Well we survived London and London seems to have survived us. It was an interesting weekend to say the least.
Andrew and I met up at suppertime and headed to South Station to catch the Eurostar. We had no idea what to expect but we were pleasantly surprised. Security and customs was a breeze compared to flying. Our seats were assigned so there was no rushing to sit together and it was much more comfortable than a plane. All in all, it was quite civilized. Now, if only they would Chunnel to Halifax…
The train trip took two hours and twenty minutes. When we arrived in London we had planned to take the tube to our hotel. Then we discovered that several lines were shut down for construction works (of course the easiest way to our hotel was inaccessible). We had just figured out a new more complicated way of getting there when an announcement came on saying that the station we needed to get to was closed (turns out someone fell in front of a train there – eek). So, defeated, we caught a taxi.
The next morning, Andrew was off to work and I set off on foot (after the tube fiasco I wasn’t braving it on my own). I walked – boy did I walk. When I look at the map now I can’t believe how far I walked (my knees are still recovering).
Our hotel was in the West Kensington area. I walked from the hotel to the Kensington High Street and checked out some of the shops (I did manage to get to a few grocery stores). I bought a pair of gloves at Mark’s and Spencer and some Christmas decorations.
Then I made it to Kensington Park. I walked all over the park and saw: Kensington Palace, The Royal Albert Hall and Monument, the Peter Pan Statue, The Italian Fountain and the Diana Memorial Fountain. Oh, and the world’s biggest squirrels… evil squirrels that could eat you for lunch… you think I’m joking…
Once I was parked out, I made my way to Harrods. It is quite an amazing store, particularly the food hall. The building is beautiful. The wares are… overpriced. Speaking of overpriced, my next stop was HarveyNichols. Same song different verse.
When I could window shop no more, I grabbed a late lunch and then I made my way to Buckingham Palace. I took the obligatory photos although the sun was starting to go down at this point (3:30… God, I hate winter). I was pretty exhausted by this point so I grabbed a coffee and sat to wait for Andrew. He took longer than my coffee so I did a wee bit more shopping near Green Park.
Finally we met up and went for Indian food. It was totally different from our usual fare and very good. I was beat from all of my walking so we grabbed the tube back to the hotel.
The next morning we got up and went to see about theatre tickets. London had been kind to me on Friday. Saturday she was an evil bitch. It rained, and rained and rained. We managed to get tickets for the Producers. They were in the back row of the floor but they were cheap and pretty much all that was left for anything that night. By the time our tickets were in hand I was so wet and cold I was miserable. We decided to go back to the hotel and change.
With dry pants I decided that Andrew had to see Harrods. We lunched on Tapas there and then sampled champagne in the wine cellar. (Now we have our Christmas beverage). I also tasted (and subsequently bought) the smoothest vodka I have ever imbibed. Andrew will be mixing some killer Martini’s for me now.
After Harrods we made our way to the theatre area and did some more wandering and window shopping. Finally we went to see the show. Despite what I’ve heard about the movie version (terrible) the musical was very good and a lot of fun. If you don’t know the story the cliff notes version is this – two guys decide to produce the world’s worst musical so they can take the money and run. The musical they choose is called Springtime for Hitler and it actually turn out to be a satirical hit… antics ensue.
After the show Andrew found a nice little Italian restaurant and we filled up on pasta and Chianti. Then is was on the tube again and back to bed.
We weren’t sure what to do Sunday as our train left at 6 but we had to check out of the hotel on the other side of town. We decided to take our bags to the train station first, put them in lockers and then go to the Tate Modern art gallery. We trudged to the tube station (about a 15 min walk) only to find it closed due to flooding. So after more trudging to the next station we found our way to Waterloo and dropped off our bags for an astronomical fee.
The Tate was only one tube stop away. When we arrived we stood in the queue like good English descendents only to discover that the museum is free (donations are encouraged) and the line was for the giant slides in the middle of the building (I’ve promised that Andrew can go on them next time).
The Tate is in a converted power station. It doesn’t look like much from the outside but inside I would say it is one of the best galleries I’ve been to. The great thing about it is how everything is presented. Instead of chronologically, like most galleries, The Tate groups works by theme or concept. The explanations of each piece are fantastic. Modern art is difficult for many people (myself included) to ‘get.’ The Tate’s explanations are very helpful. If only every gallery could do this so well.
The restaurant at the gallery was also very good. I had the classic English fish and chips (I’m still trying to burn off the batter) and Andrew had a burger the size of his head. Which brings me to some conclusions about London – it’s the most American city I’ve been to in Europe. In fact, it hardly feels European at all. It’s very fast – everyone is in a rush. Service is of the get in, rush through your meal, get out variety. People are good at standing in line (yay!), portion sizes are enormous (boo) and did I mention everything is very fast?
I enjoyed London and think it’s a great place to visit – loads to do, tons of theatre, great shopping (although very expensive if you have to do the conversion), good food (especially the Indian) and transportation is relatively easy (as long as the tube stations are open). Would I want to live there? I don’t think so. I hold out hope that London isn’t indicative of the rest of England (just as Toronto isn’t indicative of Canada). Someday I hope to see some of the country besides London and test this theory.