"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; "
â€” Samuel Johnson
Visiting London — Again
We have visited London four times on three trips. In all cases we stayed in London for a short rest before flying home. On our last trip we also stayed in London a few days at the start of the trip.
Planning Where to Stay
Planning our first stay in London we were concerned about access to Heathrow airport. We had an early morning flight and didn’t want to cross London during rush hour. As the Paddington Express leaves Paddington Station for Heathrow every fifteen minutes. We decided to find a hotel within walking distance of the station.
This turned out to be a great choice for a variety of reasons.
From our hotel on Sussex Garden it was an easy walk to shopping on Oxford Street. We usually make at least one trip Marks & Spencer (M&S) on the corner of Oxford and North Audley Streets for tea and scones. (It may sound silly â€” but their men’s underwear is better than anything I can buy in Canada.)
If you are looking for a bit more “up scale” shopping, try Selfridges. It is on the opposite corner of M&S. Selfridges invented the concept of the modern department store. Many items don't have price tags. “If You Have to Ask the Price, You Can’t Afford”. We could only afford to do a walk through.
Both my wife and I like walking. And, many of London's most famous landmarks are within walking distance from our hotel. To the south there is, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Harrods and Buckingham Palace. To the north are Abbey Road Studios, Little Venice, Regentâ€™s Park and the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
There is a variety of ethnic restaurants in the area. Most are middle eastern or south-east Asian. For a taste of England, we always stop at Micky's Fish and Chips at least once for great “fish and chips”. (If you MUST have a burger, Burger king and McDonaldâ€™s are close by.)
There are small boutique hotels near Paddington Station. Prices in that area range from reasonable to outrageous. We decided on mid priced hotels.
In 2010 and 2014 we stayed at the Best Western Delmere. (The hotel is now a Best Western Plus.) The rooms now have air conditioning, which is a great improvement. We found the rooms in the courtyard to be the quietest. The service was excellent — what you would expect from a Best Western. They do fill up early, so book well in advance.
After our cruise in 2016, we stayed at the Shaftesbury Metropolis London - Hyde Park. Our room was upgraded to their “Club Double” room. The room was very well appointed including dishes and a microwave. (This proved invaluable since we were both under the weather and had one meal in our room.) For the small difference in price, I would choose the 'Club Double' the next time we stay there.
In 2016, we were taking the 8:30am Eurostar to Paris. We stayed at Alhambra Hotel, across the road from St Pancras Station. The room was down a narrow hallway that was hard to navigate with our two suitcases. The two double beds made the room rather cramped. But, it was perfect for our needs. The room also included one of the best English Breakfasts we had on the trip.
You can explore London via the tube (subway), buses or one of the hop-on-off tour buses. (The Big Bus London stops less than a block from our hotel.) When using the tube or bus you have three options:
- If you are only making one or two trips, use your Visa, MasterCard or American Express. The two main disadvantages are:
- You will be charged foreign exchange fees for each transaction.
- You need a separate card for each person
- Purchase an Oyster Card. This is a ‘pay as you go’ system. Again, you will need a separate card for each person. But, you only get charged foreign exchange fees when you purchase or “top up” the card.
- The ‘Travel Card’ costs more, but gives you unlimited use for the day. Again, one card per person.
The Paddington tube station has line branching out around the city. It is very crowded in the mornings between 6:00am and 9:00am and again in the evening between 4:30pm and 8:00pm. The Central Line at the Lancaster Gate tube station is the fastest way to get to city center.
Within .5 Mile of Hotel
For something a little different take a walk along the canals to Little Venice. Follow London Street along Paddington Station. The sidewalk is in bad shape and the street just look like an alleyway. London Street turns to the right and becomes South Wharf Rd. On the left is a walkway that will take you to Paddington Basin. On the north side of the basin is a pathway along the canal to the â€˜Little Veniceâ€™ area. For an inexpensive lunch stop at the M&S cafeteria.
Within 1.0 Mile of Our Hotel
Marble Arch, Hyde Park and M&S Oxford Street are all within a mile. There are many side streets and alleyways to explore. For a more direct route head east along Sussex Gardens and turn right onto Edgeware Rd. Follow Edgeware Rd. to its end at Bayswater Rd. The Marble Arch is to the left. Bayswater Rd becomes Oxford Street by the Marble Arch, M&S is about three blocks away.
Within 2.0 Miles of Our Hotel
Abbey Road Studios, in the north, and Buckingham Palace in the south-east were less than two miles from our hotel. There are numerous trails and monuments in Hyde park and Kensington Gardens. (Be sure to take a bottle of water. We only found two place for refreshments. We stopped at 'The Orangery Restaurant' at Kensington Palace has a nice tea. (The Orangery Restaurant has been getting some bad reviews. It was very nice when we were there.) There was a refreshment stand near Buckingham Palace — but the prices were outrageous.
Get Out of Town
There is a myriad of things to see and do in London. If you want to get out of London, most of England is accessible by train in under and hour and a half. The train station are usually in or near the city centre. Most trains leave from the adjoining stations of St Pancras and King’s Cross. There are two 'tube' lines from Paddington to King's Cross.
In 2014, we took the train to Cambridge, a 50-minute journey. The train was two minutes late getting to Cambridge. And, when we arrived at the station the engineer came on the intercom and apologized for the delay.