London: England through the eyes of a Frenchman – Part 4

A Sunday morning and we were woken up by a red Birmingham’s sunrise (broken curtain rail), which eased the hangover pain. I had pre-booked our train tickets weeks before at £8 each one way with London Midland and the train was on time and there were no delays during the journey.  With the French train services being so perfect  I was so happy this particular train lived up to Monsieur X’s French standards.

I love London and it’s been a long time since I’ve done the touristy places.  Usually it’s go straight to the concert/ sporting event/ theatre and then come straight back home. This time I could take in the sites. Sunday afternoon we went to Camden Town (I’ve never been there before and Monsieur X visited Camden 20 years ago), it was so busy and hot, we couldn’t move. For him it brought back memories for me it gave me a headache and couldn’t wait to get the tube out of there. I’m sure a colder day there would have been less people and I could have had a good look around the stalls and we had lunch at the Ice Wharf and Sunday dinner roast and a drink for £10 – Bargain!

pierre-weekend-october-2013-044Camden Town: C’est Bon – ‘ah oui the market is a lot bigger than in 1988.

After escaping the market and the hassle of Camden tube station we checked into our hotel The Ibis Budget Whitechapel hotel, the room was basic; there was no separate bathroom just a door to the toilet.  The shower was next to the basic bed (with a door) and the sink next to the shower.  The photos on the Internet don’t do this hotel any favours, before we arrived I thought we would be sleeping in a box with everything cramped together and we would bump our head of the sink when we got out of bed, but there was enough room for two people and the shower and sink wasn’t too close to the bed. Not bad for £55 a night in central London (plus £5 each for buffet breakfast).

Now Tower Bridge is my favourite building in London, no particular reason I just like the walk over it and around that part of the Thames and the Tower of London. I have good memories during the 2012 Olympics watching the games on a large TV screen outside the City Hall while waiting most of an evening for Tower Bridge’s lights to change colour (they didn’t until we walked away).  Our hotel was around 20 minutes’ walk away, once the Tower of London and Tower Bridge came into our view he said ‘Bon excellente, merci’. I took that as an approval.  A stroll around the Thames ‘block’- past the Tower, across the Bridge, past City Hall, have a few drinks in The Horniman bar and a steak and chips supper at Cote then across London Bridge and pass the Monument before finding our way back the hotel. Somehow it seemed to be easier to get back to our hotel after a few drinks.

pierre-weekend-october-2013-059Tower Bridge: C’est Tres Bon

Central London in a day!!Our last full day together and I wanted to squeeze in as much as possible I wanted him to see as many famous landmarks as possible. The weather was on our side as trying to please Monsieur X can be hard and I hadn’t booked our coach to Stansted Airport so all we had to do was get to Victoria Coach Station before the ticket office closed at 10pm.  After breakfast and stocking our rucksacks with fruit we retraced our steps Gherkin, Tower of London and Tower Bridge then passed them for a third time on an open top Big Bus Tours bus (a French couple gave us their £30 tickets as they were leaving that day).  We hopped off at the London Eye and walked around Parliament Square taking many photos of House of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey then headed to Trafalgar Square via Whitehall passing Downing Street.

Stopping for lunch at a nearby Pret-A-Manger and I gave Monsieur X a history lesson on Lord Nelson Column ‘it to remember when the English kicked Napoleon’s ass’. Lunchtime over and we were running out of time. We wanted to catch the last Big Bus Tour (5.30pm) to get to Piccadilly Circus but we still hadn’t seen Buckingham Palace yet.  Usually this is a simple route – a straight ten minute walk down the Mall but Monsieur X veered off to St James Park.  I think he was more interested in the ducks and pigeons than the park and the Mall.  At the Palace the guards were changing shift, to me and probably fellow other Brits it was just a change of shift to Monsieur X and other foreign tourists it was a video clip and photo opportunity. We caught the last Big Bus Tour bus at 5.30 at Piccadilly/the Ritz passing Hyde Park, Park Lane, Marble Arch, Madame Tussauds, Regent Street and Oxford Circus (drooling at the window display of my favourite shop – Niketown) before we got off just before Piccadilly Circus and recharged our batteries with a beer at the Glassblower on Glasshouse Street.

Monsieur X wanted to visit Covent Garden so we walked though Leicester Square and round in circles for about 10 minutes trying to find Covent Garden in the dark and by now I was tired, him not so much. Finally found it round 7pm and after he watched a mime artist while I watched the time, dinner was at the Globe pub, Bow Street near the Royal Opera House.  Then it was time to go home (well the Airport Hotel), taking a tube from Covent Garden Station to Victoria, then a 5 minute walk to Victoria Coach station to take the coach to Stansted Airport.

Central London:  ‘So much to do here’… ‘oui I confirm top rep and guide! Merci’

My observations of this trip: Birmingham isn’t too bad, the majority of the bars we went to were Wetherspoons and Blackpool doesn’t have any foreign tourists as we couldn’t find a bureau de change


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