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Trip to England – Part 3

August 23rd, 2009 · by sarra · No Comments

Day 4

We woke up early on Friday to catch our 9am train to London King’s Cross from Northallerton. We left Link with Granny (who was making him some oatmeal) and PopPop took us to the station. Link was indifferent to our departure, though I think we got hugs before we left.

I’ve tried to press Granny into service to write about their time with Link while Alex and I were in London. I have pictures to post in any case.

The train ride was 2 hours. We had assigned seats at a table, and the ride was uneventful. I watched the farmland give way to the more industrial areas as we got further south. We got to King’s Cross station right on time, and went inside. There was a huge line for oyster cards, so we waited in the shorter line for the machines. When we got to the front, we found that the machines didn’t sell the 3 day passes, so we ended up in the longer line anyway. Once we got to the window, the clerk recommended a pay as you go pass instead, since we were traveling off peak anyway*. We got our oyster cards and headed to the hotel.

The hotel was great. We stayed at the Royal Lancaster, which turned out to be in the same building as the Lancaster Gate tube station. It’s right across the street from Hyde Park. We were a bit early and our room wasn’t ready, so we dropped off the suitcase with the porter and headed into Hyde park. The weather was beautiful, so we walked through Hyde park and over to Harrods to get our souvenir shopping out of the way early.

While we were at Harrods we spent a while checking out the toy department. They had a fantastic model train selection, but Alex didn’t buy anything. We got Link a Corgi Police car though. Alex had fond memories of Corgis from his childhood. We didn’t buy him the obligatory double-decker bus, because he already had two.

We were pretty hungry by that time, but I didn’t really want to spend a pile of money to eat at a counter at Harrods, so we headed up Piccadilly to Fortnum and Mason. Joan had asked that we bring her some coffee back from there, also one of the guide books had recommended having tea at the St. James Restaurant inside. We passed on the champagne, but had tea, little sandwiches, scones and pastries. It was very fancy and a perfect touristy thing to do. While we ate and drank, we made our plans for the rest of the afternoon**. We picked up Granny’s coffee on the way out and I had trouble not picking up a bunch of other things for myself.

From there, we walked to the British Museum. On the way we walked through Leicester Square and Covent Garden. There were lots of fun shops, but we were on a mission, so we didn’t stop. On Fridays most of the exhibits at the Museum are open late. We spent a couple hours and saw the Rosetta Stone and the mummies, the Elgin Marbles and the reading room (lots of neat stuff in there).

When we finished up there, we headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum, since it also has late hours on Fridays. It was a little crowded, there was some weird performance art thing going on in one of the galleries. Some of the other galleries were closed, but we made the best of what was available. One statue of a mother and child made me a little teary, but I got over it pretty quickly. Alex was unimpressed with the fashion exhibit. I wouldn’t mind going back when some of the other exhibits are open. When we left we walked around the neighborhood a bit and saw the science museum. Next time we come we will bring Link to see that***.

From there we walked back to our hotel through Hyde park (it was late and Alex was a little nervous, but it was still light out, even though it was almost 10pm). We got to the hotel and got the key and the suitcase and went up to the room. By then it was very late and we were very hungry, so we just went to Island (the restaurant in the hotel) for dinner. Dinner was fine, but pricey.

Day 5

Saturday morning we got up and headed to Westminster Abbey. On the way, we stopped at a Cafe Nero**** for coffee and breakfast. We got to the Abbey in perfect time to get in line for the opening. They have a good audio tour (narrated by Jeremy Irons), which was great. No pictures allowed though*****. We spent several hours there, lots of great things to see. At one point in the tour, Mr. Irons tells us that we deserve a break and that we should visit the snack bar. Who were we to argue? It was a little chilly, so a nice cup of tea hit the spot.

After Westminster, we walked along and saw parliament and Big Ben and 10 Downing Street******. Then we headed to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. This was pretty cool. Another audio tour, plus there was a great big room with lots of interactive exhibits about Churchill. We could have spent hours on just that.

From there, we walked around St. James park. We wandered around Queen Anne’s Gate looking for a pub that Alex went to when he was here with Jim 20 years ago. After a while we gave up and went to the first likely pub we saw and had a pint and some fish and chips.

After lunch we headed to take a peek at Buckingham Palace and walked up the Mall to Trafalgar Square.and then took the tube over to St. Paul’s Cathedral. At St. Paul’s there was some event going on, so we couldn’t get inside. Then we walked over the Millennium Bridge and to the Tate Modern. We weren’t terribly interested in it, so we just used the facilities and left. There’s a ferry between the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain, so we took that. Unfortunately, when we got to the Tate Britiain they were closing up. By then we were pretty tired, so we headed back to the Hotel for a rest.

At the hotel, I used the internet to find someplace fun to have dinner. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make online reservations for same night, and I wasn’t optimistic enough to call around. So I made reservations for Sunday night at Rules and we went back to the area around the Tate Modern and Globe Theater, which had seemed promising earlier. We wandered around for a while and finally settled on Fish! right across from the Southwark Cathedral. After dinner we walked back up to St. Paul’s and took the tube back to the hotel.

Day 6

Sunday morning we visited the Tower of London. My guidebook had the opening time wrong and we got there about an hour earlier than we should have. There didn’t seem to be anywhere else nearby to go kill the hour so we went to an actual Starbucks and had breakfast, then walked around the outside of the Tower until it opened. They had another audio tour, and it was quite comprehensive (about 3 hours). We saw all there was to see, including the crown jewels, then had lunch at the cafeteria there. Alex and I both had steak pies and they were fantastic. I need to learn how to make that.

After that we crossed over the Tower Bridge (we skipped the tour), and walked along the river on the other side. We walked back down to London Bridge to catch the tube. During our walk, we went through a little shopping area and picked up a pair of tube map design boxers for Alex.

From there, we went to Apsley house and the Wellington Arch. It was Waterloo weekend and they had quite a few events there. Unfortunately, we got there about an hour prior to closing time and missed most of the festivities*******. We hurried up to the top of the Arch, took some pictures, then went back to the house. We caught the tail end of a presentation on the uniforms of the soldiers. The presentation included a re-enactor stripping down to his knickers, as they described each piece of clothing he removed. We took in the rest of the sights at the house, and left as they closed.

From there, we decided to just start walking up Piccadilly toward West End where we planned to see a movie before our 10:30 pm reservation at Rules. (Yes, I know. But Alex isn’t a big fan of theater and it was his vacation too.) We stopped along the way at a tea shop for a rest. At some point we went the wrong way and ended up in Soho. We got our bearings and headed for Leicester square. We’d planned to see Star Trek at the Odeon West End, but it wasn’t playing there (I suppose they hadn’t updated their web page), so we got tickets for The Hangover instead. We had a bit of time to kill before the movie started, so we walked over to the restaurant to scope out our route home. (Alex was a bit nervous about missing the last train after dinner.)

The movie was freaking hilarious, and I even enjoyed the pre-movie ads. (Also, it was nice to just sit for a couple hours. My feet were killing me.) We headed to the restaurant about an hour earlier than our reservation, and had a drink in the bar while waiting for our table. We were a little underdressed, and we got a seat in the very back (which didn’t offend us at all). The service was outstanding. There was a couple of older gentlemen sitting next to us who complained about the seat and were moved, they were replaced later by a younger couple. The food was amazing. We had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. I ordered a gooseberry and elderflower fool for dessert, but Alex was getting antsy, so I only had a few bites and we raced for our train back to the hotel.

We had nothing to worry about. We made it with plenty of time to spare.

Day 7

We slept in a little bit, then packed and headed for the train station. The British Library is right by the train station, so we rented a locker for our suitcase and looked around until it was time to head back to the station. They have a room of British treasures, including the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible and some Beatles lyrics sketched on the back of en envelope.

This time there was no table at our seats on the train, but we still had a power outlet and wifi, so it was a nice trip. We got some toasted cheese sandwiches for lunch and enjoyed sitting. Unfortunately there was an issue with one of the trains in front of us and we ended up being delayed 2 hours.

When we got back to the station, Link, Granny and PopPop were waiting for us. Link had had a wonderful time watching the other trains go by during the wait. Because we were late, we just went back to the flat in Bedale and got fish and chips for dinner. Link got to tell us all about the fun he had without us.


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*She was right. We ended up saving about 5 pounds, that was offset by having to stand in that long line again to get our deposits back at the end of the trip.
**I know anyone who has traveled with me before is now shocked that I didn’t have the trip planned to the minute. I did have Saturday and Sunday planned, but not Friday.
***I’m actually pretty excited to see it myself
****the British Starbucks
*****One American tourist flouted the rules when no one was looking and I was quite offended.
******Well, we saw Downing street. There’s lots of security, so you can’t actually get near the place.
*******Festivities included a re-enactment of the battle of Waterloo using vegetables, and I swear I’m not making that up.

Tags: Photos · Vacations

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