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What Took You So Long? Sunny16's London Trip Report

What Took You So Long? Sunny16's London Trip Report

Jun 2nd, 2005, 06:50 AM
  #1  
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What Took You So Long? Sunny16's London Trip Report

Part 1
We just got back from our week in London, and we had a blast. I want to thank everyone again for all the help I was given in preparing for this trip.

The title of this trip report alludes to the fact that I hadn't been to the UK since 1993, and that it was DH's first trip abroad.

I like Mylesawayís trip report format, so Iím going to borrow from it because itís succinct. 

In a nutshell, DH and I are in our mid-30ís, live in NYC, and are pretty adventurous when it comes to exploring new places. We are big walkers. Before this trip, I had done a semester in London and Iíd had other trips there, but I hadnít been back since 1993. Iím happy to say that DH loved London, and he said he could see why I loved it so much. He realizes that we havenít even scratched the surface of what London has to offer even with all the things we saw last week.

Our hotel
The Sanctuary House Hotel was a comfortable hotel in a good location for a lot of tourist attractions. Our room was large for a city hotel room. It is on Tothill Street, up the block from Westminster Abbey. The nearest tube is St. James Park. The only problem is that the streets roll up on the weekends because itís a business area, so the only pub nearby is the rather lame one in the hotel (too well lit, no stools at the bar, etc.) Also, there werenít too many restaurants around there. I think next time, we would pick a more residential area for our lodging. More on that later.

Here are some highlights:

Southwark Cathedral Iíd never been there before, and I was impressed. Itís not grand on the scale of St. Paulís; rather, it is almost intimate for a cathedral, with gorgeous, simple lines. There were only about 5 other people in the cathedral at the time we were there, and an organist was practicing (or maybe she was playing, but it sounded like she was practicing). Anyway, it was a lovely experience to be in there in a nearly empty cathedral with an organist playing. I wish I had taken some photos, but I was torn on this: I could have bought a photography permit for £2, but I probably would have needed a tripod to do what I wanted to do, plus I didnít want to break the mood with my loud shutter.

Borough Market Borough Market is the reason we want to get a flat next time weíre in London. We both saw a lot of things weíd like to cook, so we talked about getting a flat in London next time weíre there so we could cook. We did pick up some goodies while we were there.

The Harry Potter Connection
We had some time to kill one day, and we had to make a tube connection at Kingís Cross/St. Pancras. I told DH I thought that some of the first Harry Potter film had been shot around here, so we got out to take a look. I felt very sheepish when I asked the guy at the information desk where the filming had taken place, but he was very nice about it. Thereís a wall off to the side outside Kingís Cross that is labeled ďPlatform 9 ĺĒ with half a luggage dolly sticking out of it. There are also some arches over Platform 4 where some filming was done. We lingered there for a bit and took some snaps.

Architecture
I instigated a search of a couple of buildings. One was the ďGherkinĒ, the Swiss Re building in the City. Itís a large, purple bullet-shaped building that went up in 2003. I think itís stunning; I know a lot of people hate it. We had time one evening to go get a good look at it. My photos donít nearly do it justice, but it was cool to see it.

I also went looking for the Cruciform Building. This red brick building was built in the shape of a St. Andrewís Cross. It used to be a hospital, and George Orwell died there in 1950. It is just a gorgeous building and it was fun to see it up close. Itís now owned by University College London.

Greenwich
I promised DH I wouldnít run him ragged on our second day like I had on the first, so we took the boat to Greenwich. The ferry ride was a lot of fun and we spent a very pleasant day in Greenwich. We didnít go to the Royal Observatory or any of that. Instead, we had a great pub lunch at a place called The Yacht, next to ? Then we walked along the waterfront for a while, through a residential area and back to the main part of town. I loved the look of the houses in the area and I talked to DH about getting a second home there.  When we got back to town, we walked through the foot tunnel to the Isle of Dogs and back. The tunnel was pretty cool and worth the trip, I thought.

Meeting people In Real Life (IRL): Oxford and Camden Lock
We spent a day in Oxford meeting some people from my camera email list. It was a lot of fun meeting one gentleman who Iíd known online for years. Oxford is a pretty town, and it was nice to get out of London for a day. We had a pint at the Eagle and Child, an old haunt of Tolkien and his friends. Highlights for DH included going past Slough (fans of The Office will get this).

We also shared a pint with a web industry friend of mine in Camden. Again, it was great to put a face to the name.
sunny16 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 07:23 AM
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Part 2

Restaurants
I donít consider myself a foodie, but I appreciate a good meal. At home, DH and I favor smaller, not-so-fancy restaurants off the beaten path. These tend to be a great value and can have great food. Some of our favorites from this trip:

Woodlands: This is a small chain of Indian restaurants. We at lunch at the one on Marylebone Lane. We felt slightly underdressed going in there, but they were very nice to us. I had a terrific sag paneer (spinach and cheese) and DH had a dosa. Good stuff.

Ravi Shankar: This is a great vegetarian Indian restaurant on Drummond Street near Euston Station.

Sweet and Spicy: Time Out Cheap Eats described this Brick Lane restaurant as a ďPakistani working-menís cafeĒ. In other words, zero ambiance, but very good food. This was fine by us, and we had a very cheap and authentic meal there.

Tarbouch (Oxford): Great Middle Eastern food.

Waterloo Bar + Kitchen: This place is around the corner from the Old Vic theatre. We went there after we tried to go to Cubana, which turned out to be closed. I highly recommend this restaurant. We had our last dinner there, and it was a great way to end our stay. I had the chicken stuffed with pancetta and mozzarella with leeks, and DH had cod wrapped with bacon. For dessert we had sticky toffee pudding. Everything was divine.

Pubs (for meals)
Every meal we had at a pub was great. Our pub meals averaged about £ 25 for the two of us. Here are the ones we hit:

The Yacht (Greenwich)
This little pub is next to Trafalgar Tavern. It took a while for our food to come, but when it came, it was worth the wait. We had a table next to the window overlooking the Thames. I had a burger and DH had steak and stilton pie. They have several options for vegetarians using fake meat.

The Sherlock Holmes Pub: We went there because DH is a Sherlock Holmes buff. There was a large after work crowd on the street outside the pub. We went to the restaurant upstairs, where you can see a ďreplicaĒ of Sherlock Holmesí study. This area is where the tourists eat, of course. I had a terrific shepherdís pie here.

The George Inn: This famous old pub is right near Borough Market in Southwark. We stumbled upon it and had some good fish & chips there. There is a beer garden outside. Apparently both Shakespeare and Dickens used to go there, though not at the same time. 

Meals Ė cheaper than we thought
London wasnít nearly as expensive as we were lead to believe by various sources. Maybe itís just because weíre used to NYC prices, but things really werenít that expensive even after the exchange rate. We probably spent an average of £15 per meal for the two of us.
sunny16 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 07:25 AM
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Part 3

We were underwhelmed by
The Jack the Ripper Walk. I think our guide was Angela. The walk didnít knock our socks off, but it was interesting nonetheless, and Iím happy to have done it. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadnít been so tired, but I donít think DH and I are really walking tour people anyway.

Ishbilia: The food was fantastic, but to be perfectly honest, Iíve had as good as or better Middle Eastern food for a quarter of the price. I know, thatís not why you go to a place like this. Anyway, the food, atmosphere and presentation were all lovely, and I was glad we went, if only to satisfy my curiosity about the place.

What we didnít do
The London Eye. We just didnít feel like standing on line, to spend half an hour in a ferris wheel. I know everyone says itís a must-see, but it just didnít float our boat. Instead, we climbed to the very top (the third set of stairs) of St. Paulís Cathedral, above the dome. That was very cool, gave us terrific views, and a big sense of accomplishment, although my feet hurt afterwards. 

We didnít see any plays, either. Iíd intended to see The Far Pavilions and/or We Will Rock You, but we never seemed to have time to stand on the TKTS line. Weíll try to catch We Will Rock You next time. I meant to catch some fringe, at least, but the one thing that looked interesting to me, I was afraid would bore DH, even though he said heíd go.

What I miss now that Iím home
Good cider on tap: I am a cider drinker, and I very much enjoyed being able to get cider on tap at the pubs. I had some every chance I got, and Iím not even a big drinker. Now that Iím home, the Woodchuck cider I buy by the sixpack tastes like cough syrup. Oh, Strongbow, where art thou?

The Tube: Iíve always preferred the Tube to the NY subway. Itís just more clean and pleasant, and I like the boards that tell you when the next train is coming.

Iím Going Back
There are about a zillion other places we want to visit, but we have fallen in love with London and we will definitely be going back, hopefully within the year. DH is trying to interest his parents in renting a flat with us, but weíd do it on our own, too. It would be nice to be able to prepare breakfast ourselves, and to feel like we actually live there for a few days.

I canít believe I let 12 years go by between visits to London, and I don't plan to let that happen again.
sunny16 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 08:02 AM
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Beautifully presented and an enjoyable read. I hope this inspires others.

"London wasnít nearly as expensive as we were lead to believe by various sources. Maybe itís just because weíre used to NYC prices, but things really werenít that expensive even after the exchange rate. We probably spent an average of £15 per meal for the two of us."

If you are used to New York City prices, there are very few places in the world that would supply pricing shock and awe. One can eat cheaply in NYC, too, if you know where to go. One can definitely eat cheaply if you stick to ethnic restaurants. This is, typically, not the average tourist's cup of curry.

London is very expensive no matter how you cut it and I don't find this assessment misleading or untrue. If you're a smart shopper who can deal with limits and can live without cabs and trendy restaurants, you can prevent a higher level of sticker-shock.

I'm glad you and hubby had such a wonderful trip.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 08:16 AM
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I'm a cider drinker too (hate beer) so I loved being able to get it everywhere when I was in London last year. I miss it too. I get it when I go to Epcot.
radiofanatic is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 08:25 AM
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Great report. Thanks sunny!
indytravel is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 04:53 PM
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Indy and Foodsnob, glad you liked it!

Radiofanatic, you can sometimes find cider by the bottle in bars in NYC. If you're ever up this way, it never hurts to ask if they have it. Or you could just pick some up at a deli and have it in your hotel room.
sunny16 is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2005, 01:36 PM
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I hear your cry, cider-lover! I, too, was spoiled by Strongbow when I was in the UK the last three times!

I know several US bars are now getting into having cider on tap. I visited a friend in NJ last month, and the dive we went to (had great burgers!) also happened to have cider on tap --- yay!!
GreenDragon is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2005, 03:34 PM
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Excellent & excellently succinct London trip report, sunny16! I especially loved knowing about where George Orwell died. In Paris, I found the building he lived in during his Down & Out in Paris & London days 6 rue du Pot-de-Fer near rue Mouffetard in the 5th/Latin Quarter). Next trip to London I will check out the hospital thanks to your info.

The commentary regarding the new buildings was cool, too.

Glad you & yours had such a lovely trip!!
Beatchick is offline  
Jun 4th, 2005, 10:07 AM
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Enjoyed your report, Sunny! S'wark cathedral and Borough Market are on our list, fersure, when we get there in August, so it was interesting to read your comments. Also about food/prices. We've not been "ethnic" eaters (other than chinese), but I guess we better start educating ourselves about what-to-order if we don't want to eat every meal in our room! LOL. Thanks for an enjoyable read.
tuckerdc is offline  
Jun 4th, 2005, 03:17 PM
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good trip report. thanks! I have just moved to London and actually haven't seen anything yet - still waiting to get paid first. BUT across the road is a house with the house number 12 1/2. So reminded me of Harry Potter. I keep wondering who lives there and if it is a joke. Just to digress for a moment. sorry. Will try and see all the places you saw in a week within the next year!
wilees is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 11:18 AM
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Beatchick, here is the location of the building:
http://tinyurl.com/a6r67

In the lefthand menu on that page, there is more information about the building.
sunny16 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 12:21 PM
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Enjoyed your London report - makes me want to go back NOW!! I like the English ales, but have also discovered the ciders and like them as well.

Kayb95 is offline  

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