Monday, 8 April 2013

London Bucket List - lucky we live up the road

We had a few options for small vacations for the week G was off work after Easter, and for all sorts of reasons we ended up in London playing tourists and catching up with B&E (godson and girlfriend)

As the weather is still akin to winter (March was the coldest March in 50 years, with an average temp of 2.2'C) and nothing like spring (except for the confused daffodils that have bloomed), we thought London was a great option as there’s so many things to do INDOORS if necessary PLUS we’ve still got lots of things on our London Bucket List to do before we leave.

I won’t bore you with what we were going to do (it’s all wrapped up with the London Pass which I’ll chat with you about next time) but rather share with you what we did do, which sadly wasn't as much as we'd planned cos of the weather. 

You hear that a lot here, cos of the weather.

Someone said, it's not the weather, it's the wrong clothes and while there's some truth to that, the weather still sux, big time.

We decided to catch the train from Winchester direct into Waterloo rather than drive as we wouldn't be needing the car.

Lesson 1: study, really study the train ticket options before purchasing. Even with a discount card the fares are ridiculously expensive.

It was a short walk to the Premier Inn. It’s the first time we’ve stayed with this chain and only did so based on location and price, thinking it’s only two nights, we'll only be there to bathe and sleep.

It was great! So much so, we’ll be looking out for them on other travels, and will probably do another weekend in London staying there again. 

We were several hours too early to check in which was not an issue at all as they kindly checked our bags into the holding room until our return.

Lesson 2: Buy an Oyster Card. On our last visit to London we realized how invaluable one of these is. It's much like a SUICA for our friends in Japan. It meant we were free to zip thru the turnstiles and catch trains at a whim. 

G to navigated us thru the tunnels and escalators of the tube/underground to Leicester Square. You’d think having caught trains in and out of Tokyo for 3 years I’d be fine with London – but for some reason it’s very daunting. Maybe I just need to go up more often, but (back to price) it's damn expensive hence I pick'n'choose my visits.

We exchanged out Virgin Experience London Sightseeing voucher for a London Pass, again more details in the next chat. Meanwhile G purchased two tickets to We Will Rock You for the next night as MissM was going to have a sleepover with B&E.

Lesson 3: Check prices of theatre tickets as they vary wildly!

AH! Wagamama. It was only 11am not that early for lunch, but the restaurant didn’t open til 11.30am and we were meeting the others at the Science Museum at 12.15pm. 
We caught the train to South Kensington and saw a shop sign Little Japan and thought AHHHH Japanese.

It was awful. Seems everyone else who’s eaten here thought the same as the reviews on tripadvisor are not kind.

The food was inedible.

Our reviews on tripadvisor weren’t kind either, but they were honest.

Lesson 3: While trying new things is always on top of our list of things to do while exploring, sometimes it's worthwhile having a quick squiz at tripadvisor or asking friends for recommendations beforehand. 

Along with a gazillion other holiday makers, we lined up at the Science Museum for an afternoon of indoor fun. It's fabulous that this, and other Museums and Galleries in London are still free entry - it means everyone can enjoy them. 

It was PACKED. There was a hour and half wait for the 3D Red Rockets experience – that’s like the lines at Disneyland, not a museum.

There’s so much to see and do! Highly recommend it, whether you have kids or not.
B&E met us, and we spent another few hours roaming each floor, stopping to experience another interactive zone, or read some incredible fact.

Afternoon tea at PAULS was delicious before a brisk walk back to the hotel where MissM packed her bag and disappeared into the night with B&E.

G and I caught the train back to Leicester Square and had dinner at you guessed it, Wagamama. We really like that place. You know what you’re going to get and it’s going to be tasty. After dinner, we rugged up again and walked back to the Dominican Theatre to watch We Will Rock You.

I was so excited! I love the theatre, and I especially enjoy musicals. G does not but I genuinely thought he’d enjoy this one, as he likes the music of Queen. Boy was I wrong. I have to admit, some of his comments about the audio were spot on – music too loud, so the singers were ‘screaming’ their words to get above it – making one loud noise at times. The male lead is awesome; the costumes are great, the choreography is cute. Still who are we to critique – the show has been running for 11 years!

The next morning we enjoyed a peaceful breakfast – you forget what it’s like just to sit and eat, without encouraging another person (aka MissM) to eatstoptalkingkeepgoingeatuppleasetimeismarchingon. I usually eat breakfast while empyting the dishwasher and tiyding the kitchen so it was extra nice to sit and enjoy a hot meal prepared by someone else.

Why is it that on holidays you eat super big breakfasts, but at home a piece of toast is fine? We didn't linger too long over breakfast as we wanted to be at Westminster Abbey  for the 10.30am guided tour.

All I can say is, DO IT.

While MissM's a great little traveller and curious about things most kids her age aren't, this was the first time in years G and I were able to focus on the same guided tour at the same time as one of us is usually with MissM ensuring she's content with what's going on, or helping her complete a Kids Quiz. We thoroughly enjoyed being 'together' and really sharing this incredible experience.

Sadly but understandably you can’t take photos inside the Abbey so we bought the book. The colour plates are wonderful and there's lots of detailed explanations.

By the time we were finished, it had started to SNOW.


It should not be snowing.

We caught a bus to Leicester Square (again) and met MissM, B&E at Dumpling Legend for a much needed dim sum fix. B&E and visited us in Japan and we shared Chinese NY with them as well as many enjoyable meals in Chinatown, so there was lots of comparisons and reminiscing.

MissM's favourite sui mai, but 'not as good as the ones from
the sui mai man at home' (meaning Chinatown, Yokohama)

It was STILL SNOWING when we left lunch, and B suggested we pop into M&M World to keep warm.

The marketing people who thought of personalizing a little coloured chocolate drop should be awarded various marketing awards. They were first given faces in 1954 and the rest as they say, is history. Check out the website

I was in awe of the marketing genius that suckered people of all ages into spending money on all manner of merchandise. There were queues at the check outs.

First posed pic with the Blue M&M

More colours to choose from than on a paint chart!
The M&M's come down so fast the bag is filled in seconds.

So many colors to choose from!
Peanuts on one side, plain choc on the other.

Really! Yes, every sport imaginable. 

Again - such clever marketing.
Such dust catchers for the home.

This was cute, but lost on so many young people!

With B&E and the British M&M

When we were done there, it was, yep, still snowing and super cold and windy so B&E went on their way and we walked back towards Trafalgar Square and into the National Gallery. G went for a coffee while MissM and I looked for the gallery where Degas, Monet and Renoir were hanging.

Sadly there were only a few paintings MissM recognized, but she humored me and we looked at new ones together, discussing the color and composition. She added some very insightful comments based on things she’d learned in art at school (yeah for school)

A brisk walk in the cold to St Martins in the Field for some classical music, then and early dinner before snuggling down into the very large bed at the hotel for some family TV viewing.

G suggested simply as a means of keeping out of the cold and away from the hotel room, that we go to Churchill’s War Rooms. I’d been recommended this by friends so was happy to go. MissM was given a childs audio (great idea!) and each us listened to the bits that interested us, and walked thru the exhibit.

It’s an excellent permanent exhibit within the actual tunnels where Churchill and his teams ‘ran’ the war. There is so much archieval footage, documentation, photographs and more that you could disappear for days.

The interactive boards in the middle of the main exhibit area is quite unqiue – each page taken from Churchills diaries so you could see what he was doing and who he was with on a daily basis.

This topic is one that neither G nor I have ever shown much interest in, but it certainly captured our and MissM’s attention for a couple of hours. No photos were allowed, so if you’re interested, google it, or go next time you’re in London.

Friday was another cold, miserable day so we opted for a lie in, and a leisurely breakfast before catching the train home.

The weather really stopped us doing so many things, and taking photos. We figure we'll be back when the weathers warmer and the sky's blue.

London Eye – no point when it’s grey skies and SNOWING.

London Zoo can wait for warmer weather when the animals are out’n’about.

River Thames Cruise sounded like a pleasant way to see the sights, but, sitting 
on a boat on a river while the rain or sleet fell wasn’t appealing.

The Changing of The Guards happens ‘weather permitting’ at 11.15am on certain days. 
We assumed they’d not be on as it was so bitterly cold, and if they were, we were not prepared to stand in the cold for the time they took.

Hyde Park, Regents Park and others can wait til summer.

Experiencing a typical London market will also wait til warmer weather.

Strolling thru Notting Hill, or striding across Abbey Road, taking a guided London 

Walking Tours …… getting lost in galleries and exhibitions   …….

Lucky for us we’re only living down the road  ………..

With friendship

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