Monday, 10 November 2014

2014 - Day Out 12: The Return from London

Date: Monday 10 November 2014

Our last few hours in London, before we have to begrudgingly make our way back to the West Midlands.

A Heritage RouteMaster
I wake up quite earlier than planned of meeting up with Mr UKBuses, so I make my way outside to the front of the hotel for some "fresh air" before going back to my room to have a shower and make sure that everything is packed before we have to check out of the hotel. With everything packed and me ready for breakfast, I make my way down to reception and wait for Mr UKBuses to appear and he appears on time, so he must have purchased a watch before he came to London. We make our way for our final breakfast in London and after a mountainous supply of bacon and a few pots of yogurt, we have five minutes to let our food (and Mr UKBuses to have a last cup of coffee) go down before making our way back to our rooms for the final time. Luckily for me, it is just a case of entering the room and picking up my bags and making my way down to reception to check out. Whilst I'm waiting for Mr UKBuses, I have time for some "fresh air" before Mr UKBuses makes an appearance. We bid farewell to the Travelodge Docklands hotel and make our way to East India DLR station, where at 09:25 we board our first mode of transport for the day and we are already off the plan.

Mr UKBuses should have gone to SpecSavers as instead of going to Bank, which was planned, we are on the wrong DLR train and end up at Tower Gateway. Not to worry, we make our way to the bus stop at the back of the Tower Of London and we catch a Stagecoach operated Heritage Routemaster Service 15 to Charing Cross, similar to the one pictured above left. We don't get too far whilst on the route before we are stuck in a traffic jam due to high volumes of traffic caused by roadworks along the route, we decide to alight, but with Mr UKBuses being in charge of the map allowance, we have no idea where we are and after a nice hike around the streets of London (Mr UKBuses is the old man!), we finally come across an underground station so we get our OysterCards ready and board the underground at Chancery Lane and get the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road where we change onto the Northern Line and arrive at our final destination of the day in London at Euston.

We have a bit of time to spare, so we head to The Doric Arch situated at the bus station, but find out that the pub isn't open and we wouldn't have time to have a final pint in London, so we head inside the station to have a final pint in The Britannia, but this is also closed whilst the station is undergoing redevelopment works. Luckily we know about another pub situated opposite the station and luckily we do get a final pint in London and we rest our legs for a while at "The Royal George". With the final pint supped, we make our way back across the road to London Euston Station, having a last "fresh air" break in London and as soon as we discover which platform we are departing from, we board our train and at 12:03 our Virgin Train takes us from London Euston to Birmingham New Street, stopping at Rugby and Coventry along the way.

We arrive at Birmingham New Street and we only have a couple of minutes to get to Platform 5b, where we board the London Midland train to Smethwick Galton Bridge, there is no time for a "fresh air" break as we have to rush up two flights of stairs to get to the platform where another London Midland train turns up to take us to Stourbridge Junction. This is where I say my goodbyes as I have to go into Stourbridge Town to visit the bank (Mr UKBuses wiped me out when it came to the rounds!!!) and also seeing as we have arrived back home to Stourbridge I do have a commiseration pint at J D Wetherspoons "The Chequers Inn" before getting National Express West Midlands Service 276 back home.

Another cracking weekend was had in London, big thanks goes to Mr UKBuses who made the plans for a superb weekend away. Speaking of Mr UKBuses, here is his bald spot:

Bald Spot 1!

Bald Spot 1: The bald spot is seen lurking around Canning Town Bus Station.

Bald Spot 2!

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot is seen lurking around another bus station, this time at Aldgate.

Bald Spot 3!

Bald Spot 3: What a black horse, The Bald Spot makes an appearance at The Lords Mayor Show.

Bald Spot 4!

Bald Spot 4: The Bald Spot is trying to make an appearance on the BBC at The Lords Mayor Show.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

2014 - Day Out 11: Remembrance Sunday Parade

Date: Sunday 9 November 2014

Out last full day in the capital, which will see us attend the Remembrance Sunday Parade taking place at Whitehall.

The Cenotaph, Whitehall
Its our third day in London and we have an early wake up call this morning as we decide to have breakfast early, I meet up with Mr UKBuses in reception and he is on time again, and we make our way to the breakfast room (otherwise known as the bar) where after a problem where the hotel staff were thinking we were trying to get a free breakfast, we fill up with loads of bacon, washed down with a load of yogurt (and coffee in Mr UKBuses case), giving five minutes to let the food go down before I go back to my room to get my scout uniform on ready for the Remembrance service at Whitehall. With me suited and booted, we meet up at reception with Mr UKBuses on time again and take the short walk to the East India DLR Station where we catch the DLR one stop to Canning Town, where we change the mode of transport and go underground onto the Jubilee Line to Westminster, where we alight and make our way to ground level and are opposite Big Ben.

The bands paradaing before the Remembrance Sunday Service
We make our way to Whitehall and the queue seems quite long, this is because this service commemorates 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, we soon get past security with no problems (Mr UKBuses did have a problem lifting his wallet back into his coat pocket) and we make our way to a good viewpoint close to the Cenotaph, see picture above left, or so we thought. We get near to the corner opposite The Red Lion in Whitehall and there seems to be a blockage due to some people not wanting to let people get past so they don't lose their place in the crowd. Mr UKBuses soon advances to his spot outside The Red Lion by following a policewoman getting through the crowds, I'm not so lucky and am stuck in the crowds being pushed and shoved from behind by other people trying to get past, eventually nearly 30 minutes later I do get to join Mr UKBuses, that is after some "fresh air", in which a policewoman asked if "I needed that?", my response was a resounding "Yes". Luckily, I get to our spot just before the bands come out and take their place, see picture right, and the music starts just before the service takes place. Where we are standing, we can see the cameraman in front of us, who we were standing behind yesterday at the Lords Mayor Show, I bet he was thinking that we were stalking him!

The Red Lion, Whitehall
The service is started by a two minute silence with the cannon being fired and the chimes of Big Ben starting it off, followed by another cannon shot being fired to mark the end of the two minute silence, the service takes place with the Queen and Heads of State and political party leader's laying down wreaths on the Cenotaph, the service is finished with "God Save The Queen" being sung. After the service is finished, we take a couple of steps and head into "The Red Lion", see picture left, where we rest our legs for a bit, we have half an hour to wait before we can have a pint, so a coke is purchased to sup whilst we wait until 12pm. Luckily we get a seat as the pub is now becoming near full as other people have the same idea. At 12pm, we are at the bar and have a pint of "Sea Farers", and after that one is supped we know we have no chance of escape yet as the veterans march is still taking place which is weird as we are watching it on TV even though they are directly outside, so we decide to have another pint with Mr UKBuses shouting at me to get him another pint of "Seaman", in which he gets a few funny looks from the other patrons in the pub. It is just before 13:00 and after a wait outside the pub, we are finally released and we make our way as fast as we can before the crowds to Westminster Tube Station and onto the Circle and District Line to Tower Hill where we alight to a big crowd.

The Poppies at The Tower Of London

The Poppies on display at The Tower Of London.

Cheers from The Blind Beggar
After getting close we decide not to wait in the queue to see the porcelain poppies that have been planted around the tower, we do get a glimpse of them over a hedge just about, so we decide to leave the crowds behind and catch a Stagecoach operated Heritage Routemaster on Service 15 from Tower Hill to Charing Cross. We alight at Charing Cross and head straight underground onto the Bakerloo Line for one stop, alighting at Embankment to change to the Circle and District Line from Embankment to Whitechapel for our first joint visit to our London regular (second visit of 2014 for me!) "The Blind Beggar", see picture right, where we give our legs a rest for a while whilst supping a pint. With the drinks finished we cross the road and catch Stagecoach London Service 25 to Aldgate Bus Station where we take a few photographs in the fading light and then board Stagecoach London Service 115 back to the Travelodge Docklands Hotel for a rest.

After just over an hours rest, we meet back down in reception and head to the East India DLR Station where we catch the 17:45 DLR journey one stop to Canning Town interchanging onto the Jubilee Line and catching the underground to Green Park, where upon arrival we alight and change on to the Victoria Line to catch the underground to Victoria. Hunger is starting to kick in now and we decide to go to a J D Wetherspoons that we use quite often at Victoria, "The Willow Walk", where drinks are ordered and eventually we find a table to sit at so that we can order food. Food is ordered but we have waited a long time, so when the waiter passes by I state that we have been waiting nearly 30 minutes for our food, fair play to the waiter who was on his own in a packed pub with everyone ordering food, he soon came out with our meals. With our meals finally eaten and washed down by a pint, we head back to Victoria Bus Station where we catch a BorisMaster Service 38 to Green Park, where we alight so we can catch a bus to Trafalgar Square, the one we thought of does not turn up so we instead catch London Generals Service 19 to Picadilly Circus.

When we alight at Picadilly Circus, the extra pint we had at The Willow Walk has caught up on us so we go on a search for a toilet. After passing Planet Hollywood and Her Majesty's Theatre, we come across a sports bar called "Riley's", we decide to make use of the facilities first before ordering and after using the toilet, Mr UKBuses turned down the opportunity to have his nails done in the loo, we decide not to stay and we head back out onto the streets and we head towards Trafalgar Square and decide to pop into Fullers "The Admiralty" where we have a pint of Fullers "Sea Farer", Mr UKBuses gets the name right this time. We take a seat and rest our legs for a bit and am surprised that the place is so quiet considering it is right opposite Nelson's Column.

We decide to make our way back to the hotel so we have a little walk to Charing Cross where we get on the Bakerloo Line to Oxford Circus, but Mr UKBuses still needs his eyes tested as we discover that we are going in the wrong direction. A quick change and we end up back at East India DLR Station at 21:15 and head straight to the hotel bar for a nightcap.  The day has taken its toll on Mr UKBuses so he decides to retire whilst I stay up a little longer and have a couple more pints of Budweiser (on draught!) before I retire to bed.

Another superb day was had especially with the serene service at Whitehall and our visit to The Blind Beggar which has changed hands since we last visited in 2014!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

2014 - Day Out 10: Lords Mayor Show

Date: Saturday 8 November 2014

Out first full day in the capital, with a visit to The Lords Mayor Show and the Phantom Of The Opera musical in the evening.

The Lords Mayor Show
We get a bit of a lie in this morning, but at about 08:30, we meet up in reception, with Mr UKBuses being on time! We enter the bar, sorry breakfast room, and after getting past security we make our way to the food, that is after getting the apple juice / coffee for Mr UKBuses and a table sorted. The plate is loaded up with lashings of bacon and sausages and after that is consumed, I hit a new record by having four yogurts. After a few minutes to let our stomachs settle, we return back to our rooms to get ready before meeting back down in reception (Mr UKBuses was down there early!) and making our way around the corner to the East India DLR Station where we catch a 09:29 DLR train to Canning Town. We have quite a bit of time so as we are in the bus station, we take a few photographs before our bus turns up. Getting some liquid refreshment before the bus arrives, we catch a Stagecoach London Service 115 bus which takes us back past the Travelodge Docklands hotel and terminates at Aldgate Bus Station, where we alight, leaving us a few minutes to take a few photographs.

After the photographs have been taken, we cross the road to Aldgate Underground Station and onto the Metropolitan Line to Liverpool Street where, after alighting, we change onto the Central Line to take us to Bank, where after alighting we make our way to ground level where we mingle with the crowds before taking a spot to see the main parade at The Lords Mayor Show. We go for a different spot this year as there is no Helen Skelton on presenting duties. We are stuck behind one of the cameramen, see picture below top, and apart from seeing the main parade live, we can also see what he is filming and what is also going out live on BBC One. Quite a few buses are taking part in the parade and the parade must be a couple of miles at least in length to say that you are standing there for an hour before the parade even finishes, see picture below bottom (That is not Mr UKBuses!), at least we were lucky this year as the rain held off, hopefully it is not waiting to make an appearance tomorrow. With the parade over it is time to make a visit to a new destination in London or you can say the outskirts of London, so we head back into Bank Underground Station and back onto the Central Line.

The Cameraman at The Lords Mayor Show

Part of the procession at The Lords Mayor Show

Elstree Studios
Arrival at Liverpool Street, we change onto the Circle Line where we alight at Blackfriars and make our way to the train station, which is situated above the Thames so we had a nice view to look at whilst we waited for our Govia Thameslink train which we board and have a journey of just under 30 minutes where we alight at Elstree and Borehamwood, the railway station was nothing to write home about, but dotted about the bus station outside are rather revealing displays about celebrities and films that have been recorded at the nearby Elstree Studios. We wait and wait for our bus to turn up, but finally at 13:36 a Transdev London Sovereign service 292 bus turns up to take us to Elstree Studios, well the stop at Tesco situated next door. We have a look at the main Elstree Film Studios, see picture right, before taking a short walk to the BBC owned studios, unfortunately the main buildings hide Albert Square, so we couldn't catch a glimpse of The Queen Vic. After our little tour around Elstree, we decide to rest our legs at the nearby J D Wetherspoons "The Hart and Spool" where we have a couple of pints. I also make use of the free WI-FI and look up a website ( where we find out that a couple of On The Buses films have been filmed in the area and we deduct that one of the streets we walked down was a location of the film as well as the main high street outside the pub was also used as a location.

With the drinks supped we say goodbye to the couple next to us who are on standby and awaiting to see if they are going to view Strictly Come Dancing a bit later on. We make our way around the corner to Tesco and eventually board a Metroline service 107 service back to the Elstree and Borehamwood railway station. Upon arrival we both feel the effect of the second pint and the toilets are currently in use, Mr UKBuses does get the first visit though as the station manager opens up the disabled toilet for him, whilst he is in their the main public toilet becomes free. After our unplanned visit, we make our way to the platform and at 15:08 our Govia Thameslink train arrives, which we board and catch to Kentish Town and onto the Northern Line back to Bank, where we change again and onto the DLR which we catch back to East India DLR Station, where we alight and return back to the hotel to rest for just over an hour.

The Phantom Of The Opera Stage
We meet up back in reception at 17:45 and Mr UKBuses is on time again. As we leave the heavens open and the rain does indeed pour down, we do have to catch the DLR so it is a quick run to the East India DLR station and board a DLR train slightly damp. Just one stop to Canning Town, where we change onto the Jubilee Line to Westminster, which gives us time to dry off. We alight at Westminster and make our way to ground and it is still raining, but not as bad. We walk around the corner where we catch a Go-Ahead London service 453 bus to Trafalgar Square just in time for tea. We make our way around the corner, where Mr UKBuses wallet makes an appearance and gets topped up before we go into J D Wetherspoons "The Lord Moon on The Mall", which after a quick walk round and no tables available, we quickly exit and have to settle for food opposite in McDonalds. With our fast food eaten, we walk around to Her Majesty's Theatre to go and see "The Phantom Of The Opera", see picture left. We are located upstairs and decide to have a drink in what seems to be a very small bar. As our drinks our ordered we decide to take the barman up on his offer and order and pay for interval drinks and true to his word, the barman had put our drinks where he said they would be, it was a shame that both bottles had my name on. I did think when this show was chosen that it wouldn't be any good, but I must admit that I enjoyed the show from start to finish and the end was superb especially how the Phantom seemed to vanish into thin air. I would thoroughly recommend seeing this show.

Show over, we make our way back to Trafalgar Square and catch a Abellio service 3 bus back to Parliament Square, but Mr UKBuses map allowance fails again and we have to alight past the Houses of Parliament and have a few minutes walk back around the corner to Westminster Tube Station. Back onto the Jubilee Line to Canning Town and then the short hop on the DLR back to East India DLR Station, where we arrive back at the Travelodge Docklands Hotel just shy of 23:00. The events of the day have taken its toll on Mr UKBuses so he retires to bed whilst I am still awake so decide to have a couple of pints of Budweiser on draught as a nightcap before retiring myself.

A good day was had with the Lords Mayor Show up to its usual good standard and also did enjoy The Phantom Of The Opera, I thought it may have been boring but in the end it was a joy to watch especially the ending when The Phantom disappeared.

Friday, 7 November 2014

2014 - Day Out 9: London

Date: Friday 7 November 2014

It is time for our annual weekend away in London, this year we will see The Lord Mayor Show followed by a musical on the evening and the Remembrance Day Parade at Whitehall.

I have to make a visit to the town before meeting Mr UKBuses to get some last minute things for the weekend, so even before the weekend starts I am already off the plan. I text Mr UKBuses to let him know and to meet me at Stourbridge Interchange. After my last minute shopping is done, I wait at the stand for Mr UKBuses to turn up on his service 276 from Norton and realise that it is running late. I do get a phone call off him asking me where I was, which I reply that I am waiting at the stand and that you will be late arriving. He then informs me that he is waiting at the railway station as he had a lift (so Mr UKBuses is already off the plan too!), I make my way towards the railway station and meet up with Mr UKBuses and we board the Stourbridge Shuttle and make our way to Stourbridge Junction, where we alight and don't have to wait very long before we catch our London Midland train to Birmingham Snow Hill at 17:50.

Bottle Of Tilting Ale
After passing through Cradley Heath, where redevelopment works are well under way, and Rowley Regis we arrive at Birmingham Snow Hill, where we alight and have a bit of time to get some food and drink before we have to board our train to London, we decide to go to J D Wetherspoons "The Briar Rose" and sample a couple of pints of Doombar, but after a few circuits of the pub, there are no available tables so we have to leave the food. After our rest and refreshments, we make our way to Birmingham New Street, with me having some "fresh air" before we enter the station. Before we board our train, we purchase some sandwiches and crisps to eat on our journey. We board our Virgin Train which will depart from Birmingham New Street at 19:30, or so we thought, due to a trespasser on the line, we have to wait at Birmingham New Street and at 19:55 we finally depart Birmingham New Street and we our on our way to London Euston having some Tilting Ale, see picture left, along the way.

Travelodge Docklands Hotel
The driver of the train makes up time and after passing through Coventry and Rugby, we finally arrive at London Euston at 21:15. The first port of call is outside for some "fresh air", after the break is over we head back into the station and with our OysterCards at hand, we make our way underground and onto the Northern Line to Bank. Arrival at Bank and we are still underground and after a brisk walk through the underground alleyways we board the DLR (still underground) and make our way to the final destination. A few minutes after leaving Bank, we make our way back into normal level tracks and back outside and arrive at our destination and base for the weekend, East India at 21:58. We have a few minutes walk before we arrive at Travelodge Docklands hotel, see picture right, where after checking in and dropping the stuff off at our rooms (I'm on the ground floor again whilst Mr UKBuses has to climb stairs), we meet back up in the hotel bar where we have a couple of pints (and as always here I have Budweiser as it is on draught) before retiring for the night.

A good start to the weekend, even though we haven't done any sightseeing today, it means we can wake up in London and make an early start tomorrow morning.