Carole and I flew Icelandair from Halifax to London because we got a much better deal than Air Canada but I don't think we'll fly them again. We felt squashed in like on a charter flight with less leg room and seat room. We had a 2 hour layover in the airport in Reykjavik and watched the sun rise while we waited.
We landed in London around noon on September 14, completely shattered. We decided to take the airport bus which, at that time, took a route through central London. Now it only goes to Victoria Station. We were staying at a converted Victorian mansion in Bayswater, the Inverness Court hotel which we booked through the Holiday House brochure. NOT recommended! It's called the Shaftsbury Hyde Park now and isn't in the brochures anymore. Still not recommended!! Check out Trip Advisor and it's full of horrible reviews so it hasn't changed much. The lobby and stairwells were very elegant, the elevators small and slow. There were stairs once you got to your floor. Hmmm. The room was small as we expected, but our first impression was not great. The carpet was filthy, wallpaper yellowed, curtains hung limply. The outside glass doors to the balcony (well, just wide enough so you could stand if you wanted to brave the pigeon do-do) didn't shut and there was a hole in the glass about an inch round with cracks in the glass. We joked about our bullet hole! The inside sliding glass doors came off the runner once and would have every time if we weren't careful. The beds were narrow and really hard though at least the sheets were clean.
The hotel was busy though, full of German tourists I think. Breakfast was included and was continental in the dining room in the basement. It was also convenient, across from Hyde park and around the corner from the Queensway underground station, a block from the Bayswater station but there's loads of hotels in that area. Pick something else! That made for a bit of a downer to start our trip off but you can't let that bother you. We had prepaid the room and from what I heard also, London was full, with nary a hotel room available as a friend of mine found out that week as well.
No sleep since yesterday but we rested a bit and decided to go out and over to the park for a walk through Kensington Gardens. We passed the children's playground where there is a trunk of an old oak tree with elves and fairies carved and painted into it. It was done in 1911 and is called the "Elfin Wood".
We walked down toward Kensington Palace and saw this building with high windows. It appeared to have a restaurant in it and we decided to go in for high tea as it was high tea time. We weren't dressed for it but others there were in jeans as well so we went in. This, by the way is the Orangerie which was built in 1704 as a greenhouse. We decided to splurge on the Grand Tea which includes a glass of champagne to celebrate the beginning of our trip. Included were a little finger sandwich, raisin scone with fruit syrup and clotted cream and a piece of Belgian chocolate cake! How could one resist! I managed most of it though couldn't eat all the icing on the cake as it was way too rich on top of the clotted cream. And not having eaten since the plane, that champagne sure went to our heads! Time to walk some more!
We went to Kensington Palace for a look through the gates and later walked around the lower end of the park where there were some nearby gardens as far as the Albert Memorial and Albert Hall. Dusk is imminent so we made our way back up to the Bayswater Road end of the park via the same route we took down. We had a look at some souvenir shops opposite the underground stop, but didn't' buy tonight. Noticed that the postcards were fairly cheap here though, 10 for a pound. Back to the hotel, nothing on telly and as usual that first day, overtired so it was hard to drop off to sleep.