Adventures in  London 

(backdated from the beginning of September- Sorry for the delay!

Friday 10 September

Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked up on an old favourite site of ours, the C&MC Club site at Crystal Palace. Its usually an oasis of calm in the middle of suburban south London, however something tells us that this time may be different. Our spider senses were tingling as we made our way towards the site, and road closures became apparent, and then came the vast amounts of teenagers, many wearing less than I’d wear on the beach, swarming towards Crystal Palace! We felt old as we arrived at the campsite, and were utterly confused as to what was going on. The wardens soon set us straight. The Wireless festival was being held just metres behind the campsite for the whole weekend. DRAT! “Don’t worry” they said, “the music * stops at 10pm”.

*Music – Thats one word to describe it!!! Good grief!!!

The festival began at midday and therefore we were treated to its opening act as we set up. Our pitch was the closest to the stage. My goodness me- it was LOUD. We could NOT stop laughing. It was just so bad/loud. All we could do was laugh and thank our lucky stars we’d not planned to go to this site for a relax. Our neighbours, who arrived just after us, lasted a whole 30 mins before they threw the towel in and moved on to a different site. We left Gandalf to vibrate to the drum and bass beat, and hopped on the next bus into London. This site is soooo convenient for city breaks – the bus goes directly to Horse Guards Parade and runs 24 hours a day. Wireless wasn’t going to ruin our break.

Our first stop in London was the house in which Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding Fathers, resided during his time in London.

Benjamin Franklin’s House was situated in a lovely Geogian town house just behind Charing Cross, and we really enjoyed a pre booked tour around the house, which included lots of original Georgian features such as a terrific marble fireplace and wooden staircase which bore the weight of Franklin’s weight lifting efforts.

It was a terrific tour, and we learnt loads about the life of Benjamin Franklin – and also his inventions, including the interesting Glass Armonia, a musical instruments that uses glass and a rubbing technique to create different notes.

After our visit we had a quick drink before making our way towards The British Museum. The main feature of our trip to London was to visit the Nero Exhibition.  

The exhibition showcased hundreds of absolutely INCREDIBLE artefacts, many in pristine condition which dated from as early as AD30. Many looked like brand new.

The exhibition completely and utterly blew our minds. In fact, I actually thought Keith was about to collapse when he saw the ORIGINAL Praetorian Guard relief, dating from AD51. He was beyond emotional.

Other highlights of the exhibition were the wall paintings brought over from Pompei- the colours still outstanding.

We saw hundreds of coins, again as new, and depicting all sorts of scenes from Nero’s reign.

We even saw a writing slate that had imprints of Roman handwriting on. It was truly wonderful and if you have any interest in Roman history whatsoever it is vital that you go and see this exhibition – however be quick as it ends on 24th October!

After a couple of hours of having our minds blown, we wandered down into Soho and found a lovely Italian – it seemed appropriate – for dinner. We discussed the exhibition over a bottle of Italian red wine and a lasagne. It had been a great day!

Even better that when we arrived back to site at 11pm, all signs of Drum and Bass and underdressed teenagers had disappeared and our campsite was lovely and peaceful once more.

Saturday dawned a little earlier than hoped – as we were so close to the main stage and artist area, we were woken by hoovers from 5am which went on til 8am. Then we had sound checks from 9am. Not quite the morning we’d anticipated but it gave us a kick to get up and out and so we were on the bus by 10am! 

Today’s agenda was more Roman history sites. But before that we treated ourselves to a drink in our “London Office” – the Tattishall Castle – the best view for your drink on ground level London.

We toasted Londinium and watched the world go by on the Thames for a while before carrying on to Chinatown for a Dim Sung lunch.

We then walked from Soho to Bank, along the Strand and Fleet Street. We just love exploring London by foot. There is always something cool to see, somewhere new to take a picture and a new pub to try a pint in. We got great views of St Pauls as we wandered by.

We arrived at Bloomberg Space ready for a (free) tour of the London Mithraeum.

This site was discovered when the underground was being constructed nearby in the late 1800s. The temple of Mithras as it was also known, would have been a mysterious place to visit, with the mystical temple being underground and frequented by men who wore masks and worshipped scenes depicting Mithras killing a bull within a cave. The cult remained fairly secretive despite spreading across Europe over the period of around 300 years.

The remains of the Temple of Mithras were really great to see – but the highlight was how the site was displayed with a fantastic audio light show making the underground cave ooze in atmosphere. The vapoured light column were ingenious, and we really REALLY enjoyed our visit. 

From here, we had a drink on nearby Watling Street – an original Roman Road which also has great views of St Pauls Cathedral.

We then walked all the way back to Soho, via Millennium Bridge and a couple of really cool historical pubs – The Blackfriars being a highlight with its very instagrammable architecture and really great original decor.

We had a Thai meal for dinner before making our way back to Gandalf.

We’d walked miles but had a BRILLIANT day. We haven’t had much of plan for today other than the temple of Mithras and so it was especially good to have had a spontaneous mooch, going where our noses took us. Since Covid, there’s been a shift in spontaneity- most things have to be pre booked well in advance so today felt really good. We enjoyed using a book which Keith got for Xmas – it helped us find some hidden gems for sure. London for Instagrammers – would make a good Christmas pressie for those who like exploring London by foot.

London, you never fail to disappoint. We can’t wait to be back again! 

Until Next Time 

L x

Adventures in London 🇬🇧

Gandalf the Grey is nestled underneath a rather famous landmark on the London Skyline. No, it’s not the Big Ben, or the London Eye; it’s the radio transmitter mast at Crystal Palace!

We’ve had this break booked in for some time, and have been carefully monitoring whether we’d be able to able to travel and actually make the trip for some time too. The reason for the visit was to make use of our historic Royal Palaces membership which we invested in for the coming year: in February.

After a fairly smooth journey to London on Friday morning we had a very quick set up before jumping on the conveniently located number 3 bus which stops near enough outside the campsite and takes you all the way to Westminster. We then made our way west on the District line towards Kensington. We paused for a drink before making our way to Kensington Palace; childhood home to Queen Victoria and many of the young royals over the past few years; including Princess Diana and even now, HRH Prince William and the Duchess Kate.

Kensington Palace turned out to be a highlight of our visit. They focused on 3 different eras of Royals, one of which was Queen Victoria and there were quite a few original items on display that belonged to the young Queen, including an old dress from when she was 12 years old and her Coronation Robe.

Because of a Covid tickets are pre book only and we hit jackpot as we were the only ones there! We had a very happy few hours wandering around taking in every room. Personal highlights for me were seeing a room where court composer Handel played and seeing a dress of Princess Diana’s.

After our visit we took a wander around Kensington Gardens, enjoying the bright Autumn sunshine and the fact that we’d escaped terrible weather in Norfolk!

We popped for a drink at another pub in Kensington before making our way to our previous booked table at a local Thai, which was fabulous! New laws had just come in meaning we needed to wear masks which we were more than happy to do as we entered and exited pubs and restaurants, and the whole system was working well and we felt safe.

Can you believe this was taken at 7.30pm on Friday night in central London.

Saturday dawned bright but chilly and were were up fairly early admiring the Crystal Palace mast through our pop up windows! We took the number 3 bus again, this time alighting at Brixton before jumping on the tube to Borough Market. We had a drink at the historic National Trust pub, The George, a Galleried pub underneath the Shard, before picking up fish and chips at Borough Market.

We then walked along the River Thames to Tower Bridge before crossing it and entering The Tower of London.

Like yesterday it was very quiet, there were no queues for the Crown Jewels, we could take our time and when there were areas that clogged up (the Bloody Tower) we were able to stand back and wait for others to clear out. It was amazing seeing not only the Crown Jewels but all the other coronation equipment such as the 12th Century spoon that is used and even an 11th C chess piece.

We really enjoyed our visit, but there is just so much to take in, I will admit, I got a bit over tired at one point!

From here we walked to another favourite spot of ours, St Katherine Docks.

By now the weather had become a bit chilly and drizzly, but we enjoyed our drink on the gallery at The New Inn.

We decided to walk all the way down the North side of the river for 3 miles towards Embankment and Westminster. We passed an old section of the Roman City wall which was pretty impressive. Everywhere was just so quiet, considering it was a Saturday evening it felt eery.

Part of us liked it, part of us found it a bit weird! Either way we were pleased to have London near enough to ourselves though! We managed to bag the best seat in the house at The Tattershall Caste, a floating barge pub, moored directly opposite the London Eye so had a couple of drinks here before making our back back to Horse Guard Parade for our bus back to Crystal Palace.

We had a great time using our Historic Royal Palaces membership. As a charity they really are struggling right now with the devastating effects of Covid on their finances. I worry that they will struggle to continue looking after these historic venues for much longer, so if you are able please think about booking a visit. They have got such strict covid procedures in place, we felt so safe, and the staff were genuinely overjoyed to see us having had month of no visitors.

Crystal Palace, we’ll be back another time to tick off some more of our ever growing London List!

Until Next Time

Lx

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A Royal Retreat; Part 1

The trouble with writing a blog post having had some fizz, is it ends up in the wrong place!

So please click on the link for this mornings blog list about our first day on tour yesterday at Hampton Court Palace!

A Royal Retreat; Part 1

Our morning view at Chertsey Camping and Caravan Club site

Adventures on the Rocky Mountaineer and Alaska Cruise| Part 1 | A pre amble in London and making our way to Banff, Canada

Another year, and another exciting Great Rail Journeys trip for us. These trip are addictive- the minute we land from one, we can’t stop ourselves obsessively flicking through the next years brochure, pausing to number crunch- can we afford it? Before taking the plunge and booking it, taking advantage of GRJ’s low deposits. The longer we can pay chunks of the balance off over, the better.

After months and months of hard saving, firstly for the trip itself and then enough spending money for us to do everything that we want whilst in the trip, the time finally came for us to pack our bags, wrap up all our work affairs and turn that out of office on. Canada and Alaska – we are on our way.

When we booked our airport parking and hotel, we realised the parking began at 00.30 so we decided to use this as an opportunity for a pre holiday London day. Coincidentally at the same time, Keith discovered a Stanley Kubrick exhibition that was on, and as a huge film fan, wasted no time in booking our tickets.

Goodbyes were said to Jazz the dog, and Mum who has kindly moved into our house whilst we are away to dog sit, and by 07:30 Wednesday, we were on our way.

Check in at London Heathrow’s Renaissance Hotel was quick and easy. Parking is on site and we take our keys so no worries about someone else driving Ruby. And a bonus was that despite arriving at 10:15, our room was already ready, so we dumped our cases, made use of the in room safe and grabbed the free public bus to Heathrow Bus station where we jumped on the next Piccadilly line train to South Kensington.

No trip to Heathrow for us is complete without a beer at The Hoop and Toy, South Kensington followed by a meal at the wonderful Pierino’s.

We then had a brisk half an hour walk off of the carbs to London Design Museum, home to the Stanley Kubrick exhibition this summer.

Keith was bouncing off the walls. I must admit, I’ve only seen 3 of his films; Barry Lyndon, Eyes Wide Shut and Full Metal Jacket- all of which I enjoyed. From the moment we stepped inside we were treated to an enormous collection of Stanley Kubrick’s personal items on display including an Oscar, his editing desk and lots of original film costumes, including Laurence Olivier’s costume in Spartacus, the Venetian Masks from Eyes Wide Shut and most notably, the creepy twins dresses from The Shining.

After the exhibition, Keith was quite emotional – to say he (and I) enjoyed it was an understatement and if you have any interest in Kubrick films I highly recommend a visit.

We made our way to Chinatown for some dim-sung before a beer on the Thames at The Tattishall Castle boat pub before making our way back to the hotel at Heathrow. A cracking day in London.

Thursday

For once, we didn’t have to set our alarms at an antisocial time! Our Air Canada flight departures at 13:05 so our check in time was 10 ish.

Before that, we had the exciting meet and greet with our Great Rail Journeys tour manager. As with all their tours, throughout our holiday we will have the company of 30 or so travelling companions, led by one of their tour managers, who we meet in Heathrow and stays with us throughout the trip- his job is to guide us, help us get the absolute maximum from our trip, and hold our hand throughout.

After a quick chat with Alex Green, our TM, we checked in our baggage and headed through security with a couple of hours to enjoy Heathrow’s Terminal 2.

Our Air Canada flight was on time, and really a rather pleasant 8.5 hour flight on their Dreamliner before touchdown at Calgary, Canada at around 14:45 local time. We flew right over Greenland and got an amazing view of the mountains.

Calgary is currently hosting its Stampede, famous fortnight of events such as rodeos and horse cart racing. As such, the captain treated us to a massive “Yeee haaaa” just before landing, and the airport is full of people in cowboy hats and boots. Before we’d got out of the airport Keith had made friends with the locals!

Sadly we were not staying in Calgary to witness Stampede events, our coach transfer to Banff awaited. The trip took around 90 minutes and it didn’t take long for the open fields to turn into ski slopes, toboggan runs and then into huge dramatic, snow capped mountains.

Our hotel, The Banff Ptarmigan Inn, was situated right on the Main Street so after a quick check in, we jumped into the shower, changed and went straight out again. Evenings are free time away from the group- a perfect mix of having a tour group but having alone time too.

Despite being up for almost 20 hours, we were a little tired but wanted to make it to 9.30pm in an effort to beat the jet lag. We enjoyed our first Canadian lager- Kokanee lager- in the hotel bar, before taking a wander down the high street to find a suitable dinner place.

Banff is full of restaurants of all different cuisines and gift shops. The buildings are cute wooden chalets and the backdrop is stunning mountains. We were lucky, the sky was a picture perfect blue sky.

We opted for burgers at Eddie’s Burger bar- a long standing burger joint which is very popular and as such we waited across the road at The Rose and Crown Tavern whilst a table became available. This was the perfect time to sample my first Canadian Gin – distilled across the road, The Park Gin was nice and smooth. Keith had a Keith lager!

We enjoyed our “ Rocky Mountain burger” – an elk patty with jack cheese and onions etc- it was gorgeous and had a great chat with the really friendly bar men. Clearly they love where they live and work, and although we’ve only been here for a couple of hours, we can wholeheartedly see why.

We made it until 9:30pm – before caving in and hitting the sack. Tomorrow we’ve got a full days itinerary- let’s see what time we wake up!

Winter Adventures and festive fun; London Part 2

Saturday arrived after another really great sleep- the Crystal Palace campsite is so incredibly quiet, despite being in so close to the centre of London.

We enjoyed a quick egg bap for breakfast before doing some house keeping- Keefy emptied the loo & refilled the water whilst I did the washing up. By 10.30 we were on the bus- this time we took the 363 to Elephant and Castle and then a short walk to Borough Food Market. Despite living in Croydon for just under 40 years, I was supposed to learn that Keith had never been here! When I lived in Croydon I’d often nip on the train to London Bridge and spend a few hours expanding my overdraft here.

Borough market is one of London’s oldest and largest food markets- a market has been there since the 12th century. Our first visit of the day ticked all our boxes- food and history and we spent a very happy hour or so perusing the stalls, trying as many samples as possible, buying some British saucisson and English mature soft cheese, and then treating ourselves to a sausage roll and also a portion of haddock and chips – well the stall proclaimed they’d just won an award for ‘best fish and chips’ so it would be rude not to ‘check’. They were bloooomin lovely by the way.

Borough Market is a perfect place to visit from Crystal Palace- and is totally dog friendly. It does get busy though.

After our fish and chips it was time for a beer to wash it down, so we popped to nearby favourite of ours, The George- a National Trust owned galleried pub, nestled just off Borough High Street and only 5 minutes walk from London Bridge station.

Inside the smaller bar there is a very interesting clock – apparently it’s one of the only clocks still hung in its original place. It was hung in this bar in 1797!

Fish and chips washed down, we took the short walk to London Bridge and made our way on the underground to Notting Hill Gate. Our destination was The Churchill Arms – one of instagrams most pictured pubs in London. The reason..

It has over 100 Christmas trees on its exterior and over 12,o0o lights. It’s not just the Christmas time when it becomes popular to visit. In the springtime it’s completely covered in over £25,000 worth of flowers! Another pulling point for us was that is serves very highly recommended Thai food – in fact it was London’s very first Thai restaurant in a pub over 30 years ago.

It. Was. Packed.

Properly rammed inside, but as luck would have it, we managed to get a seat at the bar to watch the endless tourists and locals battle their way through. We booked a table for lunch and happily got seated only 30 minutes later.

We enjoyed a couple of pints of Fullers Snow Globe whilst we waited and are 90% sure that we spotted Ian Mckellan emerge from the restaurant.

The meal was absolutely beautiful, we shared a chicken pad Thai and Thai green chicken curry. It was incredible value, just £9 per meal!

As the weather had turned bad, and we managed to get a table in the bar, we enjoyed another pint whilst we waited for it get dark to enjoy the lights outside. As day turned to dusk the bar became even busier, I seriously don’t know how everyone fit in!

Around 4pm, we jumped back on the tube and headed further west- to Turnpike Green. Our destination was Chiswick House and gardens for their After Dark light display. Sadly by now it was lashing it down but we weren’t going to let that dampen our spirits. Scuse the pun.

Chiswick House is a beautifully elegant 18th century villa, with acres of land. Sadly given the weather we weren’t visiting the inside – the After Dark trail was an outside event. The first part of the trail was a 4 minute loop of specially commissioned music composed by Sergio Pizzorno from Kasabian, set to a light display by Nick Gray. It was brilliant. We really loved the music, and actually the wet weather gave the whole thing an added atmospheric effect. Aren’t we British!

The trail was a little sparser than others we have done, however enjoyable nonetheless. We especially loved the laser projections over the lake and the large moon.