Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

1st October 2010

London? Aye

Northern Line mapI spent last weekend in London with Mum and my delightful sister Jenny. My previous experiences of our nation’s capital have never been more than 24 hours long. They were digestible, bite-size chunks — enjoyable, but always leaving me wanting more. So when the opportunity came along to book a package trip to London (from that company that advertises in the Liverpool Echo every night) I jumped at the chance. Return train tickets, two nights in a hotel and tickets to a West End show. What more could a person ask for?

I was slightly concerned with the price of the package deal, which worked out at about 200 quid each. Booking train, hotel and show separately would have come to much more than that. Had we skimped on quality for the sake of price? As it turned out, we didn’t need to worry.

Thistle Kensington GardensOur hotel was the Thistle Kensington Gardens located on Bayswater Road. I was slightly nonplussed on arrival to see that the front of the hotel on the ground floor was taken up by a Shell petrol station forecourt, with the hotel’s actual entrance relegated to a side street. Still, the hotel itself seemed pleasant enough and the helpful staff got us checked in quickly. Our rooms wouldn’t be ready until 2pm, so we headed out to explore.

Queensway tube mapThe immediate area is the Daily Mail’s worst nightmare – very cosmopolitan with people of every possible background mixing together. There were plenty of restaurants serving food of various origin, nestling alongside the usual Tesco Express and Greggs. There are also two tube stations in walking distance of the hotel, Queensway (Central Line) and Bayswater (District and Circle Lines). They are a two-minute walk apart, although this is not immediately apparent from the Tube map which seems to suggest travelling between them via a change at Notting Hill Gate.

Next we headed off to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. The museum is a great place to visit for transport nerds and casual travellers alike, telling the story of transport in London from the 1800s to the present day, with a whole host of exhibits from the earliest horse buses to trinkets from the revamped East London Line.

London Transport Museum 1 London Transport Museum 2 London Transport Museum 3 London Transport Museum 4 London Transport Museum 5 London Transport Museum 6

The museum was so good in fact that we stayed there rather longer than intended and had to rush to get back to the hotel and then out to the theatre again. A quick trip on the Circle Line from Bayswater delivered us to Victoria station with less than an hour to go before the show started at the nearby Apollo Victoria. With no chance of being able to eat a proper meal, we settled for coffee and paninis from the Starbucks at Victoria station (glamorous!)

The show we had chosen to see was Wicked. Again, our package delivered a really good bargain – the seats were right in the middle of the stalls with a perfect view of the stage. The show was excellent – really well-staged with great performances from all concerned. The only slight disappointment was that the show’s big name, Lee Mead, was missing and we got his understudy instead. I can’t let that detract from the experience as a whole though.

By the time we got back to Bayswater it was 10.45pm and we were quite hungry. Rather than take advantage of the (pricey) room service at the hotel, we went to Tesco Express and bought sandwiches to take back to our room (glamorous again!)

More tomorrow!

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