Showing posts with label affordable London. Show all posts
Showing posts with label affordable London. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Thirsting for History ~ A DIY London Pub Crawl

You can work up a thirst when you DIY (do it yourself) tour a city.  Especially when the temperatures are in the 80’s (26C) and the city is London, England.

We found there’s no better place than an old traditional English pub to provide a means of quenching your thirst while providing a taste of history. 

Ale taps at Audley Pub - Mayfair District
One of our favorite public houses – that is from where the word ‘pub’ comes --  is the Audley Pub, a block from Grosvenor Square in the Mayflower district, on the corner of Mount and South Audley streets.  It was an easy few blocks walk from our hotel. We’d been so charmed by it on a London stopover a few years ago that we headed back to it within hours of our arrival this spring. 

Interior Audley Pub - Mayfair District - London 
This traditional old watering hole was established back in 1730 as The Bricklayers Arms. It was rebuilt in 1888 at the instruction of the Duke of Westminster and the landlord at the time was allowed to keep his lease but had to change the name to the ‘more respectable’ Audley Hotel.

P1000651 (2)
Stand up and sip outside the Audley Pub - Mayfair District
No longer a hotel, there is a cozy restaurant area on the pub’s second floor that served up some of the best pub grub we found in London during our visit a few years ago. It was closed for a private party the evening we were there this spring, so it still seems to be popular.

The Audley, like most pubs in London, is crowded in the early evenings with a mix of professionals who’ve come from their ‘dress-for-success’ offices and are still ‘talking shop’ and other more casually dressed drinkers, like us, who simply want a beverage and atmosphere.

George, a private club, occupies part of building across the street from Audley Pub

Audley Pub provided hearty servings of both beverage and atmosphere. We aren’t ale fans, but found a good selection of wine from which to choose. And once selected, we headed to the sidewalk (where smokers partake of tobacco because of recent anti-smoking laws) and others of us were there to enjoy the good weather and neighborhood surroundings.

A change we noticed from our last London visit, was that each pub had a security officer to make sure the patrons don’t block sidewalks or worse, step out into traffic.

PicMonkey Collage
Audley House - Mayfair District - London
Our sidewalk sipping was kitty-corner from the ornate entry to Audley House, built in 1881. It has been the home of James Purdey & Sons Gun and Rifle Shop since 1883, and back then it was considered ‘the most prestigious gun shop in the country’. The shop continues to flourish in this stately building that bears a plaque where shrapnel from a World War II air raid damaged pillars. (Windows on its east side were destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1972.)  

We’d pondered its history while sipping our wine and having  researched it since returning home, we plan to go in next time to see its Long Room which was used during WWII by General Dwight Eisenhower’s staff to plan battles. 

British Pubs – Here today – gone tomorrow?

While British pubs are as iconic a part of London as its red phone booths and double-decker buses, there aren’t as many of them around as there used to be.  In 2014 the British Beer and Pub Association reported there were 51,900 pubs in the United Kingdom, a sharp decrease from 1982 when 67,800 pubs operated there.

The Salisbury - theatre district - London
Any number of reasons have contributed to the closing of more than 7,000 U.K. pubs; among them are the anti-smoking laws I mentioned above, beer prices at supermarkets, and the impact of the 2008 financial crisis. According to the Association the British are drinking 23 percent less ale than a decade ago; their trend is toward drinking wine in ‘trendier’ bars.  In London, the hot housing market had pub owners selling businesses which were converted to houses or apartments. Many of the pubs are now owned and operated by breweries.

The Salisbury - London pub
One pub that is still going strong is The Salisbury at 90 St. Martin Lane, in the heart of the Theatre District. It opened in 1892 as a gin palace and in recent years has been featured in a number of films. This pub offers an app you can download for do-it-yourself ‘themed pub tours, such as a ghost tour, or a shopping tour. To download the app:

The Iron Duke - Mayfair District - London
We had another taste of history, along with a glass of wine, at The Iron Duke, 11 Avery Row, back in the Mayfair District, as the pub’s name is for that of the “Iron Duke”, the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, a decorated army commander who ruled as Prime Minister in the late 1820’s.
(You’ll note here we were surrounded by the dress-for-success-after-work crowd.)

PicMonkey Collage
Prince Regent Pub - Marylebone High StreetAdd caption
And some pubs just call out because they are in an interesting neighborhood or they are housed in picturesque buildings, like the case of the Prince Regent pub we sipped at on the Marylebone High Street.

Marylebone is an affluent area, walking distance from our hotel near Hyde Park in Mayfair - for those who are able to walk several blocks. Its High Street is alive with small shops and cafes. According to Wikipedia, “Marylebone gets its name from a church dedicated to St Mary, represented now by St. Marylebone Parish Church(1817); the original church was built on the bank of a small stream or “bourne”.

Angel in the Fields - Maryleborne - London
As I told you in last week’s post, we spent a few days exploring London on our own without any particular plan. Several of the pubs we visited during our stay, we’d discovered on previous stops in London and we were pleased to see they were still in existence. Even with the decrease in their overall numbers, luckily, old traditional pubs are still easy to find in London.

If you aren’t up to setting out on your own, simply “Google” London pub tours and a variety of options will appear.  I did a quick search and found a 3-hour afternoon walk from $33.81US; a 4-hour west end tour from $64.91US and a Literary Pub Crawl and Tavern Tour from $24.34US.

Ale taps - Prince Regent Pub - Maryleborne
That’s it for this week.  We thank you for your time and hope you’ll be back to see what’s ‘on tap’ next week!  Until then, safe and healthy travels to you and yours ~

Linking up this week:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

London ~ DIY Low-Cost Sightseeing

Four days. No plans. Blue sky and sunshine. Temperatures in the 80's (26C).

London called out for aimless exploration. DIY – Do It Yourself sightseeing.

Street Scene Mayfair District
Our stopover in London en route to Seattle from Greece was -- even for us who love to go ‘where-the-wind-blows-us -- a rather spontaneous adventure.  We hadn’t had time to do our usual guide book and internet research.  (If you missed why, and care to find out, you can read that here.)

We’d booked a hotel. But nothing more than that and our flight to the States five days later had been given much thought. 

A Home? A Club? in London's Mayfair District

While that is far too unstructured for some of you and probably has you wiggling in your chair with discomfort, we found that having no expectations meant we had no disappointments. We hadn't arrived with a list of 'must-see' or 'must do'.

Because we weren’t rushing to get to the Tower Bridge, or Big Ben, or Buckingham Palace, or some other of London’s ‘tourist sites’ we had time to enjoy the street scenes that played out right before us – scenes we’d have likely ignored had we been racing to get somewhere to see ‘something’.

Exploring the Mayfair district
Selfridge and Co. on Oxford Street
Our hotel in London’s West End Mayfair district was footsteps from Oxford Street, a wide boulevard that is home to some 300+ shops. It is said to be  Europe's busiest shopping street, with around half a million daily visitors. Perhaps one of the most well-known stores (thanks to the British television series) is Selfridge & Co. which opened on Oxford Street in 1909 in a building designed by Daniel Burnham for Harry Gordon Selfridge. It continues to be the company’s headquarters and with a reported  540,000 square feet of selling space, the store is the second largest retail store in the United Kingdom. It was a short walk from our hotel and provided free ‘window shopping’ entertainment as we explored its many floors.

PicMonkey Collage
Add caption
Just across Park Lane from our hotel, the 350-acre Hyde Park, offered a green, quiet alternative to the bustling Oxford Street. It is one of the city’s eight Royal Parks and its more well-known features include the Marble Arch, Serpentine Lake and the Speaker’s Corner. The weather had drawn multitudes of bikers, joggers, and sun worshippers – and strollers, like us – to it.

A delightful place, its history only adds to its ambiance: in 1536 King Henry VIII confiscated Hyde Park from the monks of Westminster Abbey. Back then it was used primarily for hunting. King Charles I opened the park to the public in 1637. The current park layout was planned by architect Decimus Burton in 1825.

PicMonkey Collage
Animals in War Monument - Hyde Park
The park, which has no entry fees, is filled with beautiful statues but my favorite – a must-see any time we get to London – is the monument to animals who served in the war. The two-sided art work in which statues of animals with war equipment marching on bricks to the drab concrete wall which reads, “Animals in War – they had no choice” and on the other side the ‘free’ animals emerge to a green lawn and flower beds.

PicMonkey Collage
American Embassy at Grosvenor Square
We were just a few blocks away from one of London’s many squares, Grosvenor Square, pronounced grove-ner. Once part of the Grosvenor family’s estate, the square was opened to the public and since the 1930’s has had a strong association with the United States. The American Embassy, pictured in the above mosaic, is located at 1 Grosvenor Square.

Seeing London – On foot

No getting lost in London - thanks to these signs
London is a pedestrian-friendly city with sidewalks generally free of barriers and obstructions and crossing signals at busy intersections. Londoners do drive in the opposite lanes of what we do in the U.S. and other parts of the world, so visitors need to be mindful of that when crossing any street. 
Should you become confused about where you’ve taken yourself, you’ll find clarification from one of the many signs installed at intervals throughout the town, which tell you not only where you are, but what you are near as well.

For those who can’t or don’t want to walk, the city has any number of sightseeing options including:

PicMonkey Collage
Tours of London from the Thames are popular
Tourist boats of every size, shape and description travel the Thames River.

Regular city buses are a good way to see the city 
There are 'Hop On, Hop Off' tourist buses, or plenty of regular double-decker red buses that traverse the city, or for those who can’t decide between a bus and a boat:

Is it a bus or a boat or both?
They even have those tour bus/boat combinations.

We set out on foot with tourist map (from the hotel concierge) in hand and next week I’ll tell you about some of the places we visited on this spur-of-the-moment DIY tour of ours. Thanks so much for the time you spent with us today.  Our wishes for safe and healthy travels ~ 

Linking up:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A London Stopover– On Airline Miles and Hotel Points

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford.
                                -- Samuel Johnson

While song writers seem beguiled about springtime in Paris, we found London to be equally as enchanting. It didn’t take long for this jolly ol’ capital city with a population of more than 8.5 million to wrap us in its charms during our brief visit in May.

Those London phone booths are icons of the city
Because we were returning to the States from Greece earlier than originally planned to deal The Scout’s, medical matter, he was tasked with finding us a reasonable and affordable routing for this rather spur-of-the-moment trip. 

Speaking of icons, there are those double-decker buses as well. . .
The best option he found was flying via London, using some of our accumulated airline miles. (There are no direct flights between Athens and Seattle, so you need to stop somewhere. Sometimes depending on flight connections the layover could be a matter of hours and other times, overnight at least).

We purchased tickets on Aegean Airlines for our trip from Athens to London. We then used Alaska Airlines miles,a regional U.S. carrier, to fly on one of its partners, British Airlines.

Traveler’s Tip: We booked two one-way tickets London – Seattle, in Premium Economy, that rather comfortable section that isn’t quite Business Class but certainly isn’t Economy Class. The price 42,500 air miles PLUS $432US a seat in taxes and fees: (85,000 miles + $864US) AND THEN an additional $169US to select the seats we wanted to sit in – two seat side by the windows (and assure ourselves we weren’t stuck in the middle of a center row).

While all those extra $$$ were equivalent to what we would have paid for a regular economy class seat it does make one wonder about using airline miles for ‘free’ travel.

That London Stopover

London, London, London
It occurred to us that we could make lemonade out of the lemon he’d been handed by using some of our horded hotel points to pay for a stay at the Marriott’s Park Lane Hotel. It’s located across the street from Hyde Park,in the rather posh and privileged Mayfair District.

Traveler’s Tip:  Even using discount sites, the price of a room here hovers at $500 a night, plus another $100 per night in taxes and fees.  We paid nothing more for our room than 180,000 points,(which we’ve earned on previous Marriott stays and credit card spending).

Because we have stayed in Marriott hotels enough nights to qualify for their ‘elite’ level benefits, we had access to the hotel’s Executive Lounge were we ate breakfast daily, and drank happy hour wine and an afternoon espresso drink each day – all complimentary which further saved us a great deal of money. A British pound was at the time equivalent to $1.46US.

PicMonkey Collage
Marriott Park Lane - London
After arriving at Heathrow Airport and caught the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station, 32 kilometers, or about 20 miles away. Paddington has been the London terminus of the Great Western Railway and its successors since 1838. The high speed airport ‘shuttle’ trains leave the depart every 15 minutes. More than 16,000 passengers use the train daily.

Catching the train was a snap as they’ve simplified that process since the last time we’d visited London. A young woman was standing just outside baggage claim selling train tickets and we had only to follow signs posted in the airport to find the train platform.  Two round-trip train tickets: $105US

Heathrow Express at Paddington Station
From Paddington it was a short taxi ride to the hotel. Once settled in to our room, we set off to explore.  We walked 33.5 miles in the 4.5 days we were there and next week, we’ll show you some of our routes through London’s neighborhoods.

A London Park
Before signing off this week, we want to thank all of you who wrote emails or comments on last week’s post about The Scout’s trip through the medical worlds of Greece and the U.S.  Your kind wishes and ‘sighs of relief’ were most welcome.

Those ‘medical moments’ whether experienced at home or while traveling do make travel experiences just a bit more precious.  Booking a one-way trip instead of round-trip because you don’t know when you will be able to return was a good reminder to us to keep traveling as far and wide as we can – while we can! In other words:


Hope to see you all back here next week! Until then safe and healthy travels to you and yours~

Linking up:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...