3 Days in London

London Travel Blog

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FOREWORD

Another 3 short days in a major European city, London.

Armed with a Leica camera, a London Moleskine notebook, Pelikan Piccadilly pen, O2 simcard, an Oyster card (tube/bus pass) and a small travel book. Let’s see what I can do in a short amount of time.


DAY ONE. WEDNESDAY.

Arrived at Heathrow at 15 minutes past 8 o’clock in the morning, an hour and a half late due to missing pilot at Newark (I kid you not). Immigration was fast, baggage claim faster, and customs is the fastest I’ve ever experienced (I basically just walked past the person at the station. No hello, no form, nothing. The guy didn’t even look up from whatever it is he’s reading.).

I was at the tube station at 8:50, reloading my Oyster card with £20. Should be enough for 3 days of public transportation hopping. I took the train all the way to Green Park Station and walk a few blocks to Park Lane Hotel. Understandably, my room wasn’t quite ready yet at 10 o’clock. I asked the concierge to store my bags and minutes later, out I went headed to Bond Street. I figured I might as well start with shopping to get it out of the way. Got a few things crossed off my Christmas list and at noon, I came back to the hotel and was pleasantly surprised that I was upgraded to a 2-room suite, overlooking a lush park. Considering the normal hotel rates in London, £250 per night wasn’t bad for a suite, I thought.

I took a quick shower and I headed down Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus on foot from the hotel. It’s 2 PM and I thought, “hmmmm, maybe I should eat”. But it is only 9 AM where I came from and I usually skip breakfast, so I wasn’t hungry.

Instead, I jumped on the tube to Westminster.I gotta tell you, when you emerge from the Westminster station and up the street level, you’ll get this “Hey, I’m in London” feeling. As soon as you come out of the station, look up and you’re surrounded by Big Ben, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the Parliament, double decker buses and black cabs. Heck, you might as well go to the nearest pub, get a pint of ale, order a kidney pie and follow it up with fish and chips and tikka masala, and go home.

Well, I didn’t do that. I took some pictures and got on another train and got off at Knightsbridge to hopefully complete my shopping at Harrods. The food section at Harrod’s is something else. Unplanned purchased was 100 assorted capsules for Nespresso. I just couldn’t resist how cheap they are here in London as the sterling’s value declined against the U.S. dollars.

From Harrod’s, I took another short train ride to Earl’s Court. Went inside a pub, had a pre-dinner drink of a pint of ale and 2 half-pints of lager. The bar was full so I grabbed myself a table. A few minutes later, a nice young lady in her mid-20’s sat on a table next to mine. She’s got such an angelic face. I had an immediate crush that I lost my nerves for small talk. I ignored her and just jotted some notes on my Moleskine.

I almost fell off my chair when she said, “Hi. Can I ask you a rather personal question?” “Oh geez.”, I thought. She’d probably ask me how does it feel to be a complete loser to be in a bar all by my lonesome. But no, she asked me what I was writing about. I told her what it was and we chatted for about half an hour or so. She gets cuter by the minute and pretty smart, too.

Too bad that her friend, Jessica, finally showed up and they went off to dinner somewhere. Even more surprising is that I declined her invitation to join them for dinner. I don’t know what I was thinking but I blame jet lag for it. Anyway, I waited a few minutes before leaving the bar myself.

It was 7:30 and I was hungry as I haven’t eaten all day.

I didn’t feel like going to a formal restaurant that night, so short of going to McDonald’s, I went to Masala Zone (a local, full service, Indian food chain restaurant). The restaurant was almost full. They offer traditional Indian food. I ordered a combination lamb and shrimp thali. A “thali”, for the uninitiated, is the traditional way Indian families eat at home. The meal included dhaaba roghan josh (the lamb and shrimp curry), a canape , 2 different kinds of veggies, a dal (lentil), raita, indian salad, papadum and chutney, wheat chapatti and rice. It sounds a lot but not really. They are small portions on one big plate. Not bad for £12.50.

Took the tube back to the hotel and I’m tucked in bed at 11:00.

DAY TWO. THURSDAY.

I woke up at 2 in the morning. It was raining outside. I made a call to the States and checked on a couple of things. Tried to go back to sleep and, I think, managed to get back in it at 3:00.

Wake up call came at 9 in the morning. Made myself a hot cup of tea, took a shower and I was out the door at 9:45.

I crossed the park in front of the hotel and came out the other side facing the Buckingham Palace.

Changing of the Guards started at 11:30. The pomp and pageantry was elaborate, with lots of walking back and forth by the guards for no reason, it seems. All these for just some guys to punch in and another batch to punch out of work. Incidentally, I may actually spent more much time watching the pretty police on a horse than I did watching the guards.

The short train ride to the British Museum was crowded. I took some pictures and wandered around a bit. Admired some of the artifacts, Rosetta Stone, mummies, etc.

At 1:30, I had lunch at Munchkins, just a couple of blocks from the British Museum’s gate. An order of fish and chips and tea came to £12.

Next stop, Borough Market. I thought this would be a good opportunity to accomplish two things at once.... sightseeing and dessert. I bought some handmade chocolates and candies, a piece of cake and assorted olives for dessert and walking around snack.

The sight, smell and sounds of the market is a sensory experience. Plenty of characters and I could stay here for hours and eat my way to a heart attack. I even saw a guy cooking a massive meal.

I was at Tate Modern by 3:30 PM. Now, I’ve been to about a dozen of these modern arts museums to know enough to appreciate the collection within its walls, in my opinion, ranges from interesting to absolutely ridiculous. Tate Modern is no exception. One of the current exhibit is a bird nailed to a wall by an arrow. But hey, you can’t hate them if you’ve never seen it. One of the reasons I visit these museums is to qualify my hatred for them. :-)

I was back at the hotel at 6:00 for a shower and a change of clothes for dinner and theatre.

Quick dinner at Locanda Toscana was uneventful and hardly worth mentioning, except that the mediocre food and wine cost me £29. It was just around the corner from Her Majesty’s Theatre where I’ll be catching the 7:30 curtain call of Phantom of the Opera.

I have seen Phantom in Broadway a couple of times before but I’m always curious if the West End production is better. I was fortunately enough to be in the front row stall (main floor) and right in front of the orchestra, who happens to be nothing short of sensational. The show itself was moving, the thespians are competent, but one of the productions I saw in NYC was better.

After the show ended at around 10, I wandered over to Piccadilly Circus and grabbed a pint of beer at a crowded pub whose name I can’t remember now.

Personally, I don’t particularly like Piccadilly Circus. It’s like a tamer version of New York’s Times Square.

I was back in the hotel room just before midnight.

DAY THREE. FRIDAY.

I overslept, but still managed to be in Notting Hill by 10 in the morning. I had a cup of coffee and a pastry at Charlie’s, on Portobello Road. Strolled a bit, looking at antiques. I was hoping to find some nice fountain pens but didn’t see anything I like. I went over to a street parallel to Portobello, to Paul Smith’s boutique to purchase a limited edition fisheye camera. This is a camera that I have a hell of the time finding in the States. This is one of the very few things I bought for myself on this trip; most are for people on my Christmas list.

I was at Trafalgar Square just before noon and headed to national gallery. Spent just over an hour there.

Late lunch was at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant. The restaurant was packed. Thanks goodness that I have a reservation. This is my only planned meal on this trip.

I ordered a Portuguese beer (Lagres) and main course was grilled Scottish rib eye with Puglian olive, roast red onion, chili and garlic butter. A side of salad and heritage potatoes with rosemary and garlic completed the meal. It was a nice lunch for £50.

I was at the Museum of London after lunch. It is a rather small museum showcasing the heritage and progression of the City of London from many, many moons ago to the present.

A nice walk from the Museum was St. Paul’s Cathedral. I spent some time wandering around its perimeter. I went inside and had a nice, private chat with the big guy up there. It’s a one-sided conversation of me asking for stuff and Him listening, or so I hope.

Nearby is the Millennium Bridge. I walked all the way across it to the other side of the Thames and took some pictures of the bridge with St Paul’s cathedral serving as a nice backdraft.

Up next was the Tower of London. I asked a man for direction to the tower and he turned my attention to another bridge next to the Millennium Bridge and said, “See that green bridge over there? That’s the London Bridge and the bridge next to that is the Tower Bridge.” I was like, “Dude, I’m certain that the London Bridge no longer exist because I heard some guy telling his fair lady that the ‘London bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down’. And it should have fallen down by now.” Anyway, the bridge next to the green one looks towerly enough that I walked that way in case he was correct. And by golly, he was right. So whatever you guys might have heard about the London Bridge, it isn’t true. The bridge is still standing.

I took some photos again. Outside the tower is a skating rink. I stood by it for a little while to watch the skaters and sip a cup of coffee I bought nearby, while I catch some cold London breeze.

I was once again back in my hotel room at 6 PM for shower and a change of clothes for another night of dinner and theatre like the night before.

The show I’m catching tonight is We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre.

I’ve seen the Toronto production of this show and raves about it. This musical is based on Queen’s (the band, not Her Majesty) music. I am a huge fan of the band and thoroughly enjoyed both the London and Toronto productions of We Will Rock You. Unless you really, really hate Queen’s music with a passion, I recommend watching this show. It is a fun show to see. It is closer to a rock concert than a play. The girl playing the part of Scaramouche in the London show is quite the looker (I also like the girl in the Toronto production). I was seating in the front row, center and I couldn’t help but stare at her. I swear, at one time, she smiled at me. I was seriously smitten. but I digress.

I headed across the street for dinner after the show. It was a Greek restaurant and had myself grilled lamb and chicken, a salad and a pint of beer.

I was back at the hotel at just past midnight.

I packed my stuff as I am leaving London in the morning. But not for good because I’ll be back sooner than later.

CONCLUSION

Obviously, I could have been more efficient with my routing and lump the sights together by geography instead of crisscrossing the city. I was flying by the seat of my pants and I think I hit all the major sights in such a short time:

Trafalgar Square
Piccadilly Circus
Westminster Abbey
Tower of London
London Eye
Buckingham Palace
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Borough Market
Notting Hill/Portobello
Big Ben
British Museum
National Gallery
Tate Modern
Millennium Bridge
West End

It surely was tiring and would have enjoyed a more leisurely phase. I had a swell time, nonetheless.
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photo by: ulysses