Elephant, Castle and Hat

When I was in London last week and went down to the Imperial War Museum, I got off the tube at Elephant ans Castle. I was wearing the Star Wars hat my daughter bought me from DisneyLand in the USA in April.

As I was walking out gust of wind from a passing train blew it onto the tracks. I probably could have reached it, but as trains were coming in every minute and the lines are electrified, I wasn’t willing to risk my life to get it, regardless of how much I loved the hat.

The TfL staff were excellent, they sweep the tracks daily and told me to come back the next day when It would likely be in the lost property room. Unfortunately when I went back the next day, it wasn’t. TfL even double checked the tracks for me and it wasn’t there.

Anyone know where I can get one without travelling to LA? The online Disney store don’t seem to have them.

Returning to the land of Oz

We started off with a really lazy morning in London, we packed most stuff last night, checkout was at 11 and knowing we had 30+ hours of travel ahead of us, getting a little extra sleep before we left was pretty high on the priority list. Breakfast was just some yoghurt/toast/tea in the apartment before heading out.

This will be a longer than normal post as I’m sitting on a plane with 11hrs to kill to Honkers. I don’t sleep on planes, which used to annoy me but not so much any more as not sleeping on the flight to London quite possibly saved my life. I was staying less than 200m from London bridge when the attack happened on the 3rd June and was asleep in bed at 10pm when shit got real. I could have been on the bridge or in Borough Market at the time if I’d not been so tired, as I had thought earlier that same day it would have been an awesome place for dinner. I had lunch there earlier that day.

Thankfully much cooler today, we checked out and the Alma held our luggage for the morning whilst we went down to the British Museum for the morning. It’s colloquially called the museum of stolen goods for good reason, but the alternative view point is that much of what is there is better preserved and protected in London than they would be if left in place in some of the strife torn regions of the world.

We took the tube down to Russell Square and walked through the beautiful garden there into the museum. Security was super tight But thankfully didn’t have to queue long

At the museum we had coffee and morning tea before checking out the chess pieces, some clocks, display on money and I wanted to see the Rosetta Stone and Greek Marbles again. I could spend days and days in this museum, next time when I come to London I think I’ll get an apartment in this area so I can pop in for an hour or so each day, so much awesome stuff it’s best done in small doses so as not to get overwhelmed and out museum-ed too early. At 12 we stated heading back to the Alma to get our luggage.

I didn’t want to get an uber as I thought it would be a stretch to get out two big cases into a Prius, so I asked the Alma to get me a cab, I thought that meant black cab (as they can fit an awesome amount of luggage in them) but they called me a “mini cab”. They operate very differently to the traditional black cab

It turned out to be the min-cab from hell, (well from what I’ve heard they are all from hell, so at least it was on spec). Looking at Google Maps, Angel/Islington to Paddington is 4.5km, a simple drive down Pentonville Rd, the A501 and the ducking off just as it turns into then A40. I stared to worry when after about 20 min we had only gone about a KM and he was taking us north through Camden then around the top of Regents park. Local knowledge on short-cuts should normally trump google maps but he kept taking right turns across busy intersections, I’m positive the 501 would have been quicker, even if i walked it. It took close to an hour to get to Paddington. I seriously considered just ending the trip and calling a black cab instead when I realised we were north of regents park

I’d avoided the tube as talking luggage up and down stairs on the crowded tube tunnels isn’t my idea of fun, but I reckon I could moved our stuff in two tube trips and still done it quicker. Lesson learned for next time….

We took the Heathrow Express from Paddington to Heathrow. Not cheap, even off peak it’s £17 per person, but it’s fast. 15min to Heathrow and air conditioned. The Piccadilly line goes to Heathrow but takes about an hour.

As Sharon and I were on different flight (me Cathay, Sharon British Airways) I got off at the crappy terminal 3 whilst Sharon continued on to terminal 5. I Checked in went through security and found a place to sit and get a Sandwich for lunch from EAT.

Everyone here in the UK loves EAT, Pret, Nero etc and all the pre-made fresh sandwiches they sell. Personally I prefer the fresh make ones we do in Oz where they are made to order in front of you, but it dawned on me then what I couldn’t quite put my finger on over the last few weeks of eating them in the UK, it’s that the sandwiches are colder than the soft drinks they sell with them. I’ve yet to purchase what I’d call a cold soft drink since I’ve been here. The only truly cold ones I’ve had were the cans I bought at Sainsbury’s and stuck in the fridge myself.

I also realised at this point that I forgot to take my jumper out of my bag before I checked it, and dressed in a t-shirt and shorts I could be in for a cold night, so I found a place and picked up a discounted one from one of the shops for £16. A good way to offload the last few pounds in cash I had on me. Even after trying to offload coins I’ve still ended up with a handful of coins after my last hour at the airport

At this point Sharon texted me to say she was checked in and BA charged her £65 for being 2kg over in luggage. I thought we had balanced the two bags pretty well, I was 500grams under weight, so Sharon had 3KG more than me. I’ll add this to the reasons why I love Cathay Pacific, there were people in front of me checking in 30kg bags and no one was being charged excess. Also at the gates all the BA flights at terminal 3 were enforcing the 1 carry on piece rule. On my Cathay flight people were happily taking on two bags without hassle. Terminal 3 is sucky but Cathay is the nicer airline even if it’s a slight older 777 and not an A380.

I arrived in HK 1. hours earlier than Sharon, so hunted down the lounge and set up camp in there whilst waiting for her to arrive. Pre-booked showers for us to have before our next flight to Sydney. We had 9hrs here to kill so Sharon managed to find enough stores to offload the small amount of sterling and hkd we had left still.

The flight home was non eventful which is always a bonus when trapped in a tin can 10 Kilometres high in the sky, It was only about 40% full so plenty of space to move around in. I will never get sick of the view flying into Sydney on a clear day.

Last Full Day in London

Our last full day in London, I popped into the office for a quick meeting an had a coffee with come of the team before heading up to the post office to send a few books home that we thought might put us over in luggage limits. After finishing at the post office I met Sharon at Old Spitafields Market. There is a great cake shop there so we had a coffee and cake for morning tea.

Then caught the train over to the Museum of London, which is both free and excellent. It shows the history of London from pre-human times through to the modern day with great large sections on Roman London and the plagues and great fire. Lunch was a sandwich in the museum. On the way back to the apartment we stopped at Hatchard’s Books, as just as Sharon mentioned, it is an awesome bookshop, although worried about luggage limits, I didn’t buy anything. At Liverpool St station they were handing out this new Pepsi Max Ginger which is an interesting taste.

Once packed up we had dinner across the road from the apartment in a nice little Italian restaurant.

 

 

Churchill’s Bunker & the Knights Templar

On Thursday we started the day touring through the Churchill’s War Rooms. This is located near Westminster and would have to be in my list of top three things to do in London. Its amazing that it was just basically closed off after the war and left there to be re-opened as a museum in the 80s. I think over time Churchill will be considered in the same league and Nelson and Wellington, if not already. I’ve been here twice now, and even though the entry is £22, its worth every penny. Before we left we had coffee in the cafe underground, a unique experience in it own right.

After this we wandered down to Temple Church, Originally built by the Knights Templar and a central foundation stone in the development of our modern banking system as well as playing a key role in the development of the Magna Carter which underpins all Western democratic systems. Well worth the £5 entry fee.

Lunch was a Borough Market where we spent some time looking around all the amazing spices, cheeses and meats on offer. Dinner was with my cousin Kristy and her partner Mark at a fantastic Italian restaurant in Clerkenwell.

 

Hind’s Head for Lunch

Sharon’s birthday today, so we had pre-booked lunch at the Hind’s Head in Bray, just west of London, not that far from Heathrow and Windsor castle. We had open offpeak tickets so we didn’t have to get any particular train, but had planned to get the 10.54am. We were there early and managed to get the 10.27, but only just as the platform seemed miles away from the main concourse and it took us a while to find it.

Interestingly enough, Great Western Railways don’t run electric trains on these lines, even though a lot of the line is electrified. Train was a rather ancient diesel electric with no aircon, ie, nothing “great” about it. Positively ancient compared to the fantastic Virgin train to Manchester.

Once in Maidenhead we just took a taxi to the small town of Bray, that cost £10. The village is very small, but quite a lot of traffic with three of Heston’s restaurants here. Since we had over an hour before we were due at the Hind’s Head for lunch we called in at Heston’s other pub, the Crown. We sat outside on a really nice lounge under a huge Oak tree drinking cocktails.

We moved to the Hind’s Head after doing the tourist thing and taking lots of photos outside the Fat Duck restaurant (tried to get a booking there but it was all booked months in advance – my wallet probably thanked me as well!)

Drinks again before lunch upstairs just soaking in the atmosphere of the old building and the old but exquisite furnishings. Pity it was extremely hot outside for the UK, 30c, this place really needed to cooler for the atmosphere).

Lunch was phenomenal, I had the 3 course menu and Sharon had the 4 course, so we really got to sample 7 different Heaston dishes. The entire meal with drinks was £144, considering the quality of the food it was excellent.

We took another cab back to Maidenhead station, then train back to Paddington. We then hopped on the tube to Covent Garden where I popped in to look at the London transport museum.

Coffee with Nelson and Wellington

On Tuesday I was awake early so thought I’d look for a coffee in Angel. Even Costa & Pret were closed, so the odds were not looking good. Walking down to the end of the street I found an Italian Cafe, run by Italians, so I thought I may have struck coffee gold up here in Angel. The only other customers were 5 or 6 police officers having breakfast. Unfortunately my initial excitement was misplaced as the coffee was average.

After breakfast we headed down to St Paul’s Cathedral for the tour. It was £17 per head,  but considering you can climb the internal stairs for a fantastic view over London, its money well spent. We did the guided tour which took over 1.5 hours (probably 40 minutes more than what was really needed). You can’t take pictures inside the church or crypt unfortunately, as there are some marvellous pieces of architecture inside that is worth photographing. Down in the crypt are the tombs of Wellington and Nelson. Amazingly some of the flags from the battle of Waterloo are just hanging there and will do until they disintegrate over time. No attempt has or will be made to preserve them. Christopher Wren who built the cathedral as well as most of the churches in London post the great fire. The cafe for the cathedral is in the crypt also.

After coffee I climbed the 528 steps all the way to the top of the dome and the view is spectacular. It was a hot clear day. You also get an opportunity to view the internal structure as you ascend the iron spiral staircase. Not for the claustrophobic though, narrow passages, lots of people and small spiral staircases.

We then headed down to the Churchill War rooms, but the queue was massive and we had limited time before we had to get ready for the Globe Theatre, so we will do that another day. After getting ready we headed down towards the Globe and grabbed some mexican for dinner just opposite Borough Market. The play inside the Globe was Romeo and Juliet with an interesting modern bent, think Robocop meets the Village People. The seats we had were excellent with heaps of leg space. After the show we walked along the Millennium bridge on the way back to the apartment.

Coffee @ Heston’s

Today is Sharon’s birthday so we are at the Hind’s Head for lunch. That will be a subject of a later post, this one is just about coffee.

Left London early to get to Bray, and the only real chance for coffee was at Paddington station. My last coffee there was a disaster, so on the theory of no coffee is better than bad coffee I decided to wait. 

We ended up having  pre lunch cocktails outside in the garden so actually skipped coffee. Upped the ante into overdrive and had a coffee cocktail instead. Coffee + alcohol + Heston’s = winning