yk's 72-hour trip to London, Oct 2019

Oct 7th, 2019, 07:17 AM
  #1  
yk
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yk's 72-hour trip to London, Oct 2019

Hello there, it has been a while since I last posted a trip report (I started one for Dublin a few months ago and I promise I will finish it some day). This will be a short one as I was only on the ground for about 60 hours this past weekend.

I have been to London many times before and have visited many major and off-the-beaten track sites (check my TRs). I used to research my trips extensively beforehand but now I don't really have the time to investigate much. It would have been useful if I had reread my own prior TRs but I know my trip this time is for the operas so any sightseeing I do is a bonus. I don't want to travel far for sightseeing knowing that I will be tired and would need to save my energies for the operas at night.

Why?
For those of you who know me, i used to travel solo a lot to Europe, but that was before my son was born in 2012. Since then I have not taken a solo trip. After all this time of being his primary caregiver, I felt I deserve a little getaway vacation, even it if is just for a 3-day weekend.
Back in May I saw a fare sale BOS-LHR for $377r/t for the Fall. I checked Royal Opera's schedule and saw my favorite tenor will be singing there in Sept/Oct, so I jumped on the sale.

Day 1
I flew out on BA's last flight of the day on Thursday, which departs Boston at 10:50pm and arrives at 10am. I picked this one so that DH doesn't need to miss any work Thursday; he is already taking Friday off so he can take care of our child. As i bought the cheapest fare (no seat selection, no checked luggage allowance), I was assigned the middle seat in the last row of the airplane. The entire flight was full. I guess you get what you paid for! I have trouble sleeping on planes anyway so I just rested my eyes for the 5-hour flight.

Arrival into Heathrow is a breeze. Last time I was there was summer 2018 with my family. Because our son is <12 we cannot use the e-gates. This time I can, and the whole process takes no time. I took the tube and was in Leicester Square an hour later.

I packed very light given I was only there for 3 days; besides, I was staying at an airbnb apartment and I cannot check in until 2pm so I don't want to lug a suitcase around while waiting for check-in.

I ended up going to the Portrait Gallery for about an hour, looking at the Tudor portraits. Then off to Chinatown for lunch. I picked TPT on Wardour street because I know the place from before - I had Hainanese chicken rice which was sadly disappointing. Then I walked over to Royal Opera to pick up my tickets, and then to the airbnb. I picked this place because it is literally across the street (1-min walk) from the opera house. The owner rents out several rooms of his house; mine has a bedroom with King bed and private bathroom (across the hall). I paid $357 including fees for 2 nights. I collapsed in bed for some rest.

I woke up at 5:30pm and got ready, as I have bought tickets to 2 operas. Tonight is a 4-hour Handel Opera called Agrippina, starring American mezzo Joyce Didonato. I thought I would sleep through the whole thing but it was so good and so riveting that I was wide awake for the entire show.

Day 2
I normally don't sleep well on trips and it's not any different this time. The room faces the main street so it's noisy despite double-glazed windows. I have ear plugs on but still didn't sleep well. Oh well.

Left the apartment around 9:30am and walked westward on Strand/Fleet Street towards St Paul's Cathedral. I was hoping to find a greasy spoon along the way that served British breakfast, but I guess I was in the wrong part of town. In the end, found a cafe across from St Paul's (Cafe Rouge) and ordered their British breakfast - 2 eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, beans and toast. From there I walked across Millenium Bridge to visit Tate Modern. (side note: I used to take the RV1 bus from Covent Garden to Tate Modern. It's a very handy bus route. But the route has been permanently taken off since June 2019)

Main reason to visit Tate Modern is that I haven't gone there for 10 years now, and currently they have the Olafur Eliasson exhibition. I didn't even know Tate Modern has opened a new building! The Olafur Eliasson exhibition alone was worth the trip. His use of light, fog, mist, water etc is really moving. I spent another couple more hours in the permanent collection, and also visited the observation deck in the new building.

I left around 2:45pm. It was an overcast but otherwise pleasant Saturday. Locals and visitors were out in force along the Bankside area. I walked all along the South side of Thames until Charing Cross bridge, then back to National Portrait gallery for their Portrait cafe (on the top floor) for afternoon tea (I had made a reservation ahead of time). I was seated by the window which has a lovely view. Their tea is not cheap, £29.50pp but there is a lot of food and of course you are paying for the location. The tea set comes with 2 scones (with jam and clotted cream of course), 4 different finger sandwiches and 4 small desserts.

I headed back to the apartment for a quick nap, then got ready for a second night at the opera, Werther, starring Juan Diego Florez (the reason for this trip). No need for dinner that night obviously, after the huge afternoon tea.

Day 3
I thought today was going to be raining so I planned a museum day. Besides even though I packed light, the shoulder bag still feels heavy after a while so I wanted to visit a museum where I could leave it at coat check. But it turns out to be a sunny brisk day and I wished I had planned it differently. OTOH, after another night of minimal sleep, i don't know how much sightseeing I could really do.

Check-out at the apartment was 10am. I then went over to Covent Garden market and stopped at Laduree. It being a Sunday morning, the place was rather peaceful. Bought a box of 8 macarons to bring home. then off to Chinatown in search of breakfast. I could only find one single place that is open that serves congee. Had a congee and pork bun for breakfast. Walked over to Trafalgar Sq for No.9 bus to Hyde Park.

Sun had started peeking through the clouds so I walked in Hyde Park for a bit, but also to Serpentine Galleries for their annual summer pavilion - today was the last day of the pavilion before it gets dismantled. This year it is by a Japanese artist, it has a curving roof made entirely of slate slabs.

Then made my way to V&A, dropped off my bag at coat check and wandered around the museum. I thought I wanted to see the Mary Quant show but in the end decided not. I swear V&A qualifies as the museum with the most stuff! The entire top floor is devoted to ceramics and there are just shelves and shelves of them.

I love the V&A dining rooms, always a pleasure to dine in such beautiful surroundings. I had a lamb dish which was pretty tasty. After lunch, I wandered around the museum for a bit more, then back to the cafe for one last afternoon tea (tea and scone). In Boston it is close to impossible to get British-style scones complete with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

I left around 4:30pm to head to Heathrow. Had a mini heart attack when I found out South Ken tube station was closed. I had checked TFL online earlier and didn't see any notice of that. I was worried they had closed down the entire Piccadilly line. Luckily 2 locals there told me the line is running; I just need to pick it up at Gloucester Rd station. In the end I arrived at Heathrow with plenty of time to spare. The extra security for US-bound flights seems to have relaxed some as well. My flight was the last LHR-BOS of the day which departs at 7:55pm. Flight time was significantly longer on the way back (7 hours) and arrived at 10:30pm local time. Again I was assigned a middle seat on a completely full flight. (Funny I was reading one of my trip reports to London from 10 years ago and I said my flight then was 20% full and I was able to lie down 3-across in my own row... those were the days). Since I have Global Entry and no checked luggage, I was out of the airport quickly.

thanks for reading and happy to answer any questions you might have!

Last edited by yk; Oct 7th, 2019 at 07:26 AM.
yk is offline  
Oct 7th, 2019, 07:22 AM
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thanks for writing
bilboburgler is offline  
Oct 7th, 2019, 07:55 AM
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Thanks for your report! I'm curious about your flight check-in timing and seat assignments... did you check in online as soon as you were able, about 24 hours in advance? I frequently domestic flights without ability to select seats, and I have stated waiting until closer to flight time to check-in on line, hoping that the airline has unloaded all the least desirable seats first... Any thoughts??
GinnyJo is offline  
Oct 7th, 2019, 08:01 AM
  #4  
yk
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Originally Posted by GinnyJo View Post
Thanks for your report! I'm curious about your flight check-in timing and seat assignments... did you check in online as soon as you were able, about 24 hours in advance? I frequently domestic flights without ability to select seats, and I have stated waiting until closer to flight time to check-in on line, hoping that the airline has unloaded all the least desirable seats first... Any thoughts??
On the outbound flight I checked in as soon as I was able to. On the return flight I checked in around 3 hours after online check-in had opened. I don't know if it made any difference
yk is offline  
Oct 7th, 2019, 08:31 AM
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Nice report and sounds like a lovely trip - some random comments:

>>I picked this place because it is literally across the street (1-min walk) from the opera house. <<. What a fabulous location!

>>Left the apartment around 9:30am and walked westward eastward on Strand/Fleet Street towards St Paul's Cathedral.<<. . . . It was the jet lag

>>I used to take the RV1 bus from Covent Garden to Tate Modern. It's a very handy bus route. But the route has been permanently taken off since June 2019<< ditto -- I discovered it being discontinued when I was there in July It was a very handy route connecting the Tower, Southwark, Tate/Globe, and Westminster.

Living on the west coast I can only DREAM of 5 hour flights to London.
janisj is online now  
Oct 7th, 2019, 08:51 AM
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How was Werther? (I'm a big JDF fan.)
Gwendolynn is offline  
Oct 7th, 2019, 05:26 PM
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Yay, she’s back! The intrepid high-powered solo traveler who crams in more activities than there are hours in the day. Another classic trip and report, worth the wait.
Nikki is online now  
Oct 7th, 2019, 09:26 PM
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Hate Congee. Love Laduree macarons.

You should have gone to the Wolseley for breakfast.

Thin,aristocrat 🎷
Pepper_von_snoot is online now  
Oct 8th, 2019, 05:47 AM
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Nice to see a yk TR!

I put raspberry jam on my scones, when I can get it. The V&A has good big ones.
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 8th, 2019, 06:34 AM
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V &A scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam. Thin,aristocrat 🧀
Pepper_von_snoot is online now  
Oct 8th, 2019, 08:16 AM
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What on earth?
"Tha needs to come to Yorkshire to have proper tea and buns."
bilboburgler is offline  
Oct 8th, 2019, 01:43 PM
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Hooray! , nice to see some real cornish clotted cream there, Thin, from my local dairy, Rodda's. [about 2 miles away from here] . We always buy their milk, cream, etc. when we can, which is pretty often.

what a great TR, yk, but the only thing you don't tell us about was the singing of your favourite tenor!
annhig is offline  
Oct 8th, 2019, 07:32 PM
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YK- You are so amazing. I admire how much you can cram in a very short trip. Can't figure out when you find time to book anything or buy your tickets or figure out what more you can do if there is a mini gap between activities.
You should be writing lots of tips for novice travelers.
You have done well as a solo traveler, as a traveler with a little kid or one traveling with family and friends.
Lots to learn from you. Keep up the good work and enjoy traveling as there is so much to explore on this earth.
ileen is offline  
Oct 10th, 2019, 05:22 AM
  #14  
yk
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
Nice report and sounds like a lovely trip - some random comments:

>>I picked this place because it is literally across the street (1-min walk) from the opera house. <<. What a fabulous location!

>>Left the apartment around 9:30am and walked westward eastward on Strand/Fleet Street towards St Paul's Cathedral.<<. . . . It was the jet lag

>>I used to take the RV1 bus from Covent Garden to Tate Modern. It's a very handy bus route. But the route has been permanently taken off since June 2019<< ditto -- I discovered it being discontinued when I was there in July It was a very handy route connecting the Tower, Southwark, Tate/Globe, and Westminster.

Living on the west coast I can only DREAM of 5 hour flights to London.
thanks for the correction, janis! Yes, blame it on the jetlag Luckily the weather was okay that day for me to walk, and it was a pleasant walk. Also, the Bankside has really been rejuvanated; tons and tons of people were there on a Saturday.
yk is offline  
Oct 10th, 2019, 05:24 AM
  #15  
yk
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Originally Posted by Nikki View Post
Yay, she’s back! The intrepid high-powered solo traveler who crams in more activities than there are hours in the day. Another classic trip and report, worth the wait.
Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Nice to see a yk TR!

I put raspberry jam on my scones, when I can get it. The V&A has good big ones.
Originally Posted by ileen View Post
YK- You are so amazing. I admire how much you can cram in a very short trip. Can't figure out when you find time to book anything or buy your tickets or figure out what more you can do if there is a mini gap between activities.
You should be writing lots of tips for novice travelers.
You have done well as a solo traveler, as a traveler with a little kid or one traveling with family and friends.
Lots to learn from you. Keep up the good work and enjoy traveling as there is so much to explore on this earth.
Thank you so much for all your kind words
yk is offline  
Oct 10th, 2019, 05:28 AM
  #16  
yk
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Originally Posted by Pepper_von_snoot View Post

V &A scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam. Thin,aristocrat 🧀
The day I went it was so busy - the clotted cream were just in a tub of plastic container. Oh the indignity!!! (Nice to see you, Thin)

yk is offline  
Oct 10th, 2019, 05:30 AM
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yk
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Originally Posted by Gwendolynn View Post
How was Werther? (I'm a big JDF fan.)
Hi Gwendolynn, Werther is okay - his voice is too small for ROH and the orchestra played like they were playing Wagner. I felt like he was straining to be heard most of the time. I was way more taken by Agrippina the night before with Joyce DiDonato and Iestyn Davies. Both are performing in Agrippina at the Met this winter (different production).
yk is offline  
Oct 10th, 2019, 07:49 AM
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Interesting... is the ROH larger than the Met? I've heard him several times there with no problems. (But no Wagner orchestras either - Have only seen Werther once... the baritone version with Thomas Hampson. Didn't inspire me to seek it out again.

Joyce D. is a lovely performer. wish I could get to the Met.

Glad you are home safe and sound...
Gwendolynn is offline  
Oct 10th, 2019, 07:57 AM
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PS...... Just remembered I saw DiDonato and Florez together in a
Barber at the Met. Absolutely wonderful performance.
Gwendolynn is offline  
Oct 10th, 2019, 12:39 PM
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Brava, yk! I am with you in spirit -- no way to keep up otherwise. 😁
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