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Short but Sweet 4 Days in London

I just returned Tuesday from a wonderful little 4 day jaunt to London--I arrived at 8 am so I considered that a full day, if a bit exhausted by the time I gave in to jet lag and went back to my hotel. This is my second time doing London as a reward for getting through summer (my job is INSANE from June-Sept, with this year seeing me working 10 hr days for 4 months & counting) and it may well become a new tradition--London is just so easy, yet full of endless delights. I work in new things/places to go with re-visits to favorites.

My second time going carry-on, and this was a bit frazzling as by the time I boarded (group 4, seat 50) the overhead bins were full. I stowed my case a few rows back and since I was on the aisle moved quickly to get back there upon arrival, otherwise would have been like a salmon trying to swim upstream. Coming home it was no problem. Heathrow was a 5 minute breeze to clear immigration, just scan your passport and look at the screen and off you go. I chose to stay again at the Caesar on Queen's Gardens, a 10 minute walk from Paddington (used the Heathrow Express) and in the lovely residential Bayswater area near Notting Hill and Hyde Park. Dropped my bags, topped up my Oyster card (I used about 40 pounds this time as I took the DLR and Thames clipper) and headed off to my most favorite place in London, the Tower. Spent some time with the ravens--enjoyed Rocky (blue leg band) chasing pigeons and eating crisps, and Merlina (pink band, she's the Ravenmaster's darling) being "hormonal and territorial" according to one of the raven team, flying in reconnaissance-like circles through the grounds and looking for her mate, Jubilee. This is my 3rd visit there, so took another Yeoman Warder tour, got a hilariously curmudgeonly guy, went in a few buildings then had a snack in the café (excellent food options there) and wandered a bit more, more lurking near the ravens. It was a gorgeous warm day, so staying upright and out of doors helped combat my tiredness and just made me so happy to be back in London. After the Tower I went to Regent St as there's a shop I wanted to buy a few garments from, then Liberty just because it's so uniquely fabulous...fabric and Christmas shop were perused, by then it was near 5 and I was getting droopy & decided I was too tired to forage any further for food and thus had a Caesar salad and glass of wine at Arthur's Café on the 2nd floor. Even on an hour's sleep on the plane and awake for nearly 24 hrs I managed to walk 9 miles that day! London's sights just spur me on to see more.

Saturday means Portobello Road market! The District and Circle lines were closed so fortunately Central took care of me for the weekend. Lovely morning to poke around the antique stalls and lots of interesting charity shops, finished by 1 and off to Bank St tube station to catch the DLR to Greenwich. What a cool town it is! Explored the market--plenty of quality hand-crafted items and street food--& Cutty Sark, then the Queen's House and Maritime Museum, finally trudged up the hill to the Royal Observatory to straddle the meridian line. Incredibly beautiful view from the hill, lots of people enjoying picnics in the park below. A seller in the market recommended taking the Thames clipper back, saying she never missed a chance to do that, so I did--how impressive to see London from the water, especially the Tower and London Eye. Dinner was at the Victoria Pub on Strathearn Pl, sort of between Bayswater Rd's Lancaster Gate stn and Paddington. Lots of appealing choices on the menu but I was in need of fish & chips with mushy peas and an enormous lager. Heading back I made the mistake of thinking I knew where I was and ended up on Edgeware Rd, had to backtrack down to get to the hotel.

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2157 posts

Sunday I was off to Victoria to catch the 9 am train to Brighton--I had long wanted to visit the seaside and though it rained a teeny bit it was a great day trip. Easy walk down Queen's Rd to the shore, I walked over the pebbles to the water and found some shells before checking out the Palace Pier--a noisy arcade that did not tempt me to stay. I encountered a thrilling Labour party march and in an effort to escape the relentless wind and threatening rain decided impulsively to see Downton Abbey at the Odeon cinema. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the lanes--mainly restaurants and fine jewelry shops with some candy shops thrown in for good measure, but it also is the oldest part of the original fishing village Brighton was. In the artsy area along Kensington Gardens I found a few intriguing shops and then had a Sunday roast lunch at the Bohemia Café that was excellent. I took the 5:45 train back to London. If the weather had been more friendly I would have walked to other areas as a couple of museums sounded interesting, but overall I liked the feel of Brighton very much.

Monday--last day already...I had a 10:15 ticket for the delightful Mary Quant exhibit at the V&A; while I was too young to wear her clothes in the 60s (sold at JC Penney's, didn't know that) I did use her makeup in the 70s, and her designs are simple and fabulous even when seen all these years later. Poked around some other exhibits then to Harrod's to remind myself there's not much there I can afford besides food, makeup and Christmas ornaments :) Over to Covent Garden for the Jubilee Market, discovered that last year and again on a Monday when they have antique dealers--found a charming 1930s black cat scissors holder. I saw ads for the 200 year celebration of Queen Victoria's birth exhibition at Kensington so went there next, nice walk through Hyde Park from Queensway tube stn, saw plenty of squirrels, crows, swans and some very unusual geese. The exhibit was very well done and I was glad I finally got to see Kensington, did Buckingham Palace last year. By then it was after 4 so off to Carnaby St (okay, stopped in Liberty for MORE fabric, sigh) area for early dinner at Dishoom on Kingly St. I'd heard a lot of great things about it and no exaggeration, exquisitely yummy Indian food that did not disappoint. Going early was a good idea, even on a rainy Monday they were busy by 5 pm. Back to the hotel to pack (I seem to have developed a bit of a problem with tea towels, last year bought 9 and this time 7, but they make me happy every time I use them) as I planned to leave at 6:45 the next morning to walk to Paddington for the express...unfortunately in a determined rainstorm. That gave me plenty of time to have a restaurant breakfast and spend time in the bookshop; check-in and security seems to move quickly at Heathrow.

All in all it was a perfect little trip, and I can see doing this every year--only one problem, there's so many things to do in London, not to mention day trips, that I always want more time--I'm truly happy just being there, it's a city that has "spoken" to me since I was 8, and dare I say it...I do believe it's my favorite city (shhhhh, don't tell Budapest she has competition for my heart :)

Posted by
6841 posts

Bravo. You know value in short transatlantic vacations. I've done about 3 similar trips from Chicago to as far as Berlin and Paris, leaving from work on a Wednesday coming back on a Monday

Posted by
5632 posts

Excellent report. Next time you are at the Tower saunter up to the glass covered Leadenhall Market.

Posted by
643 posts

So glad you had such a rewarding trip, Christa! Looking forward to hearing more about it at our Travel Group Meeting next month!

Posted by
623 posts

Oh, Christa, that's a great read! Thank you for posting it. My Monday is off to a great start. I'm hoping to get back for another London stay but it's not on the books just yet. I'm all the better for this vicarious London break over my morning coffee. :-)

Posted by
49 posts

Wonderful report. I agree with you regarding London - have been 3 times and can’t wait to go there again!

Posted by
1780 posts

Wow, London for 4 days from West Coast? Excellent, but you might be a more determined traveller than I am! I’ve done NYC for a long weekend, but London is a bit too far for me! Maybe in my younger years, lol!

Posted by
2157 posts

Diveloonie--I am an extremely determined person, it worked because I am familiar with London, and had very definite things I wanted to do (but still with time to wander unexpectedly)--I'm 55 and in good shape with only a sporadic bout of spondylolisthesis to plague me, so I try to maximize every chance I get to travel abroad. I also learned a couple of trips ago that if I got home by mid-afternoon or so I could unpack and get situated and return to work the next day--this has some people totally in awe of me, but it works and why waste vacation time!

I've got a mental list now of cities I loved and can fly direct to for a similar 4-5 day re-visit; Paris, Amsterdam, Munich...

Claudia--Leadenhall looks quite enticing, thank you! And I believe it was your mention of Dishoom that landed it on my must-do list, too.

Posted by
1942 posts

Christa, so glad you had a great trip! Makes me miss the place. Can't wait to hear more at our next travel group meeting.

Posted by
1939 posts

I, too, love London like you do and good for you for taking these short, productive and fun little jaunts! I really enjoyed your post and re-visited some of my favorite places with you through your writing. I think the ravens are awesome!

Posted by
679 posts

That is a great reward. I love London and exploring it is so much fun!