Joined: 2 May 2001
From: Marlborough Massachusetts USA
Sorry for the delay in finishing my report but it's been a busy week! Life returns to normal, I guess! My brain still wants to be on vacation.....
We arrived back in London on the train and the trip back was as enjoyable as the trip up to Liverpool. I really like the option of the "quiet" cars they have now so you are
not subjected to people yapping incessantly on their cell phones and having to listen to everyone's personal conversations. Can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine?
We went via Virgin trains and they are very nice and clean, with friendly personnel.
What can I say about London that hasn't already been said? The city always seems to be more crowded than on previous visits but I love every minute of it. People seem to play well together, which is amazing considering all the different ethnic groups. We checked into our apartment, which was really nice and in a superb location.....right around the corner from Kensington High St., almost across the way from Hyde Park. So close to such a busy street yet we heard no traffic or noise while in the flat. We ate at a nice French restaurant around the corner, which proved a bit challenging because, apparently, the French have never heard of gluten and my need to not ingest any! However, we had an Italian waiter who knew exactly what I needed (God Bless Italy!) so I ended up with a fabulous meal of venison. Sorry, Bambi, but they taste so good!
The first full day was spent touring the Houses of Parliament and I HIGHLY recommend this tour. The place is so beautiful on the inside and filled with such treasures that you are almost left speechless by the grandeur of it all. It starts in the oldest part of the building, Westminster Hall, and I immediately thought of our Tudor. It has an amazing hammer beam roof and I am going to cheat here and provide a link for more information on it. Westminster Hall This explains the place pretty well, better than I could do, and is worth the price of admission. I will say that the tours sell out and I would advise booking on-line so you can print out your tickets and take them with you. We saw the Queen's gold throne which she sits on when addressing the House of Lords and you almost need your sunglasses on when viewing the thing! The chambers seem smaller than they do on TV and it's funny to see the difference between the House of Lords and the Commons......the Lords are all gold and quite fancy yet the Commons are...well, common! Very plain without all the guilt of the other. The tour takes you through a number of area's before you get to the actual chambers that they debate in and it is all very gorgeous with paintings and gold. I mean, we have nice buildings in Washington, D.C. but this makes it look like Washington needs a make-over! My only complaint is that you have to be a citizen of Britain to get into the Big Ben clock tower....very disappointing but I was happy with seeing the inside of one of the worlds most recognizable buildings. After the tour, we shopped in the Westminster Abbey gift shop for Christmas gifts. They really have some nice trinkets in there! We did not go into Westminster Abbey again, though, as we have done so on previous trips and the cost is getting up there. Touring as a couple costs between $40.00-50.00 dollars just to get in the door so we choose our tours more carefully now.
For dinner that night, as it was Saturday, we went to Leicester Square to a restaurant called "Mermaids" because I had read on-line that they had gluten free fish and chips. I know, I'm probably the one and only on this forum who gears my trips partly around food but it's what I have to do. It was well worth it for 2 reasons.....the fish and chips were gluten free and very, very good! It was such a treat to have this English staple again...you have no idea! Almost did the happy dance in the restaurant. The second reason was that I had no idea Leicester Square was such a hot bed of activity on a Saturday night. What a boatload of fun we had after dinner!
It was completely packed with people of all kinds and, as we made our way slowly down the street towards Piccadilly, we heard singing and what we thought was a band. Sure enough, we saw a donkey cart being pulled by Hari Krishna's, with a guy on the cart playing a drum. It was a toe tapping beat and all the Krishna's were dancing and singing, following the cart. This got the crowd going and almost everyone started dancing to the beat, like the Greek dance at weddings. What a spectacle it was and something you just wouldn't see here in the States. It was such a happy crowd and no one was causing a problem. After this we emerged at Piccadilly and that place is another must see at night when in London. The neon and all the people hanging out and having a good time....I miss it already! You have to like big cities and crowds to enjoy this scene but for those who do, it's a bucket list item. Saturday night in Piccadilly, with a walk up to Leicester Square. We hung out for awhile and then headed back to the flat to crash.
The next day we headed to Greenwich...again! Third time there but it was Michael's pick and a perfect day for it. Beautiful, blue sky and perfect temps for a day out.
We took the tube to the DLR rail and that was different! No drivers but it was a short and interesting ride. Goes through the revitalized dock area's, loaded with shops and condo's. We then used the underground tunnel to walk over to Greenwich. The stairs were closed and they had a lift to use as I would imagine all this work is in prep for the Olympics. Lots of scaffolding this time around and workers making things better. If there's scaffolding, it must be London!
We spent the entire day walking around the Observatory and the park, including the Queen's House and the Naval College. It is one of the most beautiful views in all of London, looking out across the city from the top of the hill. Because of the fact it was October 10, 2010 (10-10-10), there were weddings going on so we saw gorgeous brides having their photo's taken. What a great place to be married. We then headed back to Tower Hill on the catamaran boat and that was really cool. Very fast and the views are great.
After having supper at a restaurant on St. Katherine's Dock, we did the Jack the Ripper Tour. Very, very fun and creepy! We walked all over the City of London at night, which is deserted by then, so no dodging traffic and people. It also focused on what London was like at that period in history and wasn't all about the details of the grisly murders. Just enough of both and very interesting! I highly recommend it. After this, it was getting late so we hobbled back to the flat and crashed....it was a long day but lots of fun!
I will end for now as lunch is over and I have to get back to work. More this week-end.....