Tag Archives: London

S is for Stables

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Stables? That sounds like a strange topic for a travel blog, but I love horses. So this post is really about horses. First stop, Stockholm, Sweden where I just happened to be at the Royal Palace during the Changing of the Guard — complete with a band!

Stockhom, Sweden
Changing of the Guard, Stockholm, Sweden

Next, we go to Copenhagen . This time, I was on a mission to visit the Royal Stables. I got there early and watched a bit of a training session. Then, because they were officially “closed” that day, a caretaker let me in to see the stables and collection of of carriages — on my own!

There, there are the Royal Mews in London, England.

One last one, because I do love Cuba!

IMG_0525

May 24 London

London Day 2

I did not want to rush the day, so we took our time getting up and heading for the continental breakfast served at the hotel. When I told mom we would have to go back to Victoria Station to catch the bus tour, I saw her cringe a bit. I think it was mostly because of how busy the station is. However, we headed out – this time with my camera – to see what we could.

Taking the Big Bus tour blue line, we saw more of Hyde Park, Notting Hill, Kensington and Paddington.  I even saw the B&B I stayed at on my last trip to London. It is near Paddington Station. We then drove by more of the other sites of London – Big Ben, Parliament, The London Eye, etc. I also remembered the photo tips from the day before!

 

Horse Guard
Horse Guard
Big Ben
Big Ben
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
The Shard
Tower of London
Tower of London
Tower of London & the Shard
Tower of London & the Shard
Tower of London
Tower of London
Boudicca
Boudicca

We got off at the London Tower. There were crowds, but not quite as bad as I thought they would be. We headed to the dock to take a boat ride along the Thames to Westminster. The commentary was very funny and it was nice to get a different perspective of city sights.

When we got off the boat, I decided to try something. I told my mom that I had a surprise to show her and it would not be a long walk. We worked our way through the crowds until we got to Westminster Abbey – and yes, she was surprised and happy! It is just behind the Parliament Buildings, so it is not a far walk, but still unexpected. While we looked at the Abbey, I decided to try something else.

Mom wanted to see Buckingham Palace and I wanted to walk through St. James and Green Parks – my favourite parks in London. So, I convinced her that yes, I knew where I was going (“see, here is a sign with an arrow pointing to it!”) and that it wasn’t a long walk and the bus would not take us there. We walked to St. James Park with no issues – and few people to bump into.

Of course, once we got to the park, there were a couple of issues. One, there was some sort of race going on and it started to rain. We just pulled out our umbrellas and started walking down one of the paths. I was surprised at how many people “took shelter” under the large trees, even though we heard thunder.  Doesn’t anyone know what happens when a tree is struck by lightning?

Along our walk, we saw many birds, including pelicans, swans and many ducks. I talked about walking through this park in twilight with mist rising from the ground and magic filling the air. We crossed a bridge and there we saw one of the best pictures you could get of the palace, perfectly framed between the park’s trees.

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Views from St. James Park
Views from St. James Park
Views from St. James Park
Views from St. James Park

The park also has clean – and free – toilets! This is always a good thing to know.

We continued our walk through the park and found several nests filled with baby ducks. They were so cute and so fluffy!

Baby ducks

Baby ducks!

Upon exiting the park, we saw more of the palace and the Victoria monument, but we could not get close because the circle was blocked. This was the finish to the races. We did see the finish of a wheel-chair race where the first place finisher set a record.

I then convinced mom that it was only a ten-minute walk back to her favourite place in London – Victoria Station – where I needed to get some cash and we needed food. I almost had her convinced when a tour bus stopped next to us – and we opted to take it back to the station where I found a bank machine.

About a block from the station is the St. George’s Tavern where we stopped for an early dinner. I loved this place! When I wasn’t sure which beer to order, the bartender gave me a “flight” of six beers to taste – all from specialized breweries. It was interesting to taste the different ones. I finally settled on the stout – it was creamy and delicious. For dinner, we got an appetizer of brie fondue, which had currents mixed into the cheese. Mom got a traditional cottage pie and I opted for a venison and mushroom pie with sloe gin gravy. It was quite tasty!

That pretty much sums up our whirlwind visit to London. So much I wanted to do – not enough time at all.

I have to say that throughout this trip, my mom was a real trouper! Travelling with anyone can be a challenge and I am so used to “going solo” that I really had to focus on what was best for both of us. My main goal was that I wanted this to be very special for her while still seeing some of the things that would be special for me as well.

It must have been a good trip – we even talked about what we could do next!

My personal highs – and a few lows – will be highlighted in upcoming blogs. Also, pictures — many more pictures!

May 23 London

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!