Lets just say carrying backpacks through vast airports such as those in Dubai and London Heathrow is good practice for our 800 kilometre hike! We also carried our packs from Paddington Station through the streets that used to be so familiar to us when we lived in Bayswater twenty five years ago. Fortunately we were staying at a superb boutique hotel in Inverness Terrace, and not the hostel that used to be our hangout 25 years ago. We popped in for a visit and said hello to Frank (who lived there when we did) and Dean Court had clearly not been renovated in all that time. In fact I think the same lounge chairs were in front of the tv downstairs as when we were there! The Grand Royale London Hyde Park however, was simply stunning. It claims to have been renovated for Lily Langtree by Edward VII when she was his mistress. It has very modern rooms (albeit very small) and wonderful service. The ornate timber and beautiful stained glass and antiques in the foyer, restaurant and bar area made this one night stop over the perfect choice and it is surprisingly reasonably priced for London. My dear theatrical friends would absolutely love the beautiful theatre bar where Lily used to entertain. This hotel was literally around the corner from where we had our first kiss!
So this 24 hours kept us busy, we did some washing at the laundromat just like we used to – well, maybe not, we paid the lady to do it for us and went on a bit of a pub crawl while she worked! First stop the Prince Alfred on Queensway – affectionately known as the PA – the pub where I moonlighted as a barmaid when my beloved first smiled at me (because he wanted to catch my attention to buy a beer) and where my beloved moonlighted as a magician and circus performer (beer drinker actually). The flower seller outside had expanded his real estate and management had changed hands selling the flowers – it used to be Buster the Great train robber when we were there. We had a Kronenberg (or two) and headed up Moscow Road to what used to be the Ashes (another pub we used to hangout at) and reminisced with the barman over another beer. Then just before our washing was due to be picked up we headed across the road to the pub at the back of Whiteleys. That washing load was hard work let me tell you!
As luck would have it our good friend Mr Wong was able to meet us outside Queensway Station and steer us towards a great Chinese Restaurant that specialises in Lobster – unfortunately his shellfish allergy prevented him from actually partaking in such a dish so we all tried a few random meals and had a great bottle of French wine and a lot of laughter.
In the morning we had a beautiful English Buffet at the hotel and went for a walk up to Lancaster Gate where we first lived in sin as a couple! It was hard work confirming exactly which building it was that we lived in as the street did look a little different. We are confident we eventually solved that mystery but neither of us could work out where the laundromat was that sold those magnificent pork rolls to eat while you waited for your washing to finish. As we walked back through Hyde Park we talked about how great this trip was going and how we were both so happy and thrilled to be back in London – it felt a bit like we had come home. We have plenty more to see when we return post Camino but for now we were off to a grand adventure so we bid farewell to Bayswater and donned our packs and headed down the Underground and on to Liverpool Street Station for our train to Stansted Airport. For the life of me I couldn’t see a bear anywhere at Paddington yesterday and nor could I find platform five and three quarters at Liverpool Street yet both of these stations look like they are out of a film set. Know wot I mean!