London calling

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Howdy, apologies for any typos in todays edition, it has been a big couple of days and it’s getting late into the evening but in the interest of not getting too far behind again I present to you the story of our time in London.

After a great couple of weeks relaxing in Crete we arrived in London, unfortunately 6 hours later than originally planned due to a late flight but we did make it and after a quick train ride in from Gatwick we were at our hotel. Citizen M Bankside was a great place to stay and easily the pick of our accommodation so far, 2m by 2m giant bed, massive rain shower, free movies and amazing wifi. We also received a couple of free cocktails in the giant bar/restaurant/lounge room on the ground floor. If you go to London stay there, you won’t regret it.

Our first couple of days were spent wandering the city, we hit up a couple of markets on Sunday with the pick of them being Brick Lane. Amazing for art and fashion with lots of young designers and artists, highlight for me was the food, hundreds of food stalls throughout and everything we tried was amazing – special mention to the banana-salted caramel-toffee-oreo cupcake from flavourtown which tasted amazing despite sounding ridiculous.

Monday was Monopoly/Shopping day. We started with Pall Mall and Picadilly on our way to Bond Street, after that we shopped Regent Street and Oxford Street inclusive of Selfridges before heading down Park Lane to Harrods. We loved walking London and found so many amazing little mini communities within the city, also some amazing parks. The department stores in London are a big step up from what we are used to (no offence to Myer Launceston) caviar, champagne and cigar lounges featured consistently, as did fine dining restaurants and personal shoppers. In true Liam & Jess upper class style we had mexican for lunch at Selfridges and had afternoon tea in the Disney cafe at Harrods, really classed it up.

Tuesday was all about The Tower of London, we got there super early and went and checked out The Crown Jewell’s first on the recommendation of Intrepid buddy Vicky, great advice, we were in instantly and got plenty of time to check them out – a few hours later it was over an hours line. Jess really really liked The Crown Jewels, seeing priceless jewels (Literally priceless, no one will insure them) inclusive of the worlds biggest diamonds inside a giant vault was apparently right up her alley. We also checked out The Bloody Tower, walked the walls, toured the armoury and I played dress ups and started my quest to get a new hat in London.

My highlight from the tower was watching one of the giant ravens steal an entire tube of unopened Pringles out of a ladies bag, fly three metres with them onto a lawn no one was allowed to walk on, open the lid and pierce the foil and then demolish the entire pack in front of her and her toddler, comedy gold. On the way back home we crossed Tower Bridge and were lucky enough to catch it opening and closing to let some boats through which was great to see.

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Our next big day was at the British Museum, an amazing museum but definitely evidence of how much the British Empire has shrunken over the centuries and of how much they have pilfered over the years. One of the best collections in the world with relics and artefacts from all over the world. One of the best things were the fact that they had staff throughout the museum set up with collections of items that you could handle and have a close look at, inclusive of some of their more valuable and older items. We got to play with an antique watch worth a couple of hundred thousand pounds, a 5000 year old axe head – one of the earliest recorded tools and some coins from Ancient Greece, Spain and Britain. Was a good day and we still didn’t get through it all, some areas such as the Egyptian rooms and the mummies were crazily busy all day whilst other areas were really quiet and you could take your time to explore in a bit more depth. Definitely worth a look when you are in London as there are many constantly changing exhibitions as well, we missed out on one on Indigenous Australia that would have been very interesting after our experiences in the last four years or so but it wasn’t to be.

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Another favourite way to pass some time in the city was to check out the parks, there are a heap of small parks throughout the city but the two big ones Hyde Park and St James Park are definitely the pick. They both feature a heap of birds and our new favourite in London, squirrels, we were lucky to feed a few and lost a few hours playing around with them and watching their epic tree climbing and battles. Both parks have lakes, with people taking out paddle boats at Hyde park for a cruise with the ducks, geese, swans and pelicans. The weather was great during our stay, clear and in the mid to high twenties every day which meant stacks of people were enjoying outdoors, London seems like a super active city. The amount of people who cycle is phenomenal, their are cyclist highways throughout the city and bikes you can hire everywhere, even former major and now MP Boris Johnston cycles to work.

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As well as checking out the historical and tourist sights we had a couple of highlights on the entertainment and food side of things. Early on in the trip we went to see Mission Impossible at the ODIN IMAX, which is a giant 20m high screen housed in a purpose built round building in the middle of a roundabout that you enter through an underground tunnel. The movie was great and the cinema was phenomenal, it was also pretty great that a large portion of the scenes were shot in London and we walked through some of the areas from the film on the way home.

Food is super expensive in London, mostly because of how atrociously the Australian dollar is holding up against the British Pound (for those not into tracking exchange rates it is about the same as how our cricket team is holding up) this meant that instead of restaurants we ate a lot more from markets and street food vendors than we have so far in the trip. Fortunately for us the Borough Market, Londons finest food market, was five minutes walk from our hotel. We ate here quite a few times, highlights included salted caramel fudge and the pies from Pieminister with my pick a British beef steak, chorizo, olive & butter bean pie whilst Jess went for a free range British chicken & ham pie with leek & thyme – served with mash and smashed peas, can’t go wrong.

My favourite London experience was going to the theatre on the West End, we saw The Book of Mormon at The Prince of Wales Theatre. It was a beautiful old theatre and thanks to Jess’s Amex privileges we were upgraded to the best seats in the house a few rows back from the front and dead centre. The actors/singers were all top class and the content was hilarious, the direct references from The Book of Mormon form the base of it but where they take it is pure comedy gold. Some of the songs had the entire audience close to tears they were so funny, every now and then the content goes pretty close to the line but you are always going to get that from the guys who created South Park. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough and Jess loved it too, we got all dressed up which was fun and cognac was cheap in the lounge. All in all a great night.

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No trip to London would be complete without a trip out to Notting Hill and the Portobello Road Market so we made the journey out via a couple of different trains on the underground (thankfully they didn’t go on strike until the day after) and started working our way through the market. I almost bought quite a few leather jackets and such but on recognising that my pack is already full and that I have literally no need for one I overcame that temptation successfully. The markets were good but I wouldn’t rate them over Brick Lane at all for either quality of goods on offer or for food, that being said we didn’t go on a Saturday when all of the antique stalls and side markets are open. It was still fun to check out and the Notting Hill region looks like a great spot to live if you have the serious money required to get in there. Did not see Hugh Grant, nor Dylan Moran with a book down his pants which was a massive disappointment.

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On our way back from Notting Hill we stopped in at the Natural History Museum for a couple of hours. The building itself was phenomenal, have included a couple of pictures but they don’t do it justice. With school holidays on this was probably the busiest place in London, unfortunately the line up for the dinosaur section was so big we didn’t even get a chance to have a look at it before we left. We did have the chance to check out a stegosaurus skeleton by the main entrance and ascent a three storey escalator through a model of the Earth to enter the red zone. Jess enjoyed the wildlife photography exhibition and checking out one of the worlds most extensive collections of gem stones (Massive shock) I liked playing on the earthquake machine like a proper grown up. When the museum was about to close we had to make a decision on what to do next, we almost went on a tour of Stamford Bridge but common sense prevailed, who wants to ruin such a great week with Chelsea fans…

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Throughout our stay we spent a bit of time walking around London to check out all of the big attractions such as Parliament House & Big Ben, Supreme Court, Tower Bridge, Hyde Park, Kensington Palace & Gardens as well as posing with phone boxes etc. We hit the trifecta of iconic public transport by using a big red double decker bus, London Black cab as well as the Tube. Public transport in London is phenomenal, so far ahead of anything we have in Australia, we never had to wait more than 3 minutes for a transfer or a ride the entire time, made life very easy! We may have to throw up an album on Facebook for the photos because there were way too many to fit into the blog…

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Last but not least a big thank you to Siobhan and Sukver for taking us out for a great night and giving us so many top tips for London and beyond. Very much appreciated.

Since finishing up in London we have grabbed our Peugeot and headed up through the midlands and are now near Hadrian’s Wall making a pit stop on our way to Edinburgh for the fringe festival. Some priceless anecdotes already for the next blog including the man, the myth, the legend – Welsh Dave. Look out for that!

Thanks for reading

LF


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