Greetings Blog Fans. We had a great day-trip to London yesterday. The prime focus of the trip was to see Les Misérables at the Queen's Theatre. We purchased the tickets some time ago (February?) to get good seats to a Saturday matinee and we decided to make a day of it.
If you are careful about which trains are selected, you can get to London and back to Derby in about 1:30 each way-- much faster and easier than driving/parking though a little more expensive (£83 for the 4 of us with our railcard and very advanced purchase). We took the 8:01/9:34 in and 20:55/22:30 back which gave us about 11 hours in the city.
Perhaps not the most efficient plan, but it suited our needs. Having spent 12 days in London already, we've ticked (that's checked in American) off our top tier sites. One "second tier" site on our list was the Museum of London which is where we spent the bulk of our time before the show.
Our entire day from the map above:
A & K: St Pancras International Train station
B -- quick Tube ride to Barbican
C -- short walk to the Museum of London
D -- short walk to Postman's Park (recommendation from my friends at Fodor's)
E -- short walk to St. Paul's Tube stop
F -- Tube ride to Tottenham Court Rd
G -- Soho Square -- walk by
H -- walk to the Queen's Theatre for Les Mis
I -- walk to Thai Dream for dinner
J-- Bonus walk back to Covent Garden (had extra time)
K -- Tube back to St Pancras
It was quite a relaxed day. If anything I allotted too much time for transportation/walking and we had extra time before the show (though I'm not one to cut it too fine/close) and after dinner.
First stop: the Museum of London
The tagline for the Museum is to "Discover the history of London and its people". It takes you through the pre-Roman "London before London" days, Roman London, Medieval times, War-Plague-Fire, the Expanding City, Victorian times, through to present day. There was a special exhibit on Michael Caine as well, but we didn't have time (or so I thought).
In some ways, it was quite similar to other museums we'd been to in Canterbury, Liverpool, Chester, etc. though on a considerably larger scale (and a bigger focus on London, naturally, but the overall themes are quite similar).
I didn't feel the need to snap a photo of every little knick-knack, but here are a few:
For a long time, the city of London was contained within the walls. Today, it is but a small part and now. "The City" is simply a district (?) that is part of a much larger city.
Side note: Interesting story -- the Romans had a do-over of sorts in London around AD 60 due to one pissed off, and powerful, lady. Text, some paraphrased, from wiki:
Boudica was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
Boudica's husband Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni tribe, who had ruled as a nominally independent ally of Rome, left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman Emperor in his will; however, when he died, his will was ignored —the kingdom was annexed as if conquered, Boudica was flogged, her daughters were raped, and Roman financiers called in their loans.
In AD 60 or 61, while the Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was leading a campaign on the island of Anglesey off the northwest coast of Wales, Boudica led the Iceni, Trinovantes and others in revolt. They destroyed Camulodunum (modern Colchester), and later Londonium, which she burned and destroyed.
This could have been it for Romans in Britain(nia) but they eventually regrouped and stayed around another 300 years or so.
Note: this essentially resulted in the beginning of the insurance industry (after the fact)
zooming ahead some more: very early Black Cab
We enjoyed the museum. Given our self imposed time constraints we rushed through the more recent sections and perhaps we should have skimmed some of the early years instead. At any rate, it's certainly worth a visit but is also appropriately classified as "second tier" given all the other options in London.
One of the random bonuses for the day was a photo exhibit outside of the Museum of London. Here are some of my favorites:
male panda, Yang Guang, from the Edinburgh Zoo (James Glossop, TheTimes)
London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony (Andrew Baker, Freelance)
Saving Private Bainbridge
our favorite due to the quote -- only 11 years old
quick shot of St. Paul's Cathedral on the way to the Tube
Quiz: historical significance of Charles II? Recall that he was the first King back on the throne after Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians reign after the Civil War (i.e.the restoration of the monarchy).
Recall our nice visit to Boscobel House (link), one of Charles II hiding places while on the run.
half-timbred gardener's hut (still in Soho Square)
I just noticed that the plaque for this says:
Bruce (Denny) makes limited edition bronzes of all sizes for exhibition and sale. He is also available for commissioned work and would be happy to discuss his ideas with you.
Anyone? I don't recall such a brazen request near a public monument, but maybe that's just me.
random art in a store front -- for those that don't want to dress like a tourist (or anyone else for that matter)
early birds in our seats (I mentioned we were a little too efficient getting across town) -- 6th row baby
The show was absolutely fantastic. Kuk and I had been here in 2009 when we visited our friends the Lafargues. We all saw, and enjoyed, the movie over Christmas so I thought the kids were ready for the big time (and they were). It's such a powerful performance (I must say it got a little dusty in there at times). So glad we did it.
As you know, we like our food. I've found that "winging it" simply doesn't work often enough so I try to plan ahead. In London, where 11,673 restaurants are rated on TripAdvisor, it can be a little daunting. To help narrow it down, I first decide on an area (though usually through TopTable). Since we had plenty of options (West End, Soho, anywhere between those and St. Pancras), that didn't help that much.
I then picked a cuisine. We haven't had Thai in awhile; the one restaurant in Derby is just okay and overpriced and I've basically given up eating out in town because of the price/time and what I cook at home isn't so bad anyway.
There were quite a few options in Soho/Chinatown but they seemed a little expensive and still had mixed reviews. I then found this little gem near Holburn: "Locals in the know will tell you that Thai Dream is one of the last authentic, family-run Thai restaurants in Bloomsbury."
I liked this review in particular:
If you like:
1) a choice of more than a couple of wines (and ideally over £14 a bottle)
2) the sort of place where the barman/waiter isn't helping his laughing 6 year-old relative to practice handwriting at the bar
3) somewhere where the person cooking the food doesn't bring it to your table in person when its ready
4) a "concept" ambiance, where the music is more consistently themed than ranging between Portishead, James Brown, Dusty Springfield and some other randomness I forget.
...then this isn't the place for you.
The food was great and reasonably priced (£71). And yes, it was very much family run.
[Note to the Americans out there -- you will quickly have indigestion if you mentally convert £ to $ for food. By and large, it's the same "number" for comparable value. That is, even though that £71 meal cost $110, it's "like" getting a $71 meal in the States, if that makes sense. Food is expensive here, no doubt.]
The service was also quick enough that we had time to head back to one of Alex's favorite places, Covent Garden. He likes all the performers (in fact I recall seeing the same magician in the same square from our trip in October).
After a walk around we head back to the Tube and eventually the train. Back to Derby by 10:30 and home by 10:45. Tired and happy.
Have a good week everyone. No post next week as we are heading back to Scotland for the half term break (yippee!).