I love reading trip reports, but never got myself to write one. I decided it was about time to start doing that!
My English is not very good, so excuse any errors here.
I 'll try to keep it sort, but as it's a 2 weeks reports, possibly will end up a long one!
My trip mainly focus in London, and a weekend to Brighton. I'll put titles to each day, so people may just read what they are interested in!
I already have or I will post reviews on accomondation, sites etc here on TA.
So, here it goes:
Day 1- Friday 23rd January
Arriving Gatwick-Transport and
Checking in at Luna&Simone
I arrive in Gatwick North terminal, collect luggage, take train to South Terminal, and then Gatwick Express to Victoria. I notice that weather is quite warm and sunny, concidering that's winter in London. There was more cold in Athens when I left this morning!
I buy a 7 days travelcard for zones 1&2 straight away, and I take a cab to my hotel. I've book Luna&Simone Hotel on Belgrave Road. Cab costs about GBP 4.50 . Check in is fast and efficient, receptionist extremely polite. My room is at top floor, comfortable and I really like it. Time is only about 18.30, but I just stay in,reading my book and sleep. That has mainly to do with the fact that on Thursday night I had a massive whiskey meeting* with some friends, till 6.30 this morning.
*Now that's an important definition to understand this report!
Whiskey meeting is what me and my friends call a long night out with looots of talk, and loooots of drinking. Normally all people drink whiskey (with coke), but me definately, even if other people don't.And normaly that had to be Johhnie Walker Red Label. In extreme cases, such as when I am abroad and JW Red can't be found, it can be JW Black Label, or Jamesons, or some other whiskey, sometimes combined with drinking lots of pints of Guinness at the start of the night. Usually an whiskey meeting ends up very messy.
Day 2-Saturday 24th January
Buckingham Palace-St James Park-Westminster Abbey-London Aquarium-London Eye-Dali Universe-Soho
I wake up early, and I have my breakfast about 7-7.15 am. Very hearty and tasty. I'm going out for a walk. Belgrave Road is quite, I meet only a couple of people on my way to Buckingham Palace Road. BP Road is more lively, but it's still early, so not too crowdy.
I make my way till Buckingham Palace. No one around, just the guards making their usual rituals. I take some photos exactly on time, before a group of 9-10 tourists arrive. I have a look (and some photos) on Queen Victoria Memorial, and I enter St James Park.
A see a few people doing their morning exercise, walking their dogs and going on their buissiness. I walk slowly and enjoy the views and the surroundings. I like nature and parks etc. I watch a squirrell jumbing from one tree branch to the other, various birds having their morning bath in the water, and approaching the exit on the other side of the park, I see some nice pelicans too. I walk past Cabinet War Museum which is closed and walk to Westminster Abbey. Time is about 9 am now, and Abbey will open in half an hour. I take some great pics of the Abbey with no one around.
I use this half an hour to walk on Westminster Bridge, take in the views and take plenty of London Eye, Big Ben, River and Houses of Parliament pics. I then return to the W.Abbey and take the audio tour. I am not a religious person at all, and in general I don't like churches and the like, but I love places with history and nice architecture, and that's one of them! The audio tour is very informative and I spend about 1-1 1/2 hours here.
I then cross the bridge again, and go to the London Aquarium. I like Aquariums. This one was rather averrage though. Half of it was closed for maintenance work, so it was rather pricey on about GBP 8.50 ! Most popular of all seemed to be the shark exibition of course. It's Saturday morning, so the place is full of screaming kids and patient parents ("Look mummy, here it's Nemoooo"). I spend no more that 45 minutes here.
Coming out, I try to decide what to do next. I know it may be a risky choise, especially on a Saturday morning, but weather is sunny, sky is clean, so I decide to go for it.London Eye. Queues is not so bad as I thought. About half an hour waiting to get the tickets and half an hour waiting to take my "flight" . It was interesting and helped me understand a bit more about where is what. One girl with chinese looks keep asking me to take here some pics, and takes a couple of me. Then her camera battary dies, and she please me to take a couple of pics of her and Big Ben on the background on my camera.We swap e-mail address, hers is a... russian one. Interesting, but I don't like asking lots of questions and our "flight" is about to end.
Going down, I notice that queues are now 2-3 times longer than when I boarded. What a relief I manage to get here early enough to avoid all this crowd!
There is the Salvador Dali Universe exibition in the County Hall, and although I am not very a very arty person, who doesn't know Dali's melting clocks and stuff? I go inside and take an audio tour, admitting mostly the high lights. I go out and start to feel tired.
Both Original London Tours and Big Bus Company have people selling tickets there. I take the one that happened to be nearer me at the time, Big Bus. Right now, I am only interesting to go back to Victoria Station. When there, I have some food from Burger King ( I know, I know... But we don't have them in Greece anymore, and I used to like their burgers a lot), and I buy an English SIM card for my phone. That will help communicating cheaper with my friends living here.
Time now is about 16.30, so I return to my hotel and getting some rest.
Later I walk back to Victoria I use my Oyster card for first time ever, and tube it to Oxford Circus. Easy as pie! About 20.00 I meet there two friends I haven't see for a long time! We walk around Soho, we go to a pub called "2 Rooms", likely enough they have JW Black (better than nothing). After a couple of drinks we move on to a "O'Neills" pub. Having live in Ireland for some time, I feel like home here. I have 3-4 pints of Guinness and then we try to decide what about next. One of my friends studies in the Kings University. We take a bus and go near Aldwych tube station, where there is a building called bishop Tutu or something, and at the top floor they have a club called KCLSU for students. Entrance costs GBP 5, and ... wowwww! There is a large window towards the Thames with fantastic views! I can see London Eye and other landmarks lit at night, and it's great! We take lots of pics and we talk and talk, and drinking out Guinness from our plastic cups, and club is getting busier and busier. My friends have things to do in the morning, so about 1.30 am we decide to call it a night. We look around and we find a bus stop, and there is a bus 11 going to Victoria. So I say my good byes, and I go back to my hotel.
Day 3-Sunday 25th January
V&A Museum-Natural History Museum-Paddington-Trafalgar Square-Lord Moon of the Mall
Today weather is VERY rainy. After my full English breakfast at Luna&Simone, I take bus 24 (stops exactly outside the hotel) till Victoria, and then I use my big Bus ticket to go to Victoria and Albert Museum. I arive 5 minutes before it opens, good timing! Now, this place is huuuge! You really need days to explore! So I focus mainly to exibits from Iran and Turkey and early arabic art in general, and then I have a quick walk in the medieval and English paintings. Now, I hate it when that happened, and here it happens again. A 10 year old boy keeps running and shuting around, and his parents pretend nothing happens. After 10 minutes that keeps happening, and after 3 times the child accidentaly falls on me during his runs, I get really pissed off, and I go and tell the parents off. Fortunately they seem to understand at last what a pain their son is, and they all go away from there I stand. I continue my walk around the various exibitions. About 12 my feet start aching! So, I take a break in the museums cafe. Cafe is very organised and tidy, and there is a good selection of food items and beverrages. I have a coke and a sandwich, and for half an hour I just relax and watch people eating, drinking, chatting and walking around. A guy appears and ask if I 'm French. So, no. I am Greek. Do I look French? With my black hair and mediteranian built and everything? Hmm, that was weird! He turns to be one of the guys working there. After a short chat, he has to go work, and me I have to keep going. I walk around for about half an hour more. I go to the shop, and there are plenty of tatty stuff which I don't like, and plenty of good quality jewelleries and books and stuff, but I can't find anything good for a souvenir. There are plenty of books for specific exibitis of the museum, but not even one with museum high lights, or history or something. I am a bit dissapointed on that! Anyway...
I then go almost next door to the National History Museum. I enter through a side door, so at first I don't realise what's going on. As move towards the center of the museum, I see hundreds of kids and parents, shouting, running, crying, screaming, playing... I can't really go near any exibit. I approach Darwin exibition, but it's so crowdy and noisy, that I start to get a headache. I decide this definately is not a good day to visit this museum,I leave and hope to visit some other time in the future, in a better timing. As I go out through the main entrance this time, long queues of families are here, and I quickly walk away. It's pooring lots of rain, even under my umbrella I still get lots of water on my. I walk to the Big Bus Stop, and wait for next bus. And wait, and wait... I've seen maybe 4-5 buses from the other company pass by, but not even one from Big Bus. After more than 40 minutes, I am about to cross the road and take a regular bus back to the hotel ,when a Big Bus finally appear. I clomb in, and it's full downstairs, so I have to go upstairs. It's wet and cold, and except the rain, weather starts to get windy too, and I can manage my umbrella with some difficulty. Anyway, I make it till Paddington. I am soaking with water and I haven't really plan what to do next. I find a small pub near by (forgot the name, sorry), I have a cod and some chips and a pint of Guinness, and then I tube it to Victoria. Now, that starts to get really rediculous. I mean, where is the difficulty finding your way around and moving with public transport? I have one of the standard tube maps and one for buses, and that's all I need to go anywhere!
I buy some food and water from Sainsbury's and I go back at my hotel.
About 18.00 I take bus 24 to Trafalgar Square. I take some nice night pics, and I easily find Lord Moon of the Mall pub. It is in convinient location, roomy, there are some slot game machines, and efficient staff. Four friends arrive shortly after me. I haven't met some of them for more that three years, and I am glad to see them! About 20.00 two more friends join us. and we drink the night away, on a proper whiskey meeting.( They have JW black, that's great). I go back on the 24 bus.
Day 4-Monday 26th January
Green Park-"Old Palace Quarter" tour-Tower of London
I take my breakfast about 7.00, I check my e-mail on hotel's PC(free access), I relax in my roon for some time, and then I bus it and tube it till Green Park. I buy a hot chocolate from Starbucks and enter the park. It's a nice day, I seat down on a bench and soak in the atmosphere. I drink my chocolate and smoke and some other people have the same idea with me, and I watch them, and the people passing by and the tourists taking photos. There is a small puddle of water created from yesterday's rain, and about 7-8 cute young pigeons hum... 7-8 of those damned flying rats I mean, seem to have fun, swimming and diving and playing there. A couple of Italian guys comes and watches and take numerous photos of them. A lady with a toddler pass by and asks me how to get to Buckingham Palace. Funny enough that I can give instructions, but I really can, and that's what I do. (After studing carefully a couple of maps, it's easy to navigate London's central attractions!).
It's now nearly 11am, so I go back to Green Park tube station, where I meet Angela from the Walking Tours company. We are about 15 people participating, the tour is called the "Old Palace Quarter", and it's unbelievable how many things you van learn on a couple of hours, and how many things are there to be seen on a small 2 klm ratio area! Angela is very good guide and mix historical facts and trivial details with a bit of royal gossip, and makes this tour really enjoyable.
About 13.15 and after the tour finish, I tube it to Tower Hill. I am hungry so I have a pizza on one of the numerous places near the Tower's entrance. Then I make it to the Tower, exaclt on time to catch the last guided tour. Our Beefeater is called Alan, and he is really cool. He has a singing accents that I would believe is rather Irish or Northern anyway, but he says he is from South East England. I can quite understand him though, as other foreigners in our group too. London Tower is very interesting in general, and as it's somehow late, I got to see the Royal Jewelleries in my own pace. Only 10 people in the area, so I would climb the moving corridor again and again with no problem!
About 16.30 I go back to my hotel. I get some rest and about 19.30 I go out and walk around. I stop at the Prince of Wales pub and have a couple of Guinness pints. Then, I return to the hotel, and eat some of my Sainsbury supplies.
Day 5- Tuesday 27th
Tower Bridge-"Historical Greenwich" tour-EasyHotel
After breakfast I have the annoying fact to move out. WhenI booked, they didn't have availiability for next 3 nights, so I booked the EasyHotel to check it out too. I leave my luggage in Luna&Simone till later, and I take bus 24 to Westminster. I just walk around enjoying the views for a bit, and then I tube it to Tower Hill again. It's a bit cold, but it's a sunny day. I buy a hot chocolate and I find a bench below Tower Bridge, where I seat for half an hour, drinking my chocolate, smoking, doing some people and views watch, taking photos and in general relax. I then go to the Bridge Exibition and the Machine Room and everything. Fantastic views and quite interesting, especially the short video explaining how was the decision taken to built this bridge etc. I think the TB original colour was brown, but I really like it now with it's blues and some reds etc.
I then go to the tube again, to meet Ann for the "Historic Greenwich" tour. If Angela was very good, Ann is perfect! She is a very sweet, polite and energetic woman and I loved this tour. Cruising the Thames was pretty cool, and the sites in Greenwich very beautiful and very very interesting. I will get back here one day, and explore it better. After the tour, I feel a little tired and I am a bit streesed, having to take luggage and check in to Easy Hotel etc, so I take LRT and then tube snd bus, and I move to EasyHotel.
Rooms is not so bad as I was afraid would be, I relax and read my book, I go out walking at some point, I spend a visit to TESCO for some food supplies, and I come back and relax.
Day 6-Wednesday 28th January
National British Museum-Covent Gardens-Transport Museum-Various Pubs : )
I take bus 24 to Tottenham Court Road Tube, and after taking some time to find my way, I make it to the National British Museum.I have arrange to meet two of my friends and visit the exibition about ancient Babylona. It was interesting and not so big as I thought would be.
After that, we walk to Covent Gardens area. I like it here, nice shops and areas easy to walk. My friends have to go, and me I am getting hungry. I enter in a Wasabi and I have a lovely chicken curry. Feeling much better now. I
I visit London Transport Museum. Quite good. They could have a better map provided, but staff is very helpfull and very polite.
It's rainining lightly now, I enter Covent Gardens Market, and downstairs there is a group of musicians performing. They play classical music, mostly on violin, and they are actually very good. I spend about 20 minutes watching and listen to them, and then I move on. I see a lovely heart shaped neck jewellery in Swarowski, which I buy for my self, and then I buy a small Swarowski hedgehock as a gift for my mother.
Rain seems to stop at last. I walk to Old Holborn Street and catch a bus 38 to Victoria, then back to my hotel.
About 17.30 I walk to Wilton road and Prince of Wales pub, where I meet a friend I haven't see for nearly two years. Unbeleivable how time flies! We get a table inside. There is no JW that time, so I go for their Jamesons. After a couple of drinks it's finished, so I swap to Famous Grouse. Next table there are 3 middle aged people, slightly tipsy. I instantly recognise they are Polish (I have lots of Polish friends and I know a few words). One of them tries to chat me up. It's very funny, his English is awful. When he doesn't understand my English, I talk to him in Polish. He is really impressed. I kindly tell him I haven't meet my friend for ages, and we'd like to catch up each other's news, so please could he leave us alone? He does, but times to times he tries to interrupt our conversation again, and my friend starts to het pissed of. Exactly on time, her boyfriend and brother arrive, and we decide to move outside, so we have more space and be able to smoke too. After 10 minutes her father and his girlfriend arrive too. He lives in a house literaly opposite the pub! It's the first time I meet them , and they are pretty cool. In a bit they have to attend a Chelsea football game, so they leave, not before we have a friendly argument, as I support Liverpool and I insist it's the best team in England, but they don't seem to agree.
Now it's me and my friend left again, and we walk to an other pub, the Jugged Hare. They have JW black here, and I am very happy. A friend of ours is supposed to meet as in Westminster, so we start walking towards there through roads I don't really recognise, but my friend leads the way. We enter Red Lion pub,I have a Jamesons (no JW). Suddenly we receive an SMS that our friend can't make it. We take bus 24 back to Victoria and we head to the Willow Walk pub. Again no JW. I have Jamesons, but after 3 drinks, they don't have any more. I swap to Famous Grouse again! Football game is over, and my friend's friends and family join us again. We drink and chat the night away, and then I walk back to my hotel.
Day 7- Thursday 29th January
Trafalgar Square-National Gallery-
St Martin-In-The-Field -Portrait Gallery-Camden Town-Regent Park
About 9.30 I bus it to Trafalgar Square. I enter the National Gallery,staff is extremely gentle.I deposit my ID and take an audio guide. I explore around, mostly focusing on the Sainsbury Wing. About 12 I feel a bit tired so I go down to their "Espresso Cafe" for a hot chocolate and a sandwich. Sandwich is pretty good, chocolate is...undrinkable! Awfull. Anyway. I then go to the East Wing, looking moslty for the Van Gogh paintings ( I like Van Gogh!). A large group of pupils enters the room. Seems like a whole school is in here. Lucky them they have opportunity for such educational "excursions", but it gets too crowdy and noisy for me, so I go to the shop,buy some small souvenirs, return my audio, collect my ID and leave.
I enter St Martin-In-The-Fields. Nothing really special in the interior of this place, I can't understand what the whole hussle is about. I do down to the crypt and old crypt, nothing to see here either. Just a modern basement with a shop and a large cafe/restaurant. I have a leek&mushroom soup in this restaurant which is quite tasty anyway...
I then go to Portrait Gallery. It is very interesting too, but I am a bit tired of walking, and the same group of children soon enter the gallery. So, I spend about 1 hour here and then I get bus 24 to Camden Town.
Well, I really liked Camden. It's what you'd get if you put in a bledder and mix together an arabic meddina,monastiraki area in Athens, a punk and a rock party! I walk around soaking the atmosphere and I buy a colourfull pingy bank for my brother. Then I see some signs for London Zoo and I decide to walk there. It takes some time, and when I get there, it closes in less than an hour, so I can't enter. I cross Regents Park, which is cool, and on near its south entrance I take a 453 bus to Trafalgar Square. I then spend an hour at a net cafe, and I go to Bella Italia Restaurant for a yummy carbonara.
I then call it a day and I bus it to to my hotel.