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London.. so grand. Fun Birthday getaway!


Feb 22nd, 2011, 04:49 PM
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London.. so grand. Fun Birthday getaway!

Needless to say, my husband and I enjoyed four days in London to celebrate our birthdays last weekend.

So many detailed reports have been posted, so I will just give an outline of what we did, and the few restaurants we visited and our impressions.

Our very late arrival was not what we expected as our hotel, the Melia White House, had given away our room ( technical computer error.. yea right) so we were sent to the Thistle Marble Arch for one night. All l this in spite of an email AND phone call the day re-warning them that we had a very late arrival and it was a VERY special weekend. I was assured this would not happen to US.

We were exhausted and just wanted to sleep.. so we tried to make the best of it. We were given a VERY large room at the Thistle M.Arch. Just mentioning for families. It was a type of suite with a king bed, plus in a partitioned section two proper twin beds.

We were upgraded upon returning the next day at the Meliá, but a VERY slightly larger than standard room was not compensation as far as I was concerned and told the front desk to pass that on to her manager. We then left for the day.

When we came back in the evening we had been given executive lounge privileges, plus a nice bottle of champagne in the room, so, peace was made.

I have been to London several times in the past years but only for a couple days at a time. My husband had not been in about 30 years!

This first day we went to the National Portrait gallery, Churchill's Cabinet Rooms, enjoyed a a short session in Parliament after which we strolled over the bridge and walked along the riverwalk to the distant Tate Modern.

We then took the RV1 bus back over to Covent Garden where we wandered a bit on our way towards the theater.

That evening we enjoyed Jersey Boys (tickets bought earlier at TKTS). We were looking for a place to have a bite to eat before the play when we walked past the Coach and Horse Pub. It was full of people inside and out, so we went in to see what they offered for food. The waitress saw we had no real place to sit and asked if we wanted to go upstairs to their restaurant. She lead us behind the bar to a small staircase and up we went.

What a lovely place upstairs! Nice and quiet, tablecloths, a very nice menu, and an equally nice waitress. The restaurant is actually called sohos' secret tea room. It is quite famous due to the journalists who frequent the upstairs for meetings a few times a month from the magazine "Private Eye". They have a nice afternoon tea menu also. Good food. It was fast, well done, and reasonably priced. We had one large fish and chips, (supposedly voted the best in soho receiving some local award) one side salad, a large ale, water.. about 22GBP.


It is just steps away from the Prince Edward theater.

After the musical, which we thoroughly enjoyed, we stopped at Valerie Patisserie on Charing Cross Road for a tart and cappuccinos. Then back to the hotel via the tube.

The next day we did part of the British Museum and then headed to David Chipperfield's new studio where i had pre-arranged a visit for my architect husband as a surprise. They were very gracious, showed us the new offices, we had a coffee there and received a very attractive book about Mr. Chipperfield's latest works. It was very kind of them to take the time for us.


We then headed to the charming Ledbury street for our lunch stop at The Ledbury. We walked past numerous chic boutiques as well as an enticing pastry shop called "Otto's" something. I love these neighborhoods and the houses that line the prim and proper streets.

This restaurant was excellent. I'm not sure if I got the rec from someone here or off chowhound, but it was a great find. Thank you whoever you are! Seeing how full it was and overhearing "waiting list for next Tuesday lunch" I strongly suggest reservations well in advance.

With its two Michelin stars and having been voted the restaurant of the Year, it is not surprising we could only speak positively about this place. We will be back. They have a very reasonably priced lunch menu for 33GBP.


After our luxury lunch we headed off to a Thai massage our children had gifted us, located not far from our hotel. It came at a perfect time, and helped re-energize these old bodies. It was fun and especially fun thinking of our kids while were were being "manipulated".

A nice rest at the hotel before heading to meet friends for dinner at Luyten's. Another pleasant meal with great company. Also proclaimed a "best new restaurant in 2009", this restaurant 's food was good, but the service paled compared to The Ledbury.

We enjoyed our meal, and it was only having to wait too long to catch our waiter's / the maitre's attention to bring the check that stretched the evening into just a bit too long. The restaurant was not very full at night, but I imagine their lunch business is quite heavy due to their location on Fleet street..


Saturday morning we had arranged to participate in the Epicurean Foodie's Tour of London with London Walks. Our friends joined us and despite the soft rain, we had an interesting morning walk from Monument tube stop to London Bridge over to Borough market where we learned of the better stands not to miss on our free time when the tour was finished.

We were given a sampling of an award winning cheese, and later bought one of the famous sausage rolls at the Ginger Pig, among some other outstanding delicacies including organic chocolates to take home as well as that award winning cheese (??? Carphilly).

We returned to the hotel for a rest as that evening we were going to a dinner dance at the Ritz, arranged by a good friend and her husband who were joining us.

What decadence.

The music was excellent, passing from the 50's then the 60's, then up to modern times. We ate, we drank, we danced the night away. Who would have thought we would enjoy this so much. It was a great celebration. Everyone in the restaurant got up and danced at one point or another. It was lovely just listening and watching.

The food was tasty, well presented and the young waiters were all so darling and well trained.

All good things must end, as we returned with our friends in the taxi towards our hotel. This was our last night, so to speak, with only Sunday left to enjoy in London. We said our goodbyes and they continued on to their place.

Sunday we slept in a bit, met our friends for a walk in Regent's Park and then continued on to the Camden market area.. walked along the canal awhile, took a bus or two towards S. Kensington and briefly wandered through the V+A.

We were caught up in the protesting in front of the Libyan Embassy as we were waiting for a bus to go to the Wallace Collection. Protesters were flying past us out of the tube stop and rushing over to already police-lined sidewalks. The crowds were contained still at that moment on both sides of the wide road but i doubt it took long for things to really get heated.

We immediately went to the café at the Wallace Collection and proceeded to have a mediocre lunch. The Caesar salad was probably the most tasteless one we have ever had. Even the additional dressing did not seem to help spruce it up.

The game paté, however, was fine and came with some lettuce, pickles and breads. Also, our waiter was obviously not happy working that day. This was a shame, as I really like the café at the Wallace, but this Sunday was just perhaps too busy.

We then headed back towards the hotel. We found a Catholic church, so my husband attended mass while I enjoyed walking and window shopping along the quaint Marleyborne High Street. The pleasant weather, people watching and super market snooping kept me occupied . When my husband showed up he said it was a lovely mass with a young choir that sounded angelic, like the Vienna Boy's Choir.

We spent our last hours resting at the Executive lounge at the Melia until it was time to go to Victoria for our train to the airport. We spent the last night at an airport hotel due to our early morning flight. ( 6:50) Not sure i would do this again.. as it really seemed to curtail our last afternoon/evening. We probably should have just gotten up an hour earlier and taken one of the early trains back to Gatwick. Next time I will consider that. At the time during the planning it just seemed so far away.

So THAT marvelous trip is over, but we both have fond memories of virtually everyday!

Thanks for reading this longer than planned report!
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Feb 22nd, 2011, 05:04 PM
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Wow! What a great trip! Made some notes for my trip next month.
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Feb 22nd, 2011, 05:05 PM
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Thanks lincasanova for a great trip report! I don't think I could ever get tired of London.

Especially enjoyed reading about your dinner dance at the Ritz which sounds like so much fun, and also the Epicurean Foodies Tour which I'd like to do next time.

Happy belated Birthday!
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Feb 22nd, 2011, 05:43 PM
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Happy Birthday Linda!! I loved your excellent report, thank you. We're bringing our granddaughter to London in April. Your tips are very timely. I'm sure your husband loved your surprise gift to him!
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Feb 22nd, 2011, 05:50 PM
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Thank you. Yes, he was QUITE surprised to say the least. It wasn't until they opened the office door that he saw the firm's name on the wall. The expression on his face was priceless!

Some tips: I would go to the market NOT on Saturday. It was very crowded and I do not like crowds.

The RV1 bus is great as it goes from Covent garden across Waterloo bridge, the London Eye, then over to to the Tate and onto Tower Bridge.

Have a great trip! I never tire of London.

I'll be in Cincinnati from the 1st til 9th of March. Hope you are around!
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Feb 22nd, 2011, 06:37 PM
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Always glad to read a thoughtful detailed TR, so thanks for the sharing!
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Feb 22nd, 2011, 06:38 PM
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We're in Savannah Georgia right now. It's spring here! We should be back in Cinci about then. Going onto St. Petersburg Florida tomorrow. Emily's trip will be to Barcelona, Paris and London. She's very anxious for it, but tonight is in the hospital with probable appendicitis. The RVl bus sounds like a great idea. Her one request for London is to go on the London Eye, and see the hoopla over the royal wedding. Yes, we will be in London that day! We have tickets for the Wizard of Oz Saturday, Michael Crawford's new play.

Give me a call when you're in town.
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Feb 22nd, 2011, 06:56 PM
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Lin, thanks for your great report. One question- did you enjoy the Wallace Collection? Impressions? There are so many smaller museums in London - that one is on my list for my next trip.
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Feb 23rd, 2011, 12:53 AM
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I enjoy museums like the Wallace Collection.. the mansion, the stately rooms, the period furniture, weapons, porcelain, etc. You can compare it to the Casa de América in Madrid and the Jacquemart-André of Paris.

Of course the café/restaurant has been cleverly conceived by covering an inner patio with glass. Architecturally it is a welcome respite in busy London.

I have to admit, these types of museums are all very similar in their own way. I find I waltz through the rooms a bit quicker than some people.

I had a very helpful staff member who acted like a guide the first time I was there, which helped point out some particularities. They do have an audio guide available.
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Feb 23rd, 2011, 01:03 AM
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Images2..... hope your granddaughter is recovering from whatever she has. Sounds like a wonderful trip you have arranged!
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Feb 23rd, 2011, 02:00 AM
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The food shop on Ledbury Road is Ottolenghi;
Gorgeous shop, several locations in London. I don't think you can eat there, but would be great for a takeway lunch or dinner.
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Feb 23rd, 2011, 04:26 AM
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lovely report, lin - so glad you enjoyed London and your birthdays.

my heart used to lift every time my commuter train crossed the bridge to pull into Victoria - there is always something interesting to see and do, in even the least promising corners. [and believe me, I saw a few of those in my travels from one obscure court building to another].

glad the problems with the hotel worked out too!
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Feb 23rd, 2011, 05:33 AM
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For others enjoying this in part at least for food info--I can second Tulips reco above for Ottolenghi--we stopped (too?) frequently at one in Belgravia at 13 Motcomb Street for the best brownies and a couple other take-away things.
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Feb 24th, 2011, 06:26 PM
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lin, thanks for your update on the Wallace Collection. Definitely on my list....
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Feb 24th, 2011, 07:21 PM
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Grandaughter home tonight after her appendicitis surgery yesterday, Feeling better. Glad this didn't happen while we were in lONDON! An special tips for an 11 yr. old in these 3 cities, Barcelona, Paris and London?
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Feb 25th, 2011, 04:36 PM
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What a lovely trip. I've wanted to try the Ledbury -- now I'll have to for sure.
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Feb 25th, 2011, 04:57 PM
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Thanks. The Ledbury was great. There were a lot of couples at lunch, and of curse business people also. We will definitely be back! The neighborhood is so pleasant also.

Images2.. what a relief. Hope she is 100% soon. See you next week, maybe?
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Feb 27th, 2011, 07:57 PM
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Belated happy birthday to you and your husband, lin! What a wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing.
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Feb 28th, 2011, 01:05 AM
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Thanks everyone for the comments.

I knew I would forget some things as I didn't take notes. We also went over to St. Pancras to see the station and the remodeling going on in the area.. I was reminded of that when I saw here an article abut the new 5* hotel.

We had a bite to eat at one of the attractive eateries. They've done a nice job redoing this station. I hope that our train station here in Valencia receives the same detailed care when it is redone in the near future.

We didn't get a chance ( were actually too tired) to get over to see a lot of the newer skyscrapers and go to the top of the Gherkin for a drink. Next time we will branch out and see more of the newer architecture. We LOVED Norman Foster's creation in the British Museum. The "Great Court" is a grand piece of work.

When Renzo Piano's "Shard" near London Bridge is finished I will be able to say more about what I think of it. I imagine when it is lighted, it will be VERY impressive. I usually love his work. (The addition to the Chicago Art Institute is amazing).
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Feb 28th, 2011, 02:16 AM
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Really enjoyed this report, thanks so much!
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