London Stories and Tips

More Fun in Rainy London

Former flower market Photo, London, England

It's now nearly 3 weeks later and we're heading back to London from Glasgow. We are in the "quiet" car, no cellphones so that made for a peaceful ride. Eventually the train was pretty full. The scenery was pleasant some of the time especially through the Lake district but mostly uninspiring. We had a chuckle at one point when a rather large burly gent came through the car announcing he was on the way to the pub and returned later brandishing a tall can of Tetley's bitter (beer) and exclaiming about the high price of it! I commented about "Railway Robbery" which he heard and laughed about and made a comment "I wouldn't mind so much but I hate tea!" (Tetley's is also a brand of tea)!

We arrived in Euston on time and managed with our bags, to drag them down the street to the Thistle Euston just a couple of blocks from the station. I've stayed here before and it was a vast improvement over the Inverness Court.

We have been transported from what now feels like the relative tranquility of Scotland, even in the cities Glasgow and Edinburgh, to the noise, crowds and smells of London! We decided to go out and see if we could get tickets for Mamma Mia for tomorrow. Took the tube to Tottenham Court Road and fought our way through crowded sidewalks with the foot traffic streaming by. It was an outside chance, we should have tried when we first arrived but we didn't get around to it and sure enough, sold out. We were told we could queue up for returns in the morning at 9:30. We'll see.

We walked through SoHo and Chinatown to Picadilly Circus, down along Regent street and down to Waterloo Place where there is a high column, with a statue of the Duke of York on top (Second son of George III) There are a number of memorial statues in the square here that leads down, by way of a staircase to the Mall, just before Admiralty Arch and Carleton House which was the residence of Edward Prince of Wales before he became King Edward VIII. We doubled back to Trafalgar square, under gray skies. We went past St. Martin's in the Field where the remnants of a churchyard market in behind was closing down and into the warren of little streets leading into Covent Garden.

We're getting hungry now so why not complete the assault on the senses? We went into an American restaurant, T.G.I.Fridays for what reason, I have no idea! It had loud music, many people with the noise of talking and silverware echoing and bouncy and cheerful wait staff. Shockingly high prices for what it was but again, tired and hungry we stayed put and caused a bit of confusion by ordering garlic bread with cheese as our starter and a side dish as our main meal. They kept trying to bring it before we were done with the bread but they got it right eventually. Woe to those who try to eat out of the prescribed order of things!

After that, we wandered around Covent Garden where most of the shops were closed but we browsed in the few that were open and sussed out a few we thought we might come back to tomorrow. For a place with few shops open, the area was crowded with seas of people heading to restaurants, pubs and bars and though they were everywhere, along the streets and sidewalks, things kept moving and everyone seemed in good spirits. We found ourselves by the tube stop for a line that would land directly at Euston with no changes and returned to the hotel around 8. We haven't decided if we're going to queue for tickets tomorrow or if not, maybe we'll go to a movie.

Saturday

Welcome back to London. After mostly sunny weather in Scotland this last week, it is raining. Hard. Forecast for all day and it did most of the morning and afternoon.

We decided against queuing for tickets for Mamma Mia in the rain. We went to the National Portrait Gallery instead. It's a Victorian building just behind the National Gallery but the building inside is a bit confusing at times, between new bits and old bits and trying to get from one floor to the other. One lift only goes to the first floor and if you try to go to the ground and aren't disabled, there's a guard outside the lift making you go back up and down the staircase or a different lift. I don't know. It was all very confusing and frustrating.

There is no entrance fee. We started at the top at the oldest portraits, the Tudor era!!! My favourites! There was a group of about 10 little kids, about ages 6-8 with a teacher who was telling them about Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and discussing the portraits and the symbolism found in them. Those children were pretty sharp! A couple of portraits that I had hoped would be there weren't and probably weren't part of that collection. I just thought they would be. We did the top floor through the Tudors, Stuarts, Civil War, Restoration and up to George IV and Regency periods.

We had a bit of lunch in the basement café and watched the rain on the "skylight" thought it was actually below street level. We could see people walk by on the street above us. Feet rested, we went on to the Victorians where photos started to creep in. All the Oscar Wilde portraits were either sketches or photos. I didn't know as many of these faces though of course Dickens, Bronte sisters and some of the politicians I had. There was a long narrow gallery of photos from the 60's forward but we skipped the Royal Family gallery, a bit of an anticlimax really.

As it was raining still, we had already given up the idea of a show but a movie wasn't a bad idea. Over to Leicester Square where the big (expensive) cineplexes were and we found one playing the new British film, Billy Elliot. We really liked it and it's been done up as a West End show now. It was interesting that the theatre was way underground with several long staircases leading down to it rather than on the same level you entered on. Yes there were other movie theatres in London that would have been cheaper but it still cost less than a theatre show and what the heck, we are on holiday after all! The theatre was rather warm though, filled with people and no air conditioning.

Still raining after the show, but easing up to a spit now. We headed back to Covent Garden to shop and again throngs of people coming in and out of the square though there weren't that many in the shops. There was also a craft market in one courtyard so I browsed there while Carole went to the china seconds shop.I bought a few small water colour prints, and we decided to eat there in an open air café. Well, it's still under a roof of the market but open to the courtyard. We had potato skins with tomato sauce, cheese and bacon and tea and sat and chatted and people watched. I really like this area of London, it's very lively!

Back in the hot and muggy underground to the hotel now. Made a few phone calls. Don't know what we're doing tomorrow. We need to have a look around Euston to find the location of the airbus stop for Monday morning and maybe we will go on the London Eye if the weather clears up. Yeah. Right. We are getting weary of living out of a suitcase and walking and climbing stairs. I think a month or nearly, is a bit too long for it. Not too bad if you were staying in just a couple of places but changing locations so much over the course of this holiday is a bit much.

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