Saturday 31 August
We’d been warned that we should get to Borough Markets early but thought we were leaving it too late by arriving about 10.00. Hardly anyone around and some stalls not even open yet. Turns out that “early” means anytime before 12.00. I’ll never get used to these late starts to the day. Anyway, we got to sample, and buy, lots of yummy things before the invasion: Turkish delight, cheeses, sausages, and more.
Headed home and rang Facebook friend, Jackie, who we met at the station and embarked on a long bus ride to Greenwich. Lunch at the pub at Greenwich then the trek up the hill to the observatory. It was a beautiful day on the last weekend of summer and everyone in London must have been out in a park somewhere, and a good percentage of them were here. At the top we queued to buy the £7 tickets (I’m sure it used to be free) we got to the desk and were told there was a 45 minute to 1 hour wait to stand astride the Meridian. It would have been nice if they’d told us that while we were lined up. We could all do it another day so decided to skip it and went to the the National Maritime Museum instead. Yet another place that we need to go back to as we didn’t have time to see it all.
We took the boat trip back and then walked along the south bank. There was a French festival that was mostly wine and not much food – not a bad thing to have all that wine but as we were looking for dinner we headed to Angel and Jamie’s Italian in the hope of a table. I’m pretty sure we were the last seated for the night. If you had told me I’d be eating in one of Jamie’s restaurants I wouldn’t have believed you. But we did and the meals were very nice, but the desserts were spectacular and have gained their place in dining legend.
Home on the bus and – surprise, surprise – late to bed.
Sunday 1st September
This morning we went to the Churchill War Rooms. Once again the early start was a good idea. It was getting crowded by the time we left. This is a great display showing how the underground rooms were used during the war and many personal stories which is always something I enjoy. There is also a huge display just on Churchill and his life which we weren’t expecting and which was worth the time we spent there.
We had a picnic lunch in a park near Big Ben then headed to Tower Hill for our first London Walk. It was themed on naughty nuns and gory deaths and the inspiration for Canterbury Tales. It made me want to read the Tales but I think it might be a bit of a slog. These walks are great for learning little-known snippets about London as they take you through the back streets that you would never otherwise find.
This evening we went to the Comedy Club just around the corner from home. Half price tickets, thank goodness. The comedy was OK – just. The drinks were expensive but I guess they’ve got to make some money somehow.
Monday 2 September
We had looked online for tickets to the special exhibition at the British Museum “Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum”, but the only 2 dates with availability were after we would be home. We decided to take our chances and check at the desk at the Museum. Hardly a wasted trip – there’s plenty to enjoy there at any time. Success! We got tickets with an early time slot and really enjoyed it. Incredible to see how much detail has survived. Especially moving was the remains of a whole family, perfectly preserved as they tried to shelter from the eruption. Now I want to go and see it all.
This afternoon we went to the Museum of London which we’d been told was good and we weren’t disappointed. A excellent presentation of the many lives of London. We were kicked out at closing time and later went on another walk. This time it was ghosts and gaslights through dark little alleys and ending in a very dark and spooky St James Park.
Tuesday 3 September
It was a bit cloudy this morning but we decided we’d go back to Greenwich. So much better without the crowds. No waiting and no crowds in the timekeeping and the astronomy displays.
Wednesday 4 September
Some of these posts might make it sound like we wasted a whole lot of time doing nothing in London. In truth, we didn’t, because a lot of it was spent just walking and enjoying the atmosphere. We didn’t want to be 100% on the go from one place to another the whole time, and we had time to just appreciate things.
So, having said that, today was walking. First back to some of the locations from the ghost walk to see them in the daylight. And amazingly, we did find them. The photos are of the grave of the German Ambassador’s dog – whose ghost, it is said, caused many car accidents during WWII until the headstone was restored to it’s upright position. It is now permanently encased so it can’t fall over and release the ghost again.
Then, a tour of kitchen shops large and small in a continuation of the great gravy fat skimmer hunt. Despite having bought a plastic one in Edinburgh, Stu was on the lookout for a stainless steel one. London fail. But I did manage to stumble upon a small DVD store that had a copy of a movie Dad had been looking for. And these are the things you don’t find when you stick to the tourist routes.
Fortnum and Masons to see the striking clock. And no trip to London would be complete without a visit to Trafalgar Square to see what was on the 4th plinth.
Then dinner in Chinatown with Gordon and, surprise surprise, a late night. Or perhaps I should say, a normal night, since they all seem to have been late for the last 8 weeks.
Thursday 5 September
I slept in. This is important. I enjoyed my sleep in as much as any other tourist in London enjoyed anything else that day.
Stu, on the other hand, was on the scent of a gravy fat skimmer and, like a dog at a bone, just couldn’t let go. Despite not finding a stainless steel one, he decided that his holiday wouldn’t be complete without a ceramic one he saw yesterday so back he went. Then he went back to the British Museum – a place that you can never get enough of, along with so many other London Museums.
This afternoon we went to the V&A. This is, without a doubt, my favourite London museum. Even without one of the free guided tours, the beauty and intricacy of some of the exhibits has a WOW factor that can’t be ignored. The stories behind them are even more amazing. One of my ‘must sees’ is the cast courts – replicas taken from plaster casts of all manner of Continental treasures. Some of these casts have and are still being used to restore the originals. And don’t think that these are just little things. You have to see the size of these replicas to understand why I’m so in awe of them.
A train trip to Richmond to meet friends from Guildford. We were, originally, going to go to the Antiques Roadshow there as well, but decided not to. I’d never been to Richmond. It’s a really lovely spot on the river and I would enjoy going back and perhaps doing a river trip. We walked along the river and had dinner at a pub. Nice. And, as a bonus, not a late night.
Friday 6 September
Back to the V&A this morning to do the introductory tour. But we were just too late for the first one so checked out some of the other displays then did the Renaissance tour followed by the next introductory one. Even though I’d done some of these before, they’re worth doing again. Each time it’s just a little bit different and each guide brings their own passion to the stories they tell.
I took Stu to Hamley’s Toy Store as he’d never been before. He was surprised how much fun he could have. Everyone was smiling. And we visited Harrod’s to buy some presents. Stu always enjoys the food hall here but we couldn’t justify the price of the meat. That’s £33 for 100g, not per kilo.
We went back home to pack and have a last drink. Met up again with Jackie and wandered into a random Mediterranean restaurant for dinner. Ended up home late again. Good thing we don’t have to be up early for our flight in the morning. Oh wait … yes we do. Sigh!