London Culture Vulture

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Planning theatre events

Months before visiting my friend Diana in Deal, we’d agreed to go to London and see Sophie Okonedo and Ben Daniels in Medea. We chose the matinee so Diana could make it a day trip, but I would come in the day before to settle in for three nights before departing London for France. In the meantime, two friends from New York firmed up their travel plans and agreed to join us for lunch and the show. Love it when paths cross so felicitously!

Wanting to make the most of my time, I looked to see what else was on, and found The Lehman Trilogy. Would finally get to see it!

Both of these shows were booked online with links directly from the theatres, resulting in e-tickets to show on my phone.

Choosing where to stay in London, and how to get around

I arrived at St. Pancras station, which is very familiar after several trips between London and Deal. It’s a convenient station, seeming to me to have less of a traffic jam around it than, say, Victoria. Perhaps it’s just a matter of luck. There are so many bus lines in front of the station that it’s pretty easy to get where I need to, without using the Tube – impossible with my luggage – or a taxi ($$$ !). Okay, Uber might be fine, but it’s hard to get an Uber to pick you up by major taxi stands.

Previously, I’d booked within an easy walk from the station; once a hotel (Carlton, Birkenhead St, £118), next time Clink Hostel. The hotel was okay, the hostel was pretty shabby. So I looked further afield, and found Wombat’s City Hostel at 7 Dock Street. It’s near Tower Bridge, and that appealed to me, as I thought maybe I’d get to tour the Tower. Wombat’s ended up being a good choice. I recommend it, and will return. It was easy to get to: bus 205 to Aldgate East and a short walk.

The gallery below: felt at home when I saw a Vagabond sign! Then, night photos of the Tower Bridge and Tower and the Tube entrance, all near Wombat’s hostel.

Travel tips in London

When traveling from St. Pancras, it’s important to note the bus stop letter and name because there are so many stops within the couple of blocks in front of the King’s Cross / St. Pancras station plaza. For example, bus 205 stops at King’s Cross St. Pancras Underground Stop E, which tells you to look at the stops near the Tube entrances and not over at Gray’s Inn Road. The stop letters run at least to T, so you do not want to forget this detail!

Paying fares is easy: you don’t need a special card of any kind, just a contactless credit card. Use the same card every time, because the transit system caps how much you can be charged in the course of a day (calculated as 24 hours starting 4:30 am) or a week (Monday through Sunday).

How the time in London turned out

The Lehman Trilogy

I didn’t love The Lehman Trilogy as much as others have, but the performances were very good – actors and pianist. As ever, I was disappointed that it’s always too late to get a pint at a pub after theatre, but I had a lager at the hostel. Couldn’t just call it an evening straight after the show.

Thursday I met all three friends at Diana’s choice, Honey & Co., a good choice for (not only) vegetarians, so, easy to please everyone. Then we were off to see Medea – a ferocious, stunning performance all around, but Sophie Okonedo magnificent. Impossible to think of anything else for a while. We wandered in search of tea and let the impact fade a bit, before my friends ducked into the Tube to head home. I struck out on foot, and stopped off for cask ales at Flying Horse and Woodins Shade, just getting out of the rain, of course!

I’d left Friday open to spend the time with my NY friends; I’d suggested touring the Tower and then catching a concert at Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields. One friend was wiser and said that the Tower would be miles of walking, and much of the interior claustrophobic, so we scratched that. Can wear your feet out just enjoying the always fascinating streets of London. They went to a noon concert at Saint Martin, while I enjoyed the journey to Trafalgar Square and walking around there. We met afterwards, and spent the afternoon strolling around Covent Garden and elsewhere. Last, we caught the evening concert, billed as Handel’s Water Music by candlelight. Excellent.

As my friends headed home, I again looked for cask ales and stopped at two pubs, having some dinner as well. Not a good pub dinner, sadly. That wrapped up my visit in London. In the morning, I was catching a National Express bus to Stansted airport. Ryanair offered a discount link that saved a couple of pounds, so from now on I’ll pay more attention to the offers that pop up after a flight is booked.

Stansted airport transfer with National Express coaches

I had thought that I had to make my way to Victoria Coach Station for an airport bus, but that’s not the case. National Express has several routes and a good number of stops around the city. I chose to depart from Liverpool Street, and caught a bus a short block from the hostel that left me off a couple of blocks south of the coach stop.

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