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One Fine Stay in London

Old Oct 16th, 2012, 09:18 PM
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One Fine Stay in London

After several days in Belgium last month, DH and I took the Eurostar to London where we had rented an apartment from onefinestay.com. Once the train arrived in London we took a taxi to the apartment. The cab driver did not seem to know the address at first nor did he help us with our bags. Very different than the ride from the hotel to the Eurostar a few days before.

This was our second apartment abroad experience and both have been interesting. Last year we rented from Paris Perfect and it seems their apartments are only holiday rentals. This year with One Fine Stay we are renting someone's apartment which might be a bit too personal. There were lots of knickknacks around which we steered clear of and the apartment was a little more quirky. Things like the light switches, the step down in the hall to get to the bathroom. There was a separate bedroom but the bed was not King-sized as advertized. Fortunately it was a queen. If it were only a double we would have been doing some serious negotiation upon arrival. The wood floors were painted and positively ancient with lots of squeaks. There was decent storage in the bedroom and a teeny tiny washer/dryer combo which we tried out during the week.

We were met by Matt who helped get us settled in and gave us the iPhone One Fine Stay provides then we walked to Sainsbury's for some groceries. The next morning I made oatmeal and DH had his cereal and we set off walking along Westbourne Grove to Portobello Road just a few block away. We came upon Daylesford organic farm store and went in to have a look around. We stayed for "elevens" or second breakfast which was really good. Bought a loaf of their bread too. We strolled along Portobello checking out the shops and managed to find a perfect gift for our niece at The Blue Door.

After a rest back at the apartment we took the Tube to Piccadilly then walked to the Wolseley for tea before the theater. The Wolseley was at one time a car dealership and is next to the Ritz Hotel. It was a big bustling restaurant with marble floors. The tea was quite good, especially the scones and clotted cream. After tea we walked past the Ritz toward Green Park then reversed to head to the Noel Coward Theatre for Much Ado About Nothing. The production was set in India and had a Bollywood twist. We both enjoyed it. We took the Tube back to the apartment only to find the power was off. DH thought it was the breakers and found the box but was hesitant to mess with foreign electrical. We called One Fine Stay and after trying a few switches decided to go to bed and let them work on it in the morning.

At 4am we were awakened when the lights came back on. Glad to have the power back but wish we had switched off some of the lights we tried out last night. We slept kind of late and were awakened by calls from One Fine Stay telling us an electrician was on the way. When he arrived he spoke with DH and determined the breaker box probably needs to be switched out. As it turned out we did not have another problem with this and we understand it was going to be worked on after we checked out.

We decided to treat ourselves to breakfast at Daylesford Farm Store again. After breakfast we took the tube to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. We looked at some renaissance Italian paintings then decided to focus on the 19th century Impressionists. There were some lovely works by favorite artists including one of Van Gogh's sunflowers and Monet's study of the Gare St. Lazare. My favorite however was the Bridge at Argenteuil by Gustave Caillebotte. Because the work was on loan there were not postcards or prints of his work to purchase.

From Trafalgar Square we walked to Covent Garden. Lots of new shops since we had last been there in 2003. Found a gift at Whittard which sells tea and tea cups, pots, etc. There was a Laduree shop but I skipped the expensive macarons since we still had Belgian chocolate in the apartment. We did pass a place called Ben's cookies and shared a peanut butter with milk chocolate chunk cookie--it was amazingly good. My favorite shop, Past Times, was no longer located in Covent Garden.

We headed home for a light dinner and a load of laundry. The tiny little washer dryer combo took almost 3 hours to clean and dry a small load. It's handy and sort of entertaining to laugh at how long it takes but we wonder how people live like this on a daily basis.
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Old Oct 16th, 2012, 10:47 PM
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Informative post, thank you for it! Hope someday I will also attent Great Britain
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Old Oct 16th, 2012, 11:28 PM
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>>we wonder how people live like this on a daily basis.
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 02:35 AM
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"we wonder how people live like this on a daily basis."

Drying clothes indoors IS a pain, isn't it? But few apartment-dwellers, anywhere in the world, can hang their clothes outside. Apparently in America, there are even areas where houseowners are banned from hanging them outdoors at all (some prissy claptrap about "bringing down the neighbourhood", apparently. But how could a neighbourhood with rules like that go down any further?)

Mind you: what's the deal? It takes just as long to load and unload whether the actual washing and drying takes a day or a minute. You're doing something else in the meantime. Unless you're so hyperactive you're never in, even to sleep, more than a couple of hours, can't see what difference a shorter cycle time makes. Except to consume more energy, of course.
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 03:01 AM
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Scootoir, thanks for sharing. I always enjoy reading about what others do/see/visit/attend in London...
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 03:40 AM
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Interesting. The bed thing may be because the size "King" is smaller in Europe than the US
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 04:22 AM
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Interesting post - and yes, a king bed in the UK is a north American queen so you did get the bed that was advertised. A king in the uk is called a super king
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 04:32 AM
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Was going to add what Jamie and Bilbo said above about US King = UK Superking. There is one in my B&B.

Also, Past Times is defunct.
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 04:45 AM
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I am enjoying your report, it's good to hear negatives as well as superlatives. We wrote off the Campo dei Fiori area (excluding Piazza Farnese) about 2 trips ago.

Did you find gloves in Rome? You can buy cashmere-lined ones you know!
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 05:16 AM
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I have the feeling you were not in an offical London cab but rather a "gypsy" cab.
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 06:55 AM
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Thank you for the info on King beds in Europe. We've stayed at the Crowne Plaza St. James in London and the Montague on the Gardens and both had king beds that seemed to be the same size as the U.S. I'll be sure to clarify that on future reservations.
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 07:01 AM
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On Thursday we got ready to go fairly early. We headed out on the tube to Victoria Station to take the train to Canterbury. It's about 1.5 hours from Victoria to Canterbury and the train was comfortable.

From the train it is an easy walk to the Cathedral. The bridge over the hightway from the station to the town lead us to the ancient city wall. We walked along the wall for a bit and came down at a likely spot that looked like it would lead to the cathedral. As we walked we passed a Tesco grocery store and other "high street" shops finally leading into the older part of town full of quaint looking store fronts. We turned down St. Margaret's street and decided to try Tiny Tim's tea shop for lunch. It turned out to be a good choice. DH had a "puffkin" which is meat loaf baked in dough and served with baked beans and an egg on top. I was able to have their afternoon tea for lunch--perfect. The service was really good and we enjoyed the food. The restrooms were up two flights of ancient stairs next to the ghost's room. It was a fun little place.

The staff at Tiny Tim's gave us a good map to the Cathedral and we walked there easily. It was a beautiful day and we got some great shots of the Cathedral with blue skies and puffy clouds and scaffolding! Oh well, it only covered a portion of the outside. It was very interesting to visit and so beautiful. As we were leaving there was a display that mentioned aspects of Cathedral life including the cathedral cats! Unfortunately we did not get to see any of them but we learned one is named Leo and another Tom (which are the names of some friends' cats).

We began to head back to the train and passed Debenhams. In the Sunday paper was an ad for some gold trimmed goblets so we went in and they had them. I bought two to mix in with the other goblets I have at home. Surprise--they were even on sale.

Train, tube and walk back to the apartment where we had a light dinner and did some more laundry. DH's no iron shirts all came out really wrinkled. At least there is an iron and ironing board.
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 07:08 AM
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I woke with a lousy headache Friday morning and got up early to have a cup of tea and bread then took two and went back to bed. DH let me sleep a couple of hours and that did the trick. While I got ready he went out to Sainsbury (the local grocery store) for a few things. Finally we set out walking to Kensington Palace which wasn't far from our flat. I wanted to visit the exhibit on Queen Victoria. We picked up the 2 for 1 brochure at Victoria Station yesterday and with our train ticket saved a lot of money. As it was after noon we went to the Orangerie to have lunch. It's a long white room in a building in the palace gardens. DH ordered venison sausage which was very good but I had a rather disappointing salad with smoked chicken. I discovered I don't much like smoked chicken or at least this smoked chicken. Too bad we were too early for tea as I had read they do a lovely tea.
Back in the palace we started with one room on the ground floor with a small exhibit about Princess Diana. We passed the Cafe Diana on the street across from the park while walking to the palace and a well dressed man coming out of the cafe invited us in for lunch. The walls of the cafe were covered with photos of the late Diana. Someone is making money off her. The palace exhibit had about 6 of Diana's dresses displayed along with photos of her wearing them and other photos of her life and with her children. She had lived in Kensington Palace and there were also photos of the flowers left outside the palace when she died.

Up one floor was the exhibit Victoria Revealed which covered major events in her life and featured clothing and personal artifacts. I loved seeing the clothing, especially Victoria's wedding dress. She was so petite. It was all beautifully displayed and photos (without flash) were allowed--I loved that! At the end was a multi-media presentation on Victoria's Jubiliee celebration which we enjoyed. Lots of photos and film of the events. I'm sure it was all planned to coincide with Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee this year.

We stopped in the little cafe/gift shop at the end of our visit for tea and a scone to share. There is beautiful china for sale for the current Queen's Jubilee but I just couldn't bring myself to spend more than $60 for a teacup and saucer.
We walked back to the flat and made it just as the rain was starting.

That evening we had tickets to the play "Yes Prime Minister" and decided to splurge on a taxi rather than fight the Friday night rush hour on the Tube. The play was really topical and enjoyable. Since the house was not sold out the audience was invited to move down into empty seats. We had purchased the cheapest tickets and loved being able to upgrade.
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 07:12 AM
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We woke to a beautiful day on Saturday and decided we would make the trip to Hampton Court Palace. The Circle line of the Underground was not available that weekend so we had to take the District Line to to Tottenham Court Road so we could take the Northern Line to Waterloo Station. At the Tottenham Court Road stop it was announced that the Northern Line was not available. We got off and took the same line back one stop to Oxford Circus and took the Bakerloo Line down to Waterloo Station. After that is was easy to get the train to Hampton Court.

It was only a 1/2 hour train trip to Hampton Court Palace and easy to get from the station across the bridge to the palace. We got the 2 for 1 tickets again. The grounds were beautiful and the palace interesting as it is part Tudor and part Baroque in style. We started with an exhibit on Henry VIII as a young man and saw his apartments. We also visited the Fountain Court, chapel and Great Hall among others and, as we did at Versailles years ago, spent a lot of time in the gardens. They were beautiful even in autumn. It was so lovely outside we enjoyed an ice cream cone break on a bench.

After a full afternoon we headed back to London around 5pm. At Waterloo Station we decided to walk to the London Eye to see how long the wait was. The area was an absolute zoo of people. I'm sure every tourist in London wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather on a Saturday evening. After fighting our way through the crowds we crossed Westminster Bridge then headed home. We picked up a couple of panini sandwiches at a small Italian place near our apartment and enjoyed a quiet evening at home.
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Old Oct 17th, 2012, 08:41 AM
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Fun to read. Just the right amount of interesting detail.
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Old Oct 18th, 2012, 09:58 PM
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Awoke to another sunny morning with temps predicted in the high 50s. We had seen a church near our hotel our first night in London that we wanted to visit on Sunday morning so we headed there. Underground travel was much easier on Sunday morning even without the Circle Line running. We just had to make one change at Bond Street.

People at Westminster Chapel (not to be confused with the Abbey or the cathedral) were very friendly. They seemed to have a core of volunteers to greet newcomers and we spoke with a young woman who was half English, half Ukrainian and lived in the Ukraine for 10 years. Her accent was all English however. The format of worship was similar to our church at home in terms of worship music. The big difference was that service went for about 2 hours instead of under 1 1/2 but the hour-long sermon on 2 Peter offered a lot to think about.

After church we walked past Buckingham Palace for some photos and then through St. James Park to Inn the Park for lunch. We sat outside and DH had roast beef, I had chicken and both came with veggies and really good roasted potatoes. If we had more days I would love to return there and try their afternoon tea. After lunch we continued through the park to the Cabinet War Rooms which had added an exhibit on Churchill's life since we visited several years ago. We were pleased to learn Churchill had been a cat lover. It was so interesting to see these underground rooms where the British government ran the war.

Our final stop was on Oxford Street at Marks & Spencer. Then we took the bus for a change as one went from Oxford Street to Westbourne Grove right near our apartment. It was much nicer to watch the world go by than travel underground.

We had one more day to visit any last spot we did't want to miss before returning home. Harrods was on the list for a gift.
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Old Oct 18th, 2012, 09:59 PM
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Thank you Peg!
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Old Oct 19th, 2012, 03:25 AM
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I am enjoying your report. Lots of good ideas for another trip to my favorite city.

Flanner, loved your comment about "prissy claptrap that clotheslines bring down a neighborhood." I heartily agree!
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Old Oct 20th, 2012, 08:59 PM
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For our final morning we headed to Daylesford Farm store for breakfast. I just love their while DH had scrambled eggs. We bought a few things for dinner and after dropping them at "home" made our way to the Tube and traveled to St Paul's Cathedral. St Paul's had a good audio guide and we enjoyed exploring the church. We got to the American Chapel but oddly there was nothing about it on the audioguide. The page in the book of American dead was open to the Hs. DH thought St Paul's was one of the most impressive buildings he had ever seen. Left him wondering what Christopher Wren's IQ must have been.

As we sat under the dome a school class came through on a tour with a really good guide. The kids all sat on the floor while the guide spoke to them about the building and how it changed through history. He was very good at putting things at a level children could understand.

We visited the crypt where the gift shop and cafe are located. We had a light lunch which was rather pleasant. If I had been up for richer food we could have had tea in the cathedral restaurant. We got a peek and someone else's tea looked very nice.

After this we took the Underground to Harrods for some final shopping. We needed one last gift and found it. Also looked over the Harrods logo shop, Christmas decorations and the food halls. The Christmas stuff was a bit disappointing but I could have bought a lot in the logo shop and food halls if we had room to bring it all home. That's one drawback with carrying small suitcases. Oh well.

A trip back to the apartment, a little dinner followed by packng and we were ready to leave in the morning.

The trip to Heathrow with Just Airporst was easy and we enjoy a little breakfast in one of the restaurants. We were fortunate to have had enough miles to sit in World Traveler Plus with more space, leg rests and room to recline which made the 10+ hour flight home tolerable. We enjoyed our apartment rental with onefinestay.com and had a relaxing and enjoyable vacation to London (and Bruges).

When we got home one of my sisters asked me where we planned to go next. Usually I have an idea for the next destination but now I've got to do some thinking. . .
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Old Oct 31st, 2012, 05:23 PM
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Hi Scootir,

Continuing to enjoy your London sojourn. Always wanted to go to Canterbury. Hey, that was quite a lunch your DH had at Tiny Tim’s – meatloaf in crust with baked beans and an egg.

Also interested in your description of the Palace and of your jaunt to Hampton Court Palace. We were there in June with flowers fully in bloom.

“DH thought St Paul's was one of the most impressive buildings he had ever seen. Left him wondering what Christopher Wren's IQ must have been.” I strongly agree – thank goodness, the structure survived WWII.

Again, Scootir, thanks for sharing your adventures in London – brings back lovely memories and new considerations for future trips…
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