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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Never will I tire of London… & cruising is just my thing!

Well we are home now for just over a week already and I still am coming back down to earth! Our holiday was so much more fun than we even expected. We left on 21 June for London. We arrived to the most perfect weather - hot and sunny for the full 5 days we were there. 20 Years ago when we were there last, it was so cold we had to go buy warmer clothes. So this weather was fabulous!

The hotel arranged a shuttle service to collect us at Heathrow and we were in the hotel within an hour. We had chosen The Athenaeum Hotel on Piccadilly Street as they have apartments as well as the usual hotel rooms. The apartments are fabulous for families as they have a small (miniscule actually), but fully equipped kitchenette with Nespresso machine, washing machine/tumble drier (soap included), fridge/freezer, stocked with cold drinks, and snacks in a basket which all gets replenished daily.

We waited for our room for around an hour as we had got there really early, but we enjoyed coffee and hot chocolate with pastries in the Garden Room. This room is also where you can have afternoon tea (English-style). Really beautifully decorated in an eclectic style where old meets new and shades of cream , orange and brown predominate. Albeit rather expensive on our South African budget, we still really enjoyed our welcome coffee.




Our apartment was simply gorgeous. Decorated in a traditional English style with pressed ceilings, solid doors and pretty furnishings. The views were of the quaint street (Down Street) below, where the entrance to our apartment building was.

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The kids had a sofa bed in the lounge, and we had a separate bedroom with ensuite. There was also a niche off the lounge with a breakfast table and chairs. The kids were spoilt with milk & cookies every night. The cookies were in the shape of the little bird which is the Athenaeum’s logo. So this was our home from home for 5 nights. So perfect!

Our first day, once we had checked in, we were exhausted, so we unpacked, had a shower and relaxed a bit in the apartment while the kids played Wii games which were provided in the apartment. The Wii & DVD’s turned out to be a real blessing as the kids could occupy themselves while we read or planned our next day.

Our first afternoon we spent at Harrods, which was a quick minute walk from our hotel. The kids loved Harrods, and we ended up going back twice more! Shannon & walked there one afternoon to buy her “Edward” doll (from Twilight) & then we went back on our last day just for fun as we enjoyed it so.

The next morning we headed for the Hop-on-hop-off bus and did a round trip of London. It took almost three hours. Reece got a bit bored in the end, only perking up when  he saw a landmark he recognised. Before we left, I had shown them some pictures in the travel guide I had bought, so they had fun finding the famous sights they recognised.

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After the bus trip, we got off at Piccadilly Circus and headed for Hamley’s. Reece was in awe! Although Shannon, at 13, is no longer keen on toys, she still enjoyed seeing the variety and she insisted on a Hamley’s bear as she already had adopted the one in our room at the Athenaeum. Reece bought a remote-controlled helicopter which is so cute. It is virtually unbreakable too- which is a bonus, since the last one he had didn’t last two flights! Leon was they main instigator in buying the helicopter – he was back to his childhood in the boy’s toy department & I honestly think he had more fun than the kids!

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After Hamley’s we found an English pub and enjoyed yummy fish ‘n chips in good ole British tradition for a late lunch. The English soccer team was playing that afternoon in the World Cup, so there was a great atmosphere in the streets too. We even heard someone blowing a Vuvuzela outside!

We flopped into bed that night fairly late as the sun only set at 10.30pm so going to bed when it was still daylight didn’t feel quite right.

On Thursday, we caught the underground to Waterloo Station and from there caught a train to Windsor (Windsor & Eton-riverside) to finally board a shuttle bus for Legoland which is situated just outside the quaint village of Windsor.

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Can you tell that Reece enjoyed his day at Legoland? He had such fun. We found it to be geared more toward smaller children, but Reece enjoyed it nonetheless as Lego is his all-time favourite pass time. The “Big Store” at the entrance to Legoland, was our final stop and of course, he had to buy a couple of things. We had to keep the shopping to a minimum as we still had so much more to see and do and we were worried about our suitcase weight going home. I wouldn’t dash back to Legoland again. I feel we could have rather enjoyed the day in London, or even Windsor itself, but for Reece’s sake, it was worth going.

Our last two days in London were spent walking the streets, the parks, going to Buckingham Palace (which was a short walk through Green Park away from the hotel), and eating and eating and eating! We were spoilt for choice when it came to restaurants and pubs and we really enjoyed the quaint area two blocks from our hotel called “Sheperd’s Market” which was named after Edward Sheperd who built it in the mid 18th century. During the 17th century, the annual May fair was held on this site and hence the name of the area, Mayfair. We ate at a little Italian restaurant the one night and then again at “L’Autre” which serves Polish and Mexican food.

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If you have 9 square metres of space, you can set up a restaurant here! Even the narrow sidewalk can accommodate a teeny table for two. The Kings arms pub looked like this every night. I guess it’s a local hangout after work – and everyone simply stands outside, drink in hand having a chat.

I don’t think anyone believes me when I say we spent 5 days in London and did not put a foot inside a museum, church, palace or art gallery! And yet we had a ball! We simply took in the sights, sounds and smells of the city. The kids shopped, stood with their mouths open in awe & devoured ice-cream, Leon became the English gentleman by shopping in the fabulous men’s outfitters on Jermyn street in Piccadilly and I loved the architecture, the culture and simply absorbed it all!

065 066   These photos are the outside of the hotel with the “Garden” growing on it, called the Living Wall. It has living plants growing all the way up the outside corner. Every time we walked past, there was someone taking a photo of it!

Green Park:


My favourite shop : Fortnum & Mason:

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The Stafford hotel where we had dinner in the fabulous American bar…

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From Green Park’s Queen’s Walk, (next to the Ritz hotel) we crept through this little tunnel to a small side street with an entrance to The Stafford Hotel. All part of the fun! Thanks to my SIL, Denise, for the recommendation. The ceiling of the pub is decorated with flags, caps, ties and all sorts of things (read bra’s – LOL!) which have been left there over the years by the patrons. The bar has a multitude of pictures & memorabilia on the walls, many signed, by famous actors, musicians etc. Apparently this was also a favourite party place for the late Diana, Princess of Wales. So much history here!

Sir Winston Churchill once said :

“When you are tired of London, You are tired of Life” 

We can’t wait to go back!

As for cruising… that’s another blog post….coming soon!


Anonymous said...

Hey V, looks like you had an awesome holiday. Love the photo of you on the bus, cute hat :)

Bonnie said...

Hey Vee
Wow, what a fun time it looks like you had! I laughed at the vuvuzela thing! I don't think the world will ever be the same again!! Apparently they were said to be heard in the background of the Tour De France broadcasting!! ha ha!

I was in England for 3 weeks last year, loved it! But only in London for two days. I didn't have time to really savor and enjoy the city and the time I was there, it was raining, cold and dismal and I was homesick! We did a red bus tour and visited Madame Toussauds and ate at two places and I visited a local pub with my brother. We also walked along the Thames river by Richmond and he took me to Kew Gardens which I really enjoyed!

I wish I could take my boy to Lego land one day, he is still very into lego at 9!

Thanks for sharing your visit and photos, I so enjoyed reading it!