There and Back Again: A London Tale

Apr 15th, 2019, 03:41 PM
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There and Back Again: A London Tale


I had only been to London once and was there exactly one month before 9/11. That trip was with other people, so not my own to decide where to go and what to do. I had always thought that Chaz would love London and we almost went a few years ago. London kept losing out to Paris but was always on our minds (as you probably know from all the other trip reports). Chaz had never been to London or the UK at all. He loves porters and stouts and brown Ales, so I had always thought he would enjoy the pub culture in London. I also thought there would be a number of historical sites of interest to him.

I always thought London was edgier than Paris and the architecture more square and masculine vis Paris’ more curved and feminine look. Both beautiful and interesting in different ways

As an American, the history is more familiar (to a point) and certainly having no language barrier was appealing…or almost no language barrier as there are times you aren’t certain you are speaking the same language?

We finally decided to pull the trigger on a London trip and decided on April hoping for nice weather but not too concerned about cold weather. Chaz loves colder weather so it’s never a problem if you need a sweater.

We decided to book on Virgin Atlantic as we have always heard good things about the airline and they are a Delta partner. I love being in Atlanta for lots of direct flights to Europe and the VA flight schedule to Heathrow was more appealing to us (later departure and arrival times).

We found a lovely apartment through London Perfect that we felt would be in an area we would enjoy (Kensington). I was very interested that the one we chose had an outdoor courtyard. I just hoped we would get some days without rain to be able to use it.

We booked the apartment and started watching flight prices and points almost a year ago. It would be a long time to wait. I started doing some research and posting on Fodors to start planning but still didn’t do the amount of research for this trip as I have for other trips. As always, I got great suggestions here and thank you to everyone who gave us input. I appreciate it.

I did binge watch The Crown, Victoria, The White Queen, The White Princess and all sorts of programs on the Royal family, London, British history to gear up for this trip. The weekend before we left, I watched Mary, Queen of Scots (not so great) and The Favorite (excellent). All part of the trip preparations!

I heard about the Dior exhibit online and was amazed that we would be there during it. Love it when this type of thing works out. As the trip approached, I saw a few posts on the newly renovated Painted Hall at the royal Naval College and felt like it would be worth a visit. I also saw that the jewelry gallery would reopen at the V&A the day before we would be there for the Dior exhibit. I booked the Dior exhibit for our last full day in London and was looking forward to seeing both the fashion and the Queen Victoria diamond & sapphire coronet at the V&A. A week or so after we booked our Dior tickets it sold out!

As the trip approached, so did the Brexit deadline and we were holding our breath as no one seemed to have a real plan for accomplishing Britain’s move away from the EU. We just didn’t want to be in London with protestors and strikes (many were predicted this type of response if Britain didn't leave by the deadline or left without a deal). I hoped for a long extension for Brexit as we heard a lot of comments on what could happen in the case of a no deal Brexit. While I thought most of those scenarios seemed unlikely, no one wants their vacation mucked up due to politics and I hoped we would not be sorry we went to London. Next time, I will check my calendar for planning and significant events/deadlines before choosing a date. We had only minimally been impacted by French train strikes on previous trips. Our friends coming over for Paris were starting to think they would have to take the train to Brussels first before coming to London or fly as there were issues impacting the Eurostar from the French side…I should have thought of that. Fortunately, no impact to us or them but it was a little worrisome as we followed the Brexit news daily and nothing happening! As I was reviewing Churchill quotes, this one seemed appropriate for the Brexit mess:

“The English never draw a line without blurring it.” —1948

We left some days open for dinner but I did book a dinner most nights. Our only lunch reservation was for Sunday roast. I was also hoping to visit some of the cocktail bars that I had been following on Instagram. As the trip got closer, we were watching the weather to try to put together an itinerary but the weather and temperature was all over the place. I was hoping to use the sunny days for our outside activities and head to museums on the rainy days. We also like to leave open time to do what we feel like on that day and not rush around too much. We like a balance of something planned one day and nothing the next. That usually works for us and Chaz definitely likes to alternate days outside of the city with days in the city.

Before we left, we purchased a membership to the Historic Royal Palaces as we knew we wanted to go to Hampton Court and Tower of London. I also purchased an Oyster card before we left for the Tube. Right before we left, I bought our tickets to Churchill War Rooms and printed the tickets out. So, we were locked into that activity date/time and Dior. Everything else we could do when we wanted and when we had the best weather to do it. We would be able to use the Oyster card to get us to Hampton Court and Kew Gardens and all over London. Perfect.

Dinner Reservations:

Pollen Street Social
Tandoor Chop House
Anglesea Arms – Sunday Roast
Hereford Arms
Dean Street Townhouse
Ham Yard Bar and Restaurant
The Wolseley

What we planned to see:

Churchill War Rooms
Tower of London
Dior Exhibit – V & A
Hampton Court Palace
Kew Gardens
Borough Market


British Museum
Westminster Abbey
Shepherd Market
Liberty London

The maybe list:
Windsor Castle
National Gallery

That's the back story. Next up the trip over and Day 1 in London at last!
denisea is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 04:03 PM
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Like you I always go back to Paris and but I keep thinking that we will give London a second look one day.
ToujoursVoyager is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 04:07 PM
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Great start! I can't wait to hear your thoughts on all of the places you've chosen... on the restaurants, too please, if you wouldn't mind. Thanks for writing!
Trophywife007 is online now  
Apr 15th, 2019, 04:20 PM
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Flat looks great! And love that area...hope you were able to use the kitchen with great food from Waitrose or M&S!!
kmowatt is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 05:58 PM
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This will be a great read as always. Glad you made it to my faves, Ham Yard, Dean Street Townhouse and The Wolseley. The Ham Yard is my all time favorite hotel anywhere.
Weekender is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 09:45 PM
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Looking forward to reading more. Thanks for sharing.

KayF is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 11:12 PM
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bilbo is here
bilboburgler is offline  
Apr 15th, 2019, 11:36 PM
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Following! Cute apartment, and I also love Kensington.
5alive is offline  
Apr 16th, 2019, 05:06 AM
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Wow, thanks guys. I appreciate the interest and hope to maintain the interest with my report. Will get another installment up today (I hope).

The apartment was really great. I will say that we did not cook (we never do on vacation). Florent & Mike brought some chocolate with them and that was tasty. Chaz made some coffee a few times, we shared wine and I had my diet coke and enjoyed the shortbread that London Perfect left for us.
denisea is offline  
Apr 16th, 2019, 11:44 AM
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ATL-LHR Tuesday, April 2- Wednesday, April 3

We checked in at the VA counter in the International terminal. WE had chosen seats that somehow had been changed and the agent couldn’t get our original seats back. Oh well, who knows what that is about. Chaz wanted to check a bag and I felt sure he had over packed but we got checked in and were about to walk away when I looked at the tag that said MAN. I took a second look and realized that his bag had been checked to Manchester rather than Heathrow. We got that corrected and made our way through security and on to our annual stop at One Flew South for a celebratory drink and late lunch before stopping in at the Sky Club before our flight. We boarded on time and while our seat assignments had been changed, we were able to get our original seats once on board (5K and 6K). A little Lanson Champagne while settling in and we pushed back, no issues with boarding and we pushed back on time (although we sat on the tarmac for a while and eventually got airborne). Beautiful twilight in Atlanta and we were on our way to London at long last.

I skipped dinner and sampled some cheese (with Champs, of course) and watched Green Book and most of Can You Ever Forgive Me. Sitting on an airplane is about the only time I get to see movies. I got a little shut eye and we were landing in London before we knew it.

So, our thoughts on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class vs Delta One…the crew was terrific, helpful and friendly. I didn’t think I would bother with the pajamas they offer but I decided to go for it and they were comfortable and a nice touch. The cheese was excellent but I can’t really comment on the food. I did have some cereal for breakfast right before landing but again that doesn’t really rate a review. The Upper Class cabin is designed to accommodate more passengers than Delta One. The seats are comfortable but not as comfortable as Delta. You can’t take the bed to flat without getting out of your seat and it has to be done manually. Once flat you can’t make any adjustments at all. They do not have touch screens and the controls for movies is the old-style gaming remote. The movie/TV selection was good but Delta’s is more extensive.

The craziest thing I found is that there is no simple plug in charging for your electronics. They provide these adapters that look like something from 10-15 years ago if you want to charge something. I seriously can’t believe that the seats haven’t been updated for in seat charging of devices. The seats need an upgrade and a facelift. I did notice that the restroom doors were quieter on the VA aircraft and the crew galleys were also quieter (helps when you are trying to sleep). The crew was extremely nice and service was very good.

It’s nice but not as top notch as expected and we both prefer Delta One.

Back on the ground in London, we made it through passport control in less than 20-25 minutes with the Fast Track lane at Heathrow. Only 2 lanes were open and that lane also serviced the line for anyone with mobility issues. Not bad but we also hustled off the plane to avoid being last in line.

We met our driver quickly and got into London with only a little traffic and were dropped off at our London Perfect apartment in Kensington. We got our first reminder that the English drive on the opposite side of the road. Chaz was thinking he would put me on the left side of the car in the back seat and he went to the right side. And, so did the driver and the look on his face was priceless as he realized that's the driver's side and I would have more leg room than he did (and I don't need it). Jet lag is rough sometimes! We were allowed to drop our bags use the restroom and get on wi-fi to check messages. Our friends were at St Pancras and had caught an earlier train. I messaged them to come on to Kensington and they could drop off their bags, as well. The apartment would be ready in about 2-3 hours.

It was cloudy, cold and windy so some espresso and cappuccino at Coco Momo on Gloucester Road was in order. Our friends from Paris arrived right behind us and we sat for some catch up and coffee before walking around the area. I decided a pain au chocolat was in order for me as the cereal from the flight was long gone. My friends sampled and gave it the French “seal of approval”.

I should have done more planning for lunch that day. We ended up on High Street Kensington and it took a while to locate a pub. We ended up at The Price of Wales pub for fish and chips all around. It was kind of heavy and greasy and the fish seemed previously frozen (the good news is it was our worst meal and we had lots of terrific fish and chips afterwards). The chips were good and we all had a beer or wine and were having fun catching up, so we didn’t really care.

We headed back to the apartment on Launceston Place, got checked in and sat in the courtyard (even though it was cold) and opened a celebratory bottle Nicolas Feuillette. The apartment was street level with a fairly large living room, small kitchen, a single bath with shower. The bedroom was in the rear and the courtyard access was through the bedroom. The bed was huge and there was plenty of storage room. It’s a great apartment and it works for 4 people (sofa pulls out). Four would be tough for a long time but for 2 days – no problem.

The neighborhood was very quiet and picturesque and although we didn’t have warm weather, the camellias were in full bloom as were all the cherry trees, tulips and more. Gorgeous time to visit London.

The neighborhood offered several spots for coffee and breakfast, shops to pick up my beloved diet coke and several close by pubs. We were really happy with the area. Gloucester Road was the closest Tube station and High Street Kensington was not far away.

As headed to dinner we got a hail storm (yep – hail) followed by rain just as we were planning to leave. We had planned to try out a little Italian “tapas” place on High Street Kensington but with the rain and the 20 minute walk, we switched gears and landed at Da Mario. Apparently, Princess Diana took the princes there for pizza when they were young, so it couldn’t be too bad. It was packed and we got a table upfront and got right into sharing a huge platter of charcuterie, olives and buffalo mozzarella with some tasty garlic pizza bread. Really good.

Our friends got pizza for dinner, I got gnocchi and Chaz got a seafood pasta and we were all happy with our meal. The Montepulcino was terrific. After lots of laughs we skipped dessert and paid our check. We headed to Gloucester Road pub for a nightcap before turning in. It was a lovely first day in London with wonderful friends.

We were looking forward to getting out into the city the next day for some retail therapy.
denisea is offline  
Apr 16th, 2019, 01:13 PM
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• Good catch on the luggage destination... that could have been inconvenient to say the least.
• Cheese and champagne sounds like the perfect airline dinner
• Do you like sitting behind each other rather than side by side?
• Ever since our first flight when we were offered PJs, I've been a believer in changing for overnight flights. I find I feel much less gritty upon arrival.
• Your apartment sounds great with nice location.
• Glad you found a nice spot for dinner!
• Can't wait for more!
Trophywife007 is online now  
Apr 16th, 2019, 01:42 PM
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I always love my first day in London! Launceston Place is so lovely...some beautiful houses there. Can’t wait to hear about the retail therapy...I generally blow my budget in London...too bad about the Italian tapas place
kmowatt is offline  
Apr 16th, 2019, 01:45 PM
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looking forward to hearing more as well.
live42day is offline  
Apr 16th, 2019, 02:05 PM
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Trophywife - we had a luggage incident several years ago so we couldn't have managed another one. We were extremely glad that somehow I caught MAN on the tags!!
The cheese dinner is perfect - not too filling and even in business class the dinners are not that great. Cheese and Champs works every time.
Seating question. We prefer to sit side by side but we are OK sitting single file. With headphones and movies, we don't talk too much during the flight anyway.
PJs - it was really nice and I was surprised that it didn't create too much of a bathroom line as people were changing before landing.
The apartment was really nice and the neighborhood was terrific. I know some would rather be right in the heart of the city but the quiet street, neighborhood pubs and cafes were perfect for us. (kmowatt - Launceston Place is lovely and in bloom so picturesque).
denisea is offline  
Apr 16th, 2019, 02:16 PM
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Good for you... checking the baggage receipt is a habit I need to develop.
Trophywife007 is online now  
Apr 16th, 2019, 10:58 PM
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Italian tapas LOL
bilboburgler is offline  
Apr 17th, 2019, 02:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Trophywife007 View Post
Good for you... checking the baggage receipt is a habit I need to develop.
Yep. Ever since a bag of mine that should have gone to FYV (Fayetteville, Arkansas) was somehow sent to FAY (Fayetteville, NC), I now check every tag twice.

denisea, enjoying your report. We will be in London next week; third visit for us, though. Looking forward to your thoughts on Tandoor Chop House, as DD has requested that we consume as much Indian food as possible while there.
fourfortravel is offline  
Apr 17th, 2019, 06:09 AM
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Following, too! Thanks!
Rocket79 is offline  
Apr 17th, 2019, 07:57 AM
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Following you, Denise. I'll be in London next month so looking forward to your suggestions. Thanks for posting.
Treesa is offline  
Apr 17th, 2019, 09:06 AM
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Brava, denisea! The flat looks sweet. Thanks also for the airline comparison--very helpful. Ready to travel!
TDudette is offline  

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