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Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

Rotterdam, The...
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Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

Hi,

First of all: Happy New Year to all of you!

Between 21st and 28th December I was lucky enough to revisit London, after not having been there for 7 years. I had an absolutely brilliant time and must say that London looks better than ever! I vowed to go back soon, cause eight days simply aren’t enough to take it all in. Below you will find my trip report and a link to some of the pictures I took.

Trip report:

My vacation already started on 20th December when I left the office in Amsterdam and hopped on a train to Maastricht (southern Netherlands), where my parents now live. We have adopted the (relatively recent) tradition of spending Christmas abroad, and this year’s destination was London. As usual, I did all the trip planning, of course with great help from TALF. Based on your recommendations, I booked three tickets to the Christmas carols concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Christmas Eve, which was a total surprise for my parents. But more about that later.

21st December:

We took an early train at 7:20 from Maastricht to Liege Guillemins, where we changed for another train that got us to Brussels. Both rides were quite relaxing and I managed to catch some extra sleep. A few minutes before arriving at Brussels Central I woke up again and saw my dad already standing in the aisle with two suitcases his hands, ready to get off the train. Then it became clear to me that – although I was well prepared for this trip – my parents didn’t have a single clue as to where we were going (well, London obviously) and what we were going to do. So I told my dad to relax and sit down again, since Eurostar would depart from Brussels Midi, not from Brussels Central. Oh well…

Check-in for Eurostar went very smoothly, and before we knew it we were already on our way again. On previous trips to London I always traveled by plane, but this time I wanted to try Eurostar and wasn’t disappointed. Especially when you book well in advance it can be a cost efficient and more convenient way to get to central London. The only negative ‘thing’ about my experience with Eurostar was the screaming children two rows behind me. While all other passengers were really quiet, those terror kids drove me crazy. I really hope Eurostar will someday change its seat allocation procedure and place all travelers with kids in the same coach so they can drive each other mad. Must not be too difficult for Eurostar to arrange I guess, since you have to fill in your age during the first step of booking.

Anyway, we arrived in London St. Pancras station punctually, then headed straight for the National Rail ticket office, stood in line for about 10 minutes and bought our paper 7 day Travelcard for Zone 1-2. You only need to pay 29,20 pounds for the card (I believe it’s slightly more expensive now in 2013) and submit a passport photo to be able to take advantage of the 2for1 deals (see elsewhere on TALF for more info). Couldn’t be more straightforward.

By now my parents were really craving coffee and sweets, so we sat down at Le Pain Quotidien where we each enjoyed drinks and a delicious cheesecake. The cake cost 4.80 pounds, but was definitely worth it. In the meantime we did some people watching and were just feeling lucky to be in London again!

When the sun came out around 1pm we took the tube from St. Pancras to Lancaster Gate, dropped off our luggage in the apartment and crossed the street to take a long walk in Kensington Gardens. I was quite surprised to see how green everything still was in late December; the gardens looked really beautiful. We exited the gardens near the Albert Memorial, walked past the Royal Albert Hall and soon found ourselves in Exhibition Road. I don’t know if it’s because of the Olympics, but most of the roads in central London seemed in much better condition than before, including Exhibition Road. Due to the type of stones they used it felt as if the entire road was pedestrianized, even though cars were still allowed. The road’s southern end looked particularly pretty with all the outdoor cafés, so we stopped at Fernandez & Wells for a Portobello and turkey sandwich. I can certainly recommend this place: staff is friendly, the ingredients are all super fresh and items are not too expensive. A bonus for us was that the weather was pleasant enough to sit outside (sunny and around 12 degrees Celsius). If it weren’t for the Christmas decorations you would think that spring was arriving!

Next, we did some shopping at The Conran Shop (my parents are huge fans of modern interior design) and around Sloane Square (beautiful Christmas lights btw), before heading back to our apartment for dinner. We got up early this morning, so it was nice to relax and watch some TV before calling it an early night.

More will follow soon, but here you can already look at some of the pictures I took: http://www.flickr.com/photos/91722761@N02/sets/72157632396137381/

Dallas, Texas
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1. Re: Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

Nice report, where did you stay?

Here's a link for your photos: http://tinyurl.com/atnzunu

EDIT: Wow, great photos - very professional looking.

Edited: 12:25 pm, January 01, 2013
West Virginia
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2. Re: Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

The photos are magnificent! Can't wait to read the rest of the report!

London, United...
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3. Re: Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

Nice report. thank you :)

Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

Your photos are fabulous. I am looking forward to reading the rest of your report.

London
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5. Re: Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

Great pics - and good to see so much street art - look forward to reading further adventures.

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6. Re: Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

Really enjoyed this - like everyone else, I'm looking forward to the next instalment. :)

Watford
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7. Re: Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

FYI, the 7 day Zones1&2 Travelcard will cost £30.40 from tomorrow.

Thanks for posting and looking forward to part two.

Rotterdam, The...
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8. Re: Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

Thank you for all the nice replies. It’s good to know that my writings are being appreciated.

@TexScott: we stayed at Hapimag London (Lancaster Gate) in a spacious two room apartment with a view of Kensington Gardens. And thanks for providing a clickable link to my photos. Photography is one of my hobbies, but I only have a cheap compact camera so unfortunately the quality isn’t that great.

@parklandwalk: I think London is one of the world’s best places for street art. On previous trips I never got the chance to visit the East End, so I made sure to check out a lot of art works this time :)

@adamhornets: thanks for the info. Still a good deal I think!

Now back to the trip report!

Saturday 22nd December:

We woke up to cloudy skies and light rain, so the decision was easy to make: museum time! After a quick breakfast in our apartment we took the tube to Liverpool Street station, where we hopped on a bus that brought us to the Geffrye Museum. Several busses stop near the museum, so you’ll never have to wait long. The (free) museum itself is definitely worth visiting if you have even the slightest interest in the evolution of English interior design. Since my parents like to watch property programmes on TV – especially those by Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer – I knew they would appreciate this museum. It was much bigger than I imagined though. The exhibition starts with a period room of the 17th Century and takes you in chronological order to the present, explaining many changes in styles that took place over the years. Apart from the eleven period rooms, you will also find study rooms where you can browse through piles of books and the newest magazines about interior design. There’s also an excellent gift shop and a nice café. The latter serves good coffee and pastries at a very decent price. Situated in the heart of the museum building, this café also offers a great view of the gardens. Another thing that I particularly liked about the museum was the current ‘Christmas Past’ event, which explained how Christmas has been celebrated in the past by the English urban middle-class. All in all it was good fun, also for kids I think since there’s a special kids’ trail and a play zone. In fact, I saw many families with young kids in the museum. I think we spent about 2.5 hours here.

As if one museum wasn’t enough, we decided to also visit the Design Museum, located on the South Bank. So back on the bus to Liverpool Street again, then tube to Tower Hill and walking across the Tower Bridge (there may have been a direct bus to the Tower but I didn’t look into that). In the Design Museum my parents used the 2for1 deal (11 pounds for two) and I got a discount with my student card (7 pounds), which unfortunately expired on 1-1-2013. I will miss the advantages of being a student…

Anyway, the museum had several interesting exhibitions. One was called ‘Unexpected Pleasures’ and focused on contemporary jewellery. Not something I would normally be interested in, but the designs were so clever and unique that I was really glad I went. The pieces of jewellery were made by designers from all over the world, including a few Dutch people. The exhibition clearly showed that you don’t need overly expensive materials to make something beautiful.

The other exhibition, on the second floor, was called ‘Digital Crystal’ and featured several works by Swarovski that all focus on memory in the fast developing digital age. I particularly liked the installation ‘Thought Cloud’, which shows a man sitting in a house the size of his body while there are crystal clouds coming out of the chimney. These clouds aren’t smoke, but represent the man’s thoughts that escape from his head. According to the designer, people nowadays collect less physical objects and only need as much space as their bodies require, plus a way for our thoughts to escape. Go see it yourself while you still can, cause my explanation doesn’t do it justice! There’s plenty more to see too, and the gift shop has some great souvenirs for sale.

After spending quite some time at this museum as well, we were ready for drinks and snacks. The museum café didn’t really appeal to us, so we went to The Perkin Reveller, right next to the Tower. Location, service and drinks (coffee + fruit smoothie) were good, but my banana chocolate cake not so much unfortunately. It was a little too buttery. My parents liked their cakes though.

All in all we had spent quite a lot of time inside, so we decided to take a walk along the Thames and through the City to get some fresh air. Really nice, especially with the Shard standing so majestically on the South Bank. I guess you either love it or hate this recent addition to the London skyline, but I’m a huge fan! I noticed that the top was covered in clouds quite often during my eight days in London, so I wouldn’t pre-book tickets for the observation deck when it opens later this year.

When we reached the Millennium Bridge, I suggested we visit yet another museum: Tate Modern. It is open late on Fridays and Saturdays, so why not? (Probably because visiting three museums in one day is quite exhausting, but for some reason I was unstoppable) We spent about two hours in this museum, which isn’t enough to really do it justice, but I will go back one day. I really liked how this museum shows contemporary art in all its forms: movie clips, paintings, pictures, installations, you name it. A funny but easy to miss work of art is ‘Forced Labor II’ by Liliana Porter (see my photos), but I think everyone will find at least a few things to their liking here. By 7pm all three of us were quite tired, so we walked to St. Paul’s and tubed back to our cozy apartment. However, I still regret not buying a ticket for Tate’s Klein & Moriyama exhibition, cause it sounds pretty cool!

Tonight’s dinner was home-cooked pasta since we didn’t feel like going out again. That's one of the advantages of staying in an apartment I think: being able to cook your own meals if you wish to do so.

If you haven’t fallen asleep by now: another report will follow later this week!

London, United...
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9. Re: Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

Exhibition Road was redesigned in 2011 and was based on a concept invented by one of your fellow countrymen.. It is the 'Shared Space' concept which was the invention of the Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman.

guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/jan/29/exhi…

Dallas, Texas
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10. Re: Trip Report Christmas 2012: 21st-28th December

>>>Photography is one of my hobbies, but I only have a cheap compact camera so unfortunately the quality isn’t that great.<<<

I think you are being a bit modest. Makes my holiday photos look like they were taken by drunk man (which, in some instances they were).