London, Baby!

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“Travel is like a giant blank canvas, and the painting on the canvas is only limited by one’s imagination.”

Ross Morley

Dates: 7th October – 9th October

Flights: City Jet

Accommodation: AirBnB Rental

Last October, we spent a lovely few days in London with my two sisters, Claire and Helen, and Ronan’s mum. Good value tickets to the Australia v Argentina match in Twickenham were too good of an opportunity to pass up on.

The planning got underway with booking flights and accommodation. Myself and Ronan chose to fly with City Jet, as they fly from Dublin to London City, so we didn’t have far to travel once we landed. There is also the extra bonus of 23kg of luggage being included when you make your booking (not that we planned on doing much shopping) and free refreshments. We were impressed to see on the flight that the free refreshments also include wine and lagers, although we chose not to enjoy this complimentary addition to the flight. Claire and Helen decided to fly with Ryanair to Stansted and to get a bus to Waterloo, as it was a bit more in their budget.

Accommodation in London was unbelievably expensive that weekend, probably in part to the international game between Argentina and Australia and also a match between Harlequins and Northampton Saints. After searching several hotels which were on a direct train line with Twickenham, and discovering they were a bit out of our price range, myself, Ronan and my 2 sisters decided on making a booking on AirBnB, which was a great decision. We were a short stroll from Waterloo station,  the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and the accommodation backed on to the Imperial War museum, one of places both Ronan and Helen were very eager to visit. We got the apartment to ourselves for about €90 per night between the 4 of us and was great value and very cosy (although Helen wasn’t too impressed having to share a sofa bed with Claire).

As we landed quite late on the Friday night, we didn’t do much bar help Ronan’s mum to find her hotel, which was a Hilton and only a 2 minute walk from the apartment we rented and was located between where we were staying and Waterloo station.

On Saturday morning, our adventure started early with a visit to the Imperial War Museum. This was a nice, short stroll from our accommodation. Similar to most of the museums in Dublin, there was no entrance fee to the museum, although they do ask for donations for the upkeep of the building and artifacts in the museum. If you have a few hours to spare, this is certainly an interesting place to visit, particularly if you have an interest in the history of the military. Ronan and Helen in particular found this very interesting to look around.

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To continue our military history tour of London, next on our list of places to see was the HMS Belfast.  The HMS Belfast is a museum ship and was originally a Royal Navy light cruiser. The Belfast saw action escorting Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union during 1943, and in December 1943 played an important role in the Battle of North Cape, assisting in the destruction of the German warship Scharnhorst. In June 1944 Belfast took part in Operation Overlord supporting the Normandy Landings. In June 1945 Belfast was redeployed to the Far East to join the British Pacific Fleet, arriving shortly before the end of the Second World War. Belfast saw further combat action in 1950–52 during the Korean War and underwent an extensive modernisation between 1956 and 1959. A number of further overseas commissions followed before Belfast entered reserve in 1963. In 1967, efforts were initiated to avert Belfast‘s expected scrapping and preserve her as a museum ship. In 1971 the government decided against preservation, prompting the formation of the private HMS Belfast Trust to campaign for her preservation. The efforts of the Trust were successful, and the government transferred the ship to the Trust in July 1971. Opened to the public in October 1971, Belfast became a branch of the Imperial War Museum in 1978.

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After finishing our tour of the Belfast, we had time for some lunch at Cote Restaurant, next the the Belfast. Lunch went down so well that myself, Ronan and his mum returned here the following day for lunch. There was a great value lunch menu on offer, which cost £9.95 for a main course. I would certainly recommend eating here, as it was great vaue for very good quality food.

After we finished up lunch, it was time to head to Twickenham for the match. Helen had hoped to get an Australia jersey on the way, as they were impossible to get at home but she had no better luck in London on her way. The best we could all do was to get a few Australia T-Shirts.

We had absolutely brilliant seats, thanks to Ronan. We were sitting in the first row, right behind the posts and we were nearly  close enough to join in during the warm ups. We all had a brilliant time at the match. It was very amusing sitting between Ronan and Helen to hear their shouts at the ref for high tackles and during other moments of frustration and excitement. The final score went in Australia’s favor, winning 33-21 over Argentina.

Unfortunately, Claire and Helen had to leave us the next morning, as they had an early afternoon flight  from Stansted back to Dublin. That left myself, Ronan and Ronan’s mum with a day to do a bit more sight seeing. Me and Ronan started the day with a visit to the Tower of London. As Ronan’s mum had paid a visit here previously, she decided to give it a miss. After visiting it, Ronan and I could see that once you have visited it once, you wouldn’t be in a hurry to go back. It was a lovely place to visit, would wouldn’t be at the top of my list of places I’d recommend to visit in London and it is a little on the pricey side.

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After our visit to the Tower of London (and getting very distracted by all the sparkling crown jewels), we headed to the London Eye, which Ronan’s mum was very exciting to take a trip on. Due to the long queue and being a little tight for time to get back to the airport, we decided to by the express tickets to get on the Eye, costing us £34.95 on the day. However, if you buy this ticket online, you can save 15%. This was money well spent in our eyes though, as you get amazing views of London and with a very short wait of less than 5 minutes to get into a capsules, verses a 30 minute wait with the standard ticket, which would have cost £24.95. My one word of warning is to make sure that you are steady on your feet before getting onto the London Eye (and not on crutches), as they don’t stop the London Eye for you to get on and off of it, unless you are a wheelchair user. However, it is well worth the jump.

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All in all, we had a very short visit to London, and there’s an awful lot more that we would like to do if and when we visit again. On a previous visit, Helen and Claire visited the Science Museum and Natural History museum, both of which they highly recommended, with the Science Museum being a highlight. They also enjoyed a brilliantly entertaining walking tour of the city,  run by Sandeman’s. This free walking tour covers all the main sights and stories including Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s Column, The National Gallery, St. James’s Palace, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. This tour starts in front of the Apple Store in Covent Garden – just look for the team with the red SANDEMANs NEW Europe umbrella. Tips for the guides are welcome at the end of the tour.

Looking forward to planning a trip to London again and packing more sights in (hopefully without Ronan having a chest infection next time, and nearly loosing a lung), however this will probable be a few years away, as we are just 2 months away from our Big Trip now…

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