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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
At the end of the trail there was a handily located marquee with street food and a bar, serving hot mulled wine and mulled cider – or wassail. As we were drenched we took advantage of a spot by the heater and warmed up with a mug of wassail before making the journey back to Westminster on the district line and then picking up the no. 3 bus to Crystal Palace just outside the Houses of Parliament. We were back to Ruby just before 9pm.
Sunday dawned much dryer thank goodness- in fact it was a perfect winters day- dry, yet cold and crisp with a stunning blue sky. We took our time packing away, but decided to make a couple of stops en route home. We stopped off at Greenwich, parking just off Blackheath common in a free parking spot, and walked down through Greenwich park to Greenwich Market.
Another great place for food lovers- we forced a sausage roll and a scotch egg down whilst browsing and finishing some Christmas shopping off.
After an hour or so we went back to Ruby and crossed underneath the Blackwall tunnel towards Hackney, our second stop of the day. We found a free on street car parking space on the road near Sutton House, a National Trust Grade II Tudor Manor House. It’s amazing to think that this old building is right in the middle of Residential Hackney. At the moment it has a ‘Christmas through the ages’ exhibition on which was really interesting; some rooms were set out as they would have been at Christmas in the Tudor times
Some rooms were set out as a Victorian Christmas which is more like the Christmas that we know.
And finally an 80s Christmas, which is a nod to when squatters took over the house before the National Trust evicted them and took over the house.
The most fascinating fact I learnt was that in the Tudor times turkey was eaten- however the Norfolk turkeys were walked from Norfolk to London, setting off around August!
It was a lovely visit and one to stop at if you’re passing- it’s right by the start of the M11 but is a pig to get to on public transport from central London.
We had the most wonderful time, despite learning of our friends death the day we arrived. Christmas in London is just so special and this time we found pockets of areas off the mainstream list of tourist spots which we just loved exploring.
Until next time, which won’t be long, as we’re heading north for a few days next weekend.
Ruby the VW campervan is parked up almost directly underneath the Crystal Palace transmitter mast and she’s experiencing a sense of deja vu. It been just over 6 months since we last visited this campsite, and we booked this mini break almost as we departed back in June.
Since June, the Camping and Motorhome’s Crystal Palace club site has some good news. Developers have the lease on the land and when we last visited it was set to close this very weekend in fact, hence our booking. Happily, the developers are not ready to build yet, so the campsite has been given another year of being able to be open.
End of the Christmas term is our busiest and this year has been no exception. We actually started Christmas music engagements over 4 weeks ago, and have been flat out with Christmas concerts and performing at Christmas parties etc. This year we decided to book the last two weekends off so we could have some downtime so here we are in London for treat number 1. My mum is Jazz sitting so we can embrace London in all its splendour.
We arrived at a Crystal Palace club site around 7pm on Thursday and was greeted by the very cheerful warden Matt, otherwise known as one half of Walter’s Wardens on Twitter. That afternoon we had learnt of the sudden death of a friend of ours so it was nice to have a friendly face greet us, thanks Matt. W had a quick and simple dinner of spag Bol which I’d made a couple of weeks ago and frozen, then wandered to the local, the Weston House, for a couple of drinks and a dram each.
Despite it being almost zero outside, we were once again amazed at Ruby’s fabulous insulation, with the help of our little plug in heater we remained snug as a bug all night.
Friday dawned a beautiful crisp winters morning, so we wasted no time in heading into London on the very conveniently located number 3 bus to Trafalgar square. We had some time to mooch so we walked along the Strand to Fleet Street, for a pint in The Old Bank of England (Fullers) pub. This really is a stunning pub, as the name suggests it’s housed in the old bank and the decor as such is brand and wonderful. We’ve eaten here before, the pies are tasty.
Next up we wandered down the road 200 metres or so to our next watering hole, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, a phenomenal old character pub which dates from the 1600s- it’s interior looks like it’s straight out of A Christmas Carol. Their sausage rolls and pork pie bar snacks are just delicious by the way. Research obviously- we knew you’d ask us how they were 😉
It was now time for a longer walk to Soho which took us around 45 minutes without stops. We love wandering the streets of London and rarely take the tube. We wandered through Covent Garden and Leicester Square, before heading across Piccadilly Circus into Soho. We met up with Keith’s dad and Valerie as we had a reservation at Cahoots bar at 3pm. Cahoots is a brilliant little hidden gem found just off Carnaby Street. It’s an underground bar set out as it would have been underground on the tube during the 1940s. It’s atmospheric and quirky, and they serve lovely cocktails. You need to prebook your table in advance and the tables are timed with a strict entrance time. During the evenings you can expect to hear live swing music, but during the day they place atmospheric jazz. We really loved our visit.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and left slightly merry! We wandered down the beautiful Carnaby Street towards Regents Street for our dinner reservation at John , Yes; John Lewis. During the winter months the roof of John Lewis turns into a winter wonderland, with a pop up restaurant, bar and this year ice rink (albeit slightly small ice rink). Nestled high above the chaos of Oxford Street a little of a week before Christmas, we were transported to a haven, an oasis of calm and festive ness. This years pop up is MYPIE- as the name suggests a pie and mash pop up. Keith, Valerie and I went for chicken leek and brie pies and Barry went for shepherds pie. Honestly they were completely and utterly scrumptious.
We waved Barry and Valerie off in an Uber- they were heading to Festival Hall for a carol concert. We chose to take in more of the street life, and enjoyed a walk down Regents street to enjoy those iconic and beautiful Xmas lights.
We went back for another look at Carnby Street as the lights there were linked with Bohemian Rhapsody and were fun, before walking back to Trafalgar Square for our bus back to Ruby.
We’d had a jolly good day but don’t want to burn ourselves out as we had more planned for tomorrow.
After a fairly stressful week this week trying to source not one, but two sets of new wheels for Ruby (thanks Yodel for loosing a wheel!) it was looking uncertain whether we’d actually manage to get to London for our pre booked weekend of Birthday celebrations for Keefy. Thankfully whilst I slaved away at school on Friday morning, K managed to sort it all out and after our gig on Friday afternoon, we set off towards London, via Bury St Edmunds to pick up a wheel then carried on towards to home for the next three nights, the Caravan and Motorhome Club Crystal Palace Club Site.
Our route from the M11 took us through London on the North Circular- a risky manoeuvre for rush hour on a Friday, however Google maps was insisting the M25 was a car park, so we obliged and sure enough 3 hours later we had arrived at the leafy Crystal Palace Site. Before pitching up, we had the small matter of taking off the spare and replacing it with the new wheel we’d just picked up. Keith managed it, with some help from the warden who had a brilliant winch- ours was next to useless.
The pitch was lovely- we were on a grass one with electric but it was surrounded by trees and shrubs, and nicely landscaped. It was also really large! Whilst K showered, I got on with dinner, burgers and salad and we enjoyed a gin together toasting the terrible week turning out ok.
We had an after dinner stroll to the pub; just ten minutes walk and you’re right in the hub of Crystal Palace where just about every type of restaurant and takeaway is available if you don’t fancy cooking.
Saturday dawned bright and fresh; we knew as the alarm was set for 7:30am, a very rare occurrence for weekends and camping trips! 🤣 The reason for our early start was that we had pre booked tickets to visit the Cabinet War Rooms, for 10am. The transport link into London from the site is excellent. Almost outside the gate is the number 3 bus stop which takes you directly to Trafalgar Square, the journey takes an hour and costs just £1.50 (or free if you’re over a certain age and have a bus pass!)
The Queen had kindly laid on a birthday celebrations for Keith- our arrival at the CWR coincided with the gates opening for Trooping of The Colour. We felt very underdressed in our jeans and flip flops!
The Cabinet War Rooms were fantastic. We spent almost 3 hours exploring the endless underground corridors and rooms- the hub of the British War Logistics and where Churchill lead us to victory.
After the war ended, the underground war office was closed- with everything left inside, maps, office items and everything else, and not found until about twenty years later- with everything as it was on the day we won the war. The map room you can see above is completely original and how to was left/ found.
There is an extensive Churchill museum which has many of Churchill’s clothes and personal items. It was an absolutely brilliant way to spend the morning and we highly recommend it- but advise you to prebook.
We managed to time our exit so that we enjoyed the Battle of Britain fly past which was lovely!https://adventuresinamotorhome.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_8388.mov
Having lived in London for many years we’ve done most of the normal tourist sites many times before so after lunch at Bubba Gumps, we spent the afternoon having a wander around Soho taking in the atmosphere and having a drink stop here and there.
Keith had no idea, but I’d arranged for his friends to meet us at 5pm at Covent Garden for the evening, his face was a picture!
We enjoyed a curry at the Strand Tandoori and then a drink on the river Thames, at the Tattershall Castle- right opposite the London Eye, before catching our night bus back to the campsite.
Sunday morning arrived and we had a little bit of a woolly head. Obviously dehydrated.. Ahem 😜. Nothing that a eggs and bacon bap and a cold can of coke didn’t fix! We were back into London, this time in or “above average” camping clothes. We were being treated to Brunch at AquaShard (up the Shard) by Keith’s Dad and stepmom.
It was the first time we have eaten there and it was excellent. It’s not cheap, but the quality of the food was great and the views are marvellous. Definitely the best restaurant view in London.
After a long leisurely Brunch we bid farewell to Barry and Valerie and as the sunshine was glorious had a stroll down Southbank, stopping at a couple of bars on route before making our way back to Ruby on the number 3 from Trafalgar Square.
We just scratched the surface of London activities as we’ve done many of them before. What we can’t understand is why we’ve never stayed at this campsite before!
At just £25 pn we highly recommend it for a London trip- but, be quick – sadly it’s closing at the end of this year! Sad face.
Until next time