London – Take Two

By - April 2, 2007 (Updated: November 28, 2014)

It’s a beautiful spring day here in Everberg, despite a little haze… (that would be the polite way of saying smog). The birds are singing up a storm and the sun is blazing through my skylight. The temperature is supposed to go up to 17 today and it feels like the dark, wet shackles of winter can finally be thrown off.

Speaking of dark and wet, Andrew and I got back late last night from our trip to London. Unlike our previous trip, we had a fantastic time. We had very little rain and mild temperatures; no “Terror on the Tube” or reports of radiation – all things I look for in a successful trip.

We took the Eurostar early Thursday morning. It’s a two hour trip but you only lose one hour because of the time change. We parted ways at Waterloo station, where Andrew continued on his way to work and I hopped the tube to Leister Square. The skies were a bit on the grey side so I deemed Thursday ‘Gallery Day.’

My first stop was the National Portrait Gallery. It seemed like an interesting concept to me – an entire gallery of portraits of famous people. Although I knew it could go either way; an entire gallery of boring, dead, white, male politicians (there was a wing of the gallery that fulfilled this but I skipped through it fairly quickly) but for the most part, it was an interesting display.

Like many of the galleries in London, this one was free; with the exception of a special exhibition that I opted to see called “Face of Fashion,” which documented fashion photography since the 1980s.

I spent a good while at the Portrait Gallery and when I finally stepped outside the sky was beginning to clear a bit. I emerged in Trafalgar Square beside the National Gallery. I noticed a poster for an Impressionist Exhibition and wandered inside. To my delight, the National Gallery is also free.

The exhibition was small but good. Once I finished with it however, I was tired and galleried out. It was nearing four o’clock to I decided to jump on the tube, find our hotel and check in.

This time, we stayed at the K&K George Hotel and I must say the location was perfect. We were right around the corner from the Earl’s Court underground station on a quiet side street. The hotel was small, nice and modernised. The rooms were quite tiny but adequate and very clean. For the price (and being London) it was great.

I chilled out (and watched cooking shows on BBC) until Andrew got back to the hotel. Then we went for a late Indian supper at the Bombay Brasserie. The food was good and there was plenty of it. The atmosphere however was rather like dining in a very busy train station… at rush hour. It was very loud and smoky (England still hasn’t joined the club to ban smoking in public). We crashed late with overly stuffed bellies.

Friday was shopping day and involved the usual London suspects. I wandered through Harrods and Harvey Nichols and then took the tube to Selfridges. While these stores are always fun to wander through, my budget doesn’t allow actually buying anything at any of them. Finally I found myself at a huge Mark’s and Spencer’s were I let myself go a bit and bought a pair of pants (desperately needed) a blouse (not so desperately needed, but very cute) and some comfy summer sandals (also much needed). M&S caters to real people and their pants all come in short, medium and long lengths. The short size is perfect for me and these are the first European pants that I won’t have to hem. The shoes also come in wide sizes so I don’t have to cram my feet into narrow shoes. It was chubby girl heaven.

After my shopping extravaganza I went back to the hotel to wait for Andrew. Friday night we decided to go for Italian and found a spot in the theatre district called Getti. Again, the food was good but not spectacular. We were one of only four tables filled at the restaurant though and the huge staff was tripping over each other to serve us. We could hardly lay our forks down without someone whisking our plates away. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to this North American style of dining out when I go home. After supper we called it an early night so we could get up in the morning and try to score some theatre tickets. And score we did.

We arrived at the Tkts booth just before it opened for the morning and the line wasn’t too long yet. We managed to get tickets for Blood Brothers for 7:30.

With that out of the way we headed to the National Gallery to check out an exhibition that I had noticed the posters for on Thursday and thought Andrew might like to go. We shelled out 12 pounds each to see Renoir’s Landscapes, but it was well worth it. The collection was fantastic and the write ups were informative. I did a bit of art book shopping in the huge gallery bookshop and then we grabbed some lunch in the café.

After lunch we stopped in at the Photographers’ Gallery. It’s a tiny little spot compared to the monstrous National Gallery but the exhibits were interesting and it was also free.

By now our feet were tired and we decided to go back to the hotel to rest before getting ready for the musical. We grabbed some hamburgers for supper (tasty but way too huge) and then got the tube back to Leister Square and found our Theatre.

Blood Brothers was great. The music was good, the story was interesting and the acting was superb. The only problem was the drunk, fat, cow (believe me I’m using much stronger words in my head) that sat directly behind us and talked through the whole thing. Everyone around her was telling her to shush which she flat out ignored. Andrew finally turned around and flipped out a little (which was quite funny) at which point she told him to fuck off. I couldn’t believe someone could behave that way in public really. She must have been well over 40 and was dressed and behaved like a sixteen year old. We all hoped she would leave at the intermission because clearly she wasn’t enjoying the show… but no, she just got more liquor and soldiered on until the end.

Fed up with the human race, we went back to the hotel for a drink in the relatively quiet bar.

Sunday, after we checked out of the hotel we took our suitcase to Waterloo Station to pick up again before we caught the train. We then went back to Leister square one more time to see if we could get any matinee tickets. Most of the musicals are closed on Sundays but there are a few shows with matinees. We got tickets to see Stomp and I’m very glad we did.

We had time for a bit more shopping before the show and I found myself at another M&S where I scored another pair of pants. Andrew found some socks, undies and a belt (so practical) and then we window shopped a bit in the glorious sunshine.

If you don’t know anything about Stomp, it’s not so much a musical as a performance. There is no singing, just dance and percussion. The performers play household objects and stomp and clap. It is high energy and lots of fun. We had a great time.

After the show we decided to enjoy the sun and walk over the Thames to Waterloo rather than taking the tube again. We arrived early and got some food at the station before we picked up our bag and went to the Eurostar section.

For some strange reason when I had booked our return ticket, it was 10 euros cheaper to take first class than regular (who was I to argue) so we had plenty of room and great service. I had forgotten however that we would also be served supper. We were both still stuffed from our late lunch but enjoyed the free wine and nibbled a bit at our dinner. We got in to Brussels late but it was much more relaxed than flying. Now Andrew is back in the UK for the day but hopefully will be home for most of this week. I’m crossing my fingers that the sun will continue to shine.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
- 1 day ago


  1. Comment by Alison

    Alison April 2, 2007 at 17:49

    I hear you. It is sad. Why can’t these people just stay in the bars where they are happy?

  2. Comment by Di

    Di April 2, 2007 at 15:26

    Reads truly delicious.
    Welcome back, Natural Light missed you 🙂
    Lovely sweetpea, just btw.

  3. Comment by Jenn

    Jenn April 2, 2007 at 17:42

    I am sooooooooooooooooooooo envious. Blood Brothers and Stomp. *sigh* But I don’t envy the rudeness. I’ve found it nearly unbearable to go to a movie lately and its not just young people that are rude. I find it awfully awkard (and sad) to have to tell a woman twice my age how to act.

  4. Comment by Mirka

    Mirka April 3, 2007 at 12:36

    London is great place and I am sure you enjoyed yourself. Sadly enough, rude people can be found everywhere, so it is only up to us not to let them ruin our day. Easy to say, hard to do, I know.

  5. Comment by Jay

    Jay April 3, 2007 at 10:51

    Glad you guys had a better time. Love the “all galleried out” – will have to adopt it.

  6. Comment by palmspops

    palmspops April 10, 2007 at 21:55

    Yo Yurup,
    Fabulous … I think I’ll read it again!
    I saw the video of Stomp when I was at my last school, one teacher had borrowed it to show her class and I think it got played in most … the kids were amazed and for days the hallways and playground echoed with bizarre but wonderful rhythms … loved it!
    Unfortunate about the SOB behind you … it’s hard … but have sympathy for the poor soul who has to go home with the rude and the nasty.
    Hope our paths cross on the first trip … certainly in July … I’ll try to get the pool ready!

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