Whirlwind visit to London

To wrap up our travel to the British Isles, I thought it was important to introduce my mom to London. In theory, this made a lot of sense, but as the time drew near, I became a bit nervous (and as a result did not get any sleep). I mean, I’m ok wandering around big cities, taking the Tube and dealing with crowds. My mother, not so much as it is harder for her to get around and to walk as much as I do. However, the plans were made and so it was up to me to try to make everything work out.

I opted for a transfer from the ship to the Victoria Coach Station in central London and I had arranged for a hotel that was a 10-minute walk from Victoria station. So far, so good, right?

Cruise ships are very good at getting people off the ship in a most methodical way. We were in the appropriate area in plenty of time to get a coffee and soon our group was called to leave the ship. We showed our cruise cards for the last time and went to find out luggage. Hauling my bags was a bit of a challenge for us, but we managed and were directed to go to one of three buses. I thought getting in the shorter line would be best, but of course, this was the last bus to leave for London.  To make it more interesting, we ended up having to wait almost thirty minutes AFTER the other two buses left for three women who were “late” getting off the ship (of course with no apologies or even concern that they had made a “few” people wait for them). Once the late-comers were on the bus, we headed to London.

We got to the Victoria Coach Station around 11:30 AM. The hotel suggested that we take a taxi, just to be on the safe site (I agreed). Getting a taxi was a problem – everyone wanted one and there seemed to be none around. A porter helped us flag one down, by standing in the middle of the street, and we were on our way.

I booked us a room at the Lidos Hotel at 43-45 Belgrave. When we got there, the person at the desk was very helpful.  Our room was not ready yet, but he gave me very good advice concerning the neighbourhood and how to get around London. The #24 bus stops in front of the hotel and goes to many of the “hot spots.” We were only a 10-minute walk to Victoria Station, so that should be easy, too.

We ditched the luggage and head back to Victoria Station, with a stop along the way for some lunch. There were lots of places to eat. I choose a pub and we had a traditional pub lunch. The portions were huge! Then off to see about getting tickets for the Big Bus Tour. I figured that would be the easiest way for me and mom to see all there was to see in our limited time. I had a little problem finding the information booth, due to construction around the station, but we did find the theatre where Wicked was playing.

Once we found the information booth, I was able to get us tickets that would be good for a couple of days travel, including a boat ride on the Thames. To get to the bus stop was another adventure. The crowds around Victoria Station were thick and everyone seemed to know where they were going – everyone but us!

Finally, I found the stop and we waited for the next bus to arrive. Once on, mom did not want to walk up the steps to the top level (understandably – the stairs are tight and narrow), so we sat on the lower level until we got to the Hyde Park – Marble Arch stop. I decided I wanted to go on the Red Line, not the Blue Line, so we got off and waited for the next Red Line bus to show up.  The Red Line bus has a live commentary and goes strictly in the centre portion of London. Once it showed up, I went upstairs while mom sat on the lower level. In addition to the stairs, I had to face the ever-changing elements of London weather. I enjoyed interacting with the person doing the live commentary.

Of course, my camera was with our luggage at the hotel (silly me – lack of sleep was starting to show).

The commentary was great and it gave me a chance to relax a bit and re-acquaint myself with the layout of London. The guide gave great tips and showed us great places to get iconic pictures (something I was able to use the next day!)

London Eye with Big Ben
London Eye with Big Ben — only one place to capture this image!

Once around and we were back to Victoria Station, so I got us off the bus and started to head back to the hotel. Of course, I turned right instead of left. This meant that we walked for about 10 minutes before I realized my mistake. My travelling companion was not impressed. I turned us around and promised her that I knew where we were going – and twenty minutes later we were at our hotel. NOTE: My little detour, which was a problem for additional walking, did help me better understand where we were located. It helped anchor the “map” I had in my head to the actual place, if that makes sense.  It really did help me navigate better!

When we got back to the hotel, our room was ready, so off we went to find it (of course I tried the wrong room first – remember I am now really tired) but we finally found our room. It was a typically small London room – but with a nice bathroom and even a small “deck”. We also had free WI-FI, so I tried to take a nap while mom checked her emails. For me, the bed was extremely comfortable!

We had dinner next door at an Italian restaurant called O Sole Mio. I was able to practice my wee bit of Italian and we had a nice dinner. This is very much a neighbourhood restaurant.  They seemed to know most of the people dining there.  The staff all spoke Italian – some understanding very little English.  The food was very good and plentiful.  HINT: the pizzas are not single serving but they are very good!

Day 1 complete!