Where I Stayed – Troy Hotel
I’m not the 5 star kind of guy so I chose the Troy Hotel as it met my budget as other hotels were pretty pricey at the time. It’s located in Bayswater close by to lots of restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacy and a couple of tube stations. It’s an excellent location, has Hyde Park close by and provides a decent room with a comfortable bed and amenities. It was a nice hotel that did the job for me and I have no complaints. The shower is pretty small but then so was the one in Rome and the one in Paris was 50% bigger which made if ‘spacious’ but still small. I’m not sure if that’s how it is in Europe. The hotel is located on a quiet road with the next road containing all the restaurants, shops etc. It’s pretty safe and there’s a variety of cuisines due to the ethnic nature of the neighbourhood. I’d be happy to stay here again.
London Pass – Excellent Resource
Like the Paris Pass, the same company also offer a London Pass. I’d really recommend getting the London Pass. It comes with a metro card for riding the tube stations for free within the city limits, entrance to several attractions, some allow you to skip the line which is excellent when time is precious. I like the maps and the metro station maps for getting around. The book which lists lots of attractions helps you plan your holiday by getting a brief overview of the attraction, websites for those attractions to get more info, and the book also has opening and closing times which is important in planning what you want to see when. I made good use of the London Pass and thought it was well worth the money. Best suited if you’re in London for at least 3 full days.
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. A really comfortable ride, the only drama is locating your carriage – it’s a really really really long train! 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. Lovely meal enjoyed 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 artefact, 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 and after perusing the many stores, I had built up quite an appetite. I headed Cabana Brazilian BBQ for a light lunch which was delicious.
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.
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.
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.
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!