Hello TALF, (Long Post)
My husband and I just returned last night from a short but wonderful trip to London to celebrate our 10 anniversary. This forum has been very helpful, and entertaining, and I thank all for taking the time to answer questions, give ideas and share your love for the city. To give a very brief idea of who we are, we are both 38, have 2 kids, love exploring cities, love music and now love London. Oh, Please excuse any poor spelling or typos here. I am doing this quickly and enjoying the recap in my head, but should really be catching up on work.
We arrived late on Thursday and stayed at K+K Hotel George. I will review on the hotel forum later, but to sum, a great choice for us. Good value for a clean, peaceful, convenient. Exactly as expected as we read all 90 reviews here. Didn't have any interest in Earls court, but it served us well as a convenient tube station and was just fine.
Day 1 Friday.
We ate a tasty breakfast in the hotel and were off to the Big Bus hop on/hop off tour at 8:27. Beautiful day and not crowded at all. Enjoyed the ride while getting our bearings on locations. Hopped off too soon and explored an area of the City, then turned around, hopped on another bus and hopped off near Westminster Abbey. There were no real crowds, we did the audio tour and enjoyed every minute. took our time and absorbed so much of something I have never experienced before. A Favorite.
Once out of the Abbey, we strolled all around the area seeing all we could see and taking lots of pictured. Then time for a late lunch at Gordons wine bar. Nice cold salmon and salad and a glass of wine. We were practically the only ones there. After, we saw Buckingham palace and areas around there as well. Somehow we managed to stroll through St. James park and were in Green park too. I remember most about Green park. Lovely. We hopped back on the big bus tour and enjoyed a 3rd live guide and more of the sites.
We hoppped off at St. Pauls for another memorable site. We toured the main floor and went up to the whispering gallery which was all the higher my husband wanted to go. He is not thrilled with heights, but add in the age of a building and this reasonable man starts thinking things are about to fall. No problem, he enjoyed the gallery and encouraged me to continue on to the top where I was met with amazing views of London. Of course, the camera was in husbands pocket as we were not using it inside. Oh well. Once down on the main floor, we had about 30 min. until the 5pm evensong service. It was an optional part of our plan, but time seemed to work and my legs needed a rest from the steps, ha ha. We sat for a bit in the folding chairs, then were asked if we wanted to move to the choir stalls for the service. This was a beautiful way to experience St. Pauls and we were happy it worked for us.
On to a pub afterward. We strolled the City to find the Black Friars pub. It was prime after work time and filled with all ages of Londoners grabbing a pint or two after the work day. We sat outside, had a few pints and took in the surroundings. It was great.
I picked Metrogusto Italian restaurant for dinner in Islington. It took us to another neighborhood which was our plan and was a nice stroll from the tube stop. Would like to rave about it, but it was just ok. My meal was undercooked even for al dente and husbands risotto was not very flavorful. A bit of arrogance from the staff/manager added to just an ok experience but we were able to practice our Italian and that was fun. Dessert made up for the rest and we went home happy to be in London.
Day 2 Saturday
Up early again and took the tube to Notting Hill area and the Portobella Market. We arrived at 8:15 as stalls were just being set up. We grabbed a drink and muffin and strolled all the way down the market, eyeing potential purchases for the way back. Spotted some tasty looking breads, cheeses, olives etc. that would make a nice snack before leaving. Once at the end we turned and saw a completely different market. In the amount of time it took for us to stroll through the half empty market to the end, all the stalls, streets and sidewalks had filled with people behind us. We were swimming upstream but it was great. I bought a painted brush for our 7yr old daughter, she lost her brush and will love its replacement, and we picked up some crusty bread, smoked salmon and a small hunk of cheese for a rest on a bench somewhere. We left the market looking for interesting things in the area. We found a park and the name escapes me, but it was a private garden square - is that correct? and our timing was off. It was open on Sunday. No worries, we found a bench somewhere, ate our bread and cheese and watched the people go by.
One of only two prescheduled events was next. We jumped on the tube and headed to Chelsea for a tour of Chelsea Football Club. Yes, we yanks from Columbus Ohio enjoy soccer very much and my husband is quite familiar with English Prm. League. I thought he would really enjoy this and was right. Actually, we both did. We were not expecting the Football Club to be so new and big and state of the art (a tiny bit of dissapointment, as we wanted more of a historical site). The tour was well done and another highlight. Arsenal was an option but only tours on Fridays, and didn't think of Fullam, so Chelsea it was and we had fun. Being in Chelsea at noon took us away from the Trouping the Colours which may have been nice to see. But this did get us out of big crowds again. We thought of eating lunch in Chelsea, but instead hopped back on the tube for Knightsbridge for shopping and late lunch. I felt like I was transported to the miracle mile in Chicago for a day of shopping with all the people and shops. We ate lunch at Wagamama and loved it. Off, then, to Kennsington Palace and gardens. We spent a lot of time here on the grounds and in the park. Sat at the pond and watched people while deciding what was next. Harrods and Oxford were shopping options, and we settled on Harrods for the experience and the food halls. We walked by the Royal Albert hall which was a nice surprise and found a fun side street that took us right up to Harrods. The food hall was too crowded to really enjoy too much. 4pm on a Saturday and to be expected, but I managed to find chocolate, some small things for family and marveled at the variety of foods and who really buys the meats etc on a daily basis. That was all we needed of Harrod. Glad to have gone.
Time for a pub. We headed back to Notting Hill area, as this is where dinner was too, and found the Churchill Arms. We loved this pub. Quite the contrast to Fridays choice and we had a few pints and enjoyed the atmosphere. Dinner was back toward the tube then near the Portebello Mkt. Assaggi, Italian again. We had made a reservation for 10pm but were early. Very small place above the Chepshow pub and right in the middle of a residential street. Fabulous! We enjoyed the most amazing meal. the white lazagna with broad bean and asparagus melted with each bite. the mozzarella with tomatoes had lots of flavor and the main meats, filet and lamb, were outstanding. Flourless chocolate cake with cream was the best and we felt welcome and at home. Oh, they seated us early and helped with what Italian I could not translate. Unfortunately, it was most of it. Great date!
Last Day. Sunday.
Our plan for Sunday was a south bank walk from Westminster Bridge to Tower bridge, then Tour of London, London Eye if time and no lines, and shopping in covent garden, oxford or wherever.
We started out on a beautiful morning and enjoyed the south bank walk. The view across the river was not to be missed and quite a different experience. Being such a busy city, London has so much noise with all the traffic. From the other side of the river on an early Sunday morning, we took in the views of the city with no noise, no people and it was great. We made it to the Tower of London at 10:15 along with sooo many others. We took the beefeater tour which I recommend. A talented storyteller and such an historic place made a great package. It was such a nice day and the lines for most of the buildings were so long that we took in what we wanted and didn't go through every building. A quick bite of fish and chips just outside the tower and then back to our hotel to tend to an error in judgement in my footwear choice for the day. London Eye and shopping were put on the list for next trip.
After unusual blisters on the ball of each foot were taken care of, we headed back to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. A treat. It was 4pm so we had two hours left. There were events happening in the square but the gallery was near empty. We saw everything we wanted to see and it made a good slow pace for painful feet. Somehow we exited to the back and ended up in Piccadilly Circus. Felt like Times Square in New York. Excitement, flash, people, the premire for a Batman movie, pre theater dinners. If only I could walk faster, we would have explored more. We went into a Pizza Express and had a nice meal. Wine, some olives, a salad each and we split a pizza. My feet were alive again and all was well.
Our last event was also a preplanned one. We took the tube to Hammersmith to the Carlin Apollo for a Pat Metheny Group concert. Not familiar with Hammersmith, or anywhere in London for that matter, we werent sure where we were going once off the tube. No worries. Signs everywhere. Once we popped above ground, it was all different again. Another slice of London life. We chose a direction, turned a corner and there it was. We had time for a drink before the concert and were treated to a night of music in London.
So sad our trip was ending, we traveled back to the hotel and packed. The hotel arranged for a morning car for us. Our flight was 7:45 and we wanted to be early, so we planned to leave at 5. The car arrived 10 minutes early and it took all of 20 minutes to get to terminal 3 at Heathrow. Didn't want to leave London that quickly!
We loved our experience and look forward to bringing our kids on the next trip. Thanks again, TALF for all your knowledge...and for the word Muffintop. I smiled at every spotting.