It was already a habit. For the last 4 visits, in January we would hop on a plane and spend some days to this… divine destination trying to bring back and revive old memories while, of course, plan to sample the international cousin available, taste some of the new Ale brands available or still, even after 19 years, discover new places.
Our flight left Greece on 14th January. This time the configuration of our fellowship was again a different one. While last year it was only adults (9 of us) and two years ago we travelled solo in terms of family (2 adults + 2 kids) this time we were three couples with 4 kids and an infant. If you want to read more on those trips please go to https://ourperpetualjourneys.com/2014/02/10/travelling-to-london-with-young-children-a-practical-guide/ and https://ourperpetualjourneys.com/2015/02/04/london-janfeb-2015-part-1/
The flight was a good one. Once we arrived in London, I left my friends for a while and spent some minutes in seclusion … virtually kneeling on my knees and giving a kiss to this place that offered me so much. It was pretty sentimental to fly back to London almost exactly (!) 10 years after I left for good.
Once on the train platform we zipped our jackets as it was bloody freezing. After a 20-minute blackout when the electric notice boards kept changing the train platform from 1 to 2 and backwards, we eventually boarded on the train to Clapham Junction. There we changed trains and in 20 minutes we arrived at Kensington Olympia. Our taxis took us in 10 minutes into Go Native (www.gonative.com) – ex Think Earls Court – a must place to stay in London. For more info just ask!
We left our suitcases and then made it directly to Wagamama [180-182 Earls Court Road, SW5 9QG] for a dive in international cuisine. I choose Chilli Chicken Ramen. It was burning hot and I just adored it. It raised the temperature of my system by 10 degrees. Tears of…joy were coming down my eyes. The kids did not eat much, but I was not too worried. 200ml of milk each would later guarantee a direct switch to sleeping mode! On our way back we bought that precious 1 litre of milk. The kids, as planned, went straight to bed and the … man of the family along with the other men took a ride to the closest pub –on the other side of the Earls Court Tube station. (http://www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub/courtfield-earls-court/c0612/). We sampled beers (The Old Golden Hen Ale was the highlight – watch the relevant video http://www.oldspeckledhen.co.uk/products.php?beer=old-golden-hen), watched and talked about the people around us, threw some sneaky looks on the TV screens and basically chatted with eachother.
By 23.30 we were dead tired lifting three pints of beer for almost two hours and as we wanted to enjoy in style the next days we went straight to bed.
The second day, courtesy of the … small scale jet lag, the kids woke up at 6 am.
A on-the-fly plan was composed shiftily. We paid a visit to the Tesco supermarket (almost open on a 24*7 basis) just 50 meters from the hotel at 7 am for food for the next days. Back at the hotel we prepared a full-English for the kids and then after a hot coffee and some preparations and plans for the day we made it to the roads.
Our first destination was High Street Kensington. We walked all the way from Warwick Road and then leaving Hyde Park to our left we turned right on Exhibition Road
It was a crispy start of the day. The temperature was just above zero but the glorious sun boosted our almost frozen moral.
Our second destination was the Science Museum (http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/). There was a really spectacular exhibition for Space and then we spent some time on the usual exhibits…cars, planes, trains. The kids loved it. Still, they say that these exhibitions are for kids but I think that adults (men) are those who love them more. If you are an engineer, this is the place for you! I think I could spend a whole day there!. Bear in mind – entry to the museum is free. There is also a small corner for kids between 2 and 5 where we spent some time and then we moved one level down where kids could play by producing electricity, lighting bulbs, turning on the radio, opening doors by just walking next to them and so on.
The day was too good though to spend more time there and decided to spice up our appetite by embarking on outdoor activities.
It was time for Diana’s Playground. https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/sports-and-leisure/diana-memorial-playground. We entered a bus where the absence of use of coins or banknotes let the bus driver show his nice side. We were … admitted free of charge once I told him where we were heading. At Notting Hill we left the No 52 bus to continue its route and then we moved towards Hyde Park. I looked around and nothing had changed. The kebab shop where I spent a fortune was still there. Waterstones was still selling books and the off-licence shop next to the tube was still an oasis to the barren land of food-related shops after midnight in London. We walked for 15 minutes and entered the playground. For more than an hour the kids were running up and down left and right. The centre piece of course was the pirate ship in the middle of the playground and they completely got stuck with it!
It was already 15.30 and it was time for a classic – Thai food at Churchill Arms. http://www.churchillarmskensington.co.uk/
The restaurant was almost empty and it was with great pleasure that we found a nice and cosy corner that could accommodate all of us – kids included. We started with a lager beer and then we ordered. I opted for a noodle dish – No1. (Whichever from the 19 options you choose, you will not be unsatisfied). In 20 minutes, we were served. Some kind of silence – kids excluded – was all over the table. Just sounds of people enjoying their food! I realised that every single time I visit this place I just cannot find words to describe this down-to-earth yet with-superbly-simple-and-beautiful-food place.
Time passed like water and as it is absolutely necessary for the men in the company to sample yet even more beers, we all took our way back to the hotel. In a blink of an eye kids were straight to bed and the night was ours!
This time we decided to try a bit of pub-hopping.
We started off with The Scarsdale (http://www.scarsdaletavern.co.uk/) at 23a Edwardes Square, W8 6HE) – a super-local pub for Sunday afternoon beers (and not only). Unfortunately it was pretty full so we tried The Hansom Cab, (http://www.thehansomcab.co.uk/ at 84-86 Earls Court Road , W8 6EG), a posh, nice and cosy, but probably with a no-kids-and-bubbly-guests unwritten policy. This pub was pretty empty so we decided we would move further South towards Old Brompton Road. I showed my friends the Trobadour (http://www.troubadourlondon.com/, 263-267 Old Brompton Road) but once I took a glance I realised (and I remembered) it is for different, special, intimate yet music-oriented occasions and not for what my guests in London were looking for. Still, I dearly suggest you pay a visit to this special place outside the borders of the tourist London.
On the way to The Troubadour we did check many places and in the end our final selection was The Pembrook, (http://www.metropolitanpubcompany.com/our-pubs/the-pembroke/ 261 Old Brompton Road, SW5 9JA, just next door from the Trobadour.
Beautiful ladies with their high heels and glasses of red, men in suits probably from the office down the road with their pints in their hands, student-looking guys and girls drinking their bottled beer and tourists (us) looking like lost in space … all were composing the interesting human-puzzle in the pub.
We found an empty corner table so as to have a good view of the pub… and its guests. We continued with a … random selection of ales and chatted about everything. It was a bubbly pub. I loved it and it all the atmosphere reminded of my old days there.
It was a good night out! It was a good pub. The beer was good also! We stayed for two hours and then, joking about paying a tribute to the local kebap shop, we headed back to bed.
Our first official day ended in style. There were two more to go. And I could just wait!
[End of part 1]