London - the blog
About once a year I get that 'London calling' signal to head for the Das Kapital of my misguided youth.
Here I can revisit and remember time living in East London while working in Park Lane and joining many of the protest marches of the radical 1960-70s.
With husband Rob in tow I knew there would be no time to shop on this visit so we would be giving flagship shops like Harrods or Selfridges a wide berth today.
With a railway station on our Nailsea doorstep and lots of ‘special offer’ train fares a day out in London is a pleasant and easy alternative to getting a bus into Bristol city centre from North Somerset.
And what’s on offer is mind-boggling brilliant – the capital with its red buses, black cabs and changing skyline all ready to explore.
With entry to many of the museums and art galleries free you can do London on a budget – we took a packed brunch picnic for the train and pre-booked our eating out venue (exception below).
Using our senior railcards we paid £90 in total for two return first class journey from Nailsea & Backwell with Great Western Railway using its bargain weekend upgrade offer via Trainline online booking system for cheap fares.
Some fares are on offer from as little as £15 single.
A 10-minute stroll to the station from our Nailsea home and then its sit back and relax for a speedy two hours letting ‘the train take the strain’.
It was a busy metropolis on Remembrance Day however we headed for a day of culture and the galleries and bypassed the Cenotaph parade attended by the Royal family.
So, on Sunday, November 13, we caught the 7.59am direct train to Paddington which arrived a few minutes late due to engineering works on the high-speed electrification of the line.
From Paddington, we bought at £8 inclusive day travel Oyster card and caught the underground to Southwark and our destination Tate Modern.
New innovation on the escalators is video adverts - certainly 'moving' with the times!
Top of our 'to see' list was The Radical Eye modernist photography from the Sir Elton John Collection which is showing until May 7, 2017.
Black and white stills dating from 1917, self-portraits of famous artists, experimental photography, poverty and opulence side-by-side and the wonderful Man Ray.
An introductory film featuring Elton in his decadent Los Angeles apartment was revealing as the obsessive addict swaps drugs and rock ‘n’ roll pastimes for collecting prints – since 1990 he has amassed more than 8,000 which aptly demonstrates the musician obsessive nature!
Best bit was a lift to the 10th floor for a panoramic view of the city with London Eye among the iconic landmarks easily spotted.
Afterwards we walked towards Trafalgar Square and stopped off at the Waldorf hotel for afternoon tea.
Prior to our day out I had traded my British Gas Nectar points for this treat which normally costs £40 plus per person – we paid £10.
Supermarket supervisor Lynn Mills said she traded in her Tesco points for a two night stay at a top hotel, London Eye experience, West End show and South Kensington museum on a similar jaunt.
We are glad we didn’t spend too much on the tea at the theatreland hotel as two small glasses of Prosecco and one London Ale beer cost £28 in the bar prior to eating became our main extravagance of the day.The tea was a little disappointing as the cucumber was in the tuna finger sandwiches and we didn’t like the ones containing curried Coronation chicken either. The pale yellow, egg mayonnaise ones were bland but the petit fours, scones and pastries were superb.
I London town
You can choose between more than a dozen teas from Oolong to Infusion and from black to green or white but the stainless steel strainer is like something from the Krypton Factor and managed without our help to drip all over the white linen tablecloth.
The ambiance of the harpist drowned out any attempt to talk and the tea room is tired with lovely chandeliers and modern PVC backed seating but worse of all the mock Victorina bone china was made in 2015.
Not a patch on the cream teas I have eaten at The Pump Rooms, Bath, or Compleat Angler, Marlow however the staff were first rate, friendly and helpful.
While in the ladies loo I meet some of the sparkling guests at a Children In Need tea dance going on in the ballroom with the Len Goodman orchestra and shared a laugh that housekeeping had placed ‘shampoo’ in the hand wash container.
Next husband and I headed for the National Portrait Gallery and overdosed on Tudors and Stuarts painted in all their glory – no photo-shopped oil paintings here it was a history lesson in kings, queens and parliamentarians of a past age.
Bit more walking around a lively Leicester Square with its Christmas market then the tube – smelly as ever – back to Paddington and an hour to kill.
He looked at me and I looked at him and we dived into McDonalds for a slice of nostalgia – it is where the grandchildren insist on going on our trips to London and we go reluctantly tutting about healthy eating and all that stuff.
Just needed a milkshake and a packet of hot, salty chips…and a big Mac.
However, we missed a trick here as with our rail tickets we could have sat in the first class passengers waiting room, silly us an oversight.
Train home was practically empty and incident free arriving on time at Nailsea & Backwell at 10.06pm and on a misty November evening we walked up The Perrings for a television catch-up of the Strictly Come Dancing results.