Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Day 5, London

We arrived at Heathrow shortly after 5am. Not long ago, a new train service started called the Heathrow Express and as we our hotel was in Paddington and the train went directly to Paddington, it was ideal for us. I think the fare was about $25 each, cheaper than a cab, and it was very quick. Too quick in fact. We walked to our hotel, arriving at seven and of course the room was not ready. The The Gresham Hotel looked very modest inside!

We left our cases and found a local cafe where we had some breakfast, well as we had had breakfast on the plane, it was more just coffee. With the very old London street map on hand, we wandered around Paddington a bit and then made our way to Hyde Park. It was a stunning day. The last thing I expected in London was to get sunburnt, but I did mildly. My cap was in my suitcase.

We walked along the Serpentine and stopped at a cafe for a fruit juice. Ok, time to get the camera out. Oops, forgot to charge the battery. I had to resort to the camera phone, which did not give such bad results.

We saw most of the park and its features. I noted that while the grass was beautifully cut, around groves of trees the grass had been left long. Quite different to Australia but I liked the effect.

We walked via some side streets back to Paddington for an early lunch. We were both tired and getting a bit snappy with each other, so even though we were early, we headed to the hotel in Sussex Gardens (that is a a street name for you Aussies) and luckily our room was ready.

Well, not so much a room but more a cupboard with a tiny ensuite. It was nothing like I saw on the net. Just a room with two beds and a chair and barely room to open a suitcase. There was a tiny window which barely opened to an inner courtyard. The room was so hot and without aircon. We were not happy but we badly needed showers and a rest. We will complain later. As I lay on the bed, I could hear footsteps thundering overhead, it was a public walk through to reception, and outside the room were the noisiest stairs ever.

Slightly refreshed, we told reception that we were not happy and that the room had been miss represented to us. They offered to change it, but as the hotel was full, it would not be until tomorrow. We were going to Paris the next day, but they said to just leave our cases and they would swap them which is what happened. The new room was much better and with properly opening windows although not exactly grand. Maybe I was expecting too much for what we paid but it was far from the cheapest place I looked at.

We found a pub in Praed Street (is that pronounced Prayed or Pred?) for a refreshing ale. The Swayers Arms on the corner of London Street became our local while we were in London. How odd that everyone in the UK drinks Fosters when hardly anyone drinks it at home.

We walked up to Edgware Road and along to Marble Arch. It took some doing to work out how to actually get to Marble Arch itself. You have to use a pedestrian subway. Nothing was happening in the adjacent Speakers Corner, so we bought an ice cream and sat in Hyde Park and watched a pretty hot and exotic rent boi quite openly strutting his stuff.

We headed back towards Paddington and found a nice outdoor seat at the pub and had a few. Buses with destinations of suburbs that I have seen on tv over many years passed by. I was especially impressed by Cockfosters destination.

But sitting there in the warm early evening air, I felt very comfortable in London. It is not home, but it is part of my history. I expected it to be dirty, and it wasn't. I expected the people, especially those who deal with tourists all the time, to be rude or offhand, they weren't. What I did not expect was the noise. It is a noisy city. The buses, taxis and diesel cars make such a racket on any main road, a main road being a narrow street.

I had an idea from the old tv show Minder, that cars were clamped if they parked on double yellow lines. Now I know the truth. Double yellow lines mean you park facing the wrong direction with two wheels on the kerb. I subsequently confirmed this in both the north and west of England.

From our seat at the pub we watched the Big Bus ticket seller, the hop on, hop off bus, at her street corner. I had already sussed the bus out and went over to check that the tickets he was selling were an ok price. I learnt that a ticket lasts for 24 hours, rather than the day you buy. I put that to use later.

We returned to the the storage cupboard at the hotel for another shower and then back to the pub for roast beef with yorkshire pudding. Disgustingly nice and only $13.

A fountain in the Serpentine.
White swans in the Serpentine.
Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. Note the D cut into the grass.
Think it is a statue of Queen Victoria.
Royal Albert Hall.
Rent boi working in Hyde Park.

9 comments:

  1. Love the photos!
    Next time you're popping me in your suitcase! :P
    So it's only a D cut into the grass?
    Easily grown out and removed with a few lawn seed sowings ;)

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  2. Great shots Andrew. I think this series of posts is going to give me itchy feet. Love that you had Yorkshire Pudding on your first day. When in Rome...

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  3. Did you ask Rent Boi for a price list?

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  4. The Rent Boi looked scruffy, I hope you didn't touch him.

    How did you go on the long flight from Singapore? I've been invited to a wedding in London next May so am interested in comfort and absence of deep vein thrombosis.

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  5. Usually the rent boys ply their trade on Hampstead Heath...the favourite haunt of the tory m.p.s. If you're a furry fan, though, I'd recommend Wimbledon Common (Orinocco gives great Tomsk for only a fiver...I've been told).

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  6. very jealous you were in London, I'd go back tomorrow if i could.. just have to win the next Powerball jackpot!

    Last time we were there, we stayed at Travelodge which I guess are like a slightly more expensive version of the Formula 1 chain here, but really they were an awesome hotel. Had no issues with them at all, a nice sized room, close to transport and all that.. would easy stay with them again next time in London

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  7. We will need the suitcase with the expandable front then Jayne. Poor Di, you unsympathetic old moo. I am gay, so I must love Di.

    I don't mind yorkies LiD, but I wouldn't be upset to never have one again.

    He wasn't in a good mood Victor. Some guy came up and was hassling him about something.

    He wasn't scruffy at all Jahteh, except for his jeans ripped at the thighs. He was dressed to clearly indicate his profession. The flight was hideous, wish I could say otherwise. Travelling tip: If there are two of you, in a 747, rows 70, 71, 72, 73 and 74 at either side are just two seats together and with a bit of extra space besides you to dump blankets, pillows etc. We booked them early.

    They must be the more classy ones at Hampstead Heath then Brian. The bit in paras has me beat.

    You really can't go wrong with a big chain TVAU. Wish you had mentioned it BEFORE we booked. Which one did you stay in, out of curiosity?

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  8. we stayed at Travelodge London City Airport which had just opened (2006). About 10 minute walk to the light rail which connected to the tube. Not real close to central London but not far enough away that we thought it was inconvenient. The area itself was pretty ordinary but was on the verge of redevelopment so is probably quite nice now.

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  9. Ok, thanks. Funny, a friend just told me the same things last night and that there is not a great price difference.

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