After a fairly protracted trip from Germany to England, involving a tram, four trains, a tube and a Toyota Prius (the last five miles of the trip were therefore fairly environmentally friendly), we have now arrived into a glorious English summer, where I am delighted to report a steady and persistent drizzle is upon us.
The transport for most of the way was fairly smooth. The German side of the equation was, as one would expect, efficient and on time. Travelling from the village of Walberberg to the airport of Cologne/Bonn was a relaxed and easy affair. Of course, as soon as we entered the side of the transport system which involved English transportation mechanics, it went a tiny bit off the rails. The flight was delayed slightly, but not too much. The train that then whisked us into central London was, at least, rather timely. And then I decided that a patented guided walk along the Thames from our arrival point at London Bridge, to our meeting point for lunch with some friends just near Westminster, was in order.
If you don’t have much time in London, and are just passing through, a walk from London Bridge to the Houses of Parliament is one of the easiest ways to get as many sights in as possible. Just take the Thames Path along the south side of the river and you will see a whole manner of sights, starting with Tower Bridge, passing the beautifully recognisable St. Paul’s Cathedral, past the replica of the Golden Hinde, along the front of the rather imposing former power station that is the Tate Modern (and accompanying odd looking Millenium Bridge over the river), past the quaint Gabriel’s Wharf and then onto the South Bank arts area proper, where you can take in the hilariously angular South bank arts centre area, including the Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery. If you happen to be in slightly less of an Easyjet inspired rush, you could even stop at some of these destinations for a peruse. In our case, however, we rushed on, past the skating park under the South Bank and to the Jubilee Bridge, from where you can see the massive ferris wheel that is the London Eye, and right down the sweep of the Thames to the Houses of Parliament and the Ministry of Defence buildings. If I had had even the tiniest amount of time to spare, a visit to Gordons wine bar, just next to Charing Cross and set in an underground cave, would have been entirely in order. Sadly this was not to be.
Obviously, when doing a rapid fire walking tour, it is important to know your audience. Rambling on at length about the brilliance of Sir Wren’s architectural triumphs is likely to fall on deaf ears if your charge happens to be more interested in which parts of the Thames featured in the most recent Harry Potter movie. I predict I will be strung up when my other half reads this.
Finally, after swinging through Trafalgar Square, and peering down the length of the Mall to the dot that was Buckingham Palace, we arrived at our lunchtime destination, a friendly pub on Whitehall, just across the road from the Horseguards and number ten downing street, possibly setting a world record for number of sights seen in a forty minute walking tour.
Lunch was a passable affair, despite the efforts of the barstaff to keep us sat at our table, and not destroying the system by ordering actual drinks from the actual bar. They exacted their revenge upon us by delivering Vera’s salmon well after the rest of us had finished. The food was excellent nevertheless, one of the finest pub burgers I have had in a long time. Some people measure restaurants by their eggs, personally I prefer a less complex and more meat filled burger ranking system. This one did well.
After lunch it was another quick dash across London, this time by tube (although if we hadn’t been lugging heavy backpacks, the new cycle hire scheme would have been put to good use, there are stands literally everywhere) to Paddington, where our train to Oxford had happily been cancelled. It’s always a pleasure to introduce someone new to the vagaries of the English transportation system, and the railways in particular. Still, with some helpful advice from a nearby staff member, we navigated our way to Oxford via an alternative route, and managed to arrive only two minutes later than we had planned. Where our lift was awaiting, to carry us in fine style to our lodgings for the next few days. More on these to follow in another post.