Tuesday 18 June
Checked out of hotel in Paris, grabbed some heated quiche which was delicious from the same patisserie, lugged my luggage down & then up the many steps in the metro to Gare de Nord, Europe’s largest train station. Got the Eurostar which was quick & easy process & 2 hrs later I’m in London. Caught 2 more lines, more steps, & at my hotel. I find that both London & Paris have a certain kind of humidity that I’m not used to regardless of it being hot or cold.
I headed out & just wanted a quick bite. The area I’m in is very ethnic so some interesting cuisines about. I chose a kebab shop & enjoyed a delicious kebab with fresh vegetable juice.
Then caught the tube again & boarded one of the river cruises to Greenwich. Excellent way to get a quick lay of the land & learn something new. Then hopped off & had a quick look at the Cutty Sark (a ship) & then towards Greenwich Park where I just missed the closing time of the observatory. Obviously my watch was wrong by a few minutes. Wondered about, then walked on a foot tunnel under the Thames, caught a light rail then tube & back at the hotel.
Out to dinner at Casa Malevo, an Argentinian restaurant. Back to the hotel & surprised it’s pleasant in a shirt without the need for a jumper. Plenty of people about. Time to turn in.
Wednesday 19 June
Time to kick off the full London experience so went to Hawksmoor Steakhouse in Guildhall for breakfast.
Next headed to the London Tower where a Yeoman entertained us on the 1 hr tour with his humour, loud scary voice, & relation of history. Fantastic! The castle itself is really amazing too. Also went & saw the crown jewels & other valuables – quite majestic.
My legs don’t seem to be working today so relaxed for awhile then headed to the London Tower & Crypts Experience – the latter is supposed to be UK’s scariest attraction. I didn’t find it that scary but was laughing at this other guy who was laughing at his screaming wife. It’s dark & you don’t know what’s around the corner but it’s pretty entertaining. For some, not so.
Made my first stop at a pub – The Mudlark – & ordered a ploughman’s platter: pork pie, 3 cheeses, pickled onions, yummy sweet onion jam, bread, & a salad. Can’t believe they served all this for 10.95. Lovely meal outside in lovely weather.
Caught the metro to Tower Bridge which is not the London Bridge, & went for the self guided tour of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Really good, informative, & nice views too.
I’m getting rather hot & bothered climbing all these steps in the metro. The French metro includes the free gym membership of climbing all these steps with the rare escalator thrown in as some kind of reward and the maze of passages to the next line keeps the circuit workout going. However, the English will not be outdone as their hot, stuffy & airless metro trains create the sauna experience. I asked a guy if the air con is broken & he said there is none. How do these people ride the tube wearing suits, jackets & jumpers? I was in a T-shirt. After 9 stops you could put a fork in me as I was cooked “well done”. Drinking heaps of water. Why the lack of escalators & air con is beyond me. At least the tunnel blows plenty of breeze. The steps aren’t hard, it just gets you sweaty which isn’t pleasant for anyone. Pounds lost: 20 – actually that’s what I’ve spent for the day.
Pretty stuffed food wise & leg wise. Turned on the TV for the first time all trip & watched the food channel. Went out later for exploring & picked up a slice of pizza that was OK (just 2 countries away from Italy – what went wrong?); a chocolate eclair from a patisserie which was OK (just across the channel from France – what went wrong?); and a dorayaki which is a Japanese pancake with a cream cheese filling (mine was red bean) and this was excellent. I saw an ice cream place – it’s not gelato – I nearly started crying.
Thursday 20 June
Being a cricket tragic I had to make a trip to the home of cricket: Lords. But before I headed there I stopped off at The Mad Bishop & Bear above the Paddington train station (not the underground) which is a huge station. My breakfast venue is a pub with character & history like everything around here. I had a sausage sandwich as I need to try some English sausages. Very nice but similar to what I’ve eaten in Australia.
Next headed to Lords for the tour which is every cricket lover’s dream. Went in the long room, pavilion, out into the stadium, but the media center was in use so missed out on that.
For those cricket fans out there, a few interesting facts: 1) the ashed urn was a gift not a trophy which is why the urn is not transported (when Australia win the ashes) like any other priceless artifact, 2) scoring was done by notches on a stick so that’s where the phrase “to notch up a century” comes from.
The long room is where the MCC members sit and players from both teams walk through here before entering on to the hallowed turf. A number of players have got lost trying to find their way to the long room. We also went to the player’s rooms where the wooden plaques have listings of centurions for overseas batsmen and listings for bowler’s who took 5 & 10 wickets at Lord’s. Also saw a charity match on a nearby field with Andrew Strauss batting. Great experience. Shame I’m not here to see the ashes. The view is fantastic.
Next headed to Westfield Shopping Center at Shepherd’s Bush. Then ate a light lunch at
Cabana Brazilian BBQ. Had a cool colada (refreshing), spicy malagueta chicken, & chimi churi. The chicken was moist, had a grilled flavour like nothing I’ve had before and the marinade is fantastic! Such delicious flavours. Also got excellent friendly service by a guy called Eduardo.
Headed to Marble Arch and then to Primark. As always, the ground floor is always women’s clothing and there were so many women in there with baskets it was hard to get around to the escalators to see men’s. Mad house! Like seagulls on a leftover sandwich. The stuff there is good quality but really cheap. Also stopped by Trafalgar Square which is pretty amazing.
Headed back to the hotel to relax before heading to Notting Hill (same place where the movie was made) to The Ledbury for dinner.
Friday 21 June
Today I went to Marble Arch and caught the hop on hop off double decker bus for a 2 hr trip around London. Pretty good and saw some new sights. More importantly, I gave my feet a rest! It was pretty cold on the top deck and cold in general. Fortunately I did pack a hoodie in my bag.
Bit stiff after sitting down for so long so got my exercise on the tube to Piccadilly Circus. Went to Hawksmoor Air St for lunch. Different to the other venue at Guildhall but still has a unique old history feel.
Had 2 starters
Potted smoked mackerel
Potted beef & bacon with Yorkshire pudding
Both are typically English. I poured the onion gravy over the huge Yorkshire puddings and tucked in to the slightly soft and slightly crunchy mixture. The onion gravy is not too sweet and I enjoyed the Yorkies but would have liked a little more salt. The potted pork is really unique. The pork is cooked in it’s own fat within a sterilized jar. It’s preserved and served in the sealed glass pot. Popping the lid, a white layer of fat sits atop. Piercing this layer and grabbing some pork, it’s so soft and fibrous. A bit like tuna mixed in mayo it’s of a similar consistency. The flavour is like nothing I’ve tasted. I really enjoyed this.
The potted mackerel is similar to the pork but different flavours of course. Even the small bones have broken down. Crisp mini toasts were served with a bowl of thin cucumber slices in a vinegarette and dill. Dill and cucumber are the perfect partners to oily fish.
Next, I headed to M&M World in Piccadilly Circus. There is 4 floors of paraphernalia including chocolate to buy. This is like a candy shop for adults. Lots of fun!
I then paid a visit to Benjamin Franklin’s house in London which he resided as a renter with the widowed landlord and her daughter. He initially came to stay for 5 months but stayed 16 years. Quite amazing what he achieved. The house has been preserved as is. The tour was pretty interesting being presented by an actress, leading the crowd through the different rooms of the house, and watching movie snippets telling the history.
Returned to the hotel and then out to dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant Petrus. I’m really being spoilt but I must indulge while I’m all the way over here. Another fantastic dinner in a lovely polished setting with professional service to match the professional food served. Really enjoyed my dining experience.
Saturday 22 June
Pretty lazy day today. Had a big sleep in after getting back late. Couldn’t be bothered with breakfast so skipped straight to lunch.
Went down the road and had chicken biriyani @ Masala Zone. The restaurant has a smart interior and offers street food dishes to curries. The dish I was served had a large mound of biriyani, a bowl of spicy dhal which was nice but had some bite, and a bowl of raitha – the yoghurt condiment with some small crunchy noodles on top. Not bad raitha but Mum’s is way better. As for the biriyani, the rice grains were nice and loose with good spice but lacking a touch of salt. The flavour was nearly there but fell a bit short. There was plenty of tender tasty chicken. Somehow I nearly ate the lot bar 1 tablespoon. Really tasty.
Felt pretty tired so lazed in bed and watched the food network. London is not bad but it’s quite dull and dreary. I’m not sure if it’s the constantly overcast skies, the lack of sun, the dark bricked narrow compressed buildings, or the muted clothing everyone seems to be wearing (not that I’m a fashion expert- far from it). Paris would be my favourite and Rome is not too far behind.
Given it’s my last day, there’s still a few typical English dishes to try apart from Indian food – fish & chips and a pudding. So I headed to dinner at Mr Fish.
There was a huge crowd standing outside but they were waiting for others – tourists. Such a relief as I thought I wouldn’t get in! Once you walk in the dine in area is at the back and I easily got a table before it filled up.
I chose cod and I received a large piece even though I ordered the regular. I wonder what the large is then. The batter was a deep golden brown, nice and crispy, with tender fish just lacking a touch of salt. The chips are thick cut with potato skin still on. Pretty good though I prefer my local fish & chip shop back home.
Next up, I chose spotted dick – a pudding with sultanas, spiced fruit, and custard. It was served to me in a large bowl, hot and steaming, smothered in thick rich custard. The custard wasn’t too sweet nor the pudding. It’s soft and enjoyable and becomes very filling. With the yummy custard, this makes for a lovely dessert.
My trip in Europe comes to end. I’ve loved experiencing the completely different cities and what they have to offer. One thing I won’t miss is the ridiculously small showers. At times when soaping the water would turn off – because I knocked the tap with my elbow. The water was hot but much space there is not. I hated the soaps that wouldn’t lather. Don’t drop the soap either as you’re in for some tippy toe squats. Adds to the workout of the metro. I guess that’s why the soap may be chained. Once out of the shower, step on to the bath mat and do the Michael Jackson moonwalk to get to the middle of the bathroom so you can dry yourself without knocking anything or putting your arm through the shower door. Happy days!