My daughter and I are back home again after a long weekend away in London. It’s a little trip we made as we await her final exams results. We booked it for this past weekend as Monday was a holiday here (Pentecost), I had also worked a little extra to compensate for taking Friday off as well and we flew out Thursday evening.
We had been told to get to Schiphol airport (Amsterdam) three hours ahead of time as there have been big delays at security due to staff shortages. As I finished work early on Thursday, we decided to leave sooner and just have a little extra time. In hindsight absolutely not necessary; we got through security 16 minutes after arriving at the airport by train! That included getting to security, an extra search of both our small suitcases (apparently Dutch cheese can be mistaken for explosives!) and an extra pat down for my daughter. We figured we’d have enough time to get dinner but several restaurants were closed and in the end all we had were very overpriced sandwiches. To add to the endless wait our flight to London Gatwick turned out to be delayed by an hour and a half! After killing over 5 hours at the airport, we finally departed…
… and didn’t land in Gatwick till close to midnight. When we got off the plane we were stuck behind locked doors at the end of a hall for another 15 minutes, before they were apologetically opened and we could proceed on to passport control. That meant that the train we had planned on taking wasn’t running anymore and the underground we were supposed to connect to wasn’t running anymore either. We were lucky to find a train into London, then were able to switch to a nightbus and finally got to my brother’s house in Hampstead at just after 2 am. Things did get better after that.
On Friday it was my brother’s birthday. His 18 year old daughter, my niece, was home for the weekend (studying for her final exams that she’s in the middle of right now) and had arranged a delicious birthday cake for him…
…we had brought a few gifts and after the little celebration, my daughter and I went into town. First walking to Camden market, about 20 minutes away from where my brother lives. We went into this huge, trendy fashion store, Cyberdog, where an actual DJ was playing music and I was very tempted to buy a smiley t-shirt (if only they had had it in old lady large sizes!)…
We then took the underground to Central London and walked around Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown, we walked up The Mall until we got to a closure, so we couldn’t get closer to Buckingham Palace than in the pictures below. We hadn’t realized it at the time when we booked, but our trip coincided with the Queen’s 70 year Jubilee and as you can see, boy was London crowded, with flags everywhere.
At the end of the afternoon we were quite pooped. We ducked into St. James’s park, just off The Mall, and along with so many others, rested and relaxed on the grass for about an hour before we were due to meet my brother and my niece for a nice birthday dinner at a delicious Turkish restaurant. As a surprise my niece had also arranged to have some friends and her maternal granddad come to the restaurant and we had a really nice birthday dinner for my brother there.
The next day was Tower Bridge day for mini-me and I. We decided on a very late warm lunch (mini-me picked Five Guys with view on Tower Bridge) so we wouldn’t have to deal with that in the evening when we had other plans. We walked along the South Bank for a while, then went on to Westminster for a quick look, ending the afternoon by taking a bus back to my brother’s house to drop off our bags.
In the evening we stopped by Covent Garden and ate simple crepes before heading to the theatre to watch Mamma Mia. The musical was a lot of fun! They asked the audience to not sing along to the songs during the show but to wait for the end. Then indeed, during the finale in no time everyone was was up and clapping, dancing and singing along. It was joyous.
Afterwards we walked on to Leicester Square, took the underground to Camden and met up with my brother and niece to go clubbing in a club my niece had heard of but never been to. My niece and daughter had been talking about wanting to do that, to see how we ‘old people’ would fare. They just couldn’t imagine that when we were younger my brother and I had gone to dance clubs together as well. While we were on the dancefloor my brother admitted to me that the last time he’d been out to a club to dance was maybe 10 years ago and I think that may be pretty much as long since I’ve been to one as well (a 1980s night, if I recall correctly). I think the girls wanted to see us go all out and get drunk but while we all did have a few drinks, no one went that far. My daughter did learn that she likes a gin & tonic (my brother’s drink) and my niece learned that she liked the taste of Baileys (my drink)…
For the next day (Sunday) mini-me and I had planned to spend a few hours in the Victoria and Albert museum and then also walk through nearby Harrods. As the previous night had gotten very late and we slept in long, we had to make a choice as both would be closing at 5 pm and we wouldn’t be getting there until 2 or so. This was mini-me’s trip and she picked Harrods. We walked around, wowed by prices and oppulence (not only in Harrods but also in the cars you see outside in the nearby streets) and as we were quite tired, we ended up in a nearby pub where we had a pie (me) and a burger (she). We were getting a little chilly and our feet were quite exhausted from all the walking and dancing we’d been doing, so we opted for an early evening movie at the cinema close to my brother’s house (while he was driving my niece back to school in Cambridge at that time), away from the crowds in the city. We watched the Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum film The Lost City. Not great, not terrible, just enjoyable light fare for our exhausted feet and minds.
On Monday, our final day in London arrived. My brother worked from home while mini-me and I decided to go to Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath. We had wanted to try the V&A museum, but there was a strike by underground stations staff and we figured it best to avoid the underground altogether that day. We took the bus to Kenwood House, had a scone and some tea there (and mini-me fed a little robin) and walked around Kenwood House. We then went back to where my brother lives, walked around the neighbourhood there (and past Emma Thompson’s house, which is maybe 20 minutes away on foot from where my brother lives – her house isn’t in the pictures I share here) and did some last minute pre-packaged scones and Jubilee magazine (for my mother) shopping before heading back.
My brother drove us to Luton airport for our return flight and we got there two and a half hours before time. Again we were lucky: no long queues for security and we were through pretty quickly. We had enough time to actually sit down for a dinner. Then, after dinner, we got the news that our 8 pm flight to Amsterdam had been canceled, like so many other flights had been recently! Our only option was a flight home the next day, on Tuesday afternoon at just after 4 pm! We also had to book our own hotel for the night that they said would get refunded (it made more sense for us to book a nearby hotel than to travel all the way to my brother and then back again the next day). I immediately got on to Booking.com and found the closest still availabe hotel, which was about a 10 minute walk away.
When we got to the hotel the lady at the desk was telling other stranded passengers who had also just booked on their phones that the hotel was overbooked! I started checking other hotels while we waited, just in case, but there were no vacancies anywhere near where we were. When it was our turn we were lucky, there was a room available for us after all (and in the end for those two women who had been ahead of us as well, it turned out). Mini-me and I eased the pain with a Smirnoff with coke for her and a Baileys for me and I had to get in touch with work, letting them know I wouldn’t be there on Tuesday. We were also able to arrange a late check out of the hotel for the next day, and after refreshments, made our way back to the airport and finally flew home again yesterday afternoon.
Despite the weird end with a canceled flight, we’d really had a great time and it was so good to re-connect with my brother and niece again. There were also some lessons learned from this trip:
- I’m glad our summer holiday this year will not involve any flights.
- I need to get better (newer) walking shoes before the summer.
- Jubilees are better watched on TV than experienced live. It was just too crowded and we avoided being where the celebrations were for most of the time.
- If I do get Covid, then I must have gotten it while in London. Time will tell.
- Clubbing – been there and done that for the most part. It is only fun when you like and know the music but the club we went to (despite a nice dance beat) only played 3 songs I knew in the 3 hours we were there. If it hadn’t been for the girls and seeing them enjoy themselves, I would have left way sooner.
- I wish I could go out to a London theatre every week.
- It’s always fun having some alone time with one of my kids.
I have no idea when, but I am already looking forward to my next London trip.