London Mini-Break – Day 2 (of 3): Birthday Boy (2019)

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Here we are then, in the capital for my Birthday celebrations!

After yesterday’s retail therapy, today, it’s all about sight-seeing, and we’re off to visit Westminster Abbey and The Banqueting House …and maybe more!
That means there’s at least THREE relics on show in London today then! ๐Ÿ˜‰

7.20am: Another lie-in – that’s the second one this year! Instead of ploughing through emails, it was a really nice change to wake up to a record-breaking number of text messages and social-media posts wishing me well. A great start to my day.

As we’re away, we only brought the first few cards with us – the rest will be opened when we get back. Thanks in advance… and for the various gifts too! I’ve heard there’s quite a few to open on our return!

Wot! No candles???

8.45am: My ‘Birthday’ Breakfast in the Hotel was impressive in terms of its range. You’ll be pleased to hear that I did precede the above with a bowl of fresh fruit (hurrah!) but then go on to spoil the healthy intention with a couple of pastries (boo!)

Westminster Abbey

9.45am: My birthday celebration began with a spring in my step (early days yet!) as we took the short walk to Stratford Station, heading for our first sight-seeing opportunity – Westminster Abbey. It was a good day to travel underground (and stay inside) as the weather for London was already damp with more rain forecast. We were prepared for it and although I was pleased to see Ann, it WAS an umbrella in my pocket! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

10.30am: By the time we arrived, the weather had deteriorated and it was now pouring! Luckily, the queue wasn’t too long and we were soon inside. The 2-for-1 offer had saved us a hefty ยฃ23.

Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside, but the excellent – and free – multimedia guide (portable video player and headphones) made up for it with Jeremy Iron’s soothing tones telling us all we needed to know. Simply, put, the interior was stunning with lots to see. Today’s Top Tip? With so much to take in, in addition to everything that’s in your normal eye-line, it helps to look down as well as up on a regular basis.

Westminster Abbey

The Supreme Court

11.45am: In a change to the advertised programme ๐Ÿ˜ we stumbled across The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom – just up the road in the direction of Whitehall. We already knew of it, just not exactly where it was.

Architectually, it was a fascinating building with a mix of old (it used to be council offices) and the new (it had been extended and was very light and airy). Free admission too! ๐Ÿ˜

Click on the pic for a larger version
Just an excuse for me to show off the lens on my new phone that blurs the background

It had a very ‘open’ feel to it and was scrupulously clean. Inside there are just four Courts where supreme justice is served, so it’s kept very busy. Deserted today though!! A lovely piece of London! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Even the staircase was beautiful

A very interesting place and well-worth a visit if you’re also planning to see the Abbey, Parliament, Big-Ben etc etc. best of all, given its function, we were left completely free to wander around without any restrictions. ๐Ÿ˜Š

The Banqueting House

The Banqueting House

12.30pm: Next stop (and back on schedule) we arrived at The Banqueting House, home of the famous Charles I’s execution and Ruben’s ceiling – how’s that for contrast!!??

Where’s the Anadin?

Beheading aside, the jaw-dropping moment was easily the Ruben’s ceiling on the first floor…

Err… WOW!

This was a real treat for me and the vibrancy of the colours, let alone the feat of actually creating it in the first place, was mind-blowing! If you’re interested in visiting, the location is easy to miss unless you’re speciafically looking for it. Located between Downing Street and Trafalgar Square, opposite Horse Guards. Price of a (London) pint to get in!

Birthday Lunch

1.15pm: Birthday lunch was at the nearby The Clarence Pub – and perfecly timed as my feet were reminding me how much walking we’d done so far!

Still no candle!

When it comes to food (birthday or not) I’m easily pleased, whilst Ann is far more discerning. The Hake from the specials board found a home with Mrs P, whilst I chose the Chicken Pie and Smashed New Potatoes. One thing we did agree on was the cider – it had to be Aspall on draught!

Cheers!

The National Portrait Gallery

2.05pm: Next stop – and our last for the day – was The National Portrait Gallery. Last time I was here was back in May 2016 with my old prog rocker mate, Ian. We were on our way to see supergroup Yes in concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Just like my previous visit, there was lots to see. Some familiar, others less so, but it made for a very enjoyable experience. For us, the amazing thing was that it was sometimes hard to tell whether it was a painting or a photograph! What a talent!!

Thoughtfully laid out by age, the displays showed-off a wide range of subjects and styles…

It felt like it was perfectly possible stay here ALL DAY and not see the same portait twice!

How many faces do you recognise?

Nice to see very modern interpretations too!

3.45pm: Tomorrow, we’re off to see a Play just up the road (more about that tomorrow), so we thought we’d beat the queues and pick-up our tickets today. It seemed like a good idea, but no such luck, as the Box Office politely informed us that our tickets won’t be ready until 30 minutes before the performance tomorrow. So, it was back on the Tube, as we headed back to the Hotel.

4.35pm: Phew! What a day! I may only feel 19 on the inside, but my feet definitely are all 63 years of me! We hobbled back from Stratford station, picking up some sandwiches along the way – all set for my Birthday Tea (where I’m not expecting candles! ๐Ÿ˜Š)

5.30pm: It’s certainly been an actioned-packed Birthday (just the way I like it) and if I didn’t get round to replying to all your best wishes on social-media, I’m working through them next. For those who sent me cards, as I mentioned earlier, we travelled light and I’m opening those when get home on Saturday – that goes for my presents too! ๐Ÿ˜

Now for a lie-down in a darkened room! ๐Ÿ˜ด

Previous Birthday Celebrations…

2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004

London Mini-Break – Day 1 (of 3)

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We’re on a three-day mini-break in London that’ll incorporate my birthday celebrations tomorrow.

Last time we visited the capital was back in August when we stayed ‘up-west’.

This time though, we’re on the opposite side (literally) and heading for east London where Stratford will be our home for the duration.

9.35am: OK, the weather forecast suggested we won’t need factor 30, but it was far better than when we looked yesterday. Valerie dropped us at the station in good time for our 10.01 departure. The train was slightly late, but made up for it as we sped towards the capital. It was the first time that we noticed the numerous and regularly-spaced new gantries above the track (in preparation for electrification).

Those that know us will not be surprised to hear that whilst we’re down south “We’ve got plans”.
On the list – The theatre; tracking down some new technology; therapy (of the retail kind) and a spell in ‘tourist mode’ sightseeing – courtesy of the popular ‘2-for-1’ deals offered by the railways.

11.05am: We arrived in London pretty much on time. First job was to head for our hotel and either check-in (if they’d let us, as we were early) or failing that, just dump our bags.

The ibis, 1A, Romford Road, Stratford (Gawd blimey guvnor!)

12.15pm: After a tortourous journey by Tube, due to an ‘unspecified incident’ that halted the train (meaning we had to switch to the Northern Line at Bank) we eventually arrived at the ibis. Check-in was super-quick, and we were soon on our way to Room 320.

Not bad for just ยฃ85 per night (including a cooked brekky!)

The room impressed us. We’ve stayed in larger (much larger) affairs, but this had a very modern feel to it and contained everything we needed. One example of how modern it was – it’s the first hotel we’ve stayed in where there wasn’t a phone in the room, replaced instead with a WhatsApp number! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Penny-pinching or smart – you decide!

Location-wise, we’re well positioned here. With Stratford station just down the road, we can get pretty much anywhere in the capital without too much of a stretch.

1.30pm: After catching the 1 o’clock news (Oh, Boris, what have you done!!!) we headed out into ‘darkest’ Stratford. Wow!, it’s certainly changed a lot round here since we both worked in and around the area. The numerous shiny new skyscrapers and apartment-blocks now punctuate the skyline, visually transforming the area from ‘old and run-down’ to a modern city.

Absolutely no sign of the Mitchell Brothers though – EastEnders this most definitely (now) isn’t! ๐Ÿ™„

1.45pm: We began our retail therapy with a visit to Westfield, a short(ish) walk from the hotel. Opened in September, 2011, it’s a gigantic retail space, some 1,910,000 square feet of shops, shops and more shops! Perfect then for us two and our therapy! ๐Ÿ˜ต

2.05pm: After a bit of window-shopping (there’s a lot of windows!), we took a break and stopped off for lunch at The Real Greek. We’d not heard of this chain before, but apparently (at the time of writing) they have another 15 outlets around the UK.

Very efficient service and mouthwatering food meant they’re now definitely added to our list called: ‘Must try some of their other restaurants’. Sensibly priced too! ๐Ÿ˜

2.55pm: With lunch out-of-the-way, we continued our retail therapy and headed for the TK Maxx – probably one of the largest of their outlets we’ve even been to! They were busy too – really busy – with the queue for the (many) checkouts snaking round the displays more akin to a Post-Office queue.

…Meanwhile the nearby M & S was struggling! We played ‘spot the customer’, a game that was over very quickly! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
Happily, the Food Hall was doing better and we picked up a few snacks for our evening meal. ๐Ÿ˜

We called it a day shortly afterwards, and headed back in the direction of the Hotel. With a reasonable step-count for the afternoon, we reflected on the impact of Stratford’s transformation of its retail landscape together with the explosion of new buildings in the immediate area. In my eyes, it was completely unrecognisable from the Stratford I knew back in the 90s.

And yet, even though the architecture had changed, the locals still looked very familiar! Consequently we couldn’t help feel an irrational sense of unease as we mingled amongst the residents of E20. It was nothing we could put our finger on – we love our fellow man – but it was the Stratford of old, pre-Olympics – a place where it was probably wise not to wander the streets after-dark! ๐Ÿค” I did see the Mitchell Brothers and plenty of other ‘dodgy geezers’!

Also on our to-do list was to chase-down some technology! That technology was ‘5G’. In spite of being armed with quite a detailed map, it was nowhere ot be found.

A quick conversation with the nominated ‘tech expert’ in John Lewis proved that he was none the wiser, and he suggested that I try ‘further south’. When we got back to the room, I rang ”3′ my phone provider only to be told that their 5g service has NOT been launched yet in London for mobile-phones (but it had for home-broadband) in spite of what the map suggested.

Well, that’s one less thing to worry about whilst we’re here ! ๐Ÿ˜•

Dining in!

6.00pm: We ate in tonight! The Duck Wrap was very pleasant, but the Gluten/Wheat-free Piri-piri Chicken Wrap (that I’d picked-up in error) was the work of the Devil! ๐Ÿ˜ฃ

The Changing Face of Stratford

It’s been an interesting first day and by way of a change, we’re sight-seeing in central London tomorrow!