It really wasn’t that bad getting to London.
We flew on Alaska Airlines to Seattle, then Delta straight to Heathrow. Including the layover time — which, by the way, we strategically used to eat some of the best chili cheese fries I’ve ever had at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — it only took us maybe 18 hours total.
Not bad for traveling directly around the world.
While we could have taken the Heathrow Express trains, which take you from the airport to Central London in 23 minutes, we opted for the London Underground, also known as the Tube. This rapid transit system serves 270 stations and has about 250 miles of track, half of which are above ground. Opened in 1863, it’s consider the world’s first underground railway upon which other systems — like in New York and Japan — are modeled.
It took us about an hour via Tube to get to our hotel in the Bloomsbury district, an area of the London Borough of Camden near the Euston Station. It was developed by the Russell family in the 17th and 18th centuries into a fashionable residential area noted for its garden squares. In fact, there are three within walking distance of our hotel.
It’s always difficult booking accommodations in a foreign city. You don’t know what to believe. Hotel websites say one thing, then guest reviews say another. I read mixed reviews on this hotel, with some complaining about the room size and unfriendly staff. My only requirements were simple: in a safe neighborhood near a Tube station and with a private bathroom. (Many hotels still have shared bathrooms.) And I have to say, so far, this hotel exceeded my expectations. I actually prepared my husband for what I figured would be uncomfortably small rooms. But if you’ve ever stayed in Tokyo or Hong Kong — which we both have — this is pretty spacious.
But it’s not cheap. I couldn’t find room rates for less than $250 USD a night in Central London. And yes, I was going to pay more for a private toilet in our room.
And there are tons of restaurants in this area, serving everything from Indian to Chinese cuisine.
My husband has an obsession with fish and chips, so we, along with two friends from London, headed to North Sea Fish Restaurant, about half a mile away.
It’s not a swanky place, but it had good reviews online. This restaurant started as a small takeaway (British for “takeout) serving fresh fish and chips with hardly any seats. But in 1977, a new owner transformed this into a bona fide restaurant that included a liquor license and a renovation that added 60 seats.
Today, the restaurant is even bigger, and the Beauchamp family still runs it. (His widow still makes desserts, starters and soups for the menu.)
Of course we had to try the fish and chips!
The fish here is delivered fresh every day. The fish is deep-fried in pure ground nut oil in a crispy batter and served with chips (or fries). And unlike other places we’ve been to, you can actually choose the kind of fish you want, from dover sole to Scotch salmon to the traditional cod.
My husband couldn’t have been happier eating one of his favorite English meals — and in London!
Here’s the tuna, one of the daily specials, soaked in a tomato-based sauce with carrots and broccoli.
I had to order the onion rings, which came in an incredibly light batter. But I was polite and shared. (smile)
After dinner, we decided to take a walk around London. We headed south to Covent Garden, a lively area in the West End filled with restaurants, bars and shops. It’s in an old fruit and vegetable market in the central square, surrounded by theaters and the Royal Opera House.
Though we were full from dinner, I couldn’t resist getting a macaroon — OK, I bought four — from Laduree, the famous French bakery that has an outpost here.
Then we walked through London’s very small Chinatown on our way back to Bloomsbury.
There are more than 100,000 Chinese Brits in London. This area, in the city of Westminster, is packed with restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets and souvenir shops.
On our way back, we passed the British Museum — it was our landmark to make sure we were heading in the right direction — and stopped for a beer at the unassuming Museum Tavern.
It definitely felt like a traditional London pub, with a nice selection of beers and spirits including Harvey’s Sussex Best, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Theakston Old Peculiar, Daleside Spring Frenzy, Young’s Gold, Hobgoblin and Fuller’s London Pride.
We found a table but had to order from the bartender working at the gilt-mirrored back bar, a nod to its predecessor, the Dog & Duck, which was in operation from the 1700s.
Not a bad way to finish a long day of traveling, Tube-riding and eating.
Tomorrow is another day!
Follow Cat on her #FoxHoneymoon to England, Scotland and Ireland on Twitter @thedailydish and Instagram @catherinetoth. Track her travels at #CatTravels.