A week and a bit ago, I headed to London for a short break. It’s fair to say I enjoyed myself.
Why London? Usually, in late January or early February, I like to go away somewhere for a weekend.
I would have preferred to go to Mainland Europe, but there wasn’t a lot of value when I went to book it. September 2017 was a busy month for me so I didn’t get a chance to book anything until October.
London was a lazy option, but still a good option. I’d been before previously and enjoyed myself.
This was my first proper visit to London since 2014. I had been in London briefly in 2016, spending a day there as I was flying home from Gatwick after a stay in Paris.
However, I would not be flying in and out of Gatwick. My previous visits to London had seen me use Gatwick, but this time, I would be flying in and out of Stansted.
There would also be a change in my accommodation arrangements from my previous London visits as well. In my two previous stays in 2013 and 2014, I stayed in Paddington, but this time I would be staying at Easyhotel in Victoria. I would have to make do without a TV of Wifi in my room, but getting three nights in Central London for £87, I couldn’t really complain.
Flying into Stansted meant I would be travelling through London, and I got to see cranes that were working on Northumberland Development Project, better known as Spurs New Ground, from the train window.
Whenever I go away somewhere, there are two things I really want to see – Street Art and Football.
With the train from Stansted terminating at Liverpool Street, it gave me a perfect opportunity to search for Street Art, as I would be near to Shoreditch, where I had visited on my previous visit in 2014.
I walked around a bit and got lost, so I cheated by referring to the internet, London’s Tourism website has a feature on Street Art.
After lunch, I headed back towards Liverpool Street, racking up the step count. Yep, I got an Activity Tracker for Christmas, so i’ve become one of those guys. In case you care, I had four successive days going over 30,000 steps. You’ve no idea how much my feet hurt.
I stumbled into Spitalfields and specifically, Spitalfields Market. What a place. I’m annoyed at myself that I only discovered it on this visit.
Having walked past a man in a Coleraine shirt at Liverpool Street Station, I got a reminder of Irish League when I visited a stall of Scrabble Art, motivational phrases spelt out with Scrabble letters, one of which said “Fortune Favours The Brave”. A more apt one for Linfield players would have been the one that said “Keep it simple”.
£30 though, so I gave it a miss.
Spitalfields Market had lots of fantastic independent and quirky stalls. I really am annoyed at myself for only discovering it on this visit.
Having checked London’s Tourism Website, I was aware that there was a lot of Street Art in Spitalfields, so I went to check it out.
I used my instinct and stumbled upon pieces. I kept saying to myself that i’ll just walk to the end of the street, then spot something on the next street, and I just kept walking and walking, snapping loads of Street Art, only stopping to pop into a Vintage Market I stumbled onto. If I ever visit London again, i’m going to make Spitalfields a place I visit.
By Friday afternoon, it was time to check into my hotel. As stated earlier, it was Easyhotel in Victoria, a very convenient location for getting to and a very conveniently located hotel.
I was in Room 13. Thankfully, i’m not supersticious about that number. It might have been a different matter if it was Room 9 after seeing the Hotel Zanzibar episode of inside Number 9.
Just thought i’d sneak it in about how Inside Number 9 is the best thing on TV at the moment.
My original plan was to visit Camden as soon as I checked in, but having spent so much time walking around Spitalfields, I was a bit behind schedule.
I wanted to get Street Art photos in Camden, but with the sky getting darker, I decided I would leave that until Saturday morning. I had a teatime appointment in Covent Garden.
I was aware that Turin Brakes were doing an instore gig at Fopp in Covent Garden, so I decided to head over. I loved them back in 2001, and I was getting a free concert, so it would have been rude not to.
I headed to Covent Garden Underground Station to the venue. Did you know that Covent Garden Underground Station has 193 steps from the Platform to the Exit? I do. I found that out the hard way.
The funny thing is, I saw a massive queue of people wanting to use the list. I thought they were being lazy. Turns out they were smart. I won’t be making that mistake again if I visit Covent Garden.
After the instore gig, I went for a gentle stroll around Covent Garden, before getting a bite to eat before finding a bar to watch the United match, before heading to bed or a (relatively) early night.
When you are in London, you can take advantage of free publications such as Time Out or Metro to see what is on, which is what I did.
On Saturday morning, I headed to Brixton. I wanted to see the David Bowie mural in it’s current form. I had previously seen the mural in 2014. When he died in 2016, it became a shrine to him and a meeting point for fans to share their grief. There’ll be a write-up on the Bowie mural on the Street Art blog which will follow this.
During my time in Brixton, I spotted and snapped Street Art, checking out Brixton Market, and taking a stroll along Electric Avenue, immortalised in song by Eddy Grant.
After Brixton, it was Camden next for me, for pretty much the same thing, snapping Street Art and checking out the market. Every time I go to London, I make a point to visit Camden. The only downside is that it is infested with smelly tramps puffing on fags and vapes. Not cool. It really drags down the standard of the place.
Camden Underground Station is exit only, so to leave Camden, I had to get The Tube at Mornington Crescent. I took advantage of this detour by stumbling onto some more Street Art.
Saturday afternoon was spent watching Millwall v Rochdale in the FA Cup.
I checked the listings guides and there were some comedy gigs on, but I decided to go for a bite to eat, and then relax.
Up early, Sunday morning was spent being all touristy, having a walk around the main City Centre shopping areas such as Leicester Square, Carnaby Street, Soho, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square.
Another day, another market, having a stroll though Covent Garden Market, and catching part of an entertainment show by Covent Nick.
I then headed back to Brixton to purchase stuff that I had my eye on the previous day (I didn’t want to take loads of shopping bags to a football match) before heading to The London Studios for the recording of Unspun for Dave.
Unfortunately, I got lost, and found myself at the back of the queue, meaning that I missed out on getting a seat. There is compensation that I can get priority tickets for future TV recordings, so at least I can bank that for use at some point in the future.
I took the opportunity with my unexpected free time to walk along Southbank and check out Southbank Book Market, and taking in some of the views on offer at Southbank, before putting my feet up for the night.
Monday was a more relaxed day. Not going to lie, I was very tempted by a day trip to Brighton, especially as I was staying near to the train station that serves Brighton from London. If I was flying out from Gatwick, I would definitely done so, as there is a train direct from Brighton to Gatwick which is just over half and hour. If I go to London again, I might book an extra day and set it aside to go to Brighton.
I took the opportunity to head back to Southbank and walk along Jubliee Greenway. I was even able to see the Houses of Parliament, but as I have minimal interest in politics, I found it a bit meh to be honest. I was more excited at seeing the roof of Spurs new ground.
There was one last piece of Street Art for me to spot, calling in to see Leake Street Tunnel on my way back to Waterloo Station as I headed back to Spitalfields Market for a bit of lunch and relaxation before heading to Stansted to fly home.
As previously stated, I stayed in Paddington on my previous visits to London, changing to Victoria for this one. I like Paddington, and I enjoyed my stays there, but if I go back to London, I would try to use Victoria again, especially as you can have the option of a day trip to Brighton on your last day if I was flying back from Gatwick.
At the end of it, I had very sore feet and a lot of photos to sort through. I guess that was the sign of a good trip.