London. The return

With a sense of satisfaction, mixed with exhaustion we said au revoir to Paris and took another Eurostar back to London. This was another example of why it pays to turn up reasonably early for all forms of transportation. The queue for immigration was 1.5 hours long. First you have to exit from France, and then go to another queue and another desk to enter the UK where you’re asked the usual 50 questions to enter the country (I swear the UK border officers question you more). The staff were quite good, and were rushing people through for their train which was due to depart, as well as delaying the trains to get as many people on as possible. The ‘Eurocluster’ (European lines or lack of) as we have began calling it was strong here.

Once we arrived back in London we stowed our luggage at Travelodge.  Then as a bonus for not losing our security deposit in Paris (the hot plate in our kitchenette mysteriously cracked), we headed straight to the TKTS booth to see what theatre tickets we could get for that night. It was about 11:30am by the time we got to the booth, which opens at 10am, and the queue was still at least 50 deep.

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Standing tickets at Les Miserables

Generally that means most of the good or cheap tickets will be sold out already so by the time we got to the front of the queue, the only options were to spend at least £50 on bad seats for any of the big productions, or as we chose to do, pay £13.50 each to see Les Miserables while standing at the very back. Probably not ideal for anyone with bad knees, back or eyesight, but for us it was a perfectly good way to see a show! If you have wine and duck out as soon as intermission starts to sit down at the bar it’s quite bearable.

That afternoon before the show, we had a quick look through the National Gallery, which contains more paintings from the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso. The gallery exits out into Trafalgar Square, which is mostly just full of people busking. This includes, but is not limited to: three floating Yodas, one floating skeleton man, and a dude who we think was just playing music from an mp3 player and hugging people. There’s also a couple of monuments, but you can hardly notice them through the crowds.

The next day, through some more of our horrible planning, we changed accommodation after breakfast to a splurge night at the Hilton where again we were too early for check-in, and so required to leave our luggage. They did give us a hot choc-chip cookie each was so with cookie in hand, we headed out to explore some more of London. This was now the Thursday before Easter and London was seeing record numbers of tourists coming in, despite the recent tragedies. The area around the houses of parliament, Big Ben, and across the river at the London Eye were full to the brim. If we had wanted to go on the London Eye, we would have been waiting for hours.

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As we had planned before heading to that area, we boarded a City Cruise ferry bound for Greenwich. This was accompanied by some humourous and insightful commentary, pointing out various landmarks along the way. We learnt about a bridge completed in 1945 which they call the Women’s Bridge, because it was built entirely by women while all the men were out fighting World War II. Also by the time we arrived at Greenwich, we discovered that there was a Tall Ship festival on. So we looked at some boats, including the Cutty Sark which is permanently dry-docked at Greenwich, and then we stood on the date line. The Cutty Sark used to ship produce from as far as Australia back to London.

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Folks, if you go to Greenwich to stand on the date line, there is a fee as it is inside the museum. However we decided that the city of London already had enough of our money so we stood on the free date line which is hidden away through a gate near the Museum entrance. Alternatively you can just draw an imaginary line on the ground and claim that you are standing on the date line.

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By the time we explored Greenwich it was 3pm and so we decided to be adventurous and get a bus back into the city. That night we set out for dinner but as previously mentioned there were a record number of tourists in the city which made it hard to find a table at anything that wasn’t a food chain. We ended up settling on Wagamama’s and in case you’re interested the menu is exactly the same as Wagamama’s in Australia. Made ordering easy as we both have favourite dishes. First stop the following day was to see Tower Bridge open for a passing ship. The times are all on Google readily available.

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After a bit of wandering around, and a final cheap but delicious pub lunch at the Mudlark (drink and a burger for £11) we headed out to Gatwick Airport to check-in to the Bloc Hotel. We thought it would be a good idea to stay as close to the airport as possible as our flight to Croatia was scheduled to leave at 6.45am.

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Our room at the Bloc Hotel

Unlike our stay at Heathrow’s Yotel, the Bloc Hotel was fantastic. It was pretty much just a bed with a wet room (You know those bathrooms where you can shower and go the toilet at the same time) but at the foot of the bed was a large TV and we had a pretty good view of the runway. The hotel is located inside the airport next to the departures gate so it was perfect and considering the price (about $120 p/n) it was great value for money.

After our obligatory breakfast of croissants in the lounge it was time to say goodbye to the UK and board a plane to Croatia.

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