Hello! What a week it's been in the U.K. I have no words, other than...I hope it works out o.k., and I love Europe, and feel lucky to have been able to travel to Paris and Amsterdam (and Dublin, Dublin's part of Europe still too, my canny maternal ancestors know where it's at!) in my time living here, and I hope nothing gets in the way of that in the future. As does Scotland...but let's not get into all that. I hope we find a way through it, but I was reminded of my London trip and just how many hundreds of European schoolchildren there were everywhere, how many British kids also have a history of traveling to Europe to expand their horizons, and how I hope that never changes.
So anyway. Our second (technically third but second full) day in London. We decided to try for theatre tickets at the Leicester Square TKTS booth, you are best to do it in the a.m. in my experience. We were there at an odd time for plays, most of the dramas had finished the week before and several new ones were due to open a few days after we left. So I was kind of like "Hm whatever" as I'm not really big on musicals. And so Mom and I had to decide, would we rather see the critically panned Dr. Faustus with Jon Snow (er Kit Harington! ;-0), which admittedly still had the undeniable appeal of Jon Snow...in his pants, for two hours(!), or the biographical musical written by and about Carole King, Beautiful?
Now, we both like Carole King, and we both also like pretty men wearing next to nothing in the name of art...but after a few moment's debate we went for the curly haired Brooklyn songstress. I'm deeply sorry, I cannot report to you on Jon Snow's abs in real life. In lieu of that, here is a nice painting of a young man from the Wallace Collection!
So yes, after aquiring our tickets, we had a little wander in search of the Aldwych Theatre where the play was on, it was kind of an unnecessary diversion, it ended up being much closer to a different tube stop than Leicester Square so we sort of walked around for almost an hour for naught. The theatre is more "West End adjacent" I would say!
We decided to have a wander around nearby Covent Garden, as we'd never been. And...I mean, I know it's popular with bloggers but I wasn't that blown away if I'm honest. It's mainly just shops, yes there are a few nice little artisan stalls alongside the tourist tat, but mostly it's lots of expensive shops outwith my budget. And there wasn't a garden in sight - did I miss the garden? Ho hum. Sorry blogosphere, not my favourite.
Our next plan was to go to the Wallace Collection, a musem housed in a large townhouse up near Marleybone. Museums in houses are my favourite sorts of museums, I don't know why. And here, the rooms are staggeringly opulent and I don't even know how they keep them looking so beautiful with the matching silk everything and chandeliers with people tromping through them all day long.
The art was acquired in the 18th and 19th century by the Wallace family, the museum likes to make a point of the fact that Sir Richard was a bastard. Shhh! ;-0 At any rate, he amassed a staggering amount of art, as well as artefacts and weapons and all sorts. There is something for everyone in this museum, and its size isn't so daunting that you feel spent at the end. I'm not going to lie, my favourite part was the rooms themselves in the house proper. It was just very fancy and colour coordinated and bling-y.
I didn't take any pictures in those because there are slightly stern looking attendants who looked like they would frown disapprovingly at such tourist-y behaviour. The vibe in the rooms devoted solely to art is a bit more mellow.
|I loved this little nook with a cherub in it. I want one!|
|Daryl Dixon, eat your heart out!|
|Ha ha reflected me is wearing the medieval armour!|
|Ouch-y pointy things.|
|Most of the armour in this collection is Italian..and erm, old.|
After that we basically had time to dither over shoes in M&S for our big night out, then head back to the hotel to change for the theatre. I want to do a separate review of the play, because it merits it, but I wholeheartedly recommend it. Even if you don't love musicals Carole King wrote so many great songs it's impossible not to get swept up in the joy of her music, and the London cast are uniformly excellent and dazzling. As I said, I need to write more to do the show justice!
So we arrived, inevitably, sadly, on our last day. Our flight didn't leave until the evening, so we decided to check our bags at Victoria Station for a couple of hours.
And no, this isn't deja vu, we actually did not plan to see the Queen's changing of the guard, but instead stumbled upon them at the other end of their route, so it seemed rude not to pause for a few photos!
We had a brief stroll in St. James' Park, which was lovely, and made me want to just hang out in London parks on my next trip because they are the best.
|Mom, Buckingham Palace|
Our last to do was Westminster Cathedral, simply by merit of proximity we decided we might as well check it out.
There is a tower which you pay a few pounds to go up in a lift if you'd like a respectable if not staggering view of the city at 64 metres up. It was quite overcast and windy and cold at that point, but I imagine on a clear day it might be a bit nicer!
And so alack alas our trip was over, in the blink of an eye.
Where we stayed: Premier Inn Blackfriars (easy to traverse from Gatwick Express which arrives at Victoria Station, also right near Blackfriars Tube and train station). Your typical Premier Inn, comfy beds though I had the couch thing which they put a mattress on so it was actually fine if not quite as comfortable as the bed. Maybe a tiny bit chaotic in terms of front house staff, and they ran out of hand towels our second day, but nothing major to quibble about. A quiet night's sleep thanks to the neighbourhood/rear facing room, so that is one big selling point!
Where we ate: Aside from dinner we are eat on the run types when city breaking. We ate near the hotel two nights which to be honest there wasn't a huge amount of choice in the area which might put me off staying there again. The first night we ate at:
Indian City: Excellent Indian food, attentive service, no qualms whatsoever recommending it although it was a bit pricey, as per the City location I suppose. The curries were yummy and we struggled to finish them. The peshwari naan wasn't a patch on our local Indian, but nowhere is that I've found!
Second Night : We got salads and treats from a nearby Tesco for a quick meal in our room before the theatre. I have no idea how people who don't stay in the theatre district manage to tourist around and do dinner and theatre all in one day. Ok so I did last time but I was with a timekeeper type! ;-)
Third Night: Cheeky Chico's : So this one was a bit more of a mixed experience. After a 45 minute wait for our food in a not packed restaurant, the server/owner/not sure what but that was the vibe, came over and apologized, saying they'd just had a huge takeout order. Which...yeah, not really an excuse in my opinion, it wasn't that busy on a Monday night. He comped us some drinks and brought us some free chips and guacamole which was nice but a bit little to late as the food arrived almost immediately after. Plus the music was way too loud, maybe it was more of a student-y vibe but both my Mom and I found it a bit much.
I had shrimp tacos which were nice but I found the sauce on top way too spicy. yes I'm a wimp, but I still think if a sauce is crazy spicy it should be on the side. My Mom had a pork burrito and the meat was not primo, a bit tough. So I wouldn't not recommend it as there's not lot of choice in the area, the ingredients were fresh and the guacamole was obviously homemade/good quality, the beers were super cheap even without one being comped, it definitely had plus points. It's more of a neighbourhood joint where you figure out what's good over time I guess.
As with my previous two short breaks in London, I came away feeling like I'd barely scratched the surface and eager to return. I think on my next trip, should I be so lucky, I would like to explore some unseen neighbourhoods a bit more and try to have more chill out time. I guess that's what I miss about living in a big city, the non-touristy benefits of hidden spots only locals know about and random walks where you find favourite spots.
My favourite moment of this trip, aside from just being with my Mom (thanks Mom!), was after we'd crossed Embankment Bridge after walking down the other side from Westminster Bridge. We had walked soooo much that day and were exhausted, but the area around Embankment tube station, while bustling with commuters at that time, was still so cute and inviting and we couldn't help ourselves wandering around it a little bit more.
My photos don't reflect it, but there were lots of people lolling in the Victoria Embankment Gardens, it had that end of day vibe and yet people were lingering. It felt like a peaceful oasis amidst the bustle of the nearby City and all its worker bees, and it's one more thing I've added to my places I love in London list. Until we meet again!