UK Getaway

Here I am at 84 Charing Cross Road (now a restaurant)

Here I am at 84 Charing Cross Road (now a restaurant)

I’m just back from my annual trip to the UK. Each year Rom and I visit his family in Sussex and spend a few days in London. I like the city/country mix!

Day by Day:

Day 1:

Overnight nonstop flight, 6 hours, little sleep. We arrived at 9:30 am local time and stayed up til 10 that night – despite having been up the entire day and night before. The direct flights from Halifax to London are limited so we always take this one. It means staying up for about 36 hours (minus the napping during the flight) but it’s the only way we can function on British Summer Time the next day.

We went out for a cream tea at a local garden centre with Rom’s family and had a quiet evening of visiting and catching up.

Scenic elements: fences, doors, windows, gates

Scenic elements: fences, doors, windows, gates

Day 2:

Strolled around the tiny town, and spent the rest of the day at Standen, a “stately home” run by the National Trust. The Beale family planned the estate with architect Philip Webb, and the house is filled with William Morris wallpapers and textiles. The Trust is restoring the gardens to the 1920s plan. It was a gorgeous place to walk and explore.

Clockwise from top left: Dar at Richmond riverbank; after the theatre; Dar at the Pantiles (Tunbridge Wells); Marble Arch at Hyde Park; View from royal Observatory in Greenwich; one of the newest of dozens of underground and rail stops we found ourselves in; Stansted (National Trust stately home); Rom at Thames Barrier

Clockwise from top left: Dar at Richmond riverbank; after the theatre; Dar at the Pantiles (Tunbridge Wells); Marble Arch at Hyde Park; view from royal Observatory at Greenwich; one of the newest of dozens of underground and rail stops we found ourselves in; Standen (National Trust stately home); Rom at Thames Barrier

Day 3:

Shopping at Royal Tunbridge Wells and a family dinner at a classic English pub. RTW is an historic spa town with a modern shopping mall and a pretty promenade for “taking the air.”

Top: two courses at vanilla Black. Bottom: conspicuously vegetable-free takeout meal; snazzy restaurant for carnivores at the O2

Top: two courses at Vanilla Black. Bottom: conspicuously vegetable-free takeout meal; snazzy restaurant for carnivores at the O2

Day 4:

A look around the nearest centre of commerce (see photo of my unhealthy lunch) and our one-hour journey up to our London-area hotel. We stayed at a modern hotel which was a one-hour “underground” trip to Central London. We saved a lot by staying out of town and buying the off-peak day travel cards, which allow unlimited trips after 9:30 am. That meant we arrived in the City Centre at about 10:30 each day. Since we arrived late afternoon, we decided to spend the rest of the day wandering along the riverbank in Richmond, which was very relaxing. Especially watching others row the river while we just strolled 🙂 By this time I was so vegetable-deprived that I insisted on going to the noisy chain restaurant Wagamama for dinner!

Public art in the Docklands/Canary Wharf area

Public art in the Docklands/Canary Wharf area

Day 5:

Our first full day in London. Since we’ve had many previous trips here, we travelled a little further afield to the Thames Barrier and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. I really enjoyed travelling the DLR trains to the newer stations in the Canary Wharf area. Everything is spacious and gleaming! I was surprised by all the public art. It was a gruelling climb up to the Observatory (and I say this as a moderately fit person). The Observatory itself was underwhelming but its site is spectacular and of course, you get to stand on the Prime Meridian! While in the area we took a peek at the O2 (arena) and ended up having a long visit at the free Docklands Museum. The exhibits display the history of London through seafaring and trade – which is, of course, also the history of slavery, colonialism and war. It was high-impact and I highly recommend it – kudos to Rom for scheduling it in!

A wee Nick Cave back in the 80s (he is now 57) - photo by Bleddyn Butcher

A wee Nick Cave back in the 80s (he is now 57) – photo by Bleddyn Butcher

Day 6:

A proper city day, scheduled around our lunch reservation at the ritzy vegetarian eatery Vanilla Black and our tickets to see the new theatrical production of Shakespeare in Love in the evening. It was a jam-packed day as we shopped near Seven Dials and I found out that 84 Charing Cross Road is in a location I had walked past unknowingly several times in the past! We took a browse around the London Transport Museum (not just for trainspotters – it is a good social history site) and Somerset House. Completely unexpectedly, we stumbled across an exhibit of photos of Nick Cave, from a new book by Bleddyn Butcher. It was fantastic! As soon as I got home I spent the day listening to The Birthday Party. Egads! As a theatre lover and Shakespeare fan I could not have done any better than the play we saw. Dare I say it was better than the movie – after all, a movie about the theatre does not have the magic of live theatre. The music and dance were thrilling and I was delighted by how comedic it had become.

What i bought: theatre program, magazine, book, 5 CDs, 2 DVDs, 3 tea towels, 2 table napkins

My purchases: theatre program, magazine, book, 5 CDs, 2 DVDs, 3 tea towels, 2 table napkins, 1 tiny robot

Day 7:

Our last full day was spent shopping all along Oxford Street and visiting the iconic department stores: Liberty of London (completely unlike all others and a must-visit), Selfridges (which, ahem, required another cream tea), John Lewis, British Home, and Debenham’s. But you know me, I spent the most time at the giant HMV! We also made a repeat visit to Covent Garden where I like to check out the latest menswear looks at Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, Paul Smith et al. It was strange to browse all these luxury stores – I didn’t have much desire to buy, and (by my standards) spent very little. I would never go into comparable stores in my own city – it’s just not part of my everyday life, but was a nice bit of vacation escapism!

Day 8:

Departure through Heathrow Terminal 2 – the new “Queen’s Terminal.” It was eerily spacious and relaxing – huh?

Happily, I have a few days off before returning to work on Monday so I am just recovering from vacation 🙂

Thanks everyone for checking my page while I was away, and all of your kind wishes!


  1. Thanks for the tour. I love the public art you snapped. It looks like you had a delightful time.

  2. Lisa

    Great trip summary for us! I just read and loved 84 Charing Cross Road, and I am happy to see you at its site. BTW, thanks for the book recommendation – my book club is now reading it. 🙂

  3. Welcome back! And great photos. I miss the UK. I need to visit it again someday.

  4. Sounds like an amazing trip, thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Oh, hello England!! I can’t wait til I can go back. I know that I have to wait though x

  6. Wow sounds like a wonderful trip!!! Really makes me want to go–long plane ride and all!

  7. Fiona

    It is so lovely to read your trip account – I cannot wait to go back to London some day! I love the reports on places you visited. I think the Observatory, Docklands Museum and Transport Museum will all go on my ‘bucket list’ for next time. I really wanted to get to Charing Cross Road on our trip but we didn’t make it (lovely to see your photo of what is there now.) Thrilled to see the Nick Cave pic as well! (he’s a ‘local’ – he comes from a tiny, parochial country town outside Melbourne and was later sent to boarding school in Melbourne.)

    • I think the museums and sites we went to were good for a follow-up trip, but most people would want to go to Natural History, British Museum, V&A, Buckingham Palace, and other major sites first. I knew you’d note the Nick Cave pic – Warracknabeal, I read? I am all obsessed with him at the moment.

      • Fiona

        I love Nick Cave though admittedly the more classic stuff / Bad Seeds era. I was completely freaked out by The Birthday Party!

      • I didn’t know about them when they were current but in retrospect I would have liked them because I liked similar types of music such as No Wave, art punk and industrial.

        I have to say I am not attracted to the themes in Mr. Cave’s music (outlaw Americana, Southern Gothic) but more his life as an artist.

      • Fiona

        Sorry, double commenting but for bonus Cave quirkiness (in case you haven’t had enough) have a look at the Aussie tourism ad on YouTube called ‘Barossa. Be Consumed.’ I’m not entirely sure it convinced anyone to go to South Australia…but it was a bold effort to be different (for a tourism organisation.)

      • Thanks, Fiona! That ad totally convinces me to go to South Australia – so edgy and louche! And I am sure it depicts everyday life in South Australia very convincingly, LOL!

  8. What a brilliant break! You’ve given me ideas for my trip. Don’t think I will get out of London as there’s so much I want to see and do. I wish my flight was 6 hours. I have double that just for the first leg to Dubai!

    Like Fiona, I’ve added the Docklands and the Transport museums to my list. Greenwich always was as Mr S is a science boffin.

    Oh, your post has made me so excited. I can’t wait. Why did I only book for 3 weeks away?

    • I can’t wait to hear what the key things are that you want to see in London. I have been there about 6 times now so I choose very differently than I did the first time around. I thought the Royal Observatory was weak on its science but worth it for the view! There is a Museum of London I’d like to visit – the Docklands Museum is an extension site for it,

  9. How’s the return flights and hours awake? I know the BF likes to have a day to decompress post holiday!

    I agree with Lucinda – I’d kill for a 6hours flight – even 9 hours to Tokyo on one plane was a delight compared to the US (14-15hrs) and Europe, always with a layover.

    • I have never travelled further than a 7.5 hour flight (Halifax to Vancouver) so I don’t know how I’d cope with longer! probably by scheduling a layover. The return flight from London to Halifax is an hour longer (being eastbound) and there’s a 4-hour time difference, but going the other way is harder. I wouldn’t have been up for work the next day.

  10. Gam kau

    So glad you had such a pleasant trip. It sounds like you managed to fill your days with plenty of activity. I’m impressed with how much you managed to squeeze in. Too bad I just missed yyou!

    • Hope we can meet up next time! This trip was more relaxing than previous ones with lots of leisurely walks, and only one evening event. I liked knowing you had seen the same play!

  11. looks like you had a great break. thanks for sharing !

  12. You packed in so much on your trip! I love all your photos. I’ve added the Transport Museum to my list as it’s somewhere I’m yet to visit.
    I’m not sure how you preferred Liberty over good old BHS…….lol!

    • I thought we did a lot less this time – only one ticketed event – one late night and three early ones! The Transport Museum was completely hands on; you could climb aboard the vehicles. I ended up going to Selfridge’s twice (returned for tea late afternoon). Liberty was amazing! It had the feel of an “Antiques and Curiosities” shop but very grandiose!

  13. What a fabulous time you had, I’m envious of seeing the Nick Cave exhibition. I once nearly collided with him, coming out of a cafe in Melbourne, my closet brush with fame!

  14. What a beautiful trip!! You just inspired me to get back there as soon as possible.


  15. Haven’t been here in a little while! Awesome UK trip! Ah, I miss it – did my grad studies in London. I’m super jealous of all the pictures! I want to go back soon and relive all the memories 🙂

  16. Sounds amazing! I would love to travel to London. Someday 🙂 Your towels are cute – the dog one reminds of this cat towel I bought in Brooklyn.

    The countryside looks lovely too – those fences are cool. I’ve not seen anything like it.

    • Cute cat tea towel! I really like the mix of history and modernism in London. There were even more styles of handmade wooden fences I didn’t include – the craft is everywhere!

      • I forgot to say I love the tea towels. Great idea for a souvenir. I don’t buy knick nacks but something that is needed and always used is good. But oh no, do I sound all middle-aged? I never even looked at tea towels when I travelled in my 20s!

      • Ha, I feel the same. But if you were to buy vintage ones at “op shops” it would be considered cool enough, right?

  17. Pingback: What I Liked About September | An Exacting Life

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