London Calling

August 10, 2015 - London, United Kingdom

Weekday breakfast times at our hotel were from 06:30am until 09:30am and our train to London was due to leave at 10:33am so the timing was perfect to take a leisurely morning meal and catch a bit of television news. At least the crowing over Australia's Ashes debacle has finally stopped so we were more comfortable watching the news.

We returned to our room and organised our packing before checking out of the hotel and walking up to the station. We had collected our tickets from the machine when we arrived on Friday so we were ready to roll. A quick check of the departing trains board told us the Paddington service was to leave from Platform 5. After putting our ticket through the turnstile we entered the platform precint and followed the signs to Platform 5; round the corner, down in the lift, along the subway, up the lift and find a seat. Margaret went to check the train information board and it was now showing Platform 15 - delayed. So back down the lift, along the subway, find the lift, press the button and wait. Well, we didn't press the button but rather a railway employee pressed it before we arrived, along with another passenger. I think the employee was hoping to take the lift before we arrived, or do I malign him. Whatever his thoughts when the lift doors did not immediately open he muttered something to himself, or to us, it was certainly incomprehensible in good railway tradition. Our fellow passenger said as much suggesting that they should learn to speak English. I know it was English the railway person was speaking, from the accent and intonation, just not clear enough to discern any words whatsoever. Our fellow passenger spoke with a London accent (east?) and commented that at least London accents and Australian accents he could understand. Are railways all round the world employing people based on the unfathomable patterns of their speech?

The lift finally arrived and took us up to platform level where the Paddington train was waiting and our Coach D was right there so we dragged our bags on board, stowed our suitcases in the last remaining slots in the luggage space and found our reserved seats. At least they weren't occupied and this time there were numbers and reservation labels on the seats. Once happily ensconced and with our chattels organised I logged in to a Free WiFi service and finished off our journal from yesterday.

While we waited we were told by intercom announcement that we were waiting for a delayed Bath Service to allow for connecting passengers. What a joy it must be to be a Railway Controller in such an intricately connected system. I presume the Bath Train was also a Great Western service. After about fifteen minutes another surge of passengers arrived and tried to find seats and I think some just took any unoccupied seat as there was later confusion when passengers tried to sort out which seats were booked and who had the correct tickets. After a delay of twenty minutes we rolled out of Bristol and began our journey, sometimes rushing along and at others trundling along at walking pace to wait, presumably, for other services to clear the sections ahead. As I said, it must be hell to shuffle a delayed express service into the deck of local and commuter services.

We watched the countryside roll past the window, read a little and just people watched. The pastureland gave way to more populated areas until we passed through Reading and entered Greater London. Our arrival was still twenty minutes behind schedule when we arrived at Paddington station and as we were not under any time pressure we waited while almost all the passengers shoved their way to the doors before we joined the rest of the hordes on the platform. It wasn't really that bad. Once people were out of the confinement of the carriage there was a quite orderly march to the exit.

I was somewhat astounded to find there was no requirement for a ticket to exit the station. We walked up the roadway to Praed Street and crossed over to London Street to head for our hotel which was a short walk away down on Sussex Gardens. The rather grand exterior and relatively spacious foyer and desk area then transformed into a rabbit warren of winding passages punctuated by firedoors. A small lift gave us access to the first floor hall which turned back on itself in another convolted set of passages and firedoors. Luckily our room was very near the lift and we turned the key and rushed in. Well we would have if there hadn't been a bed in the way. Margaret's bag is slightly wider than mine and it had to be manhandled into the room rather than wheeled. Once in the room there was space for all our bags and ourselves, along with the bed but not much more. Margaret had to sidle around the bed to get to her side. Tea and coffee making facilities are provided .... on a narrow glass shelf near our bags on my side of the bed. BUT the only power outlet is on Margaret's side and even then the jug will probably have to sit on the window surround. The good news is the window is large and can be opened, in fact, is open and cannot be shut or secured at all. At least we can have some air circulation, and reasonably good circulation as at the moment the door is propped open with my shoe wedged between the door and the end of the bed, about four inches clearance there! Oh well, at least there is a bed and it has an en-suite bathroom.

Once we had settled in and I had a little afternoon snooze we went out for a walk around the area. One of the first things we saw was an enticing little Greek restaurant which looked good for dinner. We continued on up to Praed Street and found a coffee shop with a French theme, but no patrons. The Bonne Bouche looked better than Costas so we went in for a cafe latte. The best of British coffees we've had so far. We emerged from the coffee shop under threatening skies and did a long circuit along to Craven Terrace, then down to Lancaster Gate and through Kensington Gardens toward Hyde Park. The gardens were full of people out for an afternoon stroll in the summer sun which had peeped out from behind the clouds again. The vagaries of British weather once more in evidence. I think we may have been a bit spoiled before this.

From the gardens we walked back to our hotel and spent some time reading and using up some of the fifteen minutes of free WiFi offered by this hotel. A bit tight-fisted compared to almost anywhere except Australia. There is a method for making a WiFi aerial from a bit of wire and a Pringles pack. We could then connect to the hotel across Talbot Square from us. Perhaps I could look it up on the internet?

About 7pm we walked back to Kolossi, the Greek restaurant, for a very enjoyable meal. It was a touch more than we had planned to pay, having rejected several other places on that basis. Still, we did have wine, mains, desserts and coffees so £52 was OK and the food was excellent. Slow cooked lamb shank for Margaret and crumbed chicken breast (to avoid the garlic) for Max. We both followed that with a creme caramel. Nice but not up to French standard.

Now we were well fed we walked around the streets for a while in the twilight before returning to the hotel to try to wash in the confined space of the shower. A tricky task if you want to keep your hair dry. One or two errant jets from the shower head kept trying to squirt you in the eye or dampen Margaret's fringe. Annoying. I suppose that is a fair description of this short stay at the Westpoint Hotel, Hyde Park. Annoying; not impossible but you need to always be aware. In fact you are always aware, of the danger of bumping into the furniture, the awkward position of things like power points, the danger of knocking things off narrow shelves, and of the neighbours as they arrive later at night or get up to catch early trains.

Only another couple of hours to go!

PS Margaret adds -

Dr Johnson said that he who is tired of London is tired of life. I don't really think that applies to Max; it's just that he's never had an extended opportunity to make friends with it. Next time, Max, we're here for a month!


Pictures

The Westpoint Hotel
The less than spacious rooms
Talbot Square
A walk in the park
 
 

1 Comment

Sue:
August 12, 2015
Englad is not famous for it's bathroom facilities, at least you had a shower of sorts or coffee it would seem
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