After an early-morning breakfast at the Brussels Marriott we returned to the Brussels Midi Station, this time to catch the Eurostar for the trip to London. There's no wi-fi on the Eurostar, but it wasn't needed; we'd had good access in Brussels (as we have in all of our hotels) and the scenery on the trip from Brussels to Calais, France was very enjoyable. At Calais, of course, the "chunnel" portion of the trip takes over as the train crosses the English Channel, emerging at Dover. My ears popped a bit as we dropped below sea level!
The Eurostar also offered some very nice refreshments, served at our seats, and the trip was very enjoyable. This was the only itinerary of our train adventures where security and passport control was evident. In Brussels, before boarding the Eurostar for London, we had to present passports and send luggage through a screening process and then in London, at our entry point of St. Pancras Station, we had to be cleared again. But soon we were in a cab and headed for our London Hotel, the London Marriot at Grosvenor Square. The hotel is in the Mayfair area, close to the American Embassy and to Hyde Park. We alternated, sometimes at a dizzying speed, between sunshine and rain for the entire time we were in London but it was springtime in England and rain is certainly to be expected. We had rain gear and we coped. It certainly didn't stop us from anything we'd planned to do there, but there were certainly periods of very heavy rain.
We spent the afternoon of our first day back in London (we were last here in April, 2011) at the British Museum. Last year we didn't manage to do everything on our lengthy list and so we immediately picked up one of the items we had to skip last time—a trip to the British Museum. Specifically for this visit, we wanted to see the Egyptian section and after mopping the worst of the rain from ourselves (sunshine as we entered the Bond Street Tube Station near the hotel; pouring as we exited the Tottenham Court Road Tube Station near the museum) we had a delightful time exploring this section of the museum and then moving on to other interesting exhibitions.
We'd made advance reservations at Gordon Ramsey's Maze Restaurant for that evening, and although the room was noisier than we're accustomed to at the several other Gordon Ramsey restaurants we've enjoyed so much, the food was outstanding, clearly local and very fresh, especially the vegetables. Very nice meal, pleasant evening. Considering the rain, it was very pleasant to just exit through the Maze Grill back into the hotel; they are all in the same building although the restaurant also has a separate street entrance.
Early the next morning we enjoyed the Maze breakfast (included in our hotel stay) and then headed over to Hyde Park. On the way we passed the American Embassy which, on that morning, featured two long lines out front, waiting for the opening hour. One was the usual collection of various people, waiting to obtain visas, clear up passport problems, etc. but the other line consisted of well-dressed (coat and tie) young men (didn't see any women) each holding an identical folder of some type. In Los Angeles I'd assume they were there for some studio's casting call but that seems highly unlikely at the American Embassy! The entire property is heavily guarded; we walked around the entire perimeter and saw guards, road blocks, and fencing along this entire route.
Hyde Park was delightful on this sunny morning, with several dogs enjoying their freedom off-leash, but owners nearby. Such well-behaved dogs! Most were chasing balls thrown by their owners, chasing each other; none seemed interested in chasing the squirrels that we saw near the paths as we walked through several sections of the park. The water features in the park sparkled in the sunlight, there were boats being prepared for the renters that would occupy them later in the day, and horses were out on the trails. We were there about 4 hours and didn't manage to cover even a third of the park's area. We'll return on a future trip, I'm sure. It's a relaxing, delightful place to visit.
Later in the day, rain in the near future we were sure, we set out to East London in search of a museum that was new to us; we'd learned about it in Rick Steves's London walking tour guide. It's the Geffryes Museum and it's housed in a former almshouse in East London. It now features eleven displays of middle-class living rooms, arranged as they would have been furnished through various periods of English history and showing, in side displays, where that room would have been placed in a home of that time period and suggesting shops where reproductions of that furniture can be obtained today. The early rooms, dating back to the 1600s, look to us, Americans, as colonial living rooms look in such places as Colonial Williamsburg or Plimouth Plantation. In fact, even though styles may have been slightly different through the successive periods on display, we could find many items that were recognizable from our own history. There's a lot to see there, there is no admission charge and I'd enjoy visiting again; it's one of those places where you can't possibly absorb everything you're seeing on the first visit. And yes, the rain was lightly falling by the time we arrived as we exited the London Overground station (Hoxton Station) which is directly behind the museum.
Returning to the hotel, we had time for a nice afternoon tea after the Geffryes, so we walked around the corner to the other Marriott Hotel in the immediate vicinity—the Grosvenor House, which is a JW Marriott property and where a lovely afternoon tea is offered, complete with the usual little sandwiches, scones, and pastries. Luck was with us; we were given a table that looked out across the street to Hyde Park, and it was a delightful hour and a half or so, indeed. And filling!
Finally, our last activity was attending a play that we've so enjoyed in the United States, but it's a British play and we were pleased to be able to see it in London. It's British playwright Michael Frayan's Noises Off and we saw it at the Novello Theater where it had recently moved after a long run at the Old Vic. The play was funny as we remembered, and just very satisfying to hear the authentic British accents of the cast. It was a great way to end our stay in London.
We really enjoy London; we're comfortable using public transportation to get us just about anywhere (as long as we're not encumbered with luggage!) and there's certainly more to enjoy in the London area than we've yet managed to do, despite several visits. When traveling elsewhere in Europe, returning to London for a flight out of Heathrow makes it much easier to get a nonstop flight back to Los Angeles, as well. We're already looking forward to our next London visit!
NEXT: Homeward Bound
The Gallery for this cruise features more photographs than could be displayed in the slideshow. London features two gallery pages; one for the city and one for Hyde Park.
THE LONDON GALLERY
THE HYDE PARK GALLERY
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