We had said for sometime that we had wanted a month in London so as to explore various parts we did not know and re-visit some we did, combing it with meeting up with friends and relatives along the way.
In the event, we only managed a week using the relatively new Flybe service from the Isle of Man to London Stansted. Using points acquired from previous flights we managed upgrades to the Executive lounge in the Isle of Man and snacks, drinks on board.
Sadly, the plane was nowhere near full which does not bode well for the longevity of the service. Bags collected at Stansted we head for the train to London but due to overhead line difficulties there were no trains so we opted for a journey by National Express Bus service to Stratford instead, surprisingly quick and certainly cheaper.
A quick walk over the Station on the new footbridge to the Staybridge suites in the Westfield Centre, our home for the next 6 nights. Dinner in tonight as we have a microwave in a kitchenette so settle down to look at the night skyline.
Not venturing far the following day we shop in Westfield amongst all the people – what a multi cultural and racial people we are now in London – before setting off on the Jubilee line along with many West Ham United fans (who got off before us at West Ham) for North Greenwich and the O2 arena for a Neil Diamond concert scheduled to start at 8pm.
No way was this going to start at 8pm as there were still queues at the food outlets at 7pm and true enough, it started about 20 minutes late with people still streaming in at all entrances. Sitting on an aisle seat it was very noticeable that many of the audience had need of visits to the toilets, probably having consumed too much drink and thus kept passing by and disrupting viewing. One person even managed to put his drink down on the drinks holder on my seat without me knowing!
A fabulous concert by a guy who is 74 would you believe – he had the 20,000 audience dancing in the aisles and of course ended with Sweet Caroline. Excellent night’s entertainment followed by the relatively short journey back to Stratford.
Friday was a surprisingly windy day for London but not cold enough for coats, thankfully. The day was the Muslim feast of Eid, the end of Ramadan, and the bus journey (No. 25) down the A118 passed many colourful characters on their way to or from their local Mosques.
By the time the bus had reached Aldgate East and Aldgate the colourful clothing had turned to men and woman in business suits and more traditional tourist attire. We get off at St Paul’s as I had not visited it for some time and Sally had never visited it.
We were good tourists and took no photos inside as instructed but others were not so good although thankfully, I saw no flash cameras and the picture in the blog is from the internet.
Then after a walk on the Millennium Bridge (another first for Sally) we took another bus (23) to Paddington Station and an evening meal at Garfunkel’s with Flic & Gary at who trained it down from Reading.
The next day we had arranged to visit Sally’s brother in Cambridge and as a Saturday, First Class Rail travel was only £6 extra – a bargain and a comfortable ride (after we get out of London) in the sun past Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire’s wonderful countryside but no ticket inspector to check our First Class Tickets.
Nick met us at the station and we were well entertained and dined before our journey back from Cambridge. Fine comfortable journey back until we reached Bishops Stortford when the First Class compartment was overrun by at least 14 noisy twenty somethings, blatantly sitting in First Class and laughing and bragging about the fact they only had Standard class tickets and that no one would check up on them.
One female in particular used the “f”word on several occasions and was particularly loud. Certainly there was a smell of alcohol in the compartment from Bishops Stortford onwards which was not present between Cambridge and Bishops Stortford.
Noisy singing and talking by these young adults was not conducive to a relaxed journey and prevented reading of books by us as the only other occupants of the first class compartment.
Clearly the youngsters were right, there was no ticket inspection and no one at Liverpool Street was there to check the correct use of the First Class Compartment as there had been earlier in the day on a train from Stratford to Liverpool Street run by the same train Company.
My question therefore is, “what is the point of travelling First Class when the service is so abused and Abellio Greater Anglia does not provide travelling revenue support staff to enforce the regulations”?
Certainly the very weak response from the train Company – Abellio Greater Anglia – just demonstrated what they thought of the situation: sorry, but that’s what happens, we don’t really care.
Sunday, another fine day and we are due to meet with our friends, Pete & Lorraine in Woodford for lunch but before this I managed a walk out in the morning towards the nearby Olympic Park still being used, today for the Newham Borough 10k; it is lovely to see that the facilities there are regularly used.
Not allowed to go to the Olympic Park due to the event so must wait for another visit to get inside.
Short journey up the Central Line to Woodford and a lovely meal at Marina Meze Grill followed by tea in the garden and a lovely catch up with some long standing friends.
Monday, another good weather day and a visit to Wimbledon to visit friend Elizabeth’s daughter – Victoria and her newborn daughter, Catherine who was well behaved and even allowed me to have a cuddle.
Back to London and a great tea on the Thames on a City Cruise boat although by now a bit cloudy. Not sure how but we managed to get a window seat on the boat even though we hadn’t paid for one. Well organised trip and good food although at the top of the jetty, the staff member who greeted us was a little bit brusque.
Tuesday was a change day as we had been bought a night at the Crazy Bear hotel in Beaconsfield with a breakfast the following morning.
First of all we visited the The Arcelor Mittal Orbit tower next to the Olympic Stadium which is a 114.5 metre (376 feet) tall sculpture and observation tower built at the time of the 2012 Olympics.
A lift up and a great view of the London skyline and a few surprises like the mirror and model of the tower.
Now the fun starts – do we take the easy option of a lift down or do we walk down the 455 steps down, or do we abseil down?
Phew, the abseil option wasn’t yet available but we did walk down and apart from the pain on the leg muscles we are glad we did.
Every so often down the slope and steps we would hear noises fed through a speaker of items such as the Stratford market, West Ham United Football Club, building work on the Olympic Park and the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry – a wonderful way to demonstrate what E London is all about.
Back down and we pick up bags and head for the tube for a journey across London to Marylebone and the Chiltern Railways train to Beaconsfield followed by a taxi journey to the Crazy Bear.
From the website, we knew the hotel was a bit different, shall we say, but even we were not prepared for a room totally clad in leather, including the floor, a sloping floor that allowed the suitcase to slide down the floor, a bath in the bedroom with the water pipe providing water from the ceiling – a somewhat quirky room.
An evening meal in the hotel with a not too expensive bottle of wine in this very quirky of hotels.
Shower the following morning in the wet room with a slope – no doors on the wet room and toilet – but an added “benefit” was that the room above had a shower leak which meant our toilet was out of action as water was pouring on to it and, as we subsequently found out, into the reception area below.
Great customer service from Crazy Bear Hotel staff who couldn’t have been more helpful, providing a free taxi service to the station and not charging for the previous night’s bottle of wine.
As I said, a quirky hotel experience in a town that has some buildings of character nearby which we had time to walk around before we left for our journey to Stansted airport.
Arrive at Stansted airport a little early but departure board says we can check in but staff at check in not a happy cookie and would not let us check in until 2 hours before the flight departure time.
Finally get checked in but guy on desk not up to speed with Flybe’s “All in” fare and has no idea about the free drinks & food vouchers and advertised Lounge access. Staff at nearby information desk slightly better but no vouchers forthcoming and we were denied access to the business lounge as the lounge has no contract with Flybe!
Very helpful flight crew sympathised with us and provided the complimentary drinks & food on board for an uneventful return home.
Flybe did provide compensation for as at 2 September 2015 they are still advertising access to Executive Lounge at Stansted.
Flyers beware, Flybe appear to be advertising something they can’t provide which I would suggest may contravene the UK’s 1967 Misrepresentation Act.