London Calling

London_003London is an AMAZING city.  So many people in the streets.  So many people on the roads. I find it hard to fathom that in the world we currently live in, where we fear the impact of a terrorist act, especially in a place with such a western culture as London, that so many people go about their business, attend public gatherings in their 10’s of thousands, crowd every street like it’s a rush to an Adelaide Crows home game and like there is nothing wrong with this world.

I say this for a reason.  We have travelled France, Western England to Wales, up to Scotland and down to this city. And for the first time, I realise the vulnerability of where we are. We know we’re a target.  But in the face of that, our culture has won.  We don’t fear the terrorist, we are warned against it.  With the sirens sounding around us as we walk along The Strand, as the police tear down the wrong side of the road and lock up their brakes to return to the left. The city is on alert, as it should be. But it stops nothing.

We caught our train from Edinburgh on Virgin Express in First Class (yup, we splashed for free wifi and a table).  But that didn’t stop the electricity failing on the line (yes, it’s not just the Seacliff line, it happens everywhere) and we had to change to another train.  Another Virgin Train where 2 trains joined with this one and we had to share.  3 trains crowded into one, with many people in first class having to stand.  Can you believe it?  Oh the whining that went on…

We finally arrived, after a 3 1/2 trip stretched to 4 1/2 (plus a couple of minutes).  Those minutes were important.  We now get a full refund thanks to Sir Richard Branson as we were over 60 minutes late!

Now I’m not one to dob, but a certain other male adult (not me) who was tasked to carry our accumulated groceries, left a certain Marks & Spencer Fridge bag on the ground at Kings Cross Station as we called our Uber Taxi.  He rushed back to get it after leaving it on the ground for less than a minute unattended.  In that time, the police were called on that lone bag of butter, margarine and unused bread.  Such is the life in London.

We found our 2 Uber Taxi’s (I officially respect the argument of Taxi companies, but Uber is amazing) and travelled to our accomodation in Clapham.  The area we stayed, as our Airbnb host calls it, the Nannyset.  A well to do area, covered head to toe in mums and prams, activewear and the best Fish and Chip Shop in London (thank you Benny’s).

Our house was a wonderful suburban 3 1/2 storey detached house with a backyard in Clapham.  The wifi wouldn’t work; which is really frustrating when you need to plan, book and otherwise do touristy things in a city that requires such things.  But we got by with average 3G network on the various levels of the house.  Comfortable enough, but those stairs. You actually forgot what floor you were on.  We had a basement kitchen, a street level lounge, a bathroom up 1/2 flight of stairs, a bedroom up the other 1/2 flight of stairs, more bedrooms and another bathroom somewhere up there as well.  The rear garden was between the kitchen and the lounge level and the front street was about 6 steps down from lounge level too.

Travelling days are full days.  The Fish and Chips was the best way to enter the London experience.

Day 1 – A day around London

London1star_008

New Tate Modern

Getting around London is easy on the Hop on, Hop off bus. As long as you have the time.  Uber is also an easy way to get around London, as long as you have the money.  But for sightseeing the bus is the better solution.

We Uber’d it to the bus location, got our tickets and on we got.  It took as 1 1/2 hours to get where we wanted to get off, but we also got to see quite a few of the attractions London has to offer. Such as Trafalgar Square, Trafalgar Square, Trafalgar Square (as it went up the road, turned back, up the road, turned back) Buckingham Palace, Nelsons Column, St Pauls Cathedral, traffic…  Personally, I don’t like the buses, but they are useful.  It was lovely for Tracy to see these things though, as I’ve seen them before. London is a beautiful city and one I could easily live for a couple of years.

One of Tracy’s “bucket list” things was seeing Shakespeare Globe Theatre, which we did. We didn’t go inside, but we did get to see the outside of it.

Our trip on day 1 was really taken up by travelling, but we still saw quite a bit during that time. The Bus, the sights, the Globe, the “New Tate Modern” for contemporary art, a boat ride up the Thames and then an Uber to Madam Tussauds for Jane and Tracy, while I waited and had coffee.  We walked back to the London Eye  (about 2-3 km walk) for a spin through the wonderful streets of London, and finally an Uber ride back home (we were spent).  A full and lovely day.

Here are a couple of the things we saw on our walking trip through the streets of London.

Day 2 – Harry Potter World!

This was Julia’s bucket list thing to do.  To see the backlots of the Harry Potter films in Watford.  We made our way to Victoria Bus Station (Uber) where we had our breakfast (early start) and then an hour plus a bit drive on the bus.  They put on the first Harry Potter movie for us to watch. (is that the Philosophers Stone?). They cast look soooo young..  But of course we didn’t get to finish watching the movie.  Maybe we could make the rest up in our trip through the studio.  It did serve to put us into the wizard mood though.

London_Dobby-02The studio tour really was interesting though and I would recommend it.  Of course they had many of the actual sets and costumes there.  And apparently they’re filming the new movie in the other studio block about 1/2 mile away.  It wasn’t a tour which included rides and such, like they do in the USA, and was more interesting than fun.  Still, it is highly recommended.  The only camera I brought with me on this day was my iPhone.  We had some that obligatory Butterbeer.. Yuk!  Well it’s okay if you enjoy butterscotch with a pound of extra sugar..  Some may love it!  It was certainly cool to have something that you can’t have every day though.

Day 3 – Final full day

We had to vote for our new Government.  We could’ve escaped this if we really wanted, by citing overseas business and not being able to get near a polling booth, but we did the ‘proper’ thing and when to the Australia High Commission where polls were set up, some 2 weeks prior to voting day.  We would be in Iceland on voting day (2 July).  We Uber’d here.

London_015A walk along the Strand and up to Regent Street for a spot of shopping…  This included the world famous “where fun meets wallet” at Hamley’s Toy Store.  Large lego replica’s of the Queen and her Corgi.  Adults playing with toys in the shop, enticing you to buy, people blowing bubbles out the front of the store, others singing songs that just came into their head.  Would it be so much hard work to have all that fun?

It was Tracy’s last day before she was to head home to Australia.  And she was promised a special time in the way of a High Tea.  Lucky I was with them I say.  Because I had blisters on my heels and was finding it difficult to walk.  I was going to stay home, but nup.  So I got to go to High Tea at Café Royal Hotel (Café).  The first photo below is not mine as in here just to show the entrance.  The website is linked above.  The other photo’s are mine. The cakes really tasted better than they looked.  And they looked… well you decide.  What you can see here is the Ferrero Roche Macaroon and the Jaffa Cake.

I left the dynamic duo after the ‘nosh-up’ and decided to walk to Hyde Park and then home.  I made it as far as about 300 metres into the park, with 5km to go, and really couldn’t walk much further.  I did take a few other photo’s on the way though.

Hyde Park and the walk home.

Uber.. yes please.

The evening

No photo’s, but I Uber’d it back to the Arch Duke Hotel (right near the London Eye) met Jane and the others (Trevor had an espresso martini waiting for me) and we all had dinner with Jane’s cousin Debbie, her husband Darryl and their lovely daughters Holly, Daisy and Tilly.  What a wonderful family and a perfect night.  In the future we’d LOVE to get to know them better, and I have no doubt we will.

Kitchen Shot.

London – signing off, and our next trip is to the opposite of the Hustle and Bustle to the Waterfalls, Fjords, Volcanoes and Glaciers that form my favourite country, Iceland.

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