Archive for February 2015

Sunday, Best Sunday   Leave a comment

Ah, my last full day in London. 

Two local friends join us for the day and after a nice breakfast at our lovely house, we head off to what I feel is the obligatory stop at Harrod’s.  Obligatory for first time visitors at any rate.  I am not a shopper at all, but even so I appreciate the crazy variety of goods that can be found under Harrod’s roof.  If nothing else I think the food court is worth a gander.  First because we don’t have department stores that sell groceries in the US and second because I have never been to a store where you can buy a container of yogurt and top end caviar at the same time!

From there we would go to Jamie’s Diner for lunch.  The Diner is a Jamie Oliver “pop-up” restaurant right by Picadilly Circus.  We had waffled back and forth on whether to dine here as there are quite a few negative reviews on Trip Advisor.  I am happy to say that the food was wonderful and we were happy we went.  Some of the items tried included crab hushpuppies that were cooked to perfection and nicely spicy, a fresh Greek salad with fresh mint leaves adding a nice “pop” and the Epic pie which stole the show with a combination of dark chocolate mousse, salted caramel sauce, and toffee popcorn. YUM!!! 
image

image

As for the negative reviews?  All I can say is that perhaps they don’t know what a diner is?  For our group we found the restaurant produced exactly what we would expect; comfort food with a gourmet twist.

After a visit to Fortnum and Mason, our group divided up, with some opting to get back to the house via bus and others taking advantage of the beautiful sunny day and walking back.  We ventured back to Trafalgar Square (just had to get a pic of the giant blue chicken that was erected on the fourth plinth after my last visit), then over the Embankment Bridge for some wonderful photos in the sun.
image

image

image

image

A short break at the house was followed by a round of pints at The Blackfriar Pub next to Blackfriar station.  Not particularly old by London standards (1895) it has an amazing interior and exterior worth a look (pretty good food too!).
image

image

Now we come to the moment I have been waiting for for eight years; the Tower of London Twilight tour!  I first read about this in 2007 on Trip Advisor, but had never been in town when it was available.  Now would I be disappointed after eight years of anticipation?  NO!!!  It was amazing!  The tour is ninety minutes long (double the length of the Beefeater tour during the day), is much more interactive and it’s simply cool being in the Tower at night.  We checked in at the Welcome Center as instructed and wandered around taking pictures before being escorted into the Tower by our Yeoman Warder Kevin. 
image

image

The next ninety minutes flew by as stories of the Tower were shared (often humorously)…some of which you hear on the daylight tour, but many not…especially the ghost stories.  We were taken into the Beauchamp Tower to see the carvings/graffiti left by many years of prisoners (nice for me as I had never been in this tower before)
image

image

and to the Chapel St Peter ad Vincula where Anne Boleyn among many unknown others are buried.  After this we continued our spooky tour from the grounds of the Tower.  My only caveat is that the White Tower and Crown Jewels are not included in this tour.  Not a problem for me, but good to know.  Also, tickets must be purchased on-line and in advance as the tours are limited and do sell out. 
image

image

image

Our final stop was a Wetherspoons pub called the Liberty Bounds a stone’s throw from the Tower.  A couple of pints and a light dinner capped of the amazing day quite nicely!

Advertisements

Posted February 18, 2015 by cubechick in London

Tagged with , , ,

A Brilliant Day   Leave a comment

The London Eye is wonderful… if you get good weather.  My friends wanted to do the Eye, but I suggested that we wait and see especially as the Eye was a ten minute bus ride from our house and easy to add on at a moments notice.

Saturday morning provided our chance. So off we went on the number 77 bus to the London Eye. Being that it is February, the queque wasn’t bad.  From ticket purchase to capsule was about twenty minutes. 

The Eye made its slow rotation, and we got our amazing views.

image

Afterward, we hopped on a commuter boat to take a short cruise up the Thames to the Tower of London. If you pay with your Oyster card, you get a 10% discount. 🙂  We would be taking a Twilight Tour of the Tower on Sunday, but I wanted my friends to see the Tower and the Tower Bridge during the day. 

image

St. Paul’s Cathedral is next on the agenda after a disappointing lunch at Cafe Rouge. A favorite chain of mine, the dry croque monsieur was very disappointing.

St. Paul’s is an architectural masterpiece. For the first time I climbed the 257 steps to the Whispering Gallery. The stunning view is so worth the effort. Too bad they don’t allow picture taking. 😕  St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey are two completely different experiences and both very worth your time.

image

I love walking as much as possible while in London, so we walked across the Millenium Bridge then along the South Bank to Borough Market. What a crazy busy place on a Saturday! Must get there earlier in the day next time.

Then we zipped home to freshen up before dinner at Brassiere Zedel, a very unique restaurant a stone’s throw from Picadilly Circus. If arriving by Tube, the East Regent Street exit will pop you right there.

Lovely restaurant with a cabaret on the second floor and a reasonably priced menu, especially for central London.

image

(Thanks to my friend Petra for the pictures here as I forgot to take any!)

It was quite nice outside, so we walked down to Leicester Square and over to Charing Cross. Walking around London at night is one of my favorite pastimes!

Posted February 16, 2015 by cubechick in London

Tagged with , , ,

Abbeys, and Palaces, and Grills, Oh My!   Leave a comment

Today we pick up our story after a nice breakfast at the house(supplied by our generous landlady).  🙂

First stop Westminster Abbey.

image

We just missed out on taking a Verger’s tour. Just in case you don’t know, these tours are the best! £5 gets you a private tour with very knowledgeable and entertaining Vergers, plus access to the Chapel of Edward the Confessor.  I cannot recommend this tour enough.

But as we missed out, I did my best to provide commentary to my friends. 🙂
After a wonderful time amid this bastion of history, we went to Waterloo station so we could make our way to Hampton Court Palace. I has come across a 1/2 price winter special that ended today: £8.50! So watch for these off-season specials!

We arrived near lunch time and opted for a pub called the Mute Swan that is opposite the entrance to the palace. The pub was very clean and the food very good and surprisingly not busy given the location.

Hampton Court Palace is a nice visit and can take all day to do it justice…especially if you tour the gardens and the maze.  Costumed actors abound and while touring Henry the VIII’S apartments, we came upon “Anne Boleyn” and “Cardinal Wolsey” in a bit of an argument.  My husband happened to text me at that moment and told me to tell them things did not end well for them. 😅

After a couple of hours, we needed to depart. Rain and wind made visiting the grounds unappealing anyway.  Of course, as we were leaving, the rain stopped and blue skies peeked out.

image

Our evening plans included the Kitchen Table at the Savoy Grill (a Gordon Ramsay restaurant).  It was an eight course meal in a private room overlooking the kitchen. It started out well enough with a kitchen tour and some amazing starters. 

image

The food went a bit downhill after the fourth course as did the service (we had a rather absent sommelier).  I will do a full review elsewhere, but suffice it to say that although we enjoyed the experience, we wouldn’t recommend it.

Four hours later we emerged only to have our bus blowing by us without stopping. At that hour I didn’t feel like waiting, so grabbed a cab. A black cab must be part of your London experience at some point!

Posted February 15, 2015 by cubechick in London

Tagged with , , ,

First Day in London Continued…   Leave a comment

So, as you may have guessed, Cubebear’s friends also had a test when making their way to the house. They arrived in Gatwick without issue and caught an early bus to Vauxhall.  But of course the bus driver blew past Vauxhall and dropped them at Victoria station.  It took some doing but they jumped on the bus back to Gatwick and got off at Vauxhall… at the time originally scheduled!

The original plan was to go to Westminster Abbey, but we decided that a general tour might serve better today.  Off we went on a walking tour from Westminster Abbey through St. James’ Park to Buckingham Palace.  After a detour to the Hard Rock Cafe for a t-shirt, we continued to Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Chandos Pub for a quick beer.

image

Finally, we head to the Riverside in Vauxhall for a tasty dinner and a meet up with local friends. As Cubebear had arrived at 5:00, we had to call it an early evening. A quick stop at Sainsbury’s for provisions ended a nice first day. 🙂

Posted February 14, 2015 by cubechick in London

Tagged with

Cubebear Arrives in London   Leave a comment

Things got off to a bit of a bumpy start for Cubebear and friends.

Cubebear arrived at Heathrow in tact and on time.  But the driver for Simply Airports that his Companion (yours truly) hired showed up 40 minutes early for a 6:00 pick up and seemed to think this Was our fault. Being grumbled at at 6:15 isn’t a good start!

That sorted (l did not pay him the extra he Clearly thought he deserved) We arrived at the house we’re renting with minimal fuss.  Isn’t it lovely?

image

image

Now Cubebear just needs to wait for his friends to arrive! Would their bus driver take them to Vauxhall as promised or drop them elsewhere?  Hmmm…we’ll see #

Posted February 13, 2015 by cubechick in London

On My Way!   Leave a comment

You may have heard about the Northeast being pummeled with snow in the last couple of weeks. Something like 80″ in less than three weeks?

|f so, you will understand my anxiety as my trip approached. Snow on either side of Wednesday, but my travel day remained clear! Still some concern getting to the airport though with traffic being a bit of a nightmare with public transportation either shut down or running a very limited schedule in Boston…meaning more cars on the road than ever. Anyway. Happy to report I went from the office to this:

image

In 90 minutes.

Let the vacation begin!

Posted February 11, 2015 by cubechick in London

London Calling!   Leave a comment

Cubebear is on the move again!  This time he is returning home for the first time since he became my little traveling companion.  That’s right, Cubebear is answering the siren call of London.

He’s packed and ready to go and ready to make new friends.  Watch this space for his live reports from the best city in the world.

image

Posted February 10, 2015 by cubechick in London

Tagged with

%d bloggers like this: