London, Back Again - The Graduation Adventure Day 8
Thursday, May 29th
There are a few things I've learned during our trip so far. I've learned to always confirm you're going to have a free breakfast before booking with Orbitz. And I've learned if you're going to book a flight or a train ticket or whatever, have the booking coincide with the checkout time.
Now you'd think the second part should be pretty self explanatory. It should be. Though because we like to get places early, I think I don't think too hard about check out times. So if check out time is 11a, having a 1p train out of town is going to make for a hard morning. Which is what happened to us today.
Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, this is not a huge deal. I know what you're thinking...Oh, you have to sit in the hotel's lobby for an hour just twiddling your thumbs while we're all at home not traveling in the UK. Well, yes. And remember, you have sunshine and warmth. So, point to you. But the waiting just gets annoying. We were up and ready to take on the day at 9a (slept in a little cause we could). After visiting Starbucks (again), all we had to do was wait for our train from Cardiff back to Paddington Station.
The trains are nice enough. Clean and spacious. I found room for my suitcase almost immediately. We sat and waited to get back to London. Cardiff was in the rearview mirror. Paris was on the horizon. Well, I guess London is on the closer horizon. Paris is more around the corner after the horizon.
We booked a different hotel for this leg of the London visit. The Darlington Hotel was actually the first one we had considered staying in for the longer visit. But there was an issue with the twin rooms at that time, so we ended up in the Park Grand. The Darlington is in the same neighborhood as the previous hotel (Paddington) and only a block or two away from the Paddington station. Which helps for both arrival from Cardiff and catching trains that will go to the International Station of St Pancreas.
The Darlington...I'm not entirely sure how to describe this one. The room itself is more spacious than the Park Grand. The lighting in the bathroom is adequate, which considering the horrendous lighting overall is a large improvement. The TV is basically a 13 inch computer monitor with only 10 or so channels. Overall, it's not bad. But it's also not the best we've had on this journey. Elias and I decided this was probably a really nice hotel back in the day. In the late 80s/early 90s, they must have had a refurb. But they haven't had one since. Small updates, like the TV, may have been made. But ultimately, this hotel could use a good refresher. Now that's not to say we didn't enjoy our stay here. It was nice enough for a night, or it would have been nice enough for a short stay. But we both decided the Park Grand would be the place we'd want to stay again if we had a choice, There was one perfect feature for us. And that's something I'll explain shortly.
Ever since we left London, we knew the plan for the final night. We were going to go back to Piccadilly Circus. Mostly, we were going to grab some souvenirs, but we also wanted to try for the Book of Mormon seat lottery. Front row tickets for £20 each?? Sign us up. Literally. We needed to sign up. So on the way we went to Piccadilly. With one small issue.
The Tube had been pretty easy for us. We bought day passes and went along our merry way (it may have been cheaper to buy several day passes, but we are past that point, so feel free to not mention it). Today, we only needed two rides. To Piccadilly and back from Piccadilly. There was a scrum of folks trying to do the same thing, so I was getting flustered. And I bought what I thought was a one way/return ticket. It wasn't. It was a one way ticket only. For £4.70 (or something like that), I could only get to Piccadilly. Then I'd need another to get back home. Considering the one day pass was less than two one way passes, I knew I'd made an unfortunate error. But it's only money, right?? *heavy eye roll*
We were in the Tube close to rush hour, so it was not as happy go lucky as our previous train rides were over the weekend and during the bank holiday. But we made it through. And as we exited from the Piccadilly Circus station, the skies opened up and began raining on us. Again. Seriously, London??
The theatre was in our sights. The souvenir shop was too. We were ready to make something happen.
To get lottery seats at the Book of Mormon, you needed to be at the box office at 5p. At this time, they start handing out forms to fill out. Everyone fills out a form and lists if they want one or two seats for tonight's show. All forms go into a drum and at 530p, they start the drawing. If you're not there at 530p, you lose out. We were there. We were ready. We had Benedict Cumberbatch's little cousin and Christopher Eccleston's younger brother picking the forms for the show. One by one names were called. And one by one, ours was not. We didn't get in. Which was both disappointing and ok for both of us. We wanted to see the show. But we had something more important we could do instead.
We were doing laundry.
Oh, yes we were. On the road for a week, there were several pieces of clothing which were a bit disgusting at this point. Elias has been wearing a hoodie non stop, since his packing was for warmer weather. My jeans were problematic as they were basically falling off of me every day. I'm sure they smelled as well. Cause, a week's worth of wear would do that to them. We had always talked about laundry. But it was more that we would have someone else do laundry. Here, we could get coins and detergent and do it ourselves. Done.
But before we went to do laundry, we needed food. Neither one of us had eaten since Starbucks this morning. And we were ready. We wanted to do a pub. Mostly to make up for the bar scenario from yesterday, but it was also our last night in London. Why not attempt a pub again??
Can I say I really hate pubs at this point?? The first one we tried was on our list from TripAdvisor. That one had people all around the opening. It was too crowded to attempt anything. The second one stopped serving dinner at 5p and wouldn't let anyone under 18 in past that time (he also didn't believe me when I said Elias was 18.). The third one we walked into, then out of when it didn't look like they had food. At this time, we were in Leicester Square, so tourist central. That wasn't going to go well. We turned a corner and ended up in Chinatown. That was also not an option.
Eventually, we found a place called The Porcupine. Pub downstairs, dinner upstairs. We tried it out. At this point, there was nothing to lose. In the upper dining room, they had one open table. Thank. God. Neither one of us cared what the food options were. We were going to sit and eat. It was more than time.
And The Porcupine?? Perfect. Seriously. We had a lovely waitress who walked Elias through the draft options. And they had half pints, which was a perfect size for him. I had a new cider (full pint, thank you very much) called Aspall. And we both breathed a sigh of relief. My guess is the food is normally nothing to write home about, but we inhaled a steak and a ham (I think...honestly, I thought I was ordering steak) with an egg on top. Then, we equally devoured a brownie with ice cream and a summer pudding. It's very possible that this goes on the list of the Top 5 meals in London.
To make things even better, the pub was next door to the Tube stop. We jumped on, changed trains, then jumped off in no time. Our hotel was a five minute walk from the station and we were done for the night. We pretty much were done with London.
We both gathered the crap we wanted to wash. Basically, five pairs of jeans and that mangy sweatshirt Elias has been living in. I brought down the iPad and £6 and spent the next two hours hanging out on the floor of a laundry room. Come on...not even a chair?? Yes, I could have gone back to the room. But I didn't want to chance it. All of our pants were in one place. Just think if someone wanted to run away with some very premium Old Navy denim?? They could make literally £2. And we'd be in trouble. Plus, I figured Elias would like to have some time away from me for a few minutes. So I screwed around on the her internet for a while. Ultimately, I did pull the laundry from the dryer a little early, cause I was tired of being downstairs.
With that, an exciting evening in London comes to an end. We are on the road again tomorrow. Next stop, Paris!! Where we start moving at full-speed again.
5/29 - 9700 steps, 4.2 miles