Another late post - last Friday we flew down to London, so David could go and see his beloved (and recently relegated) York City play in the FA Trophy final at Wembley. We didn't get back till late last Monday, which only partially excuses the delay in posting this!
Flying always feels slightly extravagent (I say slightly, we did fly Easyjet 😀) but it worked out cheaper than the train, and to be honest if we'd been able to get cheap train tickets that would have been a better option. By the time we got to Edinburgh airport, left the car in the long stay car park, hung around for the hour or so for the flight, then got a coach from Stanstead to St Pancras I reckon a train would be considerably less hassle!
Next step was getting from St Pancras to the Travelodge in Docklands, which involved the first of what felt like many journeys by Tube and DLR. Technology has advanced since my last trip to the big smoke - the recommended way to pay for your journeys is tapping in and out with your contactless bank card. This took a bit of getting used to, as you don't really know how much it's costing, but the daily price cap meant it actually cost considerably less than I expected in the end. The payments all came out of the bank on Tuesday so not sure how I'd work out which day was which, but the most expensive day was £12ish which was probably Saturday when we used the Emirates Air Line, the cable car that takes you across the Thames from the O2 at North Greenwich to the Royal Docks on the North of the river. It's an unusal way to see London, and worth doing as long as you're relatively okay with heights!
On Friday night we wandered along East India Dock Road to All Saints to get the DLR up to Stratford. A quick stroll around the massive Westfield centre served as a reminder that shopping is never going to cut it as a hobby for me! I'm not exaggerating when I say I think I understood the term 'Temple of Mammon' by the time we left!
From there, we headed out to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It's hard to imagine now how busy this area was back in 2012 for the London Olympics - at 8pm on a summer evening it's a peaceful place for a walk, with several waterways running through it, including the river Lea, and plenty of space for both cyclists and pedestrians. We could actually see arcelormittal-orbit from our hotel, but you really need to see it close up, and preferably at night, to appreciate it fully.
Our first stop was crate brewery, a craft brewery and pizzeria housed in the White Building, described on the website as a centre for art, technology, and sustainability. The place was pretty busy, unsuprisingly on a Friday night, and the dj added to the general buzz about the place. We found a seat out by the canal and ordered pizzas, and beers to drink whilst we waited.
The pizza I had was very tasty - a proper woodfired pizza oven makes all the difference. My first beer of the night was the Crate stout, a light, creamy stout with unusual fruity notes.
Since I'm in a bit of stouts and sours rut I thought I'd try the Crate
Pale just for a change. This was a light summery beer - just the thing
for a summer evening by the canal!
From there, we headed round the corner in to Queens Yard for a visit to Howling Hops. I was intrigued by the fact that they're the UK's first bar to serve beer straight from the tank. This could have been a bit of a gimmick, but actually what's not to love about beer served as fresh as possible?
Quick hotel review - this is the first Travelodge I've stayed in for a long time, after we had a couple of bad experiences that put us right off. This was a newer one and went some way to improving my opinion of the chain. The room was clean, the bed comfortable, and the staff helpful, and that's pretty glowing praise compared to previous Travelodge experiences!
So, on to day 2! I'd already picked out Borough Market for a visit, and as it's not open on a Sunday it had to be Saturday really. We got there reasonably early and quickly found the market 'caff' for breakfast.
We only have 45 minutes to get round the Cutty Sark by the time we'd got there and had a coffee break, but that was just the right amount of time to be honest
After a wander around the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College it was time for a drink, so we headed to the Trafalger Tavern, an imposing old pub on the bank of the Thames. It's a huge place, with a few separate areas, including one where they were serving afternoon tea. I went local and had a Youngs London Stout. As you can see, it took a while to settle!
After a quick shower and change of clothes we headed back to Greenwich for the evening, and had a wander up through Greenwich Park to the Observatory - whenever we've been to London we've given ourselves a reason to return, and visiting the Observatory when it's open is now on that list!
From there we headed to the Gipsy Moth pub, right next to the Cutty Sark and had one for the road before heading through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to the Island Gardens DLR station, right at the bottom tip of the Isle of Dogs and caught the DLR back to the hotel. Walking under the Thames is a slightly odd experience, but it's not actually that long a walk. Amazing to think it's been open since 1902 - it's an impressive bit of engineering! This is the entrance next to the Cutty Sark.
So on to Sunday, and of course the priority was heading over to Wembley, but as it was a late ish kick off we decided to explore the area near the hotel in the morning. Docklands and the Isle of Dogs doesn't immediately sound like a tourist destination but with a little bit of research we uncovered some pretty well hidden gems. The first was Trinity Buoy Wharf, a 20 minute walk from our hotel. We'd only really intended to stay for breakfast at the Bow Creek Cafe, which I would definitely recommend.
Longplayer) to the artists workshops made from old shipping containers, and a parkour gym. From there it was a short walk to the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park, a 'biodiverse urban wetland' which is remarkably peaceful despite the DLR line running directly overhead. From there, the nearest tube stop is Canning Town - handy, as this meant we could get the jubilee line all the way to Wembley, which was bathed in glorious sunshine! As with Stratford, and Docklands, the thing that really strikes you walking around the area is the sheer number of cranes about the place - London is definitely expanding skywards at the moment, for better or worse.
I'm no football pundit so I won't comment on th match other than to say, our seats were so close to the pitch you could smell the turf, and being behind the goal meant we popped up on the tv coverage once or twice. The atmosphere was great, and (spoiler alert!) a 3-2 win definitely helped 😊
number 90 that was still serving food. I think David was too late clocking the fact there was a (not very good) comedy night on, but thankfully it was just about over by the time we arrived! I'm all for a bit of stand up. but not when you're trying to eat your tea!
On Monday we had a teatime flight booked meaning we had a bit of time to play around with in the morning, though carting our luggage around with us wasn't something we'd planned particularily well for - if we'd booked a more central hotel we probably could have left our bags there, but that wasn't hugely practical being out at Docklands. We did manage to fit in a wander back around to Trinity Buoy Wharf for breakfast before checking out though. This time we went to the other cafe on site, the Fat Boy Diner. An authentic 1940's Dining Car, with a menu and soundtrack to match, I went for a pancake stack with bacon and David had the pancakes with sausage - both a good choice!
Slightly odd having the maple syrup served in a little pot on the side, but the pancakes were pretty good. I'd guess they serve the coffees in takeaway cups because a lot of customers would like to finish their coffee on the way to work (or if they get called out on a shout - two policemen came in for coffee whilst we were there, and apparently they serve a lot of ambulance crews too) but we finished ours with breakfast and ordered milkshakes for the walk back to the hotel. I went for a maltesers one and it has to be the thickest milkshake I've ever had!
From there we headed in to the City of London, trying to avoid hitting too many bankers with our bags (!) as we wandered about.
All in all a great weekend, but next time we plan a city break I'm going to have to make a conscious effort not to try and fit so much stuff in!