Sunday, April 23, 2017

The London Diaries: 17.03.2017 - 19.03.2017

In March 2016, faithful travelling companion and myself threw in a little extra holiday where we took a quick city break to the UK's capital, took in a football match and did some sightseeing.  We had such a great time then that we planned another trip one year later, and so we repeated the experience in March 2017 which was another great success.  All being well, this could become an annual event! So here is a brief summary of our London weekend from 5 weeks ago.

Friday 17.03.2017

Once again we are based in the Marylebone area of London, a very busy but pleasant and upmarket area, with good connections to the rest of the city from Baker Street Tube station.

As we don't arrive until teatime on Friday, there's just enough time for dinner and drinks and we end the evening at our "local", The Globe on Marylebone Road which is a good place to hang out and has a friendly atmosphere. A very busy day ahead tomorrow though!

Saturday 18.03.2017

After breakfast, this morning's activity involves a quick trip on the Tube to the St John's Wood area for a couple of sights - Abbey Road and Lord's Cricket Ground.

Abbey Road, and the studios located there, have gone into the history of music thanks to the cover of The Beatles' Abbey Road album, where the Fab Four crossed that iconic zebra crossing.  

48 years on from that cover shot - the Beatles phenomenon is still alive and well.   For some reason, I thought Abbey Road was in a secluded area with not much traffic.  How wrong could I be!  Abbey Road is a 'real' street/zebra crossing with a lot of traffic and so you can never really be sure if the traffic is going to stop to let you get that crucial 'Beatles' shot.....anyway needless to say there are many Beatles fans from all over the world making the crossing.  We notice that no-one's emulating Paul, crossing the road barefoot though...!

Of course Abbey Road is the home of the famous Abbey Road Studios which is another pilgrimage spot for Beatles fans.  I liked this Beatles-themed sign on one of the adjoining walls....

Ah yes, the wall.  I am far too well-behaved and don't write anything, but lots of other fans have done, over the years:

Of course Abbey Road Studios is not just a historical landmark but it remains a working recording studio behind the doors of that unassuming building below.

Whilst in the St John's Wood area, faithful travelling companion suggests that we check out Lord's Cricket Ground, known as the "home of cricket".  Although neither of us are cricket fans, it's a good good idea anyway to stop by, seeing as we are in the vicinity.  The ground is closed though, so we just get some outside shots.

Actually, that might be another good idea for the bucket list: to learn the rules of cricket...!

The main feature of our Saturday afternoon is an entirely different sport, as we make a return visit to see our adopted London football team, Fulham FC at the Craven Cottage stadium on the banks of the Thames.  After "Coffee at the Cottage" we take our seats in the Johnny Haynes Stand for the match against Wolves.

The weather in London on this March weekend has been mainly dry but dull and very windy, although bear in mind that we live in Scotland where a day without rain is a win, so I guess it's not all bad. It's a lot cooler than this time last year though, and this location down by the Thames becomes quite chilly to the point that my scarf and gloves were very welcome!  This from someone who feels the heat most of the time, so it must be really cold!

Hopes are high.  After all, Fulham have been doing reasonably well this season, with a decent unbeaten run and the possibility at that time of making it to the top 6 of the English Championship, guaranteeing a shot at the Premiership play-offs and all being well, the possibility of a place in the lucrative Premiership.

OK all good so far....but football is such an unpredictable game so we could not take anything for granted.  Wolves completely close down their defence and prevent any Fulham attack, whilst trying to snatch a goal on the break - so it was no surprise that Wolves go a goal up after 34 minutes and consolidate their lead just after the half-time break.  Fulham bring on Denis Odoi and this is an inspired substitution as he scores a goal shortly afterwards. However, Wolves continued to frustrate Fulham and score another goal, effectively killing off the game in the 72nd minute.

Despite another loss for Fulham, we enjoy our experience very much and plan to return to Craven Cottage in the future because we really need to see Fulham win!  Yes, if all is well, a 2018 visit will be on the cards.....

EDIT 23.04.2017: in the 5 weeks since our trip to London, Fulham's luck has changed for the better and they have enjoyed an excellent run of results.  Today the club is in 6th place in the Championship and are on course for the Premiership play-offs.  So you never know, on our 2018 trip to the Cottage we could be watching Fulham against some Premiership opposition.  Come on Fulham!  Let's do this!

But back to March 2017....

After an epic journey from Putney Bridge to Baker Street via a long stopover wait at Edgware Road, we make it back to the hotel to get ready for our night out.  Last year we were in London on Melodifestivalen final night, but at least I didn't have that distraction this time round.

This evening's main event is dinner at a very nice and friendly local Indian restaurant in Marylebone (a different one from the one we visited in 2016, but equally as good) and then some late night drinks at The Globe. 

Sunday 19.03.2017

With an evening flight home from Stansted, we decide to do some sightseeing before lunch.  Last year we took a (very long) sightseeing bus tour.  This year, we take the Tube to Westminster and exit just across from Big Ben.

The street is absolutely packed with locals and tourists enjoying a rather dull, cloudy and slightly drizzly late morning down by the Thames.

At that point, little do we know that just a few days later, the very same area would be the scene of London's worst terrorist attack since 07.07.2005.  Watching the TV coverage after the attacks, it particularly hits home so much harder when you have actually been there, whether as a local on the daily commute or as a tourist. Unfortunately we live in times when such events can happen anywhere at any time, What has struck me on our two trips to London in 2016 and 2017 is just how much an international, cosmopolitan and open city it is - and that was proved by the way that the city responded to the attack on Wednesday 22.03.2017.  I found this very interesting article which completely articulates my feelings on the subject.

Our initial plan was to take a boat trip on the Thames, but there is a change of plan due to time considerations so we have a brief walk along the embankment where we check out some of the sights including the London Eye....

 ...and New Scotland Yard...

...and then it's time to head back into the city centre via Horse Guards Parade...

...passing through Whitehall and then onto a mobbed Trafalgar Square which awaits the arrival of the annual St Patrick's Day Parade.  There's a great buzz in the air and we watch some of the floats pass by before briefly exploring the 'Theatreland' area.  We promise that when we return to London, we really should stay for longer and do more 'touristy' stuff including a stage show/musical.   Time is getting on, however, and so we head back to Baker Street for a late lunch followed by a final return to the hotel to retrieve our luggage and then onwards to the airport on the Stansted Express train which is always a very pleasant and scenic journey through the marshy landscapes.

It turns out to be a rather unpleasant end to our weekend thanks to a flight delay and other transport traumas though, but I guess that these are just a typical occupational hazard of travel these days: we also had a flight delay travelling to London so in the immortal words of Steps the travelling was "better best forgotten" but flight dramas excluded, we have really enjoyed London which has belatedly become one of our favourite city destinations.  Until the next time!

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