London at last
1 Aug 2019
|Thursday 1st August
It is a short walk to the train station, tickets to London cost £16.40 ($31). At Waterloo we buy two Oyster cards and put a fiver on them, £20 ($38). From Waterloo we take a bus as the tube station is too busy at Russell Sq, and there are lots of stairs. We are staying at Smart Russsell Square, a favourite hostel from when we were last here, £66.70 ($127) for two nights. The hostel has changed a lot, as have the customers. The big bathroom in the basement has gone (just six shower cubicles, the rest of the area has been converted to bedrooms), and many bedrooms now have an ensuite. Apparently there was a lot of demand from guests not to have to traipse all the way down to the basement to use the shower (admittedly it was a bloody nuisance). There is a big locker room, at the expense of the big kitchen, which is very, very small now. Breakfast used to be included, but now it is £2 ea, unless you book direct on-line, when most times it is included.
We don’t do too much more today, mostly relaxing at the hostel after having a quick wander around the area.
Friday 2nd August
We walk down to Trafalgar Square to meet Tina Wishart for coffee. We met her and Lloyd in China 8 years ago, and we stayed with them for a few days when we first got to London in 2011. After meeting Tina we go for a walk around the area, noting the unusual “walk” signs at traffic lights. We guess they are permanent, with a range of different LBGT symbols. We spend time at St James Park, and Cynthea decides she should pop in to the walk in clinic to check on her cough. She has finished the medication the doctor in Brackley gave her, and things are no better.
We have a couple of choices, and decide to head towards the one more or less in the direction of the hostel where we are staying. On the way there Cynthea telephones the Soho clinic, who advise her to call the local non-emergency numbers to speak to a nurse to get assessed before coming in, as another clinic may be more appropriate. The number happens to be 111, our emergency number back in NZ. Even though we have UK sim cards, the NZ phone Cynthea is using overrides the call and diverts it to the UK emergency number, 999. We are reluctant to call 111 again, so decide to walk to the Soho clinic to be seen. There are a lot of distractions on the way, including the theatre that features the Harry Potter plays (both parts). We check for spare tickets, but they are only available for Part 2, and the seats are not that great, so we give it a miss. Maybe we can see it some other time. We are told that there are tickets released at 10am each day, but you have to be there in person, and there is usually a queue. The other problem is that both parts often play different days, we will see how things go tomorrow.
Around 2pm we at the Soho clinic, there is a bit of a wait, as expected there are quite a few ahead of us. About an hour and a half later, Cynthea is seen and referred to the Emergency Clinic at Westminster Bridge – all the way back past where we had been earlier this afternoon. She is referred there not because there is an emergency, but because they have the x-ray machine needed to check things out further. So it is another good walk back through the theatre district, with more distractions, to Westminster Bridge, arriving there after about half an hour.
Plenty to see on the way, including the scam artists on the bridge playing spot the ball under the cup. Cynthea is horrified when Tony stops to play, he has correctly guessed the cup the hides the ball, and the scammer asks him to cough up £50 to play. Tony hands over £50, but the guy asks him to confirm the cup again, but Tony is adamant he already did that. He doesn’t trust that the ball was not shifted while Tony was distracted. Tony tells him to piss off and takes his money back. The guy next to Tony (who was part of the scam), “picks” the right cup and claims the £50. Tony gets his ear bent for being so silly.
We spend around four hours at the clinic, getting various tests and x-rays done. Cynthea is given the all clear, and sent on her way. It is 9pm, and near dark, by the time we leave, walking through to Waterloo to catch the bus back to Russell Square. Almost 14km covered today, no wonder we are shattered.
Saturday 3rd August
We are not sure how long we are staying, so are rebooking rooms as we go, the hostel is also very busy with a couple of group bookings, so we have to change rooms often. Next lot costs £41 ($79), and we store our bags for a couple of hours while we wait for the next room to be ready. The powerbank to recharge our phones has died, it was only bought in March, but somewhere along the way it has been dropped, there is a dent in one corner. Not sure how that happened, as the unit has been kept in a padded case, hmmm. Tony goes for a walk to Oxford St and gets a replacement at Curry’s, £35 ($67), for a powerful 20,000maH unit. It is a heavy beast… He gives the old one to the staff to recycle it.
Back at the hostel we book our flights with AirCanada CA$412 ($491), to fly Calgary to Vancouver, Eva Air Vancouver to Vietnam, via Taipei, CA$1132 ($1354), AirCanada again (this time with baggage!) for some reason this time it is in pounds, £268 ($516), the first airfare is refunded, but exchange rates mean we drop a wee bit, $472 back, at least we could refund it, and it was cheaper than buying additional baggage separately.
After lunch we meet up with Malcolm Flint, our friend who was also Cristan’s mate, and who took care of Cristan’s funeral in 2012. It is a mission to meet up with him, as we keep getting our wires crossed aver where we are to meet at Russell Square. We need a beer or two after that! Just as well there is a pub close by. While sitting in the bar we notice a film crew outside, they spend a few hours there shooting a scene, that will probably last all of 20 seconds if it makes it to the final cut.
Later Tony takes a walk down to Covent Garden and on to Leicester Square, to see what shows are available last minute. The cheap seats are not that great, but there are a couple available to see the Tina Turner Story, £112 ($215) gets us two seats in the very back row downstairs. Tony is told that the stage is slightly obscured by the overhang from the floor above, but that the disruption is minimal. The only trouble is that there is only just over an hour before it starts, and it is a fair hike back to the hostel to get changed, and then get down to the Aldwych Theatre. Tony phones Cynthea to confirm that we have tickets, but that it is tight timing to get there. He asks if she can get his gear ready for a quick change and then get cracking. We leave the hostel around 7pm, no taxis are available, so it is a fast walk, taking us 25 minutes. We have no time for snacks or drinks, and the show starts very soon after we take our seats. The view is not too bad, and the only time we cannot see all of the show is at the end when there are stairs used on stage (you can only see “Tina” from the knees down while she is at the top of the stair case!). It is a great show, and we thoroughly enjoy it.
Afterwards Cynthea is adamant she is not walking back, and we take a very fast rickshaw ride back to Russell Square, man that guy could pedal. It is a fun end to the night. Almost 13km walked today.
Sunday 4th August
We have a “rest” day, but Tony gets cabin fever, and goes for a walk in the early evening, back to Covent Gardens, Leicester Square and Chinatown. There is so much to see there, always something happening. A decent 8km walked today, with lots of entertainment in the Square.
Monday 5th August
Another room change, £37 ($71) and we are in a room where the bunks are three high! Tony is on the top level (it is a long way up!), and Cynthea is in the middle row.
Tony heads down to Leicester Square for theatre tickets. There is nothing good for Harry Potter, so he heads to the Prince of Wales where Book of Morman is playing. There are none left for tonight, they don’t play Wednesday, but there are two for Thursday, tickets are £115 ($221) for two seats in the second row back from the stage. A wee bit close to the stage for Tony’s liking, but he will cope.
Later we both come back to the Square for a look around, Legoland shop and M&M’s stores are here, but it is very expensive, so we are just looking. Lots of walking for Tony today, 14km.
Tuesday 6th August
We meet Adam at Covent Gardens, Adam has had lunch but we haven’t, and Cynthea fancies Chinese. We go to a restaurant that when we get in looks a bit on the pricey side, so we only get three entree dishes to share, £38! ($73). Cynthea wants to go shoe shopping, Tony made the mistake of telling her where he found an Allbirds store. She has been wanting a pair for some time. Tony and Adam head off for a walk and leave her to it. Adam takes Tony to a great wee coffee shop that looks like it has been built into an old underground entrance. Probably was! Great coffee, and a hilarious sense of humour in the signs around. We had a great time catching up.
Back at Russell Square we meet Glenn and Bryce at the pub for a couple beers and tea. Tomorrow they start their walk of the Thames path, from the sea barrier to the source. It will take them 17 days to cover around 190 miles. Tony would like to go with them part of the way, but we don’t have the time.
Plenty of walking today, just under 10km.
Wednesday 7th Aug
Cynthea is worried she is bleeding internally, so we are off to the medical walk-in clinic again. All is well, thankfully
Tonight we go to see Book of Morman, rude, crude and vulgar, and very irreverent. It is hilarious.
Just over 6km walked today