Our Anniversary – Thursday, 14th December
It’s our 12th… or 39th (if you count the date we first met – as many of you know, it was the same date!).
We always try and ‘get away’ and do something a little different on our special day! This year, it was London, having arrived yesterday (read about it here). Specifically, we bagged a room at the iconic Tower Hotel that overlooks the equally, impressive, Tower Bridge. We’re here until Saturday, also planning to catch up with my brother and his family for the annual Christmas pressy swap.
Our previous Anniversary celebrations
Wow! Plenty going on today as part of our Anniversary celebrations!
✅ Breakfast at the Fox & Anchor near Farringdon
✅ Experience the Royal Mail Train Exhibition
✅ Visit the Royal Mail Postal Museum
✅ Back to the Hotel for a recharge (and my phone!)
✅ See Abba Voyage at the ABBA Arena
8.50am: We arrived at Tower Hill and travelled the few Tube stops down to Barbican on the Circle Line, heading for Breakfast near Smithfield Market. On exiting Barbican Tube, we took the ‘adventurous’ route. For that, read ‘heading down the right road, but in the wrong direction!’. I blame Google Maps, but others might have a different opinion. 😉.
9.38am: A Black cab to the rescue! A short ride later, courtesy of Darren, we arrived at the Fox & Anchor, just 10 minutes later than our booking. A warm welcome awaited us, and we were soon amongst the other guests who, based on the number of empty glasses, all looked like they’d been there since around 7am!
Yes, it was a popular destination… I wonder why? 🤔. I got the impression that a lot of the people were here enjoying an ‘early’ (in the day) Christmas Lunch, where the staff seemed to be rushed off their feet, keeping up with demand.
A little-known fact about the Fox & Anchor is that it serves two of my favourite things – at the same time! A full English Breakfast AND (from 7am!!!!) a pint of Guinness. Known as the ‘Fox’s City Boy Breakfast’ and consisting of (deep breath!): two eggs, sweet-cured bacon, pork and apple sausages, Angus flat iron steak, lamb kidney and liver, black pudding, roasted cherry tomatoes, mushroom, baked beans, fried bread, it’s a MONSTER. However, at a mighty 1450 kCalories for this ‘meal deal’, it was probably best avoided!
In the end, I chose the next best thing, their ‘simpler’ Fox’s Breakfast – fewer calories and no Guinness. Ah well, maybe another time??? 😋
Ann followed my lead, and we were soon tucking in our Anniversary Breakfast! It was all delicious and the staff were very hospitable.
10.19am: Actually, I didn’t really have time for a Guinness, as we wished the staff a Merry Christmas and headed for our next stop which was on a timed ticket.
Royal Mail Train Exhibition
10.49am: After that breakfast, for me, it was more of a waddle than a walk, but half-an-hour later we arrived at the Royal Mail Train Exhibition for our 11am slot.
Do you like trains? (nope, me neither, but this was something special!) The marketing blurb suggested:
“Ride through the hidden tunnels of Mail Rail and discover a unique piece of industrial heritage, explore inspiring exhibitions packed with incredible objects, exciting stories and fun-filled interactive displays“
So we did! Welcome to the Royal Mail Train. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to become a letter or parcel delivered across London, where there’s a guarantee of no traffic jams and no congestion charge – this is for you! It’s the ‘hidden’ ‘mini’ train network that operated under London until the early noughties to ensure the post was delivered on time (remember that promise?)
When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was the number of children’s buggies ‘parked’ near the stairs that led to the Train. Cue my blood pressure! 😉. Initially, we weren’t sure why, and imagined that our train trip was to include herds of screaming sprogs. Luckily, it didn’t turn out that way, when we discovered there was a children’s playgroup in residence – err, Why here, why underground?
And why weren’t they at school? 😡
Anyway, in spite of this potential kiddie carnage potentially spoiling our day, only a few of the little cherubs were doing what we were about to do – board the train. Phew! 😉. Off we chuffed, and although we weren’t quite sure what to expect, we took on the appearance of excited children!
We were about to be SERIOUSLY impressed!
And some!!! (praise indeed, as I’ve mentioned, I’m not a great fan of trains!). 💯
What a find this was! Whoever thought up the idea of converting the now unused Mail Trains to people-carriers involving a tour has probably done more in terms of positive PR for the Royal Mail than any direct advertising campaign. It was fascinating!
Mail Train Factoids
👍 An initial idea for an underground mail system started in 1855
👍 Building the tunnels you see today began around the start of WW1
👍 Work continued during the War
👍 Opened officially in 1927 carrying mail UNDER the streets of London to mainline rail stations
👍 No driver required!
👍 Closed in 2003
A more detailed history of the Mail Rail is HERE
Our rail journey lasted about 15 minutes and they’d cleverly installed multimedia presentations along the route, together with a running commentary for the whole of the journey.
What’s not to love? At just £17 each – which includes the Postal Museum just up the road (see later in this Post) – it was really good value, packed with information about the pioneering and innovative work by the Royal Mail to deliver the mail. There was even a ‘graveyard’ for expired mail trains within the tunnel system.
Downsides? If you’re taller than about 5 feet, it’s a bit of a squeeze in the ‘carriages’ (but it was our Anniversary!) 😈. The whole thing was very professionally put together and they’d even tweaked the multimedia film to reflect a Christmas theme. 👍👍.
Parts of the route are very narrow and very dark. There are no opportunities to get out once the journey begins, and all photos will be through the Perspex windows/canopy, so ‘great shots’ are challenging! If you’re claustrophobic, this won’t be for you, but the Staff were brilliant at pointing out the limitations beforehand.
But wait, there’s more (good news)! 😃
When the train brought us back to where we started, we were pointed in the direction of a supporting exhibition. There was plenty to see here too. It was all very well presented, well lit and (again) packed with information.
What an innovation! It reminded us of ‘times gone by’ where back then, this was ‘cutting edge’ engineering and technology, and consequently, the envy of the world.
For the ‘train nutter’ in your life (or even just the ‘nutter’ in your life), we’d thoroughly recommend this place. It’s a bit different to your normal ‘interactive exhibition’ and blends education and entertainment perfectly. When we booked, it all had to be done online – and we noticed it was very popular because of the limited seating capacity of the trains. All the details are here…
Enjoy! We did… a lot! 👍👍😃
Royal Mail Postal Museum
11.43am: Next stop, and just two minutes walk up the road, was the sister building – The The Postal Museum. This was to be another fascinating experience showcasing (once again) – but in even more detail – the innovation of the Royal Mail ‘back in the day’. At the time, they were the largest employer in the country (I didn’t know that!). How times have changed! 🤔, at a time when I can’t guarantee that my Special Delivery will be treated specially! 😡. The Museum charted the chronological history of the Mail system from Henry VIII’s time (yes, it’s that old) and this densely packed series of exhibits that showcased its history – good and bad – perfectly.
Everything looked in stunning condition – as if it had been made yesterday, all helping to give the Museum the ‘wow!’ factor.
Want to get the mail there faster? Design a ‘special’ streamlined coach built for just that purpose and use specially bred horses to power the thing!
Mail transport through the ages was well represented too! Again, restored to pristine condition.
There was so much to see here! Films, interactive displays, and you could even design your own stamp for free! 😉
This was another impressive attraction. Individually and collectively, we learned a lot today about the Royal Mail. Sadly though, it shows that currently, the business is less than a shadow of its former self, where it used to lead the world in delivering written communication and parcels to every corner of the world through tried-and-tested innovations.
12.32pm: Back down to earth and with our feet now firmly back in 2023, we took the short walk to Farringdon Tube.
12.56pm: Back in the Hotel, there was time to respond to the numerous ‘best wishes’ comments via text and social media – THANK YOU! 😘😘 – before an extended ‘feet up’ to prepare for our next treat, later today – The ABBA Voyage performance.
6.15pm: The paperwork suggested getting there with time to spare. Not exactly ‘The Day Before You Came’, just an hour before the start, to allow for security checks. I hate being late and take a chance (on me?) so we left in good time. We grabbed the DLR at Tower Gateway and headed for
Waterloo, couldn’t escape if I wanted to Pudding Mill Lane which is right opposite the specially built Abba Arena.
On arrival, any doubts we had about whether this was still popular or not were quickly dispelled, judging by the crowds!
I wonder though whether we are the last couple in the UK to see this? It seems that pretty much everyone we know has already been… sometimes twice… sometimes more than twice! We’d heard nothing but good reports about it, so here goes!
Sadly, no photography was allowed (but again, like the Theatre yesterday, it didn’t stop a few pushing their luck and they were quickly dissuaded by the in-house security!). I managed to grab a shot before the curfew came down!
7.54pm: A late start… Gimme, Gimme, Gimme! 😃
Overall, this was a FANTASTIC show! But I ought to comment that in the early scenes, the facial closeups of the Band were poorly rendered – whether it was their eyes or their mouths that just looked a bit unnatural, we’re not sure, but they just didn’t cut it for us. Now, whether our brains filtered out these imperfections as the show went on, I don’t know, but it all appeared to get better and better. Weird! 🤔. Anyone else who’s been see the same?
Anyway, don’t let that put you off going! Even if you’re not an ABBA fan, it’s worth going for the most impressive light show we’ve ever seen! (and we saw ELO in the 70s at Wembley! 😃). The ninety minutes (with no interval) passed really quickly and there’s a very sentimental touch right at the end! (no spoilers here!) 😪. You’re welcome! 😉
Err… Wow! Just amazing! Time to dance our way back to the Tower Hotel!
Thank-you for the music, Abba! Do you know what? If I had to do the same again I would*
*My friend, Fernando
Well, that’s another Anniversary! A Guinness before 10am (almost), role-playing a royal mail parcel and a trip to see ABBA – virtually, it’s been one to remember! Just how we like it!! 😃👍. Thanks too, for all your good wishes – it means a lot! 😍😍
Tomorrow, we have a slight change of plan. Our visit to see my brother and family for a festive lunch and pressy swap is postponed as he’s down with some nasty bug. Having brought their Christmas presents with us, we don’t want to take them home, so we’re going to drop them off and have a short chat – from a distance! ☹️
10.23pm: Almost a ‘…man after midnight’, I’m done. See you tomorrow! 😴😴
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