Monday 24 August: Arriving in London:
No doubt about it! All long haul flights are much the same. Singapore Airlines did a pretty good job, but there’s nothing fun about spending over 24 hours in planes and airports. And how frustrating to be sitting on the ground at Heathrow for half an hour and having to stay on the plane because we couldn’t get a gate!
We wanted to take the National Express coach from Heathrow to Victoria Station so Stu could see a bit of the city as we travelled. I should have apologised to the girl at the enquiry counter for interrupting her social life. She barely looked up at me when she told me we’d have to wait 45 minutes. I felt dismissed.
The man at the Tube counter, on the other hand, couldn’t have been more helpful. My 2 year old Oyster card still worked, we got a new one for Stu and loaded them with 7 day travel cards and the cost of the trip in from Heathrow. Even though we were only going to be there for 4 days, the 7 day travel cards were the best value for us.
The tube with suitcases was a bit of a challenge. OK at first, but not so much fun when it started to fill up. We got off at Waterloo and caught a cab to Bankside LSE student accommodation which was clean and comfy. Not quite as spacious as Carr Saunders Hall where Mum and I had stayed 2 years before, but adequate.
We dumped our bags, had a shower and went for a walk. The immediate area didn’t look too promising and there was a lot of construction going on, but further afield it seems nice. We walked down to Borough High Street and past the Southwark Cathedral then had a beer at one pub before dinner at Old Thameside Inn – duck for Stu and steak & ale pie for me. Very nice.
Walked back along the river as far as we could then crashed! Not really a surprise. We’d barely slept for 2 days.
Tuesday 25 August – In London:
Breakfast is provided and seems quite adequate. We just need to remember not to be there before 7.00am. I’d forgotten that nothing happens early in this part of the world. Oh well, an excuse to sleep in for the next few days.
Another thing I’d forgotten about is sleeping under a doona with no top sheet. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.
First mission today was to find a Carphone Warehouse to get our sim cards. As they seem to be everywhere, that didn’t take long. And, can you believe it, the calls home to Oz are even cheaper than 2 years ago. 4p/minute. Then off for a walk down Oxford Street and to HMV to see if they had a DVD that Mum had ordered, but it’s been discontinued so we probably won’t end up getting it.
I had never noticed the height of the carriages on the Tube, but Stu commented that some of them didn’t seem to have much headroom – and he’s not all that tall.
The rest of today was set aside for the Imperial War Museum. It’s as good as I remember, but harder on my feet. We spent a lot of time in the WWI and WWII exhibits and The Secret War. We laughed at the Chinese replica of the Thompson machine gun stamped with the name misspelt “Thampson”.
Our lunch at the Museum was ordinary and a bit expensive. Stu had steak and kidney (?) pie. We decided that the person who made it may have once seen a kidney in a shop window, but that was as close as this pie ever got to one.
We eventually bailed from sheer foot-soreness. I had a nanna nap and Stu went for a walk. As our accommodation was right behind the Tate Modern, he enjoyed a couple of hours there before coming back to wake me.
A couple of quick pics on the Millennium Bridge and then off to find dinner and a pub (not necessarily in that order) and then to the Tower to await the Ceremony of the Keys. My favourite pub name today was the “Hung, Drawn and Quartered”.
After the Ceremony we saw the Tower Bridge open with all its lights on, but our photography skills weren’t good enough to capture that. Pity.
Wednesday 26 August – In London:
We went to the Old Bailey to see if we could get in to see a case in progress. They wouldn’t let us in with backpacks, cameras or mobile phones (even if they’re switched off). We could have left them somewhere nearby but weren’t that committed to this so decided not to worry and maybe go back another time. Otherwise, it will go on the list.
From there we went to St Paul’s where we climbed to the top in what might have been record time. I don’t know why, but Stu seemed to have an urge to get up there as quickly as he could. I don’t know why. We didn’t need to be anywhere special. We also visited the undercroft and enjoyed that just as much as the view from the top.
We had a snack at a Pret a Manger – our first experience with this chain. Very nice.
Then off to the British Museum where we visited the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles and the Egyptian Gallery and did the tour of the Mexican gallery with a guide who was obviously knowledgeable but unfortunately not particularly entertaining.
Lunch was a hot dog from a stand near the museum. Not bad.
In Leicester Square we checked out the theatre tickets and wondered if we were the only people to have come to London without umbrellas. We did buy some (very) cheap ones. There’s a reason they were cheap but they did the job – mostly. I wouldn’t like to be relying on them in a proper storm, though.
We didn’t have any clear idea of what we wanted to see and ended up buying tickets for The Mousetrap. I have heard it’s not that good but I am an Agatha Christie fan and it’s such an iconic thing to do in London.
With a few hours to kill before the play we decided to do the circular river cruise. We were held up slightly while we had to wait for a cruise ship to leave the river. The wait was worth it, though. The Tower Bridge had to open almost completely to let it through. Apparently this was very exciting for everyone, including the locals. The banks were lined with people watching and one man on the cruise said it was the most exciting thing he’d seen since he’d lived in London. It was certainly impressive but I think maybe that man needed to get out more.
The Mousetrap was, as foretold, a fairly ordinary play, though we might have enjoyed it more if we hadn’t both been struggling to stay awake. I think we saw the whole thing between us and we do know whodunit. Loved the theatre and its decor, though.
Too late to bed, as usual.
A question: The Tate Modern has an exhibition called “Futurism – A Centenary Celebration”. If it’s been around for 100 years, wouldn’t it now be “Pastism”?
Thursday 27 August – in London:
Stu headed off early so he could be at the Natural History Museum at opening. I, on the other hand, had a wildly exciting morning doing the washing before heading off to the museum as well. Apparently the rest of the world also decided to get there early too. I’ve never seen such queues for a museum. And it was just as bad when we left a couple of hours later. Such a wonderfully decorative building.
My husband, the child, insisted on lining up with all the kids to see the dinosaurs which, to be fair, were very good, before seeing some of the other displays.
After a Ploughman’s lunch at the Hoop and Toy nearby we found a tackle shop Stu had spotted earlier. After looking around and not buying anything, Stu proceeded to bore the poor owner with his fish photos. Well, maybe he wasn’t really bored. But I was.
Off to Harrod’s to buy a gift for a friend and have a look around. I don’t really enjoy Harrod’s but Stu liked the food halls and bought some venison biltong. He also wanted to have a look at Holland & Holland and Purdy – just for a look of course. I don’t think we could really even afford to walk through the doors. So we headed to Mayfair.
Walking towards Mayfair, you suddenly realise that you’re no longer on the tourist trail as the crowds thin and the traffic becomes slightly saner. Walking through this area brings to mind all them money bled from the colonies and I dare say a fair percentage of it ended up here. But at Holland & Holland they didn’t seem to think these Aussies had anything further to contribute to their lifestyle and the doorman attempted to prevent us going in. You could almost hear several noses being looked down.
At Purdey it was a little better. There was no doorman, the front door was open and everyone at least said “Hello” even though it must have been perfectly obvious that a cleaning cloth was the only thing we could afford. Apparently dressing like a dag is only impressive if you spend a lot of money.
If you want a nice quiet spot to walk around and be overwhelmed by wealth, Mayfair is a good spot to do it. I was good to get away from the crowds for a while.
Back to the tourist lunacy and Piccaldilly where HMV had found Mum’s movie. Success. Then back up Regent Street to get to the BBC for the recording of the 2nd episode of “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the News”. Even though we were quite early, there were already several people waiting. I guess that’s because the hand out more tickets than there are seats and it’s first in, best dressed. Lots of waiting around and nowhere to sit but on the floor. Anyway, it was quite a fun show though we were surprised and perhaps a little disappointed to see how scripted it was.
Today’s negative impression of London: squeezing into tiny, narrow toilet cubicles. Very cramped and uncomfortable, even if they’re clean. And a lot of them aren’t.
Friday 28 August – in London:
We investigated rail tickets to Oxford for tomorrow. It would have been cheaper to prepurchase them, but we didn’t want to commit to a time so decided just to buy them in the morning. Can anyone explain to me the logic of a one-way ticket costing £19.95 and a return ticket £20.00?
At Fortnum and Mason’s Stu kept going back for the free samples of fudge then we bought some different types of jerky – springbok, kudu and a chutney one.
A walk through Burlington Arcade and I can say I have some jewelry from there. Don’t tell anyone it’s just a little Pandora teapot.
We rang Stu’s cousin and met her for lunch then decided to go to her place at Hammersmith for dinner so back to Fortnum and Mason’s for some venison terrine and duck and chicken liver patés. Dinner in the share house was fun but of course we were out way too late, especially we had to be up at a decent hour in the morning to get to Oxford.
Some thoughts on Bankside House:
The 2 single beds were fine for us and comfortable enough.
The shower was one of the smallest I’ve used and they needed to have the shower screen opening the other way. As it was, when you open it, it will knock the mixer tap and turn it off. Haha. Caught me every time.
The staff were fantastic and very, very helpful.
The location was great, though I would have liked to be a little bit closer to a tube station.
I still maintain that the LSE accommodation is the best value in London, as long as you don’t want luxury and fine dining.
Saturday 29 August: London – Chipping Cambden
Despite the late night we managed to be up, packed and ready for breakfast at 7.00am. As soon as we finished we headed down to check out and catch a cab to Paddington Station. There seemed to be some problem with the account – which they’d also mentioned at check in – but Mojo said he’d sort it out and i guess he did because I never heard any more about it.
The cab driver was quite a character who chatted the whole time about how the nature and culture of London has changed. He had come from Nigeria 25 years ago to study medicine but hadn’t been able to afford to finish.
The train trip to Oxford was relaxing and, when we eventually made it to the car hire depot, the pickup was seamless. Next time, though, I won’t insist it’s close enough to the station to walk. We were upgraded too, so we have a full sized boot.
We found a Park and Ride and headed ito town to pick up our tickets for the Inspector Morse Walk, which I’d booked months ago. Lunch at the Red Lion was good – fish and chips for Stu and a Pie for me. We didn’t realise until we were on the walk that this pub featured at the beginning of the very first Morse episode.
The walk was great, full of information about Morse and Lewis episodes. The guide and most of the other walkers knew more about it than us – the details of every episode and what scenes had been filmed where. But it’s not necessary to be a fanatic to enjoy the walk. We just like the show and the guide also gave lots of details about Oxford itself.
We found out that the Botanical Gardens, planted on the site of the old Jewish cemetery, is the oldest in England. And that the full length portrait of Queen Elizabeth I in Jesus College is probably one of the most valuable paintings in Oxford and was found rolled up in in a cupboard during a clean out. The only thing I find in my cupboards is dust.
After the walk we drove to our B&B, the Old Bakehouse in the beautiful Cotswolds market Town of Chipping Campden – clean and comfy with friendly owners. We found a pub for a drink and dinner and were in bed by 8.30pm, totally exhausted.