Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: The Portuguese Connection (2012)

London on Parade

I awoke around 8am and had a very nice breakfast in the hotel's dining room. (This aspect of my stay was fully up to standard!) Unfortunately it was a grey, wet and miserable morning and I thought I might visit one of the famous South Kensington museums in an attempt to stay reasonably dry and warm. I rode the District Line to South Ken and quickly found the Natural History Museum, only to be discouraged by the huge queue of people waiting for it to open. I decided to brave the weather, which seemed to alternate between light drizzle and bursts of heavier rain, and walked along Cromwell Road to Harrods, where I enjoyed having a look around the spectacular food halls before they became too busy. A further wander took me through the less familiar territory of Knightsbridge and Upper Chelsea to Sloane Square.

A second, much shorter ride on the District Line saw me relocated to St James's Park, which surprisingly was still showing its autumn colours to great effect. I strolled through the park and along Horse Guards Road, and as I approached Whitehall it was fascinating to see preparations being made for the following day's Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph. Little groups of military musicians simply grabbed a corner of the street, like a busker might do in another part of town, and held an impromptu run-through of some of the pieces that they would perform the next day in an infinitely more formal and sombre setting, with the eyes of the country, the Commonwealth and the world upon them.

I proceeded across Westminster Bridge, past the former County Hall and the London Eye, and had a quick sandwich lunch at the Southbank Centre. Re-crossing the Thames on one of the neat Golden Jubilee pedestrian bridges that sit astride Hungerford Bridge, I walked along the Victoria Embankment to Somerset House and then along the eastern part of the Strand to the point where it mutates into Fleet Street, at Temple Bar. Having already experienced those surprisingly informal preparations for Remembrance Sunday, it was equally interesting now to see the remnants of another great London event that had just finished. The Lord Mayor's Show, an annual event (visited by me in 2006) held to celebrate the inauguration of the new mayor of the City of London, had taken place that morning in presumably less than ideal weather conditions.

Once I had successfully negotiated my way to the north side of Fleet Street, which was still largely cordoned off, I found a route up Chancery Lane to Holborn and the nearby Chancery Lane tube station, from where I was able to make my way back to my hotel.

LEFT: The Lord Mayor's Show had taken place earlier on the rain-soaked streets of the City of London  RIGHT: The annual Service of Remembrance would take place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall the following morning and informal rehearsals were much in evidence

I spent an hour repacking, watching TV and having a cup of tea before checking out at 1530 and making my way back to Ealing Broadway to catch the Heathrow Connect for Heathrow Central.

I found my way to the reasonably familiar territory of the BA check-in area at Terminal 3 and then upstairs, through Fast Track security and finally into the refuge of the BA Galleries First lounge. I had a bowl of pumpkin soup, caught up on my trip notes and exchanged a few texts with Bruce while I awaited the arrival of the man himself from - on this occasion - Cornwall. He arrived shortly before six, prompting a celebratory glass of champagne and a few accompanying snacks.  
ABOVE: The British Airways Galleries First
lounge in Heathrow's Terminal 3

We made our way to bus gate 24B in good time for an expected early start to boarding and, sure enough, there was no hanging around at all.

(Link to flight log in side panel)

The aircraft had parked at the furthest outpost of the terminal building in Lisbon and it was an incredibly long walk to immigration and baggage reclaim. We decided to take a pre-paid car to the hotel although, in theory at least, a regular taxi would have been considerably cheaper. (In reality, of course, meters are rarely used on journeys from the airport. ) We got a nice new Mercedes and a polite and courteous driver for our money, so it worked for us.

On arrival at the Marriott we were upgraded to an Executive room, despite being on a very cheap rate. We quickly got settled down for a good night's sleep in preparation for some serious sightseeing the next day.