back, Elaine! Glad you had fun and I envy your long weekend away from the city, We ate at Rules, kind of like going back in time, I didn't have it but their yorkshire pudding looked scrumptous. We also ate at Mirabelle and although the food was VERY good, I found the staff to be a bit "uppity". How was the theatre, I forgot what you were planning on seeing....It's hard to be back, isn't it? Bet you're already planning the next trip.
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 11:42 AM
  #11  
elaine
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Hi and thanks bobbie
I saw three plays:
"Private Lives" with Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan, one of the best theatrical experiences of my life, and I'm able to go to the theatre a lot.
Also, Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson in "Lady Windemere's Fan."
I saw it Tues, it opened last night and I'd love to hear what the reviews are. I was disappointed, it seemed to move along at a snail's pace with no snap and crackle that it should have.
Whenever Vanessa was on stage things improved considerably, but she can't carry the whole thing by herself.
And I saw the long-running "Art." I had seen it in New York and thought it was only so-so but I had a free night and
I like the current London star (Nigel Havers) very much so I though I'd give it another chance. Very glad I did.
Much much better than the big-name New York cast I had seen, which didn't bring the play to life the way this British cast did.
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 11:57 AM
  #12  
Patrick
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Thanks for the nice report, Elaine. I have posted a sticky toffee pudding recipe under your other heading asking for it.
I have seen Lady Windemere's Fan twice, but not with such a stellar casting. Like you, I have always found it slow and dull, unlike most Wilde, Shaw, and similar witty period shows. Was hoping this production would be much more exciting.
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 12:27 PM
  #13  
Lori
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Good posting, Elaine! We're taking our umpteen trip to London in April and have tickets for Lady Windermere's Fan .. I was hoping it would be good, now I'm worried. We saw The Importance of Being Earnest last year when there and it was delightful. Oh Well .. it's a night out and I'm not at work
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 12:35 PM
  #14  
Elaine
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Very nice trip report. It made me want to go back to the V&A. I assumed that "the Spankers" was some sort of British tabloid in-joke!

Julie
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 12:55 PM
  #15  
c
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elaine! Great report! My first bus trip was on the #11 in London also! changed my life
I envy you getting to see Alan Rickman and Lindsey Duncan in anything-two of my favorites! Wish they would come to NY because I doubt I will be getting to London in time to see them still in it!
Richoux is where we like to go the morning we get in, it is early, we are not going to bed, and yet have not slept in days! so it is a pleasure to ensconce oneself in one of their cozy booths, and eat scones and eggs and gallons of tea..aahhh to be in London~or Paris~ I will not be too picky~Glad you enjoyed your London "quicky" .. oops, along with Spankers -people will be wondering about you~ candice
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 12:57 PM
  #16  
c
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PS> there is a company called Manors and Co. and they rent flats all over London.They have a building in Beaufort Gardens with flats to let, I think I will look into that for the next trip.
 
Feb 22nd, 2002, 01:29 PM
  #17  
elaine
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ohmigod, I've just noticed even more typos in my report above, I truly apologize for not editing before posting. The mysterious owner of the writing desk at the V & A was
Henry VIII!
no more spellcheck no more spellcheck...
 

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