This was one of those days when it wasn’t always fun to travel, but it turned out great in the end, which makes me appreciate it that much more. As someone said to me earlier today: no rain, no rainbows 🙂
I got up about 6:20, so roughly 6.5 hours sleep, not too bad. Started on the blog in the room then went down for coffee and a croissant at 7am and finished it down there before 9am. I went back to my room and packed and wanted one more walk around Montmartre before I left for London.
This was on the same street as the hotel a few blocks up.
Paris has Uber (but not Lyft) and I decided to be lazy and take that to the train station. It was a 10 minute drive vs 20 via public transit or 30 to walk it. I’d done the latter when I arrived and didn’t want to do it again, at least not today. The Uber ride was quick and painless.
Translates to the north station, in this case train.
I couldn’t believe this was here, right by the main entrance! And it’s the same one, I went in and checked. But the prices are ridiculous – €9 for a hamburger. And people were lining up for it.
I stopped here and got a chicken Cesar sandwich – on baguette of course; a piece of lemon cake and a bottled water for lunch on the train.
I was taking a Eurostar to London, and it reminded me of going through Heathrow. I now understood why the ticket suggested you get there an hour for departure. As a point of comparison, on the train from Cologne to Paris, no one ever asked to see my ticket, much less my passport. This time my ticket and passport were checked twice, and baggage went through security as well. It’s a good thing I guess.
It would be bad if the train blew up while underneath the English Channel 🙂
It was about a 2.5 hour train ride and pretty comfortable, mostly uneventful, except for this: there was a party going on in the front of my coach. Literally. Must’ve been 15-20 people – drinking (you could see them going up and down the aisles carrying bottles of liquor), playing music really loudly, singing, dancing, laughing. All Very Loud. There was this weird sense of unspoken powerlessness and resignation among the other passengers. If the train personnel weren’t going to do anything about it there didn’t seem to be anything we could have done, and I don’t see how they couldn’t have known. So it was a very annoying 2.5 hour ride.
I arrived at St. Pancras train station in London about 1:45pm, picking up an hour along the way with a time change. Kings Cross subway station is also here. I could have taken the subway on the Piccadilly line to my hotel without even transferring, with a short walk afterwards, but the Uber ride earlier was so nice I decided to do that again, since I knew I’d be riding the subway a lot over the next few days.
I don’t know how many people participated in this but it looked pretty big to me, hundreds for sure, and they were loud, disruptive, and blocking traffic.
They were going along Green Park there on the right, and then turning right along Hyde Park, blocking that narrow throughway. See the blue dot over on the left? That’s where I am now, and where we were trying to get to. There was no way for the driver to go except all the way around Hyde Park which, not fully shown here, is pretty big. He’d already said I was going to be his last ride until later in the evening because he didn’t want to drive in this. So I said: why don’t you go home, and I’ll just walk the rest of the way. I got out at the Hard Rock Cafe, indicated by the red x. And that was when it started raining.
Because of course. I’m wearing shorts, sandals, and a polo shirt, my uniform since I’ve been on vacation. I duck under the driveway of the Intercontinental Hotel – where lots of people were standing trying to decide what to do – and dug out my umbrella from my backpack. And away I went.
Luckily it didn’t rain the whole way and I was mostly dry by the time I got to my hotel, around 3:30. It just all took Much Longer than it should have.
OK, but did you notice that map? See what part of town I’m in? Even if you’ve never been to London, those references – Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace – are certainly familiar, eh? I couldn’t believe I’d gotten such a good deal on a place in such a great area – just around $80 a night. (My hotel in Paris, by the way, was only $75 a night. Booking.com did me good this trip!)
I’m walking around the campus of Imperial London College following these signs that say “Princes Gardens Check-In” with a little luggage icon indicating it’s a hotel, so I know that’s what I want. I started to get an idea of what was happening and the kid at check-in confirmed it: Imperial London College rents out their dorms during the summer. Despite the Imperial College address, I hadn’t put that together until I got here.
Honestly, I couldn’t be more pleased. This might be the best room I’ve had on this trip so far. You know why? See the white electric kettle on the desk? I don’t have to leave for coffee in the morning 🙂 It’s the little things…
I spent a few minutes here unpacking and changing into jeans and tennis shoes. It was 63 degrees when I got here. And after seeing this room the four annoying hours to get here were forgotten and I was ready to go explore.
This is a park in the middle of the campus, with dorms and other college buildings all around it.
I went over to Hyde Park to take advantage of what had turned into a beautiful afternoon. Nearby was a fountain memorial for Princess Diana.
Here’s some of the description about its design: Water flows from the highest point in two directions. It cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. The water is constantly being refreshed and is drawn from the chalk aquifer over 100 meters below ground.
There are three bridges where you ca cross the water and go right into the heart of the fountain. The design elements are intended to reflect Diana’s life.
Hyde Park and its neighbor Kensington Gardens, which I’d crossed into at some point, is over 600 acres so a decent size for meandering.
Eventually I made my way over to the Albert Memorial. This thing is huge and is across the street from Royal Albert Hall, which is designed for concerts.
Prince Albert was Queen Victoria’s husband. He died of typhoid fever at just 42 years old. He died in 1861; it was unveiled in 1872 and is one of London’s most ornate monuments.
There’s an inscription that runs around the top which reads: To the memory of Albert Prince Consort, as a tribute to their gratitude for a life devoted to the public good, Queen Victoria, and her people.
I walked across the street and over to the left of Albert Hall, which took me through the college again and past several museums.
I was headed to the shops and restaurant area of Kensington in search of food. By this time its only about 5:30pm, but really 6:30 for me and I hadn’t eaten in about 6 hours and was ready for something.
I have a feeling I will use this a lot. Three lines run through here: Piccadilly, Circle, and District. Piccadilly also runs to Heathrow. I wish I could say that was planned! More of a happy accident.
According to the map on the menu, the Levant makes up the areas of Cypress, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine.
I sat at that middle window counter seat.
This dip was wonderful, made of roasted beetroot, yogurt, garlic, and crushed pistachio. (I took photos of the menu – my memory is not that good!)
This was an “Ottoman inspired” salad of dried fruits, wholegrain rice, toasted almonds and olives. It was a wonderful combination of textures and the olives weren’t as salty as we seem to have in the States.
The fish was seasoned with a warm lemon dressing, fried garlic, oregano and red chili. The skin on the fish was really crispy and had an extraordinary flavor. The rice was Arabic scented fried rice with crispy onions, sultanas and parsley. Sultana is a variety of grape. This was an excellent meal.
Now what? It’s Saturday night in London, seemed like Piccadilly Circus was in order.
I took the subway of course. It was just four stops over.
People were dancing to the tunes this guy was singing.
I’d always had in the back of my mind that I would see a show on Saturday night, and just pick something randomly. By the time I got here I wasn’t really feeling it, but I was energized a bit now and thought – you’re here, just look around.
Thriller Live, a tribute to Michael Jackson, was one of the first things I came across. I was quickly reminded of Love in Las Vegas, a Cirque du Soleil show based on the Beatles and how much I enjoyed that. I went in to see what was available. 2nd row mid-balcony for £50. Considering how much Art and I just paid for the show we’re seeing in NYC next week, that seemed like a steal. I bought my ticket for the 8:00 show; it was just 7:20. Good, I have time to find dessert.
I came across this a couple of blocks away, and they had ice cream, as you can see from the cone featured there right of center!
I got back to the theater around 7:45. I got a Diet Coke – first one I’ve had in weeks! – and made my way to my seat.
It was a small theater so there probably wasn’t a bad seat in the house, but I was pretty happy with this.
The show was an incredible amount of fun. The songs were done mostly in chronological order, although they saved Billie Jean, Thriller, Black or White and one other I can’t remember now for the end. There were 4 people that too turns at lead vocals – 3 guys, 1 girl – and they were all pretty good. All of them were decent dancers, too, supported by a troupe, and a couple of those were amazing. The guy who did the lead dancing for MJ in critical numbers like Billie Jean and Smooth Criminal was a dead ringer in looks and moves – but apparently couldn’t sing, or at least not well enough while dancing to let him have a microphone. But he pulled off the dancing and that’s the important part. I paid close attention to Smooth Criminal to see if they would attempt “the lean” and they did. Probably because I was looking for it, I could see the setup – they have to slide their shoes into pegs in the floor to keep from falling – but it was still, well, pretty smooth. Here’s an image from the internet if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
They did a nice job of recreating the dance numbers from the videos, especially Beat It, The Way You Make Me Feel, and Thriller which was the best. The costumes were well done and the corpse dancing was perfect. It was a fun show and part of what made it fun was just watching the audience. It was a mostly packed house and people were literally dancing in their seats, with everyone standing and dancing at the end. It was a wide age of people, too; everything about the audience reminded me of the audience at Mamma Mia when I saw it in 2003.
I took the subway back and got to my room around 11 I guess. I was a little wired so started working on the blog and went to bed around 12:30. One down side to the room: the bed ain’t all that comfortable. Oh well. It was good to be up early – with coffee in the room, yay! – so I could finish the blog and figure out how to get to York, which is my Sunday plan.
See you on the other side of that…