Sunday, June 12, 2016

Passport to Pimlico

Day 1 (Thursday)

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Dolphin House Serviced Apartments

So, here we are at the Dolphin House Serviced Apartments in Pimlico, London, for a short break. It’s an opportunity for us to be tourists for a few days, and take in the sights and sounds of the Capital. Wow! the Apartment provides everything – a spa, a grill …and a gym (bugger!) What we hadn’t realised when we booked this was that it was also the weekend of the Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations – cue a VERY busy London!

First impressions of our Apartment were good. It’s a sizeable space with a separate bedroom, a small kitchen (with two rings, a fridge and a microwave), a lounge and a bathroom (with a full-sized bath!)

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Superb Spec!

After unpacking followed by a quick cuppa, we slipped into FTM (full tourist mode) and headed off to Tate Britain. It’s not my first choice of Galleries – but it was good to look round and see the variety of exhibits on show. And what a mix! from the weird to the wonderful: dancers dressed in red, prancing along a white line painted on the floor, and in a room not far away, the massive Turner Exhibition. No prizes for guessing my preference, but ‘each to their own’ as they say!

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Typical Range of Exhibits!

Not only were we in FTM, we were doing it all on foot, attempting to avoid lifts and wheeled transport whenever and wherever we could. And so the great yomp began and we trekked past Millbank… Houses of Parliament and then into Haymarket, all in the general direction of Piccadilly Circus - and our final destination: The Criterion Theatre.
 
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We were a bit early for the Theatre, so we looked for somewhere to eat and stumbled upon Byron. We’d not heard of this burger-chain before, but the menu looked very un-McDonald’s, it wasn’t that busy, and the decor looked comfortable. Once we were seated, the place quickly filled-up. Obviously, this place is a ‘known’ and we weren’t to be disappointed – yummy food, fuss-free with a happy-smiley waiter too! All-in-all, a perfect start to our evening.

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Byron Burger!

But we were still too early for the Theatre, so we headed off for the ultimate in retail therapy: Fortnum and Mason’s in Piccadilly. Posh or what!? with prices to match. It’s the only shop I’ve ever been to that sells TWO shades of Lime Marmalade! There’s posh!

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Retail is (definitely) Detail!

Having kept a firm hold on Ann’s purse, we were off (finally) to the quaint 588-seater Criterion Theatre to see ‘The Comedy about a Bank Robbery’. I haven’t been here since Angela and I saw The 39 Steps back in April 2014. It’s a very unique building with beautiful tiling on the inside walls and it has a really small scale feel to it. Lovely!

Criterion Theatre

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The Criterion Theatre

Well, what about the Play itself? It came with plenty of good recommendations from the newspapers, but that’s sometimes not a guarantee is it?! We needn’t have worried though: the audience were giggling within minutes of the first scene – and it just got better, and better (and better!). I thought at one point I was going to wet myself (sorry Mum!) – it was hilarious… but it didn’t stop there! Everything about it was entertaining. They acted their hearts out – and some! They sang, they danced and changed their own scenery.  The creative use of the acting-space was just amazing and I think they really pushed the boundaries of what can be accomplished on a three-dimensional stage. Spoiler alert! Go to the loo BEFORE it starts, you’ll thank us for it later – especially the scene with the jug! ‘nuf said!

If you like your humour ‘obvious’, a bit corny and very visual, this has to be the best Play you’ll ever see (unless you get to see their first – ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ – and their next: ‘The Pantomime that Goes Wrong’). I won’t give away the overall plot here to tonight’s performance, but I guarantee your jaw will be on the floor once you’ve seen it. British Comedy Theatre at its best – and quirky too!

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And, at just before 10pm, it was all over – and the cast (and us, the audience) looked exhausted – for all the right reasons. Wow!

We headed out of the Theatre and walked all the way back to the Apartment, retracing our inbound walk more-or-less step-for-step. London was buzzing – as it always is – but the very overt presence of armed police looked, on the surface at least, to be something to be concerned about. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as we first thought though as we realised that there had been a ‘Beating Retreat’ event a little earlier and everyone was clearing up – including the Police and their rifles.

By 10.30 we were back at the Apartment… knackered!

More London-fun tomorrow!


Day 2 (Friday)

After a late, late Breakfast, it was off in search of the sites in the direction of Victoria.

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Look what we found on the way to Breakfast!

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Westminster Cathedral (RC)

First stop, was the rather splendid Westminster Cathedral. Unfortunately based on the ‘hand on my shoulder’ after we sat down to listen to the man-in-cloth up the front, no photography was allowed! Today’s sermon was on the ancient act of a man writing down ‘I divorce you’ three times if he wanted to re-marry. Powerful stuff, but to me, his voice was all a bit depressing and down-beat. We left for a look round the shops nearby before doing some people-watching in the very busy Victoria Station.
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Busy Busy!

Then it was off to The Grosvenor Hotel, Victoria (the location of my first blog on the 23rd May, 2004 -  Back in the day, I was there on business and whilst waiting for the client, I attempted to get my head around this new thing called ‘blogging’). Back to 2016 and we were here to meet up with Connie, Dad’s ex-work colleague and who we’ve kept in touch with since his passing.

The Grosvenor Hotel - Victoria
The Grosvenor Hotel, Victoria

Connie was in good spirits (as always), unfortunately, the restaurant staff were not! and although the meal itself was excellent, the indifference of the waiters coupled with the table next to us allowing  their three monsters little cherubs to literally ‘run amok’ and test their lungs for screaming volume, rather took the edge of the experience. I took the opportunity to demonstrate the  infamous ‘Palmer-Stare’ at their mother who, a few minutes later, got up and left! More likely a coincidence, but it felt good. We said goodbye to Connie just before 2.30 and then took the rather longish walk to Oxford Street.

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Scenes along the way to John Lewis

We took in Buckingham Palace along the route as well as Bond Street (no, we can’t afford THAT!). We got the impression that you’ve got to be rich to even DRIVE down this road based on the number of personalised number plates and, wait for it… the GOLDEN (not gold) Range Rover parked outside one of the gazillion jewellers!

Our final stop for the day was Oxford Street’s John Lewis. We haven’t seen it since its revamp and it looked splendid! Every department was at least twice the size of our nearest branch in Leicester – and everything was dressed within an inch of its life!

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Someone loves Cushions!

The TV department was simply massive – as were the TVs themselves and it’s the only store I’ve seen with a separate ‘smart home’ section – the freezer with the built-in Tablet caught my attention as well as the rather gorgeous J-series Samsung 4k UHD HDR TV (three-letter acronym translation available on request!)
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A quick stop in the basement food-hall and we were all set for our carpet picnic tonight.

4pm and our feet were now killing us. So (even though we’d promised to walk everywhere) this was a perfect opportunity to jump on one of the new Routemaster buses to take us back to Victoria Station. From there, we hobbled back to the Apartment just in time for the six o’clock news.

Knackered again – but for all the right reasons!

Tomorrow, we’re heading for Woolwich Arsenal for a look round and then we’re meeting up with our friends Rosi and David who are also staying in London.


Day 3 (Saturday)

After a quick breakfast we were out the door by 8.45 and heading ON FOOT TO the first Thames Clipper of the day from the London Eye. We were heading for Royal Arsenal (the final stop on the Clipper’s route) and the Armaments museum called Firepower.

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The Most Scenic Way to get Across London

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We’re Here…

The journey took just under the hour (longer, but it’s much more scenic than the Tube). On arrival, the place was already buzzing with people and there was a local market there too.

Inside the Museum, it was all very impressive, and well worth the trip.

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Very Impressive Exhibits

However, the saddest news of all was that in spite of the impressive range of exhibits, we learned that the place is due to close in a month to make way for a dance studio! It’s been re-located to Salisbury and therefore removing the link with the local area.

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After a quick look round the local Woolwich Market in Beresford Square, it was a short walk to Woolwich Arsenal DLR where we took the shortish ride to Tower Gateway. Our plan was to hopefully get a good vantage point of the Queen’s 90th celebrations on the River. We didn’t hold out much hope, but we thought we’d give it a go anyway! We headed for the Tower of London and looked for a suitable place to position ourselves. As luck would have it, we found the perfect view of Tower Bridge and and had a reasonably good view of the flotilla accompanying the Royal Barge, Gloriana.

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God Bless you Ma’am!

…and if that wasn’t a stroke of luck, we also managed to get a table for two overlooking the River at a Bistro called Coppa Club
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Prime Position

Great food, blisteringly fast service, a perfect temperature and a first-class view of the River proceedings! – it doesn’t get any better than this.

Then it was off to catch-up with our friends Rosi and David, who, quite by chance, were also in London to see the Flypast over Buckingham Palace. After a quick phone-call to establish the best place for a meet-up, we took the Tube back to Victoria and headed for their location – The Rubens Hotel. We had a small bite to eat and caught up with all their news before taking the walk up to Covent Garden. Luckily, we’d missed the rain shower that did its stuff whilst we were inside the Hotel. Highlight of the walk for me was the big screen at Piccadilly Circus and also the shock of seeing a dozens of cyclists completely NAKED, (yes you read that correctly!) biking their way in protest of car-drivers – much to the delight of the Police and public alike. I think the only people who might have NOT enjoyed it would have been cycle-clip manufacturers! No photographs unfortunately!! as it took us all by surprise and they were gone in a flash! (see what I did there!?)
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Piccadilly Circus (Honest!)

After a quick look round, Covent Garden, we decided to rest our feet at the nearest place that had seats, beer and chips (in that order!).

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Corny Name or What!?

Step forward the pun-laden Rock and Sole Plaice where, in spite of the waiter’s initial reluctance to let us have any chips WITHOUT fish, did us proud and ticked all our three boxes!

5.30: Time to call it a day and we all headed off in the direction of Covent Garden Tube – together with the most of mankind it seemed! We didn’t have to wait long and we were soon back at the Apartment totting-up the number of miles we’d walked today. It turned out to be a total of NINE miles – that’s a new daily record for us and our feet confirmed it!

It’s been a great few days – and confirmed our liking for Apartments over Hotel rooms (especially when they’re the same price): superb location, lots of walking, good food and a chance to catch-up for some quality time with friends. Now it’s back to reality as we need to pack as, we’re checking out tomorrow first thing.

I finished off the evening by watching the most appropriate film for our stay – Passport to Pimlico!

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Passport to Pimlico (1949)

Bye-bye London – until the next time!