We had a hire car last weekend and as the weather was so gorgeous we decided to keep it an extra day and go out somewhere. Monday was absolutely beautiful so we headed up north to the Lake District. It’s only an hour and a half away from Liverpool and we had a clear run through – no hold ups anywhere – minor miracle! We headed for Lake Windermere and arrived just before lunch.
After we parked the car we wandered along the lake side – and noticed a boat trip that was just about to leave so we quickly got tickets and got on board. I’ve not been to the Lakes since I was a kid and I’d forgotten how stunningly beautiful it is. The views across the like are breath-taking.
The west shoreline of the lake is completely covered in trees – very beautiful. It belonged to Beatrix Potter originally but she left it to the National Trust in her will and now it is protected.
After a very pleasant sail around the lake we headed up into town. I got forced into the Pandora shop, and made to buy two new charms for my bracelet. It happens a lot. A quick mooch around and we settled on the Angel Inn for lunch. Fish and chips and a cheese ploughman’s later and we headed back to the lake side. An empty bench was beckoning us and we indulged in half an hour’s people watching. Highlight was the incredibly lucky Japanese girl who insisted on petting the very large swan sitting on the side of the lake. In all my years I have never seen anyone pet one of those things without losing a finger or an eye – but she managed to stroke the swan a couple of times and just got hissed at! Impressive.
It was time to head back to Liverpool and we had an equally smooth run back on the motorway. Monday nights are always one of my favourites and I headed down to the Cavern Pub for the regular open mic night. A great end to a lovely day.
I booked us on a really late train back to Liverpool so we could make the most of our time in London. Consequently we had a bit of a lie in on Sunday morning because we had another full day ahead of us. We had breakfast in the Cote restaurant behind Trafalgar Square. I ordered Eggs Benedict without the ham and was once again reminded why French people’s attitude to vegetarians drives me crazy – you’d think I’d asked for sautéed puppy by the look on the waitress’ face!! One day I will not be looked at with derision and confusion by our French cousins. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for that day to arrive.
After breakfast we took a walk down to the river and got river cruise tickets. Another 2for1 deal and we had all day hop on hop off tickets for £19 (deal is only valid until 1st June). We got on our City Cruises boat at Westminster at lunch time, and headed up towards Greenwich. I love to see the city by boat – it’s a totally different experience from sitting on a bus, or dipping in and out of the Underground. It was unseasonably cold so we sat right at the front of the boat under cover and got some great views but rubbish photos because of the glass. So at Tower Bridge we moved into the middle of the boat to get good photos, but froze our little hands off!! Which bright spark said it looked really warm outside and we didn’t need warm clothes?? We arrived in Greenwich again about 80 minutes later and decided to go for some lunch! I think it was more to get warm and not because either of us was actually hungry!
A quick half in the Gypsy Moth and then we caught the boat back. We got off at Tower Bridge this time and visited the Tower of London. In all the years I lived down south I never visited the Tower before so we were both proper tourists at this point! It’s a seriously impressive building and despite neither of us being fans of our monarchy we really enjoyed the historical aspect of the building. Lots of jokes were made about being arrested for treason and executed and we reminded ourselves of one of our favourite Pele songs – Raid The Palace (but quietly under our breaths, just in case!!). This was another 2for1 deal courtesy of Virgin and I think the normal price is a bit steep (£19 per adult) but if you can find a 2for1 deal it’s ok. I guess if you spent all day there it would be worth £19 but we didn’t arrive till 3:30 so only had a couple of hours there.
Back on the boat to Westminster (via the London Eye) and a gentle stroll up to the Strand where we made a pit stop in Starbucks. Still a little time to kill before our train so we wandered on to the Strand and spotted a Routemaster bus parked nearby, with a queue of people standing next to it. Pete had said all weekend how much he wanted to go on one of these old buses, and although we’d seen a few around we didn’t know if they were in service or not. Luckily it was – just doing touristy trips from Trafalgar Square to Tower Bridge. This was the last one of the day so we were in luck – we took the bus as far as St Paul’s and got off to have a look.
I like St Paul’s – it’s a beautiful building but I’ve never been inside. And I was thwarted again today – services were on and although you could go in if you wanted to attend the service you couldn’t just pop in for a quick look. Understandable but annoying! So we settled for wandering round the garden and then heading over the wobbly bridge to get that iconic view of St Paul’s from the Tate Modern! Back to Charing Cross on a modern bus which I actually quite like. They constantly tell you where you are, and what the next stop is. I like that – being totally paranoid about being lost I find it comforting to have the bus tell me where I am.
Nice easy journey back to Euston with much heavier bags than we arrived with and an hour and a half to kill before our train. We our both those annoying people who are never late for anything – I’d rather be an hour early than 5 minutes late. This is especially important when catching trains. We had a couple of beers in the Britannia pub (upstairs at Euston) then got supplies for the journey. The train was much busier than I thought it was going to be and I thought we were going to have to share our table. A lady sat down and then wandered away, leaving her coat behind, only to return a few minutes later and take her coat and her suitcase and move to another carriage. What a relief – I hate sharing!! And it’s a good thing too – I was unbearably hot and uncomfortable the whole journey so I’m glad I had two seats to stretch out on. Not sure what was wrong but there was no air conditioning and the heating seemed to be up quite high.
We finally made it back to Liverpool, following my customary waving to Clair game. Clair lives near the railway line in Crewe and I always send her a message to let her know I’m passing by and waving. She even stayed up late to wait for me <g>.
So back in Liverpool – very tired but full of love for that there London town again. I missed you London. I shall return.
Saturday morning had us getting up early and heading up to Camden Market. I have always loved Camden – it’s changed a lot since I first visited and has lost a lot of its quirkiness but there are still some fantastic market stalls and the food is wonderful. We arrived very early – just after 10:30 and there were very few people there.
I bought a couple of bags (a bag fetish, moi? no. Well no more than I have a shoe fetish) – a little owly thing and a Converse messenger bag.
After a quick bite to eat (Pete had pork from a hog roast and I had a turkish feta and spinach wrap) we headed back to the hotel where I picked up my camera (didn’t take it to Camden cos it’s flippin’ heavy) and we headed up to Greenwich, first stop The Cutty Sark. This famous clipper ship has been fully restored since the terrible fire in 2007 and it looks absolutely stunning. It’s only been opened again for a few weeks and I thought it would be unbearably busy but it was fine – they seem to control the queues very well, and almost seemed to be limiting the numbers going in and out.
From here we headed up through Greenwich park to the Observatory on the hill – it’s a bit steep up there but it’s worth the walk – and this was the sunniest afternoon we had all weekend. The observatory is a little bit dry for me but it’s one of those “must see” things in London really – a truly historic place.
Decided to go back via Greenwich DLR – big mistake – much further away than the Cutty Sark stop! And then I had my only travel related issue all weekend! We jumped on a DLR train that was just leaving without checking the destination and the boards inside told me it was going the wrong way so we got off at the next stop only to realise it was actually going the right way and the displays inside were wrong. Doh!! Luckily the DLR runs every 4 or 5 minutes so in no time we were heading back into town.
We got back to the hotel and had a couple of hours before we were going out to dinner with Pete’s brother and his girlfriend so we just lazed round and watched tv. I am totally sick of this Olympic thing already and it’s not even started yet. Another reason I’m glad I live in Liverpool and not down south – I think the news coverage is going to be unbearable once it starts! I’m hoping my local news crews won’t be so obsessed with it all!!
Jumped the tube up to Islington. Got out at Angel (longest escalator on the Tube system – it rises 27 metres) and met up with Chris and Ellie. We went for a few beers and then more Thai food (told you it was our favourite) then a last couple of drinks whilst we found out the score at the Chelsea v Bayern game. We decided to pop into the bar at the hotel for a nightcap – wow – that was expensive!! I normally don’t flinch at large bar bills but £20 for a glass of wine and a JD and coke seemed steep even to me!! It was a very good glass of Chardonnay though!
Friday morning and we got up early to go down to the South Bank to go on the London Eye. Despite not being sponsored by British Airways we were still wished a pleasant flight by the ticket desk – always makes me smile.
The views from the Eye are stunning, even on a relatively grey day like Friday was, and it’s something that everyone should do at least once. Heights are not my favourite thing but the ride is so slow and smooth that you forget exactly what’s really happening. Well, at least until your pod reaches the very top of the circle – I always have a bit of a “wobble” at this point and today was no exception! But it’s soon over and we’re heading back down again. I love the way the skyline in London changes so rapidly – the newest addition being The Shard – a stunning piece of architecture that is now dominating the south side of the river.
After the eye we headed back to Trafalgar Square for some breakfast. Then it was off to the British Museum. This is one of my favourite museums in the world – such a wide range of exhibits and a lovely space to be in. We started off in the Egyptian section (Pete’s favourite) and then through to the Assyrians (my favourite) and from there to the Elgin marbles (sorry – the Parthenon exhibit – they’re very careful not to call them the Elgin marbles anymore!). A quick scout round the mexican exhibits and then we went to say hello to the Moai (or Easter Island figures). In a very bizarre coincidence while we were visiting the lone Moai in the British Museum, my friend Jen was actually on Easter Island visiting the other Moai. The lone Moai in England is referred to on Easter Island as “The Missing Friend”…. very sad.
After the museum we headed up into Soho and had a few drinks. Back to the hotel to get changed and then out for our favourite food – Thai! Another early(ish) night back at the hotel.
We got to London just after lunch time on Thursday – headed straight for the hotel from Euston. We’d booked a “secret” hotel with lastminute.com – ended up in the Guoman Charing Cross hotel – one of the beautiful “railway station hotels” in London. It’s a wonderful modern hotel on the inside but from the outside you can see the glory of its former days!
After we checked in we wandered round Trafalgar Square. Then we went a bit further afield and were soon on Whitechapel at Horse Guards Parade. We crossed through the grounds (where the beach volley ball is due to be held in the summer!) and into St James’s Park. It’s a lovely little park and is home to lots of pigeons (evicted from Trafalgar Square no doubt), ducks and squirrels.
A quick squint at Buckingham Palace (dull and a bit disappointing) then up the Mall and back round to St James’s Park, and back up to Trafalgar Square for a late lunch in Garfunkels. Next on the list was Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (fabulous building despite its residents), followed by Cleopatra’s Needle. A few beers and then an early night with a bottle of wine and some tv.