Day 16 of Romance Holiday
July 16, 2012

We had a first today for the holiday. NO RAIN!!

We had to get up at 6:30am this morning in order to have breakfast and then take a taxi to Gare du Nord. We had booked a taxi that was big enough for all of us and our luggage. It was meant to arrive at 7:15 but by 7:25 there was no sign of it. It eventually pitched up just as we had flagged down two other taxi’s. They weren’t too happy when we ditched them and got into the booked one. We were taking the Eurostar to London. They said get there at least 30 minutes in advance. Couldn’t understand why until we got there. Only one way to get to the departure level and that was by lift and only one was working. The whole train of 18 coaches had to get onto the departure level with one lift! That probably sums up France. You have to clear both French and UK passport control and go through a security scan. We managed to get onto the train 8 minutes before it pulled out of the station.As we sat down Helen said “Well that was slightly stressful.” The train journey was uneventful and we arrived slightly early into London. It really is the best way to travel between Paris and London. It is quick and very convenient as it goes from the centre of Paris to the centre of London. If you ever have to do the trip, don’t hestitate – take the Eurostar.

Oh the joy of being back in a civilized country. All you have to do is raise your hand and a little black car pulls up, you tell them where you want to go (in English) and they drop you right outside the door. We were at the flat by 10am. Nothing opens in London before 11am on a Sunday (but at least the shops do open). We did some grocery shopping and after lunch those who don’t come regularly to London decided to go shopping down Oxford Street. It seemed to be a successful trip for all of them despite the crowds of people.

This evening we went to Covent Garden for dinner at Sophie’s Steakhouse. It was Stephen’s choice as it is his 16th birthday today. As we can’t all fit into a taxi (they only take 5), the boys very quickly volunteered to take the tube instead. We left 5 minutes after them and arrived 5 minutes before them. The taxi won this race. You have to love public transport in London though. We could also have taken a bus. And they would all roughly have taken the same amount of time. Spoilt for choice yet Londoners love to complain about it anyway. All they have to do is come to South Africa where we pretty much don’t have any public transport and they might appreciate it a little more.

We decided to walk back. That usually takes about 20 minutes. We thought we would walk down the Mall but little did we know it was totally closed off for construction of the Olympic Beach Volleyball stadium on Horseguards Parade. That meant we had to walk all the way around St James Park. It did mean that Lara got a good view of Buckingham Palace. Michael whistled for Lizzie (because we knew she was in as the flag was flying) but she either didn’t hear us or was already in bed. We figured if she knew it was us (and she was still up) she would have invited us in for a cuppa but we will forgive her because Michael’s whistle wasn’t very good. The walk back took us about 30 minutes instead of the 20 minutes it would usually but it was still a pleasant walk back after dinner.

Sorry there are no pics at all today. Just realised it now that we never took any today. And excuse any typo’s, missing words etc. I was watching “Have I Got News For You” while typing this and my attention was generally on that than what I was writing. If you have ever watched it you would know why.

Sleep tight.

8 thoughts on “Day 16 of Romance Holiday

  1. Oh, Peter, Peter, Peter. Public transport in London “Spoilt for choice but Londoners love to complain anyway”. Red rag to a bull that is, to a former Londoner that used this divine public transport system for 12 years!! I know it’s existence of itself is a miracle especially compared to CT where there is nothing but please do my commute for a week and then take a trip on the northern line or central line at peak time for a week and let’s chat again. The public transport system cannot take the strain of all the people and volume of use.

    . And are you not outraged by the prices? The price of London public transport (and black cabs) is worthy of as much mention as the price of espresso in Paris. We used to live in Zone 5 (according to the timetable 18 minutes from London Bridge by train, fantasy!) Paul paid 120GBP a month for TRAIN ONLY (not tubes or buses for him for that knock down price!). And prices go up 10% a year at least). The amount of delays, cancelled trains, the state of the trains, the “refit” that made them have fewer seats because journeys were to be seen more “tube style” (not aspirational for most and given that trains don’t come every 2 or 3 minutes like tubes, a silly comparison- as you can imagine I was in correspondence with rail companies on these issues, especially as they coincided with me being pregnant and commuting- fewer seats was not was I was looking for especially as no one ever offered me a seat).
    Black cabs are great and one of the reasons you could hail one so easily is because most Londoners refuse to take them unless they’re on company account. They are SO expensive. They were really really reasonable at one point and then some issue with minicabs or something came up and prices soared around 2002.I have rarely seen the inside of one them since then.

    On a happier note, I’m envious of your walk around Green Park and wanted to remind you of the restaurant Andrew Edmunds I told Helen about in Soho (Lexington St). I haven’t been there for a year or so so it may have slipped but it has years before me of quality so hopefully still ok…

    Enjoy London!

    1. Ah, the joys of being an upper class CT citizen. I bet if you lived in Langa or Crossroads you would feel very differently about London’s amazing public transport system. Remember I do travel on the tube during peak hours regularly and I have to often make a run to get on. Getting a seat is impossible. But yet still I can see the massive merits of the system despite the fact that it does groan under the weight of all the people (and will be even worse for the Olympics I am sure). It is all about the perspective (I think I read that somewhere under a heading entitled ‘Dear Graham’ …)

      And, wait for it, London taxi’s are not that expensive. No really. Generally I pay around Β£10 for a trip within London eg. from Paddington station to the flat in Victoria St. That is about 15 minutes driving. That is R120 only. I travel a lot (as you know) and there are many places where taxis are a lot more expensive. Dublin (go there often and run through the money in my wallet every time); anywhere in Germany (again there often); Paris (paid €27.50 for a 8 minute drive from the hotel to Gare du Nord) and in fact pretty much most of Western Europe. I did a quick check (using the world famous World Taxi Fare checker website which I am sure you use frequently πŸ™‚ ) and London is on a par with Sydney, LA, New York for taxi fares actually.

    2. Hey, Peter. I’m standing my ground on it being awful, sorry. I feel absolutely traumatised by years and years of commuting and being ripped off by it in London. It is SO much money for a service that is substandard not all the time, but enough time to make one pretty cross.

      I think the lack of public transport here in CT (aside from vile taxis and cumbersome buses) is something that really needs to be addressed, without a doubt. The tube in London is miraculous in many ways but was not designed to carry so many people as it is now. It needs a huge upgrade. In my final few years in London I would only take it is absolutely forced (but that’s after years of trauma).Then again, I read the other day that one Tokyo Metroline runs at 199% and they are aiming it to reduce that to 150%. I also read they use white gloved guards to ram people on the trains. I don’t think I’ll be using the Tokyo Metro.

      I think with the black cabs the problem was the big hike a decade or so ago. I’ve never traveled for business so never really got cabs the world over. But, even for 2 city lawyers, the prices of cabs in London were high enough to make us walk instead (heaven forbid I set foot on the tube!!)

      Look, I might be living in CT for now, but I was an increasingly bitter Londoner commuter for most of my life- and it’s going to take a lifetime to get over πŸ˜‰

  2. Yay for first day of no rain. Sounds like you’ve made a good start at ticking off all the things to see/do in London on Lara’s list. Thanks so much:)

  3. I have had to hold back on commenting until I returned from leave. Thank you for helping Federer win – that was my only request of you. Do not come home in a hurry, as the weather you have been describing sounds like our holiday experience, except we had 2 young children who got cabin fever … although it does sound like you had your fair share of moaning to deal with. I would ban any negative comments.

    I’m with Lara, Michael & Stephen wrt to art – and we know I have not a cultural
    /arty bone in my body. Do share all your arty experiences with Jo – she studied art and loves the stuff. Me, I prefer the sport πŸ™‚

    See you all soon!

  4. Hi again, me the miserable ex-Londoner.

    i seem to recall having a conversation with you and Helen about Shepherd Market in London? Anyway, near Green Park and it is the nearest tube. Its’ an absolute hidden gem, a tiny square with a love;y pub “The Grapes” and 2 French places “Le Boudin Blanc” and “L’Artiste Muscle” (although you may be totally over French food now). L’ Artiste Muscle has a very cool, relaxed vibe about it. There is also an amazing Lebanese place opposite Le Boudin Blanc (more formal- both BB and Lebanese). Also, there is a Polish Mexican place there (don’t worry- both types of food are served, not mixed! ) which is nice. Also, off Oxford St, near Debenhams I think is the most awesome Lebanese place. For something different (a little anyway) try Marylebone High St, just behind Selfridges. On the way, go through Manchester Sq and pop into the Wallace Collectiion and have afternoon tea in the glass covered courtyard. Lovely.

    Lots more London recommendations but you’ve prob done most already (are tired of my name on comments page)

    If it wasn’t you we had this conversation with, sorry….

    1. You are not demented yet – you did have the conversation with us. We just have 4 kids with us and some of those restaurants would be wasted on them. Helen and I can do it next week when we are back again!

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