Sunday, April 24, 2016

The London Diaries: Day 1 - Friday 11th March 2016

Over the past 20 years I've visited a number of different cities and resorts in countries all over Europe - and even been to Canada - but believe it or not, I've never been to the capital city of the UK until March 2016.  For some reason, London never really interested me before, and I always thought I'd be overwhelmed by the size of the huge city.  So the years passed, other places interested me more, and London passed me by.

Our trip arose out of a grand plan by faithful travelling companion to go to a particular football match; I won't go into all the details but our original plan later fell apart.  However by that time the seeds of a city break in London had been sown and we couldn't imagine not going, so we came up with a plan B!

As usual, I'm an obsessive pre-holiday researcher so this involved weeks of research for me, as London was a mystery to start with.  Despite some well-known landmarks I couldn't have told you anything about the different neighbourhoods and where they were located in the city so the first few weeks of 2016 were a learning process, and I was much more familiar with the city's layout after doing my "homework".

We eventually settled on the Marylebone area as our base; it's a well-located area, (and a well-heeled one too: flats costing over £1 million here!) with Baker Street Underground (Tube) station nearby. This station has a number of intersecting Tube lines so it's easy to reach a number of different parts of London from this station.

We flew to London Stansted airport and had pre-booked our tickets for the Stansted Express train. The train leaves from the station in the airport's basement and it's a scenic 45 minute journey from the airport into the city, passing through some interesting marshland landscape and colourful narrowboats on the River Stort.  (Thanks Google Maps, I wondered what that was!)

The train arrived into Liverpool Street Station, then a quick transfer to the Liverpool Street Tube station and our first time using our Oyster cards.  We purchased our visitor Oyster cards prior to the holiday, topped up with enough credit for the weekend.  They are smart cards which you 'touch in' and 'touch out' before and after your Tube journey, similar to the way the Scotrail ticket gates operate in stations in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

So our first experience of the Tube wasn't too scary!  After arriving at our hotel we decided to familiarise ourselves with the local area and then get a mid-afternoon pizza at Pizza Hut in Baker Street.

We will be back in Baker Street tomorrow for a planned event but we decided to check out the street in advance.  There are some very interesting shops here - for example, the Beatles Store - yeah, yeah, yeah!

After our stroll around the local vicinity it was time to get back to the hotel and get ready for our evening meal which we had pre-booked online.  After our dinner it was time to hit the bars in the vicinity of James Street.  Faithful travelling companion of course had to get into the spirit and try a London beer.

Surprisingly though, many of the bars were closing earlier than expected but we found ourselves back on Marylebone Road for a nightcap before heading back to our hotel.  Saturday was going to be a very busy day ahead...

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