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We saw a fox on Great Ormond St (and other sights up and down the Thames)

We saw a fox on Great Ormond St (and other sights up and down the Thames)

Mar 19th, 2014, 07:52 PM
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We saw a fox on Great Ormond St (and other sights up and down the Thames)

We were aiming for The Lamb, on Lamb's Conduit St., the first Sunday evening of my two weeks there, going east on Great Ormond St, when a red fox trotted from behind, passed us, and continued unhurried into the night. London is like that: full of unexpected delights.

Our daughter H is enjoying her semester at Regent's University, and months ago when she was considering whether to commit to study abroad I must have promised to visit, because that's what she tells me. One must keep one's word.


First I stayed by myself in the Princess Hotel on Argyle St, just a block and a half south of St. Pancras. http://www.princesshotel.co.uk/
Basic single room including breakfast and VAT for a laughably low £40.00/night. My lower level room was spotless, with a comfortable double bed, desk and chair, dresser and mirror, TV, radiator heat. The window faced an alley, with some discarded chairs and things piled up no doubt temporarily. It was wonderfully quiet: bird songs were the most frequent sound. Down the hall each way were immaculate white-tiled bathrooms maybe ~15 feet distant, and I never detected human presence in either.

Also close by was the breakfast room. The day before one decides on either full English or "continental", and picks a time slot. The hotel was full of Danish students my first day, so I picked first seating at 0700, then stuck with that the rest of my stay. When you enter the Romanian-speaking principal kichen woman verifies your room number and you can specifiy how you want your eggs, then within minutes places the classic eggs n beans, bacon, (canned) mushroom, white toast assembly before you. Coffee, tea, OJ are self serve. The coffee is not perhaps the most excellent I've ever had. And the Continental's croissant resembles a piece of flattened and rolled Wonder Bread. Never mind: at that price you can treat yourself to capuccino and pastry at the nearby Patisserie Deux Amis, 63 Judd St, with its white tablecloths and excellent fare.

One benefit of traveling alone is the chance to eavesdrop, and I take full advantage. Also, here the food is adequate, but not so swoon inducing that it distracts from the human drama. The young Italian man who tends the desk on nights comes down to the breakfast room after he gets off and jokes around with the three kitchen women, who mother him. They are very sweet together.

Marta mans the desk during weekdays, is efficient and polite. Sam, who lets you in during the evening, greeted me by name whenever I entered, printed out walking directions to Sadler's Wells for my daughter, and generally made me feel at home. Bless them all.
stokebailey is offline  
Mar 19th, 2014, 08:22 PM
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The Princess location was very good for me. I like the residential feel of the neighborhood, came and went at all times and felt entirely safe; I guess you could call it Upper Bloomsbury or lower King's Cross. Transportation is very convenient, with numerous bus routes and of course the tube right there. Or, if you took a notion, the good old Eurostar. It's a nice walk to Fitzrovia and its pubs, by back streets to Sadler's Wells for a dance performance, and to the West End for plays. I don't carry electronics with me, so I was delighted to find a good internet cafe a few blocks away, where I could check email. By my third morning the distinguished gentleman working there was calling me "dear"; I like that sort of thing.

The next week H stayed with me at the Celtic Hotel, formerly St. Margaret's: www.stmargaretshotel.co.uk/W_e_l_c_o_m_e.html
This is a family run operation, headed by the delightful Mrs. Marazzi, on Guildford St. just off Russell Square. I'd wanted something more luxurious in a twin room, with first floor high ceilings. There was a mixup, and our first night we had room #20 on the second floor, a basic room with shower next door and bath a half flight down. At £80/night including breakfast and VAT, and it would have been perfectly fine. We later switched to elegant #5, on the first floor, ensuite, for I think £105. Go with that one if you can.

Breakfast is the real star at the Celtic, in a large mirrored room on the lobby floor with white tablecloths and uniformed servers who scurry to meet your every wish. You order from a menu. The mushrooms here are fresh, and the coffee is Italian style and very good. Perfectly poached eggs, good toast, grapefruit, excellent bacon.
stokebailey is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 01:41 AM
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Hi Stokebaily,

I am enjoying your report and your description of hotels. You wrote:

“I don't carry electronics with me, so I was delighted to find a good internet cafe a few blocks away, where I could check email.” Good for you! I did not come across any internet café during my last visit to London so had to opt for one of the three computers available in the lobby of the Strand Palace where I stayed.

I had my new IPhone which I used for a few pics and notes. Couldn’t figure the darn thing out for texting from abroad.
Interested in how your daughter enjoyed her experience as an exchange student.

Will follow along...
latedaytraveler is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 03:24 AM
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I live in rural Cheshire and am lucky to see a fox. When I visit my daughter in Bethnal Green in the East End, I am sometimes kept awake by them fighting and mating. I once met one at Euston Station. I wouldn't have put it past him to be catching a train
MissPrism is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 03:33 AM
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I saw a rat once on a footpath in Earls Court. It was an unexpected delight for me. I'd never seen a rat before, thought it was a cute marsupial.

Seriously, enjoying your report, great description of let's say more economical hotels.
Keen to hear more !
sartoric is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 04:22 AM
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London outside of the very built up center abounds with foxes - surprised me too - they especially like to live along rail lines in brambles.

One B&B lady in New Eltham told me they are all over and she had a 'pet' fox - one that she fed with giblets from a butcher's shop - her cat would lay on the porch whilst the fox ate.

Foxes - all over London for some reason.
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 05:10 AM
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Hi Stoke,

following this with interest.

Urban foxes are two a penny, according to those who live in cities. out in the sticks i probably see one a week; more often I see the corpses of dead foxes and badgers by the road-side.


as we live in the country and have chickens we also have rats, though we don't see them that often. Having a holiday cottage as well, we were also keen than our visitors should not see them, so when our kids were younger, we told them that if the visitors ever mentioned seeing a rat, they were to say that they were not rats but cornish gerbils. Fortunately they were never called upon to do so.

more please, Stoke.
annhig is online now  
Mar 20th, 2014, 07:30 AM
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Yes I meant to add enjoy reading things from folks like Stoke B -
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 07:34 AM
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How cool to see a fox - I'll have to be more alert on my next visit!

I, too, like the cheap B&Bs, although I prefer en-suite. I usually pick one on Gower St.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 07:45 AM
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I've seen a fox, crossing the road in front of me in the City late one evening.

Lamb's Conduit Street is very nice, some great small shops there, mostly menswear.
Tulips is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 08:32 AM
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Foxes are very common round here - but of course, not only are there railways line embankments and canal/river towpaths to make highways for them and plenty of cover for their dens, but there are all sorts of bits of "dead ground" around buildings all across the city. And what with pigeons, rats, the remains of fast food in litter bins (one hopes in litter bins), there's plenty of food. Even so, they are notorious for knocking over dustbins to get at the contents, and more than once I've seen the contents of local public litter bins scattered all over the street (presumably a marauding fox). Plus, they're top of the food chain, with no natural predators. We rather suspect that a neighbour's cat's injuries might have been caused by a stand-off with a fox.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 08:51 AM
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I've stayed in the St. Margaret's several times. The breakfast was definitely excellent, and the young women serving were mostly Italian students who had gone to London to improve their English. It was very convenient for my husband, whose own English is shaky.

Lately, though, I've been staying near Victoria station, which is convenient for the coaches to Stansted; we take Ryanair to London. I also think we get more for the money in that area.
bvlenci is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 10:07 AM
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My B&B land lady said she feeds the foxes and so do many other people - weird what we call 'varmints' some Londoners call pets. When I was camping in Sidcup's park there was for some years a famous albino fox running around.

And Britain has many wild parakeets to all over.
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 10:13 AM
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Thoroughly enjoying reading this report, Stoke, as well as all the comments! Foxes in London- who knew?

PatrickLondon- my sister lives up on a mountain in Colorado Springs. She has regaled us with stories and pictures of her "garbage dumpers". They're not quite as harmless as foxes, though. Hers are black bears.

But she also has a "pet" fox. He's been coming to her yard for years and frequently can be seen sleeping on a large rock in her yard.

A few years ago, a young couple moved in next door to her. The night before Easter, they colored and hid in their backyard over 4 dozen eggs. They thought their two young daughters would get a kick out of hunting for them the next morning.

As the neighbor Mom told the story..

"Honey, did you see that?"

"See what?"

"I just saw a fox go by with an Easter egg in his mouth!"

"What? Well, the girls won't miss a couple of eggs."

The family found exactly 11 eggs left in the yard. Who knew how long that fox had been at work?
sarge56 is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 02:10 PM
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Ha, sarge. One year crows stole most of the 24 Easter eggs we'd hidden in our inner-ring suburb backyard. We were mystified until we saw one fly over carrying a bright blue egg-shaped thing.

Funny, Miss P and sartoric! And fun rebranding rats as cornish gerbils, Ann. Must remember that.

Thanks, Pal , Tulips and Patrick. I consider an abundance of foxes to be another feather in London's already feathery cap.

thursdays, we'd stayed a couple of times on Gower, a busier street. Garden facing is the way to go there, maybe, though last year at Arran House I got to sense what time to wake up by the increased traffic sounds.

bvlenci, the Celtic server who was finally relaxed enough to chat by week's end was a business administration student from Turkmenistan.

Our Celtic Monday morning H wanted to sleep in, so we didn't present ourselves until 0820 for the 0700 - 0900 breakfast. Somehow the majority of fellow guests had made a similar decision, and both lounges were full of people on the disgruntlement spectrum, while the poor servers dashed around doing their best. Some of those who'd already eaten were apparently lingering over their coffee, adding to the backup. These young servers, not professionals, had not developed a glare-proof shield. We made it a point to go down early after that.
stokebailey is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 02:27 PM
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stokebailey - I rent singles, so I usually wind up at the top at the back. Lots of stairs, but quiet. My current pick is the Ridgemount - the Arosfa is posher but has tinier bath cubicles.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 03:10 PM
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lateday, Yes! Last year I was surprised how difficult it was to find an internet cafe, and finally stumbled on one in the basement of a New Oxford St. t-shirt and doodad shop. There are at least three of them in the few blocks across the street from King's Cross and down Gray's Inn Rd.

H is studying at Regent's American College London, which as I understand it is part of Regent's University and one of the few (only?) such private places in London. Webster U currently manages the college but will be relinquishing that soon; they do have their study abroad act together nicely. She's in a double room, overlooking the quad, and of course you couldn't ask for a more beautiful setting. Security is tight, maybe especially near the breaks to reassure the nervous parent.

She loves it there. The level of instruction is roughly equal to what she's found at St. Louis U back home, with the usual ratio of excellent to mediocre or worse professors (or whatever they're called there). She's majoring in Econ, with in that area one really good and one clueless prof, and she loves her philosophy and world religion classes.

H was lucky in her roommate, a theater major from New Hampshire who's gone with her to several West End and elsewhere plays. The food in the refectory is good. She'd hoped for cultural diversity there, and is enjoying the fellow students. Some of them come draped in furs and status leatherwear, and have drivers to everywhere. She was lucky to get in a group that includes some ordinary and fun Londoners, and one evening was invited to happy hour on someone's dad's yacht that's docked near Temple tube stop.
stokebailey is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 05:21 PM
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THE FOOTWEAR QUESTION (or: All's Well that Ends Wellies)

My biggest packing dilemma involved what shoes to bring. We had theater and opera tickets, planned to walk many miles of city streets, would be going to Seville afterwards, and hoped to take a long muddy country walk. I brought H clothes from home, and returned with duffle stuffed, so could only carry so many pairs.

My question on Fodor's about where to buy wellies in London yielded lots of good information, some of it even related to what I'd asked. I love Fodorites.

In the end I packed my surefire comfortable oxford city walking shoes, my comfortable Arche 2" dressy enough suede heels, and a pair of birkenstock sandals. H insisted on a walk in Hampstead Heath to Kenwood House, and she remembered having seen a pair of "big black" wellies in the Oxfam Shop on Marylebone High Street. On the rainy afternoon of the yacht party I dropped her off at Regent's Park, then walked down Marylebone High St to the Oxfam shop. There, on an eye level shelf, were the big black "low wellies" (per tag) of my vision. Easy on and off, 2" shorter than H's regulation height Hunter pair, plenty big with stockings and socks, in good shape, and cheap. They came in very handy. (When we got to our week in Seville, the only other two pairs of sandals we saw were on a British woman and a German man. I wore them only once.)

The wellies were a joy. After buying them I splashed back to the Princess heedless of puddles, and waded through ankle-deep mud in the Heath happy as a 3 year old. In the suitcase home, I stuffed them with dirty clothes. I hope they will last me for years.
stokebailey is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 05:33 PM
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Hi again Stokebailey,

Thank you for describing your dear daughter’s university experience in London. Do I presume that the campus is within Regent’s Park? Beautiful. I explored only a bit of their acerage last year, but hope to cover more if I return in June. Also planning to do a canal trip in the area to get a better perspective.

What a great experience for your daughter. Fun to see how the other half lives, eh? So many private chauffeurs in London I noticed, especially in the better shopping areas, just waiting for their masters and mistresses to alight with their pricey purchases.

I will continue to follow your adventures with interest…
latedaytraveler is offline  
Mar 20th, 2014, 05:47 PM
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Great that you solved the Wellie question so well. I followed the thread, but it has been decades since I wore them. Not much call for them in my part of NC. When I was growing up in England we always took our shoes off when getting home, with the liklihood they would at least be wet, but that rarely happens here.
thursdaysd is offline  

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