Trying to prove it is a small world after all, I'm on holiday in London for a long weekend...
Chicago to London: Shawn and I flew American Airlines Flight 86 from Chicago O'Hare to London Heathrow. As part of our streamlined adventure, we were both able to pack it in into a carry-on suitcase and backpack. Since seeing "Lost", I'm convinced a backpack is essential for any potential safe crash on a tropical island. I packed mine full with things that I might need during my 7 hour flight. Aside from flipping through a magazine, I didn't access anything else. I'm happy to report the international flight served complimentary wineS which helped me doze off at the the end of "The Muppet Movie" for a solid four hour respite. The windy day in Chicago pushed us into London in record time and we arrived at 7:10am local time (6 hours ahead of Chicago). Unfortunately, customs didn't get the wake-up call. As non-European passport holders, we were stuck in an endless queue. The UK and European-based line was empty and the workers were enjoying their non-morning rush.
After an hour and a half in customs, we headed to *The Underground*, the public transportation system. The automated system for securing a ticket was crowded and confusing. Getting the Look (-oh, it's a stupid American-), a man helped me determine we needed to get tickets to Zone 1. (And don't get me wrong *the Look* is more monkeys-in-a-cage-adorable than patronizing.) There was an option to buy with a credit card or cash. Neither Shawn's nor my cards worked so we used our cash stash from hitting the ATM in the airport. The fare was £5 and 70. The conversion rate I'm using is £1 = $1.50 so the cost was roughly $9. The train ride was an hour to our Leicester Square stop. The distance and cost was so much more reasonable than a cab alternative. And our stop was blocks away from our hotel.
We are staying in THE ideal location for theatre goers in London. We are directly across the street from the Palace Theatre, where they are currently showing "Singing in the Rain." At night, the historic building is enchantingly lit up. It's a wonderful landmark in our 'hood. SoHo IS a neighborhood. Theatres and restaurants are a leisurely stroll away. Piccadilly Circus (dilly=lavender and circus = circle), Covent Garden, and Chinatown link together without warning. We easily walk in and out of the various areas. Each has a distinct look but the connecting similarity is a laid-back vibe. The streets are narrow with oversize busses and cabs but the traffic seems minimal. Walking is the preferred method of transport.
We arrive at our hotel circa 10am. In America, hotel check-in time is typically around 4. We'd like to have a quick lay down to acclimate to our new surroundings. A little jet lag, a little time change and a little filth make us want to hibernate for a few hours. Lucky for us, our hotel host is very accommodating. We are told to come back in an hour and our rooms will be ready. Perfect! We walk a few blocks and stumble on...
Dean Street Townhouse, 69-71 Dean Street: There is a little nip in the air but the sun is shining on the Dean Street patio. So, we take up court off the street. Even though nap time is mere minutes away, we both opt for coffee and a little nosh. Shawn orders a croissant. I go with biscuits. The kind server asks me if I realize that means *cookies*. I assure him in delight that I am aware. (Don't judge me, London, I'm on holiday.) Both Shawn and I have been in the service industry so we want to assure we are tipping correctly. The host indicates 12% is standard. I'm willing to be Brit with that but I'm continually having to convince Shawn. ;-)
Z Hotel, 17 Moor Street in SoHo: (my review). We are staying in a fashionable boutique hotel. It boasts of being the urbanite's oasis. True! The locale can't be beat. I'm on the first floor which is actually one floor above street level. The closeness is apparent. I have to close my shade for assured privacy in my bathroom. The space is cozy, small...think cruise ship. Modern efficiencies (flat screen television, wi-fi, hair dryer) are streamlined into the womb. There is no wasted space or closets but it works perfectly for me. I'm snug. At night time, I can hear the chatter on the streets but it's a pleasant white noise... like going to sleep in the guest room at a party. The wifi in my room isn't efficient but I'm adjacent to the courtyard. The outdoor patio has wifi and heat lamps. It's a community area for smoking, gathering and checking my email. Back in the room, the lights were a bit tricky but Shawn clued me in. The room key serves as a magical electricity source. Just inside the door, placing the room key in a slot activates all the electricity. Ah!
After a few hours, naptime is over and we're back on foot. We stumble into...
Crown & Anchor (a few blocks from our hotel): Every corner boasts a welcoming pub. I'm a little light headed and cold from traveling. I've only had *biscuits* since our American Airlines turkey sandwich breakfast 9 hours ago. I decide to dive into the deep end of the pond and get fish and chips scratched off the to-do list. There are no servers at the table. You order and pay at the bar. Shawn chooses a cheese toastie (triple decker toast, cheese, poached egg and spinach). I score a bite. Delicious and homey! My fish and chips is a little greasy and well done. I'm not a big fried food person so it sounded better than it tasted. British *chips* are french fries that are often eaten with vinegar rather than ketchup. The dish also comes with peas... which is a vegetable that scares me. They are cocky and squeaky for such a small food. The meal satisfies and after Shawn overtips the bar staff, we are on our way.
The Original London Sightseeing Tour, www.orginaltour.com: One of the things that I love to do is take a bus tour in a foreign land. It gives you an overview of the city and you learn interesting factoids. We took the yellow tour and saw London from the roof of a double decker. It was £26 (about 40 bucks) but we were told that we could hop on and off any tour for 24-hours. (So, we plan on hitting it again on Friday in a different color.) We passed over London Bridge and Tower Bridge. We passed by Big Ben, Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace. Total tourist feeling but I loved it! My big takeaway was learning Queen Anne was a drinker. Her statue has her back to a church and is facing a pub. Ha! Of course, sadly she had 17 kids and lost 11. Come on, I'd drink too! We also heard that if you stand in Piccadilly Circus (a commercial and popular corner where several streets intersect) for 37 minutes that you will see someone you know. Shawn is keen to prove that wrong.
We jump off the bus near our hood for a pre-theatre cleanup. Later, we head to Cambridge Theatre to see MALTILDA. Again, we are living in the theatre district so it's a lovely walk. People are out and about. Many pubs spill out on the streets with clientele enjoying a smoke and a pint al fresco. We opt for a drink and appetizers at a hip joint near the theatre.
Dial Bar and Restaurant, 20 Mercer Street: What I've learned in London is there are two sizes of wine options, small and "Cougar Town". Obviously, I go Courtney Cox! Shawn orders up a martini and is a little dismayed that it's not Chicago style. The martini glass in the UK is definitely half empty. We indulge in these delicious small plates wrapped in phyllo: duck with a side of sweet potato whip and chicken and cheese. Hmmmm perfect portion for a pre-theatre meal. We get our confused but attractive bartender involved in our tipping debate. He really is shocked that we are even asking about service tipping... maybe embarrassed is a better descriptor. We are the obnoxious Americans talking crassly about money. With his reaction that 10% is more than generous, I think I have Shawn convinced that he is overtipping. We'll see.
MALTILDA.... was spectacular! My complete review
For trip planning in London, access my friends at www.visitlondon.com
Filed under: London
Tags: "Maltilda" at Cambridge Theatre, American tourist in London, Crown & Anchor, DEan Street Townhouse, Dial Bar and Restaurant, Heathrow transport, Katy Walsh, London hotels theatre district, London tourism, Original London Sightseeing Tour, The Underground in London, visitlondon.com, VistingLondon.com, Z Hotels