Sunday, 27 November 2011

London [1/2]

Wow, what a weekend that was. So much did we do, I can't remember it all already, it was a 48 hour whistlestop tour, with food, booze, and even a bit of sleep and "mummy and daddy time" thrown in.

I've got a few piccies and a few thoughts to share with you. I shan't bore you with a dreary chronology of "we went here", and "we did this", instead I shall offer up a few wry observations in my inimitable Jason Ayres "stylee" which we have already established has alrady divided the nation into two camps, one thinking "genius" and the other thinking "twat". So here goes.

Firstly my observations on trains. Now I cannot understand why people moan so much about trains in this country. As whenever I take one, it is always on time, reasonably priced, clean and comfortable. As for the tube, what an awesome feat of engineering and all round amazing thing it is, go anywhere, do anything on a one day travelcard. We must have caught at least 15 trains on Saturday and virtually every time we walked on to a platform there was a train rolling into the station for us to board.

So travel wise, all good and we were checked in our hotel (which was excellent - thanks trip advisor once again) by lunchtime, and off walking into the city by 2pm.

Now our rough plan was to walk everywhere on Friday around the centre that interested us, and then on Saturday we'd get our travelcards and visit the other attractions we wanted to see. So after stopping off for a spot of lunch we found ourselves travelling down Baker St towards Oxford St, where we spent the first hour or so walking along, looking in a few shops, but not using up too much time here. Reason being? Well Oxford Street, fine as it is I feel is largely just a grand version of all the other High streets in Britain so there's not really massive exceitement for me in seeing most of the chain stores I already know, just slightly bigger. The real London is elsewhere, so the two shops I really wanted to explore were Harrods and Hamleys and we left that until Saturday.

Despite spending a lot of money on meals and attractions we did not actually buy very much, however we did go into a tacky tourist shop on Oxford Street and got Ollie and Jamie a red London bus and black cab. Predictable I know, but they'll be happy with them when they get back (they aren't here yet hence the time for the blog).

Now once we turned right off Oxford Street into the maze of the little streets leading down into Soho things got interesting. Of course, completely by accident, I suddenly found myself caught on camera in a rather compromising location, as you would be able to see here, if I could get the picture to come up. It does not seem to want to so I may have to put it on facebook instead.

 Anyway, it was a picture of me in Soho standing in front of a sex shop.

We did actually go into this sex shop and have a look around, all I can say is if you know anyone who wants any porn dvd's don't buy them from here, 3 for £50 is not what I call value considering how much you can get them for on the internet (so a friend tells me). Same goes for many of the other products on sale, I have a friend on facebook who is an Ann Summers rep and she is much better value. I did find one DVD which I thought might be of interest to my friend Daryl, but it's not his birthday for ages, so sorry mate, not this time.

Moving south from Soho you come into Chinatown, the main street through here is full of restaurants, many of the buffet style (all you can eat for £6.95). I have been to many of these over the years, and most have been pretty reasonable, but some of the food here looked amazing. One restaurant had the buffet on display through the window and it just looked gorgeous, fresh, really good quality, unfortunately it was mid afternoon so we did not eat there, and when we passed back through on Saturday night it was packed.

The whole atmosphere around Soho and Chinatown was amazing, if I ever did live in London (unlikely) I think this is where I would like to be.

By this time the light was already fading, so by the time we moved on to Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, Leicester Square and Covent Garden it was nightfall, but there seemed loads to do and loads to see. The thought of where we would eat for the evening came to mind, now I was absolutely determined that I was going to have a nice steak, thankfully London is one of the few places that still seems to have a lot steakhouses. As you know I am unhappy about the fact that it's getting harder and harder to get a good square meal in a restaurant these days due to the ever growing prolification of poncy formats based primarily around pasta dishes and pizza, it seems everywhere's a Bella this or Italia that. So I was very pleased to see various steakhouse chains offering their wares, and I present here for your perusal the typical offering from an Aberdeen Angus steakhouse.

OK, a quick aside here - will somebody PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE open something like this in Bicester. We don't need any more indian restaurants!

By 6pm our tired aching feet needed a rest, so we stopped at a pub just off Leicester Square for a couple of jars, and then we struck gold, finding an independent steakhouse. It was one of those where they part cook your steak and then you do the rest on a volcanic rock in front of you. Absolutely awesome, I went for the top option on the menu which was a 12oz fillet. We really pushed the boat out and had starters, desserts, I even finished off with that old favourite an Irish Coffee. The waitress was lovely too - genuinely friendly and nice. I can always tell the genuine ones from those that are just after something i.e. a tip. Funny really, how it mirrors life in general, I can usually suss people out in real life in the same way.

Did I mention the bottle of red wine that went down with this meal, I think I didn't and then the later one in the hotel room? Well we were on holiday. Now I love my kids as you know, they are my life, but it was fantastic just being the two of us, and we didn't stop talking all weekend. Made me realise how little time we actually get to talk about anything interesting at home other than the necessities of everyday life e.g. what are the kids going to have for tea etc. That's when we can get a word in edgeways, with Ollie talking for Britain these days and then being too knackered for much intellectual repartee when slumped in front of the telly on the average weekday evening.

Anyway we made this meal last well over two hours and just as well as I think that's the largest bill I've ever had for a meal out for two - but that wasn't to worry - sometimes you have to forget about your weekly scrimping and saving and making ends meet to feed the family and just throw caution to the wind and enjoy yourself. To top off the extravagance we even hailed a black cab and were chauffeured back to our hotel in style (which was surprisingly cheap, I'd say no more expensive than hiring a normal cab around here).

So there we were, first day done, and our plans for Saturday all laid out in front of us. In a day we were to do the Tower of London, London Dungeon, Harrods, Natural History Museum, London Eye, Big Ben, and Hamleys. Seemed ambitious, yet in fact we managed to do all but one of those with a few other things thrown in too.

Saturday's adventures coming soon in part 2 - not sure when as I'm going to watch the Grand Prix now and working tonight so you may have to wait a bit.

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Jason x x

Yes, for while at least

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