My favourite places in London

Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 09:01 AM
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My favourite places in London

LONDON DAY1
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!
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 09:04 AM
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Great start!
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 09:14 AM
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Oh, but please add some spacing to your reporting - much easier to read with blank lines between paragraphs! Thanks~
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 09:30 AM
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I'm along for the ride! Great start.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 10:32 AM
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LONDON DAY2
This morning I had a work-related meeting. So the day as a tourist starts after 1pm. Soft rain some of the time, not too cold. I sit for a while in one of the many squares of London University near Russel Square - huge old trees, autumn leaves, squirrels, students with backpacks. Lovely. Then on to the British Library. Firstly, I eat an OK chicken pie in the forecourt (£4.50) sitting under their huge white umbrella. Raining more seriously now. Time to enter the library. The room full of Treasures will forever be one of my favourite places. Every bibliophile will know what I mean! Did Jane Austen really write her books on this tiny desk? One letter at a time with a pen dipped in ink? Can we, who type so efficiently on our iPads ever think things through so clearly? I see that Wordsworth was a messy writer (!) and that the words for the Beatles' song "Its a hard day's night" were written on the back of a child's birthday card. I linger over the oldest copy of the New Testament - written 1700 years ago by people who put a lifetime's work into the same book that still guides my life. The actual work of Handel, Mozart, Shakespeare, da Vinci, Darwin are all there ... unbelievable that these things were not lost in time. What is great is that some of the books had been scanned in, and you can page through a virtual copy of (e.g.) the original Alice in Wonderland. You can zoom in on detail, see what the cover page looked like, read the whole book if you want to - with the original line drawings all there.
Eventually I decide to rest my feet, have something to drink. But: the coffee at the place on the 1st level is absolutely disgusting! They evidently are not dependent on repeat business.
Late afternoon I meet up with DD for an early dinner at yet another Italian restaurant near Baker Street. She had done the rounds of Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Westminster Abby, and Buckingham Palace today, and loved it all.
This pattern works very well for us - travelling together but also being independent. She is a vibrant 20year old, and moves at a different pace than I do. I will stare in bliss at a statue/painting/building/view, sitting down to really drink it in. She will have a good look, saying: "Oh, is this what he did? Nice. OK cool. (Waiting patiently for a moment.) Can we go now?"
At my recommendation she also had lunch today at St Martin's. It freaked her out. She goes: "Did you see the floor? Did you realise that you were sitting on GRAVES? My table was on the grave of a 7-year old boy! Who has a restaurant in a cemetery????? You want to go to a concert there? This is seriously weird!!!"
Day 2 ends as we both dissolve in giggles when we realise how strange this would seem in our own country.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 10:35 AM
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OK I will add spacing, It does seem rather condensed. Tx for feedback.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 10:38 AM
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on for the ride
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 12:20 PM
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Thank you and I'm enjoying it!
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 12:47 PM
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This is really good. Can hardly wait for more.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 03:44 PM
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Well begun--thanks for getting back to us with such a prompt trip report! Looking forward to more.

(And yes, spaces would add to readability, but your writing is clear and detailed, thank you.)
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 05:13 PM
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Love the detail. Thank you for sharing your experiences!
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 09:11 PM
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Saturday in London! It seems as if the rain is letting up a bit, so today is a day for being outside. I start my walk not far from Tower Bridge. This is my first view of the Thames, and I enjoy the walk in the crisp morning air. Not too cold, definitely not summer! A few joggers, not many people around. I walk past London Bridge, and smile about the story of the rich American who had evidently bought the old London Bridge, transported it all the way to Colorado and rebuilt it there. Wonder if this is true?

I reach Southwark Cathedral, where Shakespeare prayed when he was in London. Not much art or pomposity. Mostly just honey-coloured stone, open, spacious, simple. Amazing to think that Shakespeare had rested his eyes on the same pillars, the same beautiful arches. Admittance free. Use of toilet 50p. Gift shop in the foyer.

From there I follow the signs to Borough Market. A little before 10, most stalls are open for business, some are still unpacking their wares. What a delight this market is! Heaps of cheeses, all kinds bread, buckets of olives, venison from Scotland, herbs and lavender from Provence, handmade Turkish Delight, fudge, nougat ... When I arrive it is fairly quiet, but it soon becomes busier. Serious housewives buy chicken and gammon, a family sharies a dripping sandwhich, an older man carefully selects three perfect tomatoes. I am glad I came hungry! Peter Mayle would call this place a dieter's hell. You can taste almost everywhere, tiny slivers of cheese, ham, fudge (do you prefer stem ginger of rum in your fudge?). After careful research (!), I buy a chicken stew from a Vietnamese man. I find a spot against a pillar, in the sun but protected from the cold wind that has started up. And I have a most memorable meal - the chicken succulent, the spices and curry just right. Heaven for £5. Thanks to all Fodorites who recommended this! The market is under cover, but still open to the wind. I will not stay away because it is winter. One thing to remember: if you buy a take-away meal, there is almost no-where to sit down with it. Better to buy when you are leaving and take it with to where you can find a seat with a view of the Thames. By the time I leave (maybe just after 11) it was becomming crowded.

Satisfied, I wander on, back to the river. I find the Golden Hinde, the ship in which Francis Drake crossed the oceans, now restored and lovingly cared for. How small it looks! You have to pay to go on board, but I prefer not to do this.

Not far from the Golden Hinde I find Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. There is an interesting gift shop, where they sell an eraser for £1 with the quote from Hamlet's wife: 'Out, damned spot!' Guided tour of the theatre £13.50. Again I decide to give this a miss. On the whole, I do not enjoy guided tours.

Near the Globe is the modernistic footbridge over the Thames, and I follow this to reach St Paul's on the other side of the river. (Yes, I know that I have walked right by Tate Modern!) St Paul's: what a magnificent church. I have read that the neighbourhood around the church had been almost totally demolished by Hitler's planes during WW2, but that this church had remained standing. I join the queue to enter the church, just behind a group of young girls. All of them talking loudly, one says, with a voice that carries: "Oh yes, we have done all this sh*t when I was in art school." Poor stupid girls, who can enter a place such as this with no sense of awe, or even of respect. St Paul's is open 8.30 - 4pm, entrance £14.50.

I linger a while at St Paul's, then catch a bus, go on the tube to Baker Street, my room and my bed! I have a warm cup of tea and a real honest siesta. How often can you do this!

Late afternoon, restored and defrosted, I am ready for more. This time I find a station near Hyde Park, and just enjoy the trees, the green, the autumn leaves. No rain, but a soft gray sky, fairly cold. I love it! I keep on walking without a clear plan, watching dusk fall. There are just enough people around to make me feel safe. I end up near Buckingham Palace, and go to say hallo to this building, with the lights coming on in the early London evening. As a result of the many pictures and movies that we all have seen, this building looks almost familiar. Still nice to see the real scope of it.

Again on the tube (I do get excellent value from the Travel Card), and back to the hotel. At this time of a Friday evening, the tube is absolutely packed. But: I find the underground station, I find the correct platform, I change to a different line, I find Baker Street, I even find the correct exit. HA!! I have mastered the art of riding the tube in London.

DD is waiting for me and complains that I am late. I remind her that we should actually switch roles. We stay in and eat at our hotel tonight. Fish and Chips (£12) in the bar area, where half the people are enthusiastically watching a soccer match on TV. The fish is a bit oily, but still a good meal, served in front of an artificial 'fire', many families and groups of friends sharing a drink or a meal.

DD had been to Portobello market at Notting Hill today, but have not enjoyed it nearly as much as I have enjoyed my adventure. She says there is a lot of kitsch, too many people, too big, too crowded. I also guess that the film Notting Hill had created expectations that did not live up to reality. No Hugh Grant behind a blue door!
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Old Nov 3rd, 2013, 09:13 PM
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O I see I have forgotten the heading - the above rambling report is about LONDON DAY 3.
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 12:58 AM
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Very enjoyable trip report. Appreciate the detail, especially the inclusion of prices!
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 01:19 AM
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Lady Macbeth surely?

Nice trip report kovsie - you certainly seem to have packed it in!
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 01:25 AM
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ttt
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 01:37 AM
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Nice report.
Don't miss Cafe Caldesi in Marylebone Lane if you like Italian food!
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 03:12 AM
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Yes, the 1831 London Bridge, heavily reinforced, is well and truly in Arizona:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_...ke_Havasu_City)
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 04:19 AM
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Wonderful TR, am really enjoying it, thanks for posting! I absolutely loved the Southwark cathedral, more so since I hadn't read/heard much about it, was completely bowled over.
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Old Nov 4th, 2013, 05:26 AM
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I'm enjoying your take on London and writing notes for an upcoming trip.
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