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.
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.
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/