There was always something that put me off going to London. I’d only previously been through London in 2008, to go to a match at Wembley, and trying to negotiate the Underground from Gatwick was a nightmare, which really put me off.
Over the past year, i’d begun to start about giving London a second chance. I usually go away at the start of February (this is the 4th successive year i’ve done so) for a weekend, so I started thinking that maybe 2013 was the time for London (of course, 2012 was the year for London, but I am, fashionably late)
The lack of options (discounting Barcelona and Amsterdam, having recently been there) in Mainland Europe made up my mind for me. London it was for me.
I flew into Gatwick on the Friday morning, and arrived in my hotel in Paddington. I was going blind in London, not having any tourist guides and not knowing anywhere.
I wasn’t that keen on the cliched touristy places such as Madame Tussauds, Houses Of Parliament, etc. You could be inclined to ask what on earth I was going to London for?
I got myself an Oyster Card, and topped it up with £30 (only spent about £25, which isn’t too bad for a weekend), which was so handy and convenient. I headed to Oxford Circus and went around the shops and Central London, before heading back to Paddington for a bite to eat.
It’s a bit of a culture shock being on The Tube in comparison with train stations in Northern Ireland. Any spare wall space has advertising, and you can actually shop while waiting on your train. No offence to Great Victoria Street station, but …….
What I love most about train stations on the mainland is Metro. I wish we had Metro newspaper in Northern Ireland.
Saturday was always going to be the main day of the trip, doing something i’d never done before …….. attend two football matches in one day.
I’d attended a football match and a rugby match in the same day in December, but never two football matches.
I had the opportunity last April when Carrick Rangers faced Glenavon in the afternoon of Easter Tuesday, while Linfield faced Cliftonville that night. I decided to only go to the Linfield match. Missed out on a good game at Seaview as Carrick and Glenavon drew 4-4.
As with my previous February trips, i’d always planned to take in a football match, and London was always going to have a lot of options.
I didn’t look at the fixture list when booking the weekend, and couldn’t believe my luck when I saw that Manchester United were playing Fulham at Craven Cottage. This match was what the football watching was going to be based around.
I’d hoped that TV would give me the opportunity to see matches Friday-Saturday-Sunday, but that wasn’t to be the case. With Fulham v Manchester United kicking off at 5.30pm, the 12.45pm kick-off at Loftus Road between QPR and Norwich City gave me a chance to go to two games in the one day.
Getting a ticket for the QPR game was easy, just purchased online when they went on General Sale. I had plenty of time to kill when I arrived at Loftus Road, so I decided to head to nearby Westfield Shopping Centre.
There was a surreal moment when I bumped into two guys wearing Linfield tops. Got chatting to them for a bit. One lived in London, the other was visiting, and they were both going to the game at Loftus Road.
I’m not sure how many QPR fans were at Windsor Park for Linfield v Ballymena United on Saturday.
The match itself, wasn’t very good. Every other part of the matchday aspect was good, apart from the actual football on offer. It finished 0-0. Everytime QPR missed a chance, Norwich fans taunted them with “Peter Odemwingie …… he would have scored that”, which QPR fans replied with “Gary Hooper …. he would have scored that” when Norwich missed a chance.
Sometimes you just know a match will finish 0-0 early in the second-half. This, was one of those games.
A quick dash across West London saw me in Hammersmith to collect a ticket for the Fulham v United game that was advertised on Twitter. The holder couldn’t go, so I was collecting it off a friend of his. Got it for face value, which was nice.
I headed down to Craven Cottage. A curious setting for a football stadium, right by the Thames. There was a beautiful sunset on Saturday, so I got some photos of it, as well as a statue of Fulham legend Johnny Haynes. Of course, it would have been rude not to get a photo of the Michael Jackson statue.
This was a more entertaining game than the one earlier in the day. With 12 minutes to go, it looked like I would be witnessing two 0-0 draws in the one day, before Wayne Rooney won it for United.
On Sunday, I decided to head to Camden, and had an enjoyable day the the markets. I also got some nice Street Art photos.
I’d considered doing the London Street Art tour, but didn’t want to dedicate four hours to it, with only having a weekend.
If I ever do go to London again, i’ll make time for this.
Had an enjoyable time in Camden on the Sunday. That night, I went to a comedy gig at Bloomsbury Theatre presented by Ardal O’Hanlon, and headlined by Milton Jones. You either get Milton Jones or you don’t. I do, and his brand of deadpan bad jokes was groan a minute stuff.
It would have been great if there was a concert I was interested in (no offence to Men In Hats, but one great song 28 years ago isn’t enough) or even a TV recording on the Friday (not even a Radio 2 concert) or a football match on the Sunday.
That’s just being greedy, I had a great time.