The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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London, England
August 2010
"Buckingham Palace is Nice Too"

Our friend Brian, a novice traveler, was invited to a wedding in France. He decided he wanted to take his chances flying stand-by on a buddy pass since he had some extra time to spare and could go over early. Having never traveled to Europe before, he was a little nervous about traveling alone so he invited several of his airline-employee friends (including us) to tag along on the first part of the journey.

He is a HUGE soccer fan, so rather than fly to France where the wedding would be held, he wanted to start his journey in London where he could see some of the famous soccer stadiums. He would have to buy a ticket on one of the discount airlines to get to the wedding in Nice.

The trip jelled into four of us traveling. The flight was a little tight so we were all thrilled to get comfortable seats up front. It was a great flight. We watched a movie, had dinner, and then slept until we landed in London.

We had to wait in a long line for Passport Control. Brian, when asked his purpose for traveling to London, responded that he had come to see the Emirates stadium where the Arsenal team plays. The Passport agent responded, “Buckingham Palace is nice too.”

Brian had waited to buy his ticket to Nice for the wedding until we landed in London since we had told him we might not get on the London flight. We found the EasyJet counter but the agents told us it would be cheaper to buy the ticket online so Brian decided to wait.

BJ had checked out Rick Steves’ Great Britain 2010 book from the library, but it was really unnecessary since Scott, who was traveling with us, has spent a lot of time in London. The one thing we did learn from Rick was that tickets on the Gatwick Express could be purchased at 3 or 4 for the price of two. The tickets must be purchased at the counter though, and not on the train. The other restriction is that travel must be together on the same train. We bought round trip tickets for the four of us for £57.60.

On board the train, we met a couple of ladies from Northern Ireland who were over on holiday. Brian had his first British beer, nice and warm, right from the drink cart. It was still a bit early for the rest of us.

Exiting the train, we strolled to the center of Victoria Station and stood there for a moment to get our bearings. 

Suddenly Brian realized that he had left his backpack on the train. He raced back to the train and jumped on the first car, while BJ ran back to the car we had ridden in. Brian met the conductor coming up the aisle with the backpack. Whew, crisis averted!

Rick Steves had several recommendations regarding transportation options, including the Oyster Card. At first, we decided that was the way to go, but after talking it over at the ticket counter, we ended up purchasing a day pass for non-peak hours for £5.60 each. If you are traveling during the week, it would be worth investigating your options since transportation can be very expensive in London.  

It wasn’t quite non-peak hours yet, so we stopped into the Victoria Sports Bar & Grill which advertised free wifi to wait until the non-peak time of 9:30AM. The free wifi was a bit elusive. Some people could connect and others could not. We finally got connected on the new iPad so we could book Brian’s flight to Nice.

We took the tube to Edgware Road, just around the corner from our hotel, the Hilton Metropole. 

We had been able to secure rooms at the discounted airline employee rate, and since BJ is a Diamond Hilton Honors member, she was able to get one of the rooms upgraded to the Executive Level which includes access to the Executive Lounge with breakfast and cocktails!

We dropped our bags and then took a stroll through Hyde Park. 

We passed the famous Speakers Corner, a traditional site for public speaking. It was a quiet day though and no one seemed to be speaking.  There were a few folks playing soccer and enjoying the weather.

We stepped into the Serpentine Restaurant overlooking the Serpentine Recreational Lake to have a look at the menu but decided to keep walking.

Our walk took us right by Harrods but nobody wanted to shop so we kept walking.

We had lunch at Joury, a Lebanese Lounge, where we ate Mediterranean food which is very Vegan-Friendly for Scott, our Vegan friend. We got a table near the door where we could do some people-watching.

We passed the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is free to visit, but we didn’t go in.

We continued our walk to Buckingham Palace, where we joked about how it was “Nice too!”   We didn’t get to see the queen or the changing of the guard this time.

We took the “Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Walk” through St. James Park, with beautiful views across the lake and lots of interesting wildlife.

Our walk through the park ended at Whitehall Street and the vast complex of government buildings.

Turning left, we walked through the Admiralty Arch, toward Trafalgar Square.

It was starting to rain, so we took a quick look around Trafalgar Square before looking for a pub.


We found the Sherlock Holmes on Northumberland Street in Westminster and were lucky enough to find a table.

We struck up a conversation with the couple at the next table and learned that the woman was the granddaughter of the illustrator of the Sherlock Holmes books. She was an interesting woman who regularly swims at Serpentine Lake and had recently swum the English Channel!

We walked across the Hungerford Bridge where we had a nice view of Big Ben and the London Eye. “Nice too!”

We stopped to watch a street performer demonstrating the “As Seen On TV” Fushigi Balls

We got a little closer to Big Ben on our walk back to the subway.

Tired from our long day of travel, we decided to eat near the hotel. We took the hotel’s recommendation for a nice Italian restaurant, Zonzo on Edgware road.  The food was delicious and the staff was very friendly.

We stopped by the Green Man Pub on the way back to the hotel for a night cap. 

After one, BJ and Tony headed back to the hotel, leaving Scott and Brian to make new friends. 

It turns out that the Green Man Pub is actually downstairs from a Hostel so it closes to the public at midnight; after that, only overnight guests are served. Scott and Brian met some nice young hostel residents from France and a fellow from London who manages the Arsenal stadium. Brian was briefly excited about the possibility of getting comp’ed admission to the stadium but there was no game during the weekend since the team was playing at Liverpool.

On Saturday, BJ and Tony got up at 9:30AM, had breakfast in the Executive Lounge and waited for Scott and Brian to call. At 11:15AM, we finally called and woke them up. They had stayed out rather late with their new friends from The Green Man. We stopped into Marks and Spencer for the Diet Coke addict (only one on this trip) and then found a sunny place outside at Costa for coffee.

We took the tube to the Fulham Broadway station. It was instantly obvious that there was a game, since the vendors were already set up outside the subway station.

We walked a block or two to the Chelsea Stadium for some pictures.

We found the Fulham Broadway Pub where we could watch the game. There were signs out front of each pub specifying who was welcome. Some said “No Football Colors”. Fulham Broadway Pub specified “Home Supporters Only”. The bouncer out front said this was to prevent any fights from breaking out. There was another game before the Chelsea game so we watched Manchester City play Tottingham and had a burger while we waited for the Chelsea game. When that game was over, we asked when the Chelsea game would start. It was not for two more hours so we decided not to wait.

We took the tube to the Putney Bridge so we could see the Fulham Stadium. (The Fulham soccer team isn’t in the town of Fulham, Chelsea is. Makes sense… they drive on the left, too.) It was a long walk from the subway station but the bus wasn’t running very frequently on the weekend.

The stadium turnstiles would not accommodate anyone who was overweight!

We decided to walk back to a pub we had seen on the walk, to watch the Chelsea game, but along the way, a drenching rainstorm came up. We poured ourselves into Joe Cool’s and watched the beginning of the game. They had a giant TV, but the atmosphere was not like a typical British Pub. 

At halftime, we looked around and the entire bar staff had changed into tuxedos and sequins so we decided it was time for us to move on. We found the Golden Lion just down the street at 57 Fulham High Street which WAS a typical British pub, complete with a dart board and the least expensive drinks we had the entire trip!

After the game, we took the tube back to Earl’s Court. We decided on Thai food for dinner. We found Thai Taste at 130 Cromwell Road in South Kensington and enjoyed some typical Thai food.

We decided to have drinks at The Green Man again, so we took the tube from Gloucester Road station back to Edgware. We met Scott and Brian’s new friends and laughed at the antics of those performing Karaoke. One of them was the tiniest woman we’d ever seen. Perfectly proportioned, she was the size of a typical 6 year old. It was really strange watching her dirty dancing!

Brian wanted to try his hand gambling with Pounds instead of Dollars so he headed for the casino down the street while we headed for bed.

We met for breakfast in the Executive Lounge on Sunday and then met up with our new French friends. The group took the tube to the Marylebone station and made the short walk to Regents Park. We enjoyed wandering through the beautiful gardens and then stopped for a beverage at The Garden Café.

Our new friends told us about a great shopping area called Camden Market so Scott and BJ headed over there while the rest of the gang made their way to Emirate Stadium.

Camden Market is an incredible street market! Hundreds and hundreds of booths, shops and restaurants line the street that is packed with thousands of people. 

BJ bought a couple of soccer caps for our pet sitters and Scott bought a fruit smoothie. 


Passing on the opportunity to eat while sitting on a scooter seat, we kept walking.

We almost lost our appetite when we passed the pedicure place where the fish eat the dead skin off of your feet. Ewww!

We found the quiet little Truly Scrumptious Cafe at the edge of the market on Chalk Farm Road, where BJ had an eggplant sandwich and Scott had beans on toast. (Could Scott be converting BJ to Vegan? Nah, she just likes eggplant.)

It was almost time for the Arsenal game so after a few text messages, the group was back together at Tollington’s pub to watch the game. It was a close one with lots of cheering from the packed pub. The game ended in a tie.

We took a quick peek at the Emirates Stadium on the way back to the Holloway Road tube stop.

After $45 worth of phone calls, Scott finally got in touch with his friend Nilo. He met us at the Hereford Arms where we enjoyed a wonderful evening, talking and laughing.

It was too late to go to the Green Man so we headed back to the hotel.

Monday, after a bit of confusion about an erroneous room service charge, three of us took the tube back to Victoria Station where we caught the Gatwick Express back to the airport. We left a nervous Brian to make his way to his EasyJet flight at the Stansted airport on his own.

We checked in and made our way through security to the gate. They wouldn’t let us enter the gate area until we were cleared so we found a corner where the other non-revs were waiting. If we sat in just the right spot, we could get connected to free wifi and bring up the Travelnet screen. It looked like we were going to get on, but one should never count one’s chickens before they hatch in the airline business. The gate agent first came out and asked all of the parties of two if they were willing to split up. Her next announcement was, “It pains me to tell you this, but we have 6 seats to spare that we won’t be able to fill because of our cargo load.” She was very nice and told us what all of the other options were.

We decided to try the afternoon flight out of Heathrow. We had to wait to be escorted back through passport control, and then had to wait in line to get a ticket on the National Express bus from Gatwick to Heathrow. The $30, thirty mile trip took us about an hour. We had to get off at Terminal 3 and wait 20 minutes for the train to Terminal 4. In retrospect, we probably would have been better off to wait for the direct bus to Terminal 4.

We ran into the president of the company, from which BJ had just retired, in the Sky Club. BJ told him about her recent retirement. He congratulated her and thanked her for spending her retirement dollars in the UK! The Sky Club had a nice buffet but we didn’t have much time to enjoy it since it had taken us so long to get there. We saw on Travelnet that we had been issued seats so we hurried to the gate.

At the gate, we were made nervous by walkie-talkie chatter between the gate agent and someone on the ramp about the cargo load. We checked in and were told to wait. Finally, the word came through that we could board. We were thrilled to find our seats in business class had the new lie-flat seats. BJ was seated right behind her company president.

A few movies, a couple of meals and we were back home.

Our friend Brian had a great time at the wedding. We were nervous about his chances of getting on a flight home from Nice, so we advised him to take the train to Milan where he had no problem getting home.

Another great trip with great friends!