London – One Day Is Never Enough

Two nights in my favourite city – London. I love this city, always bustling and vibrant, so much to see, so many events happening. After scouring my usual hotel booking site (www.booking.com) for a hotel in a different part of London, I ended up booking in the same area I always stay in – Bayswater, near Paddington and Hyde Park. I keep returning to this area as it has tube stations nearby, is on bus routes, across from Hyde Park, is safe and it’s affordable.

A curious lamppost near my hotel

A curious lamppost near my hotel

I arrived quite late at night, so just ducked out to grab some takeaway and headed back to my room – I’d been travelling on trains and planes since lunchtime. Just around the corner from my hotel, I walked towards the entrance to a hospital and took a photo of the arch that I thought was lovely. Funny how sometimes you just get a message to look at something that you would normally just walk by. Turns out this was the very hospital and entrance that Princess Catherine came to the following day for the birth of her baby! It didn’t even twig to me, I just liked the arch. You’d think the two media vans with satellite dishes would have given me a clue – nup, they didn’t!

St Mary's Hospital where the Royal baby was born the day after I left London.

St Mary’s Hospital where the Royal baby was born the day after I left London.

My one day in London was planned down to the last hour. After breakfast in the hotel, I headed straight to the Portobello Road markets (fortunately I was there on a Saturday). I took a diversion on my way after spotting a directional sign to Notting Hill’s Farmers Market – I wanted to compare it to Hobart’s great Farmgate Markets held every Sunday. This market was equally good, but lacked the ambience of ours as there was no seating area to just sit and enjoy a coffee. And no buskers to add to the atmosphere. Still, I enjoyed examining the food and displays.

Curious vegetables - aubergines?

Curious vegetables – aubergines?

 

Pie stall - I saved myself for the Portobello markets

Pie stall – I saved myself for the Portobello markets

 

Fish - something we don't have in Hobart - but should!

Fish – something we don’t have at the Hobart markets – but should!

612 I always love the walk into the Portobello Road markets, there are some wonderful old homes there. 616617

These vines amused me -   obviously garages don't get a lot of use here

These vines amused me – obviously garages don’t get a lot of use here

George Orwell's house for 47 years.

George Orwell’s house for 47 years.

I didn’t get far before being entertained by a violinist and a Charlie Chaplin lookalike who happily posed for a photo.

So charming!

So charming!

Then became totally mesmerised by a young ‘boy band’ whose harmonies were perfect. Three on guitar and one on brush drums, they held me captive for forty five minutes – each time I went to walk away they started another beautiful song! Of course, the fact that they were all incredibly cute made my ‘captivity’ just that little bit more bearable :)

Flyte Band - very easy on the eye!

Flyte Band – very easy on the eye!

For those old enough to remember these, their repertoire included ‘Slip Sliding Away’, ‘This Boy’, ‘Everybody’s Talking’, ‘Anything You Want’ and a couple of their own compositions. They were so good! Called Flyteband, look them up on Youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i57dPMKcZ2I&list=PLzTGnM8rupRCA4mq7xx-T5J0u9H_NfVzI

A headless couple

A headless couple

Finally I broke away to join the slow shuffle through the crowd as I worked my way down (or is that up?) the street.

Reminds me of the crowds at Salamanca Markets in Hobart

Reminds me of the crowds at Salamanca Markets in Hobart

I had my heart set on buying a slice of ‘bread pudding’ from one of the bakery stalls – this slice was something my nana used to make from stale bread, dried fruits and suet – looked disgusting but tasted so good! The stall was no longer there, I was so disappointed! I consoled myself with a chocolate pecan tart.

No bread puddings - so chocolate pecan pie had to do

No bread puddings – so chocolate pecan pie had to do

 

One day I will try the paella. Love the giant pans

One day I will try the paella. Love the giant pans.

Found a coffee shop and settled on a stool outside to watch the world go by. Before long I was in deep conversation with an Aussie guy sitting beside me, and whiled away another forty five minutes before looking at my watch and realising I needed to leave if I was going to make it to my next port of call. A hasty departure back up to the top of the street, a quick stop at a stall to buy a scarf as a memento, another brief listen to my boy band and I then went in search of the right bus stop for a bus back to my hotel.

So cute! Sound fabulous too!

So cute! Sound fabulous too!

After being given a few bum steers by people who didn’t really know the bus routes but just wanted to be helpful (the English are so good at being polite), I realised I’d have to skip going to my hotel to change for my next appointment. I finally found a bus that would take me into Park Lane at Mayfair and grudgingly accepted that I would attend my afternoon tea looking more like the ‘casual tourist’ than someone befitting a high tea in a posh Mayfair hotel.

Of course, the directions to the hotel I’d had mapped out on my Iphone were of no use to me when the battery died, so I had to wing it with finding the hotel. At last I was in Half Moon Street and the classy entry of the Fleming Hotel. What must the doorman have thought – I was a sweaty, bedraggled wreck by the time I found the place. But I was right on time! Into the ladies for a tidy up and a bit of lippie, fluffed up my hair and donned my new scarf and I was ready for my Chocolate and Champagne afternoon tea – courtesy of my daughters mother’s day gift to me.

Me and my tea - and yes, I ate it all.

Me and my pink champagne – and yes, I ate it all.

The staff were delightful (another Aussie among them) – treated me to a top up of my champagne as I was a bit flustered from rushing, sent my phone upstairs to recharge, took a photo of me and emailed it and treated me like a princess. The food was delicious, the tea was divine – I chose a ‘Fleur de Lis’ white floral tea for something different, and the hotel was beautiful. A really lovely way to spend an afternoon in London, I highly recommend it.

Petite fours - or fives. All yummy.

Petite fours – or fives. All yummy.

I found my way to nearby Shepherd Market, a quaint square full of high end boutique shops, restaurants and old pubs. I had read about it on Tripadvisor (my travel bible) and wanted to explore it. I shall return some day to enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants – it was a delightful place.

One of the lovely lanes in Shepherd's Market

One of the lovely lanes in Shepherd’s Market

 

Typical old English pub in Shepherd's Market

Typical old English pub in Shepherd’s Market

A quick bus ride back to the hotel to shower and change for my ‘one night out’ in London. This visit I had opted to use buses rather than the Tube, it is nice to see the surroundings as you travel, and sometimes the long walk to the platform on the line you want on the Tube takes longer than actually walking to the place! I recommend anyone travelling to London purchase an Oyster card for travelling, they can be topped up easily and have no expiry date, so you can use them on future trips as I do.

My pre-theatre dinner had been reserved at Kettner’s Restaurant in Soho (another Tripadvisor recommendation) where I enjoyed an asparagus and goat cheese tart with salad. Having not long eaten an entire three tiered afternoon tea, I really had no appetite for anything more. Shame, it was a beautiful restaurant with a well priced menu. I’ll have to return!

My light pre theatre dinner

My light pre-theatre dinner

 

 

The lovely Kettner's Restaurant in Soho

The lovely Kettner’s Restaurant in Soho

Off to the Aldwych Theatre, a fifteen minute walk from the restaurant. My theatre choice for this London visit was Top Hat. Oh my god, it was the most entertaining show I have ever seen! From the opening scene to long after it ended I didn’t stop smiling. The dancing was incredible, the story was well written, it was funny with many great one liners, the cast were brilliant and the songs were just beautiful – all written by Irving Berlin. I was thrilled with my choice! Honestly, if you ever get a chance to see it either in London or Australia – go see it!

http://www.tophatonstage.com/video/

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers re-captured - Brilliant show!

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers re-captured – Brilliant show!

Wow, what a full and enjoyable day I’d had! But who was I kidding, thinking that one day in London is enough? I’ll never do that again, I love the place too much.