I've just returned from a very short trip to London and the experience was a bit disappointing. I'll tell you why in a second.
But before we go into that, I'd like to thank you all for your tips and advice. Thank you so much, guys! Your suggestions were wonderful and allowed me to save time and money. Travelling without tripadvisor is unthinkable to me.
My second London odyssey began on Thursday the 3rd of December. I was travelling with a friend, so I really wanted things to be perfect.
The trip started well. The easy jet flight arrived on time and the Stansted Express was an excellent way to get to Central London: fast, reliable, comfortable. They're right: everything else is a risk. We stayed at the lovely easy Hotel Earl's Court and, again, everything went smoothly. There were no problems with the reservations, the rooms were small but they were comfortable, safe, clean and had everything we needed.
(As a sidenote, this is one of the things I like the most about Britain: its reliability. If you play by the rules and take no chances, you'll have no problems. In Portugal, this doesn't always happen, not even with big companies, but that's anoter story...)
In the evening, I had some trouble getting to the O2 to see Eddie Izzard. I took a taxi and the driver was not just efficient and polite, he was extremely honest as well: he knew I was completely lost but he took no advantage of that. He immediately told me that he couldn't get me there on time and explained what my options were. He dropped me near the Westminster tube station, where I caught the train to the O2. I gave the man a 5 GBP tip but he deserved much more. God bless him.
I arrived at the O2 on time and the architecture of the place really impressed me. Eddie's show didn't. It was good but nothing spectacular, he can do so much better than that. I liked his intuition, though: he really could feel what worked (e.g. the raptor jokes) and what didn't.
I'm glad I was alone at the O2 and didn't take my friend with me: he's Portuguese and he wouldn't have understood most of the show. Moreover, getting to the O2 would have been too stressful and hectic for him.
After the show, I had a business meeting and this was the worst part of my trip. It was so depressing I don't even want to talk about it.
The next morning I had more business meetings. They were ok but I spent tons of money and results weren't as good as I had planned.
I had the free afternoon, so I met my friend at the hotel and took him to the Borough Market. The weather was so beautiful! We crossed the London Bridge on foot, the views were magnificent and we were in a great mood. We had an excellent lunch at the local Wagamama (again, reliability: this is one of those places that always gets it right!) and my friend loved the postmodern Asian food. The Borough Market didn't impress him that much (he doesn't cook) but we had a good time. We visited the Old Vic Operating Theatre (great TA tip!), the Globe Theatre and crossed the Millenium Bridge on the way back to our hotel.
In the evening, it was time for 'We Will Rock You' at the wonderful Dominion Theatre. The show was superb and my friend loved it. Yes, the soryline is a bit silly but this is a musical, not a literary work. Everything else was perfect, though: the performers, the costumes, the humor (anyone can understand the cultural references, regardless of age or nationality) and the timeless music of Queen.
The show lasted almost three hours and we had a train to catch at midnight. We couldn't go to Vapiano for dinner (my friend would have loved it!) and we didn't see Oxford Street. So frustrating! Getting to Victoria Station was an adventure. We went back to the hotel, got our bags, checked out, ran to the tube and arrived in the nick of time (precisely one minute before the Gatwick Express left the station!).
The Gatwick Express is expensive but it's worth it. It's safe, reliable and even more comfortable than its Stanstead sibling. The bus is not even an option to me: it's uncomfortable, exhausting and too risky.
We arrived at the airport 40 minutes later and we stayed at the wonderful Yotel. I really love this place: it's clever, affordable and I couldn't possibly imagine waiting five hours in an airport! There were no problems with the reservations and we woke up in a good mood. The easyjet flight to Madeira left on time, but this wasn't the end of my tribulations: a drunk Portuguese passenger wanted to sit next to me and I didn't let him, so we almost ended up in a fight.
I had a good time in London but I wish I had planned things better: two days are clearly not enough. The business part of the trip was a complete fiasco, but this had nothing to do with the city or the people that live there, of course. I love London and I'm already looking forward for my 2010 trip - but this time, I'll plan things better!