London 2017
Saturday July 29 to Sunday August 6, 2017

The Temple: Once the precinct of the Knights Templar

On our previous trip to Central London in 2015 we had stayed in a hotel near Picadilly Circus so we wanted to stay in a different part of the city for this trip. Our choice was Apex Temple Court in the Temple area of London. It had actually been on the short list for our 2015 trip, too, and on balance we felt it was the right choice and location for this time in Central London.

The difficulties getting into the city with RideLondon in full swing did make us wonder if we would have selected a different part of the city had we known about the event in advance, but once we did arrive after the trek from Richmond we were very pleased with our selection.

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  • Saturday July 29, 2017

    Apex Temple Court, RideLondon & The Localist

    First impressions of Apex Temple Court were that it was very nice, indeed. Our room wasn't available when we arrived to check in, so we left our luggage with the hotel's concierge and then set off for our first walk around London on what was shaping up to be a very nice day. A nice cup of coffee would also be on the agenda. First, though, we wanted to check out the cycling event that had closed so many roads leading into the city.

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      The city full of cyclists for RideLondon

      The city full of cyclists

      From the hotel we walked west to where we could see a portion of the cycle route - first along the Strand and then near Trafalgar Square. It took a while to figure out that we were actually looking at more than one cycle route for many riders ranging from quite serious amateur riders to those out for a pleasant bike ride around some of London's iconic landmarks.

      The most serious cyclists could run either a 46 or 100 mile circuit to Surrey and back that followed the route that the Sunday professionals would take in the main 200 mile race sanctioned under the UCI World Tour. It appeared that some of the amateur cyclist were in teams raising money for charitable organizations. It was a bit more difficult to walk around the city but not impossible - there were crossing points with volunteers stopping either cyclist or pedestrians or a very cool way to divert the cyclists in a two stage crossing for pedestrians so that the cyclist did not need to stop. It was a pleasant stroll around familiar landmarks, but we were really thinking now about getting that cup of coffee now. We settled on Double Shot Coffee Co. near Covent Gardens. It was a good choice - a nice atmosphere with good flat whites and some fresh tasty treats to accompany the coffees.

      Night return to Apex Temple Court

      Apex Temple Court at night

      Following our coffee break we made our way back to Apex Temple Court to complete our check-in. When we arrived to our room we found we'd been upgraded to a junior suite - so we certainly weren't lacking in the space department in this room. Some nice features were having a Nespresso machine and a pair of televisions with a SKY subscription - which would give Gary access to SKY F1 coverage when we were in the room. Perhaps not such a nice feature for Linda, though.

      For dinner we had made a reservation at The Localist in Farringdon. It was a nice evening, so we decided to get there on foot - which gave us the opportunity for a nice walk on the way to dinner. We had a thoroughly enjoyable meal at the Localist - was a great choice for this Saturday night. The area was quite interesting, too.

      We strolled back to the hotel after dinner taking a slightly different route and once back at Apex Temple Court we decided to stop in at the club lounge - which was accessible with the type of room we had booked. It was a nice way to end off the evening with some wine in a relaxed atmosphere.

  • Sunday July 30, 2017

    RideLondon, Sunday stroll & Ivy Market Grill

    Our Sunday morning started with a return visit to the club lounge for breakfast. There was certainly enough nice things to select to eat & drink and the setup made it a quick and easy way to get breakfast. A good start to the day. Today would be the main bike race event for RideLondon - so we weren't entirely sure how that would affect getting around, but after we made a quick pit stop back in our room we set off for the day.

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      RideLondon - Sunday Morning

      RideLondon - Sunday Morning

      We started from the hotel by heading towards the Thames River to enjoy a stroll along the river for this Sunday morning. Between the road closures and it being a Sunday morning there seemed to be very few cars on Victoria Embankment next to the river. We walked along the river to Westminster Bridge where we could see that the base of the Elizabeth Tower (the clock tower more commonly known by the name of its primary bell: Big Ben) was encased in scaffolding. There were other sections of the Houses of Parliament that also had some scaffolding. Big Ben was still chiming, but that wasn't going to be for much longer - with the plan for a 4 year restoration scheduled to start on August 21, 2017. The regular chiming of Big Ben will stop during that restoration. It will still chime for special occasions, apparently.

      The actual UCI World Tour race was set to start in the early afternoon, but there were still plenty amateur cyclists on the streets of London. This wasn't just the touring on the closed streets as it had been on Saturday. We watched some of cyclists from a few locations as we made our way to Horse Guards Parade - the start and finish location for the 200 mile London-Surrey Classic race.

      Bikes prepared for the race

      Bikes prepared for the race

      The cycling teams were being announced on a small stage as we approached the start area - so we watched a bit of that and then walked along where the bicycles and a myriad of support vehicles were parked. We weren't thinking to stay to watch the race, so we just had a good look at the bikes and then continued our tour of the city.

      We made our way first to Buckingham Palace then strolled through Green Park towards Mayfair and then through Carnaby on the way to Soho at which point we were feeling a bit hungry. To grab a bite to eat we stopped at The Warwick in Soho - we'd been to this pub before for a drink on our previous trip to London but this was a first for some food as well - and that ended up being quite nice. From there we went back through Trafalgar Square and then decided to head to Convent Garden.

      The Old Bank of England

      The Old Bank of England

      It was surprising how fast the day had passed as we strolled and shopped around the city. Before heading back to the hotel we did make a stop at a pub we'd passed quite a few times previously and figured it was time to check it out - The Old Bank of England, housed in a building that from 1888 until 1975 had been a branch of the The Bank of England located right next to the Royal Courts of Justice. Since 1994 it has been owned by Fuller's Brewery and restored to be an impressive looking pub. Definitely a nice spot to grab a drink - conveniently located near our hotel.

      Our dinner reservation at The Ivy Market Grill meant we'd be returning to Covent Garden for the evening, so it was a fairly short walk from Apex Temple Court to our dinner venue. To this point, we'd day this was the most packed restaurant we'd been to for any meal. It is an off-shoot of one of the more famous restaurants in London - The Ivy. This was clearly a more approachable restaurant than its big brother - without the dress code and pretentiousness of the flagship. It was a nice evening, but not one that would make us think to head back to this restaurant.

      As we had done the night before, we finished off our evening back at the club lounge of Apex Temple Court. It had been a nice Sunday in London.

  • Monday July 31, 2017

    St Paul's, Roman Ruins & ROKA Mayfair

    We were planning a pretty full day in London so we rose early and enjoyed breakfast in the club lounge of Apex Temple Court. Very pleasant, quick and convenient for breakfast so without too much delay in our room for a pit stop we were off to make our way to the first stop of the day - St Paul's Cathedral. It had been quite a few years since we had been inside the cathedral, so we thought now would be a good time for a return visit.

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      Our hotel location gave us quick and easy walking access to St Paul's Cathedral and when we arrive it wasn't too busy so without much delay we were inside with provided audio/visual guides for our self directed tour. The guides were something new for this visit to St Paul's we have used similar things at other venues but this was a first here. Not too hard to understand that change once we calculated that it had been 15 years since we had last been inside this beautiful English Baroque styled 17th century cathedral designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

      The current building replaced the English Gothic styled medieval cathedral of the same name that was destroyed in the great fire of London in 1666 and today's cathedral is actually the fifth church building to stand in this location - with the original one dating back to the year 604.

      The audio/visual guide was terrific - with lots of options for detail information on any area of interest. We thoroughly enjoyed our time wandering around the impressive church containing so much history. We spent quite a bit of time on the main Cathedral Floor level and then took the 257 steps up to the Whispering Gallery. On our previous visit to St Paul's we had also taken the tight twisty steps up to the Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery to get some nice views of London, but we opted not to do it this time.

      The last part of our visit at the cathedral was dedicated to the Crypt, located below the Cathedral Floor. Within the Crypt are the tombs of so many prominent people. The most impressive of those tombs is the one located directly under the building's dome - for Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson. It is truly impressive; fitting for such a hero of Britain. There are so many other notable tombs to see - making the Crypt a fascinating place to visit and reflect.

      From St Paul's we made our way to see the Temple Bar - what was once the principal ceremonial entrance to the City of London from the west via the City of Westminster. The location that the Temple Bar once stood near our hotel has a marker locating the spot quite close to our hotel with the road changing at that point from The Stand on the west side of the marker to Fleet Street on the east side of the marker. The idea of a 'bar' is a barrier across a route and dates back to medieval times, but the last gate structure to be there was a 17th century arched gateway designed by Sir Christoper Wren that was removed in 1878. That gate has now been preserved and relocated to a public square not far from St Paul's Cathedral since 2004.

      Next on the agenda was Guildhall Art Gallery to primarily see the remains of the Roman amphitheatre preserved below the art gallery. The amphitheatre dates back to AD70, although more of what is visible today is from the renovations done in the early 2nd century to bring it to a seating capacity of about 6,000 people. Only fragments of a fraction of the large amphitheatre are visible but it is still an impressive and interesting site. Quite a bit of the missing amphitheatre had apparently been taken away as building materials for other structures when the Roman's left Britain in the 4th century.

      From Guildhall Art Gallery we found a spot to have a late lunch. Our choice was a pub called The Globe, and we were pleased with the selection. We had a nice lunch and Gary got to have a pint of his loved London pride - so it scored, there, too. It was a busy spot with many business people, and it was difficult not to overhear parts of other conversations - and to hear the worry of those obviously working in nearby international financial institutions worrying about their entire office being closed in the UK as a result of Brexit. We got the sense that there had been some information very recently received to warrant these fears - not just a general discussion on Brexit.

      Remnants of the Roman Fort in Londinium

      Remnants of the Roman Fort in Londinium

      Our route from The Globe was westward along a road named 'London Wall' in commemoration of the Roman defensive wall first built around what they called Londinium. The road apparently loosely follows a northern section of the wall that has long since disappeared. We were heading to the Museum of London that was located on the same road.

      Before reaching the museum we saw some of the remaining sections of the Roman fortification. These, we learned, were remnants of a square Roman Fort located in the northeast corner of the city that probably had a compliment of about one thousand soldiers in its day. It was interesting to find out that these ruins were exposed during the bombing of London during the Second World War.

      It was a very short walk from the remnants of the Roman Fort to the Museum of London. Surprisingly, this was our first visit to this particular museum and we enjoyed the look at London from prehistoric time to the present day - was interesting. We weren't entirely sure what to expect but we thought it was well worth the visit. Having been at St Paul's Cathedral earlier in the day it was particularly interesting for us to see a large detailed model of the Gothic version of the church that was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. With our plans for dinner this evening the timing was such that we needed to head back to our hotel after we had finished at the Museum of London to get ready.

      We were scheduled to meet up with Gary's cousins Nicola & Ashlea for a Summer Sake Pairing Dinner at ROKA Mayfair. The event was scheduled to take place in a slightly secluded section of the restaurant for a limited number of people. To get to ROKA we took the London Underground from one of the stations close to our hotel and assembled at the bar for an aperitif with the others booked for the event. Once everything was set we were escorted to the tables in the semi private area of the restaurant - three tables each set for eight people.

      The evening was hosted by ROKA Mayfair's head sommelier/buyer Laura Blanchett. The meal was a wonderful tasting menu with each course paired with a selected Sake. It was an excellent night in every regard with plenty of great memories.

  • Tuesday August 1, 2017

    Thames River tour & Aquavit London

    We switched things up a bit for breakfast this day - deciding to head to a local restaurant for a cooked breakfast. It was a nice morning and we wandered through the Temple area past the impressive Temple Church to get to the Strand. We liked the look of a place called Adore REMO - which is an Italian restaurant, but they also served traditional British breakfasts for the morning. It was a great choice - making us consider trying this place for another meal sometime.

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      Cleopatra's Needle viewed from the Thames River

      Cleopatra's Needle

      In all the times we had visited London previously we had never done any sort of scenic cruise on the Thames River - so we thought now was a time to rectify that. There was an option to take a lengthy trip from Westminster to Hampton Court - but on balance we didn't want to take so much time for a river cruise and rather opted for one of the short scenic trips operating in the area of Central London.

      From Adore REMO we walked to Victoria Embankment and selected the most suitable sightseeing cruise for us. There wasn't much of a wait for the next departure, so within short order we were on our way on the river.

      The scenic tour route took us east from Embankment Pier to just beyond Tower Bridge to the east and then back to Westminster Bridge. It was enjoyable to view some of London's historic landmarks from the vantage point of the river, especially something like Cleopatra's Needle that was much easier to see in its entirety from the water. It was also quite nice to travel under the many bridges over the Thames River - especially the iconic Tower Bridge.

      Approaching Tower Bridge

      Approaching Tower Bridge

      It was also pretty cool to approach Westminster Bridge with the adjacent Houses of Parliament. We disembarked at Westminster Pier and walked to walk along Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square. As we past Horse Guards they were preparing to do a changing of the guards, so we stayed to watch that before continuing on with our walk.

      Our intended destination was actually a pub near Trafalgar Square - The Admiralty. We had been there before on other trips and enjoyed it, so it was a good choice for a quick lunch. While we were at the pub it was also an opportunity to talk with Michael who we found out, unfortunately, was suffering at home with hot weather and non-functioning air conditioning. The day we left home it had seemed not quite right and by now was definitely not cooling the house at all. We discussed him getting a service call to get it resolved as soon as possible. We felt bad that he had been suffering alone with the heat and had to deal with getting it fixed with us away.

      Freemasons Hall

      Freemasons' Hall

      We had seen some things at Covent Garden earlier that we liked but weren't 100% sure to buy at the time but we now thought to go back now to purchase - so we made our way there next.

      Before reaching the market area of Covent Garden we routed our way to see the Freemasons' Hall - a building we had seen used as the home of MI5 in the BBC television series MI-5 (as named in Canada) or Spooks (as named in the UK). We never really understood why they used this building rather than the actual home of the Security Service in the TV series but we wanted to see the building anyway.

      When we reached Covent Garden it was a surprise to find that the stalls in the market weren't all the same as they had been on the previous visit. We looked up the vendor of interest online and found, indeed, that we'd need to return once again on a day she'd be there. Oh well. It was still nice to stroll around the area, though.

      As a bonus, being in the Covent Garden area again gave us the opportunity once again for a nice coffee & treat at Double Shop Coffee Co before heading back towards our hotel.

      One final stop was at the very narrow and very busy flagship store of Twinings on the Strand. We had passed it a number of times before but decided this time to browse and buy. The store itself is quite impressive with the Twinings family owning and operating in this location since 1706.

      Aquavit London

      Aquavit London

      We returned to the hotel to rest and change ahead of dinner. Our selection for dinner this night was Aquavit London. We had dined at the original Aquavit in New York back in 2105 and wanted to give this one a try, too. We knew, though, that this was quite a different restaurant to its American sibling - not the fine dining establishment of the New York location. Still very much worth trying in our opinion, though. It turned out to be a very good choice - the meal and service were excellent. One carryover from the New York restaurant that we were pleased to see on the menu was a slam dunk choice for dessert - the Arctic Bird's Nest. It both looked and tasted great. That dessert with espressos made a fitting way to end this dinner.

      It was a beautiful evening in London so we decided to stroll along the river after dinner. Was a very nice walk with the sights lit up for the night, and with no need to hurry it was pleasant to enjoy those sights along the way. We finished the evening at the club lounge of Apex Temple Court - what was now the standard way for us to end each day while in Central London.

  • Wednesday August 2, 2017

    V&A, Pink Floyd & Wright Brothers South Kensington

    The plan for today was to go to the Victoria & Albert Museum to see The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains and then meet up with Rose & Mick for lunch and some time to visit. The exhibit was a timed event, so we had pre-purchased tickets for a 10:30am entry. That made it an easy and relaxed morning to have breakfast in the Apex Temple Court club lounge and then head to the V&A.

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      We took the London Underground to get from the closest station to the hotel to near the V&A. We had arrived a bit before the museum was due to open at 10:00am so we walked outside and marvelled at the length of the lineups waiting to get into the adjacent Science Museum & Natural History Museum - two big draws for families during this school holiday time.

      David Gilmour Guitars

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      (L) 1969 Fender Stratocaster "The Black Strat"
      (R) 1955 Fender Esquire "The Workmate"

      All of the museums were set to open at 10:00am. As that time approached we went to a new and attractive courtyard entrance of the V&A. We had a bit of time to kill before our time to enter the Pink Floyd Exhibition so we took a look in the rather impressive shop inside the museum and figured we would return to buy some things before leaving the V&A.

      As we entered the Pink Floyd we were given audio guides and were told they'd be automatic. The location of the guide determined what audio would be playing - that was pretty cool and a first for us with this sort o system. We walked through the exhibition starting in a room displaying memorabilia from the early days of Pink Floyd. Approaching any video screen display changed to the audio guide to the sound content playing and moving away returned the audio to music of the era covered in the room. The system worked very well. Each room displayed a different era in the progression of the band and it was very interesting to see some of the gear used in each of those eras.

      Of particular interest to big Pink Floyd fan Gary were two of David Gilmour's iconic guitars: The Black Strat & The Workmate. Suffice to say that the Exhibition was excellent from start to the multimedia surround sound finish of Comfortably Numb. It was absolutely worth going to see.

      After the leaving the exhibition we made our way back to the gift shop and met up with Rose & Mick. We had lunch booked for 1:30pm, so we had a bit of time to enjoy some of the V&A before leaving for the restaurant. It did give us the opportunity to view the Ardabil Carpet which is dated as being made somewhere between AD1539 & 1540 in Ardabil, Iran. At a knot density of between 300-350 knots per inch the 34'-6" x 17-6" carpet has somewhere in the vicinity of 26 million knots. Impressive, to say the least. It is lit for only 10 minutes on the half hour to preserve the colours in the rug and is wonderful to see.

      When we set off from the V&A for lunch we had to deal with the hardest rain we had seen so far while in London. It was quite miserable, but we didn't have far to get to our lunch venue of Wright Brothers South Kensington.

      On our most recent trip to London we had dined at Wright Brothers Soho so it was nice to give this one a try. Great food, to be sure. It was smaller than the Soho location which made it imperative that we had a booking even for lunch on a Wednesday. It was a good lunch with a unique experience from the one we had previously - clearly the restaurants were not direct copies of each other. We really enjoyed our time there with Rose & Mick.

      From Wright Brothers we benefitted from Rose's knowledge of the London transportation system and location of certain stores to do a bit of shopping at a few shops. The rain had eased considerably by this point. We finished our time together with coffee late in the afternoon and then Rose & Mick made their trek back home on the underground.

      With having a big lunch we weren't really looking to have a big dinner so we hadn't booked anything for this evening, but as the time came we knew we should have some sort of light meal. We can say with hindsight that we made quite a mistake for this evening. We decided to go back to the Old Bank of England - where we had enjoyed a nice drink once before. As we went inside the pub it was encouraging to see the place busy with people eating, but our experience here was quite disappointing - we should just have stuck to having a drink here and skipped the food. Lesson learned, as it were. We had done quite well up to this point with meals. At least it was only a light bite rather than a full dinner.

      To finish the night on a good note we did take advantage one more time of the Apex Temple Court club lounge before retiring for the night.

  • Thursday August 3, 2017

    Magna Carta, Charles Dickens, Camden & Fifteen

    Something that we regretted missing on our last trip to London was a chance to view two of the four remaining Magna Carta documents together with a copy of the American Declaration of Independence and the US Bill of Rights on display together at the British Library for the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta. The American extras were no longer there, but we did plan this day to see the Magna Carta.

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      St Pancras International Railway Station

      St Pancras International Railway Station

      Our day started with our Central London standard breakfast in the club lounge and within fairly short order we made our way to the London Underground. The British Library is located near St Pancras International Railway Station were there is also an Underground station as well, giving Gary another chance to see the railway building that he loves. It is impressive.

      We figured we could look at St Pancras on the return trip, so we made our way directly to the British Library on arrival at the station. It was a short walk to the British Library.

      The Magna Carta is housed in the Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery of the British Library. The gallery is quite dark and cool to protect the documents inside and we didn't truly appreciate the scope of the treasures on display until we were there. The Magna Carta was the draw for us but we knew we'd be here quite some time. We took a moment to take in the scope of what was on display then decided to go see the the Magna Carta first then worked our way around to see all of items there. If you have an interest in history then this place is truly amazing. Hard to say what we enjoyed the most - it could have been one of any number of things: hand written works by some of the world's most famous composers, writers, political figures, royalty, military figures as well as some of the most beautiful and rare illustrated bibles and other religious texts. A place to explore, read, marvel and enjoy to be sure.

      Charles Dickens Museum

      Charles Dickens Museum

      After our extended visit at the British Library we made our way to the The Charles Dickens Museum, located in one of the houses that the famed author lived. To be precise, he lived in this house from March 1837 to December 1839. The house contained many pieces of furniture and belonging amassed from a few houses lived in by Dickens rather than being from this particular residence.

      Handwritten draft page of Oliver Twist

      Handwritten draft page of Oliver Twist

      Charles Dickens writing desk

      Charles Dickens' writing desk

      It is the location where Dickens finished The Pickwick Papers and wrote Oliver Twist & Nicholas Nickleby and started Barnaby Rudge. The room that interested us the most was his study with pages of handwritten drafts of both Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby on display. There was also a desk in this study, but it came from another property and was used by Dickens to write A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations & Our Mutual Friend. The museum certainly had lots to see and was quite interesting. Worth the visit, to be sure.

      From the Charles Dickens Museum we ventured to the Camden Markets. To say the least it was an experience. At first approach of the area of Camden Town one clearly gets the flavour of the area that is associated with 'alternative culture'. Alternative, indeed. We wandered along the Camden High Street towards the Regent's Canal and the markets taking the eclectic sights and sounds. And smells, come to think of it. After crossing the canal we entered the first of the five markets - the Camden Lock Market and then meandered our way through all of five markets clustered together. We had thought we'd be able to get a bite to eat here, but to be honest we could see ourselves eating in any of the establishments or form any of the stalls selling street food. We finished in the area with a walk along part of the canal and spent some time watching a canal cruise boat navigate the Camden Lock on its way towards Regents Park.

      Jamie Oliver's Fifteen

      Jamie Oliver's Fifteen

      For quite a late lunch we made our way back to St Pancras International Railway Station to appease our hunger and Gary's desire to see the building again. Taking the time into consideration we opted for light bites at Mi & Me and it was very enjoyable. Also enjoyable was the one more stroll around the beautiful train station. We hopped back on the Underground to head to Convent Garden one more time - knowing that today we' be able to purchase some items from Bobbi - a vendor only at Covent Garden for a couple of days each the week.

      Our dinner booking this evening was at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. This is Jamie Oliver's first restaurant, opened in 2002 with the goal to provide opportunities in the restaurant business for unemployed young people. We thought it was worth a try and were glad we did. We enjoyed a wonderful tasting menu paired nicely with wines that made for an excellent night. The atmosphere was wonderful in the restaurant and it turned out to be a highlight of the vacation.

  • Friday August 4, 2017

    Borough Market, Notting Hill & Wright Brothers Borough Market

    On our previous visit to London we had visited Borough Market at basically the end of the day with many of the stalls either closed or closing. We wanted to see the market in full operation so the morning plan this day was to make our way south of the river to visit the market at the height of its operation. It was slightly odd that we had also booked dinner at Wight Brothers Borough Market, so we'd be back in the area later in the day as well.

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      A good spot of coffee at Borough Market

      A good spot of coffee at Borough Market

      Rather than have breakfast at the hotel, we made our way directly to the London Underground to travel to the area of Borough Market. By the time we reached the market mot stalls were open but not all. We found one serving coffee and started our time at Borough Market with a nice cappuccino each.

      We needed to follow that up with a bit of food, so we searched around the market and settled on something from Northfield Farm for our breakfast. To be honest, we had to look up some of the items online on our phone to decipher the menu. We didn't realize until looking it up that bap was a term used in England for a bread roll, and once suitably educated on the terminology we enjoyed some nice sausage baps. Post-breakfast we strolled around the market and it was kind of humorous to receive a confirmation call from Wright Brothers Borough Market as we stood mere steps away from the restaurant.

      Before crossing back over the river we took a look at the ruins of the 12th century Winchester Palace. One end wall of the Great Hall still stands and gives once a sense of the grandeur that Winchester Palace once had.

      The Golden Hinde in dry dock

      The Golden Hinde in dry dock

      Next on the agenda was walk by the replica of famed Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind. This replica, interestingly named Golden Hinde with the addition of the 'e' at the end of the name, was launched in 1973 and has circumnavigated the globe just like the original that was launched in 1577. The original ship had rotted and was broken up in 1650 after years of being on public display. Even the much newer replica ship was seeing ravages of time - for it was in dry dock in the midst of having repair work done on it at the time of our visit. Still good to see and think back on the history of the original ship, and for us to recall our kids enjoying exploring this small Galleon when we were here in 2002.

      M&M on the Golden Hinde in 2002

      Michael (L) & Matthew (R) on the Golden Hinde in 2002

      From the Golden Hinde we went to the Southwark Cathedral. The location of a church here dates back to 1106, but the current building from what we could see was mainly reconstructed in the 19th century with fragments of the original Priory Church that preceded it. There were interesting remnants of the church throughout its long history in an area aptly named the Archaeological Chamber. Very cool.

      We hopped back on the London Underground and made our way to Notting Hill. We hadn't been to this area of London before and wanted to see the market and the blue door made famous by the 1999 movie starring Julia Roberts & Hugh Grant. We knew that the market wouldn't be at its peek - for that we'd need to come on the weekend, but we still thought it would be worth seeing. We wandered along the full length of the market first and then made our way to the location of the blue door.

      Directly across the street from the blue door was a pub called The Castle that looked decent enough for lunch, and was indeed a good choice for some nice sharing plates for a late lunch it an attractive pub with lots of style and charisma.

      When we made our way back towards the hotel we took the opportunity to explore a bit more of the Temple area. We'd walked through the area plenty of times in the previous days, but now was time to explore some of the courtyards and smaller alleys that make up this very attractive area of London. It was a nice way to end the day's touring.

      The restaurants and pubs around Borough Market were bustling as we returned for dinner. The streets were full of people standing outside drinking and the pubs and restaurants looked packed. That was true of Wright Brothers as we approached it, and we had to push our way past the crowd to get inside. This is the original location for Wright Brothers, and it is probably the smallest. The tables were shared space so you wouldn't get a table for two but we were shown to the counter area close to the open kitchen area where we'd be sitting side by side. It took a moment to get use to the heat in restaurant - it was very warm in the cramped quarters. Once we got used to it we settled in for a fabulous meal and had a ringside view of the two chefs working non-stop to cook the evening meals for a packed restaurant. It was quite the experience.

      It was another nice night in London and with that we decided for another stroll along the Thames River after dinner. It was very pleasant and enjoyable to look at the London sights lit up in the night sky. A great place to take an evening stroll to be sure. We finished our night off with a bit of time in the club lounge of the hotel before making our way to our room. A good day in London.

  • Saturday August 5, 2017

    National Gallery & La Trompette

    It was hard to believe that this day was our last full day in London - the time had gone quickly. With that it was time to take care of some much needed business. That business, of course, was to fit in a visit to see Georges Seurat’s painting of “Bathers at Asnières” at the National Gallery - a must do for a London visit. For us, at least. It would also be our last day to stroll around this amazing city. Until the next time, that is.

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      After breakfast at the club lounge we walked to the National Gallery and made our way directly to see the Seurat painting.

      Bathers at Asnières

      Bathers at Asnières

      It was quite busy in gallery for this Saturday, so one needed a bit of patience to get a look at the art - particularly in the area of the post-impression art. We did spend the time to wait to see quite a bit of the art in this area and decided to look around a bit more than we usually did at the National Gallery. That decision was made a bit easier with the knowledge of rain that had started while we were inside the gallery. it was nice to spend the extra time here. So often on previous visits we had done just a quick in and out to see the post-impressionism section only.

      The weather had cleared by the time we left the National Gallery, and you might have even had a difficult time telling that it had rained had you not known. We made our way to tour the city on foot until we decided to get a bite to eat and we had a hankering for a cocktail - so we searched online to see what was close by and settled on a place called Bar Américain that looked like it would have what we wanted.

      We were a bit confused when we arrived at the location we were expecting to find the bar - what we found was a placed called Brasserie Zédel. We left a bit disappointed then decided to head back for one last look and found out that the location had a number of venues - with Bar Américain being on the lower level in what was a beautiful Art Deco space with a restaurant and a live entertainment theatre as well as the cocktail bar. The bar was fabulous, and it really did feel like we had been transported a bit back in time. The cocktails and the sharing bites were excellent. A great way to spend some time. When we ventured back outside we realized we had again missed some rain. Hey, what better way to escape rain than a nice cocktail bar. We did slowly meander our way back to Apex Temple Court to conclude our day's walking tour of London in time to get ready for dinner.

      We would be meeting up with Nicola, Ashlea, Rose & Mick for dinner in Chiswick, so we had a bit more travel than had been our norm for dinners while London. The venue was La Trompette, a place that we had been before and quite enjoyed, so we were looking forward to it. The dinner would also be our last get together with family on this trip. It was a fabulous dinner and a great time with family in a lovely restaurant and a memorable way to close out our dining experiences while in London.

      With the time we were finished dinner, we had to switch up our route to get home because of service closures - we still could take the London Underground but not the way we had travelled to the restaurant earlier in the evening. We made it, nevertheless. This would be our last full day in London - tomorrow we'd be heading back home to Canada.

  • Sunday August 6, 2017

    Leaving London

    It was a bittersweet morning to wake for what would be the day we'd be leaving London. We didn't have to rush, though, with our flight scheduled to leave London Heathrow at 6:00pm. We did, however, have a slight concern with how long it would take to get out of the city with it being the day that roads were scheduled to be closed once again - this time for the Marathon of the IAAF World Championships being held in London.

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      We hadn't realized when booking this trip that the day we'd be travelling both in and out of London would be problematic because of road closures. Not the best of planning one might say. Even though our flight wasn't due to leave London Heathrow until 6:00pm we decided to play it a bit safe and leave our hotel with plenty of time in hand to ensure we wouldn't get stuck.

      The day started with a bit of packing and then we made our way to the club lounge for breakfast. We figured we'd have the morning to enjoy more of the city so we made it a quick turn around and then headed out towards the river to see what was happening with the marathon. It hadn't passed the area we approached south of the Temple area but after a short wait we could see the pack of runners and all of the support vehicles off in the distance. We watched them pass then had a nice walk near the river as best we could with the restrictions for the race. It was a beautiful day which made it great for a walk around but also made it hard to leave.

      To finish packing we returned to the hotel and got ourselves ready to check out. We had the concierge help us with booking the same private taxi company that had brought us into Central London on the previous weekend. We figured it would be a good deal at about half of the estimated coast of a London taxi ride to the airport.

      Our car arrived about 30 minutes late - which wasn't a concern to us because we had allowed extra time for this day knowing about the road closures. The driver was apologetic and explained that he had trouble getting into the city. We were surprised to find that the route out didn't seem too bad; much better than we were expecting. As we passed Chiswick we passed the Griffin Brewery - the historic home of Fuller, Smith & Turner - makers of Gary's loved London Pride. Gary tasted London Pride for the first time on our last trip to London and was an instant like. It was good news on returning home that this beer is available in our area, so it has become his favourite at home too now. What Gary hadn't realized until this trip was how close he had lived to the Griffin Brewery as a child. Like a stone's throw away. Funny that all these years later that a beer brewed here would become a favourite of his. On our next London trip a tour of this brewery is a must.

      Once at the airport we checked in and made our way to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. The lounge was very nice and we thought better appointed than the one in Toronto. It made the wait easy. By the time the plane was boarding we made our way to the gate to find out they had just opened the plane for everyone to board. That seemed chaotic to us.

      The flight home was pleasant enough and it was our first experience in a Boeing 787 which was quite nice indeed. We arrived home on schedule at about 8:30pm and the customs and luggage retrieval was quick so within no time we were in a limo heading home. It had been a great trip with lots of wonderful memories. Hopefully not too long until the next time we travel there.

Central London Image Gallery

The Fleet Street entrance of Apex Temple Court
The Temple Bar Marker
Temple Bar in its current location in Paternoster Square
Blackfriars Railway Bridge (and remnants of the old one), Blackfriars Bridge & Waterloo Bridge (in the distance)
Approaching the Houses of Parliament on the Thames River
One of the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry
Looking towards St Martin-in-the-Fields from Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square with our Canadian Flag flying over Canada House
Evening view of the London Eye
Approacing the entrance to Camden Market
Camden Lock
The Sr John Betjeman statue at St Pancras International
The entrance of Borough Market
Linda perusing the stalls of Notting Hill Market
The house with the blue door (in the centre) from the 1999 movie Notting Hill
Outside Wright Brothers in Borough Market
Gary, Nicola & Ashlea at La Trompette in Chiswick
The IAAF World Championships Marathon along Victoria Embankment
About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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