Archive for the ‘London’ Category

Third Day in London   Leave a comment

The weather did not cooperate on this day. It was raw and spritzing us with a light rain. Even so, we stuck with our plan to take the Notting Hill walk through London Walks. I have not spent much time in this area, so I was interested in the walk. 

I have enjoyed each London Walk that I have taken, and this one was not an exception. It began a bit slow, but picked up steam as we went along. The walk began at the Holland Park tube station…which is closed.  I would recommend that they update their website to let you know that. Thankfully we were running early and had time to figure out how to get there.

I found it interesting how this area rapidly changed from a very poor section of London to a super posh neighborhood.

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Kiln from when the neighborhood was industrial.

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Posh townhouses.

The walk ended at Portobello Market which was not our cup of tea, but we had noted a highly rated fish and chip shop near the Notting Hill tube station. Geales was down a side street that we missed at the first pass (maybe that’s why it wasn’t very busy?), but we found it and gratefully settled in. I ordered the Trooper ale (oddly the only local beer on the limited menu) and the fried cod and chips. YUM!

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The fish was very fresh and accented with sea salt and fresh lemon. Scrumptious! I would definitely return if in the neighborhood.

The weather put a kink in my plans (nice walking tour past Kensington Palace, the Orangery, and the Albert Memorial before making our way to the Natural History Museum and the V and A).  Instead, tube ride to Gloucester Road so we could still walk by the History museum  (gorgeous building) and a quick visit at the Victoria and Albert. 

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We had dinner reservations at the Caxton Grill that evening so needed to make our way back to the house to get ready for dinner.

Adam Handling is the chef at Caxton and I have to say the meal was superb in every way. My only complaint was that it was too dark for photos to do the stunning presentation justice. Oh, and with courses named things like “Mother” (which was delicious by the way) I can’t recall for the life of me what I was eating!

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But at £50 for the 7-course meal and £66 for the 11-course meal it actually wasn’t ridiculously expensive!

What a great way to end the day!

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Posted March 17, 2016 by cubechick in London

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Walking London   Leave a comment

I always warn people that when I am in London I WALK! I walk as much as possible!  There is so much to see in this city! I hate to miss out by being on the Tube or on a bus. I have “broken” more than one friend who didn’t heed my advice to train before our trip.

Our second day in London was definitely the big walking tour. We began easily enough taking a catamaran tour from Westminster to the Tower of London. I had found a deal through Visit London for £5 per person for 24 hours of Hop on Hop Off service. Definitely worth it even though we only took the one cruise. 😊

Once at the Tower we beelined it to Tower Bridge. We had 2for1 coupons that we had downloaded before the trip. In order to qualify we had to get a National Rail ticket. So we bought the cheapest single we could find. £2.90 from Waterloo to Vauxhall. Well worth the investment. 😉

I hadn’t been to the Tower Bridge in years, so it was my first time with the glass walkways. It was kind of a pain in the butt though as several tourists dominated the panels, laying on them and posing for photos. But I managed a couple of decent photos.

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Naturally after the Tower Bridge, we toured the Tower of London. One benefit of traveling in February is zero lines. Didn’t have a line for tickets or to see the Crown Jewels. 😀 I guessed the minimum time we would need to tour the Tower was two hours and I was spot on. You can easily spend more time than that, but I knew my friend and figured two hours would work for her. 😉

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All of that walking meant we were ready for lunch. We had a reservation for Barbecoa. I was not overly impressed here. The restaurant was extremely loud. We wanted to do the set lunch but they were out of two of the items on the limited menu. My friend opted for an overcooked rib-eye and our bill was completely wrong. The rest of the food was tasty, but I wouldn’t bother coming here again.

I then headed to Fleet Street (after a photo op at St Paul’s Cathedral)

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so we could visit churches and pubs. 😅 Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is definitely worth a stop, as it the Blackfriar Pub and the Old Bell. We also peeked into St Mary’s and the Temple Church. Great history in a very small area!

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We then walked along the Thames and took a spin on the London Eye to see the city at night (also covered by the 2for1 offers).

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We hit a pub near our house, but didn’t bother with dinner as we had a late lunch. At the end of the day my phone said we’d walked over 11.5 miles and nearly 26,000 steps!  Job well done!

Posted March 12, 2016 by cubechick in London

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Better Late Than Never London Blog   Leave a comment

Maybe I am not too late. It’s been less than two weeks since I left my favorite city. Seems like a good time to take a moment to relive the great long weekend. 😊

As you know I won the airline lottery and was upgraded to club seats. What a great experience! I am envious of some of my fellow travelers who immediately fell asleep and never moved until our approach to Heathrow. I still only managed about an hour. But being able to lay down and just rest was tremendous. I found I landed in London not feeling tired at all!

Tail winds were my friend and we landed 30 minutes early. Then Club World gave me a fast track pass through immigration. I was outside with my luggage about an hour before expected. I was meeting a friend who landed at Terminal 2. She took the train to meet me. The driver for the car service we hired suggested next time to just have them hit both terminals. He said it would’ve been easier. Good to know!

I thought we’d make it to the house an hour before schedule but we hit massive traffic (accident?) so we arrived at 11:00 as I had planned. After settling in we made our way to the Hawksmoor Guildhall for lunch. I had seen the restaurant on a top ten list for the best steaks in the world. With a prix fixe lunch at £23 they were worth a go. I don’t know if they had the best steak, but it was cooked to perfection. The salmon appetizer we had was also excellent, so I would definitely recommend them!

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As we were essentially next door, we followed up lunch with a stop at the Guildhall Art Gallery to check out the Roman ruins I knew were in the basement. They are free so definitely worth a stop if you are in the neighborhood.

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After that we had tickets for the Sky Garden. We really lucked out with weather this first day and enjoyed walking and taking pictures as we went.

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Our luck ran out a bit as we arrived at the Sky Garden to find they were having a fire drill. We ended up getting upstairs about an hour late. But what a view! And for free!

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We walked over to Borough Market, but didn’t have much time to linger. We stopped by the George Inn for a refreshing pint. Smelly, with sticky tables, it didn’t have the best atmosphere, but as a tavern of historical significance, it was worth the stop. And the pint was welcome at this point!

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After a very busy day, we headed back to the house to meet friends for dinner at a local Porteguese restaurant called A Toca. I didn’t take photos, but can testify that the portions were enormous. Probably the best value for your £ that I have ever seen. We had a great time with our friends but after working the previous day and traveling all night, I needed to make it an early evening.

Another great day in London!

Posted February 28, 2016 by cubechick in London

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Sorry For The Absence…   Leave a comment

Although we did fully enjoy our maiden crossing aboard the beautiful Norwegian Escape, I never did get around to posting a wrap up of that trip as I hit the ground running when I returned to work. Toss the holidays into the mix and I am just now barely surfacing for air.

So at this time I will move on to a quick mini trip coming up in just two weeks. I couldn’t possibly be going to London again??? Could I?? Yep! I am not sure why DH gave his blessing…we have a strict “every other year” agreement in place. Perhaps a moment of weakness?  Perhaps because he has no interest in traveling in February?  No matter. I do not question these opportunities. 🙂

So off to London (only my favorite city in the world!!!) I go with a friend I traveled with last year. We will rent the same home again. Establishing friendships paid off there.  As we proved we weren’t maniacs last year ;-), we were offered a very favorable price for the house and were even able to forgo the security deposit.  So happy!  Loved staying in this home last year (Bev and Jeff may be the best landlords ever…not to mention pretty darn good friends!!)but thought it wouldn’t be feasible (affordable!) if there were only two of us.  Happy Dance!!!

I booked my flights about a month ago through British Airways.  I am not sure when the sale ends, but I was able to get a nifty discount due to an AARP membership.  I am not actually quite “old” enough to qualify for a “full” membership (is 50 old?).  I think I have an “apprentice” membership?  No matter.  For $16 per year I have a membership number that I have used to save up to 5% on cruise fares, and in this case about $150 on airfare.  Yippee!!!  That one discount will pay for 9 years of membership fees!

I will definitely post as we travel, but to set the tone, we are doing some old standards (Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London Eye) taking advantage of 2-for-1 deals, but also some “out-of-box” stuff.  Walking tours of Notting Hill and Hampstead Heath, some 5-star lunches (5-star restaurants become much more affordable during the lunch hour), and walking around checking out old churches and equally old pubs…all in the same area!!  Lots and lots of walking!!

We’ll hit some freebies…just booked Sky Garden today and will poke into the Guildhall Art Gallery to check out the Roman Ampitheater discovered in the basement a few years ago during a renovation (I went here in 2007 and had to pay 5 pounds!!!).

Perhaps the best part of the visit will be touching base with friends.  Both those I am traveling with and those we will meet up with while in London.

So watch this space beginning two weeks from right now!!!! 

Posted January 27, 2016 by cubechick in London

Leaving London…   Leave a comment

I have been remiss in wrapping up my final thoughts on this latest London adventure.  As I have another trip coming up next week, I must deal with this before I can move on to the next adventure in good conscience!  That makes it sound like writing this is a chore, but believe me it isn’t.  I have been very busy in the month since my return, and reliving my London trip will be a nice break!

I intentionally flew out a little later than normal (4:30 PM) to maximize my time in London.  So that last morning in the house, I got up to a nice breakfast with good friends.  We went our separate ways here…one friend had gotten free tickets to the Sky Garden and although I wanted to go, we had put in a late night the night before and I still needed to pack.  Not wanting to feel rushed this last morning I passed (plus the Sky Garden is over by St. Paul’s which was a little farther afield than I wanted to go).  So after finalizing my packing three of us went for a stroll to Vauxhall Park to see what remains of the miniature Victorian village there:

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and further onto Lambeth Palace for a quick photo op.

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We were granted another sunny morning before the rain rolled in, making our weather during our visit very nice overall.  Only needed the umbrellas one day really!

Local friends made certain that we all got to our respective airports (and even squeezed in time for a pub stop)!  🙂

My flight home was delayed slightly, and we had a small concern when a sensor that detects ice had a malfunction…fortunately the “easy” fix worked and because of great tail winds, we managed to get back to Boston on time.

Final thoughts….as usual, London was superb.  I simply love any time I get to spend in that wonderful city.  I am especially glad that I finally got to do the Twilight  Tour of the Tower of London!  I am also really glad that I had the chance to visit with so many friends during my short stay and that my traveling companions seemed to enjoy themselves as much as I did.

I usually don’t rent houses, preferring full-service hotels, but I will rent this house from Bev and Jeff whenever I have a chance!  They provided so many amenities, that it has nearly all of the conveniences of a hotel, whilst providing the seclusion and comfort of a private home.  It is also no more than a 5-minute walk to the bus stop or 15-minutes to the tube or train stations.  It was nice to feel a bit like a local for a few days!  Unfortunately, I will have to wait a couple of years before I get to experience their hospitality again.

Farewell to London until next time!

Posted March 18, 2015 by cubechick in London

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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!!! 
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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.
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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!).
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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. 
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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)
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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. 
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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!

Posted February 18, 2015 by cubechick in London

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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(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

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