29.10.2016 - 31.10.2016
London was the first overseas city I visited, and I remember the excitement I felt in advance of that visit almost thirty years ago. I've visited a few times since then and the excitement never seems to wane.
Having disembarked the ship in Genoa at 9:30, I spent what seemed an interminable 5 hours at Genoa airport awaiting my Ryanair flight. Ryanair is one of those low-cost carriers renowned for "cheap" flights where seemingly even the opportunity to breathe clean air on the flight comes at an extra cost! Having purchased one or two items in my 4 weeks in Europe, the extra bag had come out of my suitcase and I'd duly paid an extra €26 to check it in on the flight. Fair enough. I knew I had to check in online or face a €45 euro fee for the privilege of having a Ryanair employee do it for me. Hmmm - ok, done. I had three options as far as the boarding pass was concerned: use a mobile one, print it out myself, or pay €15 for presumably the same Ryanair employee to press a couple of buttons and provide me with a copy. Unfortunately on my last night at sea I realised options one and two were not viable! As a non-EU citizen I wasn't eligible to use a mobile boarding pass, and the internet/printing options onboard left just a smidgen to be desired. Resigned to boosting Ryanair's coffers once again, I looked in vain on arrival at the airport for the Ryanair desk where the employee would face the arduous task of providing me with the essential paperwork. Nope, nowhere to be seen. I approached the general ticketing desk to be told there was nowhere available to print it out, as the only options I had were to use a mobile boarding pass or print it out myself! Having spent far too much time focussed on how I was going to solve the great boarding pass dilemma of 2016, I must have looked so woebegone at this point that the lovely man took pity on me and told me if I emailed it to him he'd print it for me. Grazie!
Flight uneventful, we landed at Stansted and I paid my £19 train fare to London Liverpool Street. By the time we pulled into the platform it was 7:30 and I wearily made my way to the taxi rank.
My hotel this time was chosen on the basis of its proximity to the wonderful shopping opportunities afforded by Regent and Oxford Streets, and was located in the heart of Soho. Bit busy on a Saturday night, particularly as for some strange reason the good folk of London decided to celebrate Halloween two days early! After inching along the crowded streets we arrived at the hotel and I handed over £25. Cheap flight? Hmmm!
All extra costs were forgotten as I was welcomed into the bosom of the Nadler Soho. I expressed my gladness at having finally arrived after a long day travelling, to be told by the lovely girls on Reception that I would surely be gladder at the good news that I had been upgraded. I know, right? I was also asked if I would like a tea or coffee while we got check-in sorted. Sure, why not? I was duly escorted to my room and wished a very pleasant stay.
I'd made arrangements to meet my friend Linda when we realised we'd both be in London at the same time. I don't think either of us would have foreseen that when we were fresh-faced Bendigo High girls! I had some time to fill in before our lunch at Bob Bob Ricard, so made my way to Carnaby Street only to find that most of the shops didn't open until 12:00. The French translation for window shopping is lèche-vitrine, which literally means to lick the window - very apt for my Sunday morning activity! After opening time, I took the opportunity for a quick visit to the extraordinarily colourful and tempting Irregular Choice. I haven't yet ruled out a return visit to make a purchase! I also discovered I was close to the home of the most intricate chocolate creations that is Choccywoccydoodah.
Linda and I decided we needed to do something special to mark our London rendezvous, and after some serious research I suggested lunch at Bob Bob Ricard. Good choice? Great choice! "Press for champagne" button (yep, another one!) - tick. Dining room modelled on the Orient Express - tick. Pink rhubarb gin and tonic - oh my giddy aunt! Bob Bob Ricard exudes luxury but felt decidedly un-stuffy. The all-booth dining room was reminiscent of a bygone era, but the food was anything but old-fashioned. My wafer-thin beetroot and goats cheese salad was a triumph of colour and taste, and we spent a delightful couple of hours reminiscing and exchanging stories of our most recent adventures. We decided it's a place we will return to again and again!
Having said our goodbyes I headed to a place that has held my fascination since that first visit. Liberty will always be on my list of London must-dos. I could wander for hours through the various floors housing exquisite fabrics, homewares, stationery, and so much more. The iconic prints cover everything from egg cups to handbags, and it's hard to decide what might be the purchase of choice for this visit. No rush, there's always tomorrow! For in fact the autumn days are short here, and by 4:30 pm the darkness is looming and the lure of my cosy hotel room is strong.
My train back to the Midlands isn't until 3:45 the next afternoon, so I take the opportunity to leave my ever-increasing luggage at the Nadler and wend my way back to Regent Street. A return visit to Liberty starts with breakfast in the café, followed by another stroll around the haberdashery section. Then it's on to Hamley's toy store for multiple floors of fun and some mighty impressive Lego creations! Shopping completed (for now!), I headed back to the Nadler to collect my luggage and make my way to Marylebone to catch my train. With time to spare I took advantage of the offer of a cup of tea and sat down on the comfy sofa to while away half an hour or so, before climbing in the ordered black cab for the ride to the station. It's time to return to Hospitality Central, where the Weltons' welcome is always warm!