Hello readers! After a pandemic hiatus, we are back in the United Kingdom. How great it was to board the Air Canada Dreamliner again in Calgary and arrive in one of our favourite cities nine hours later. Despite the many news stories of the horrors of post-pandemic air travel, we encountered no problems.
Calgary Airport advise that you arrive 3 hours prior to an international flight – we went rogue 🤣 and arrived about 2 1/2 hours before. Within 20 minutes, we were checked in, divested of our luggage and through security. So we found a quiet corner to wait. Our flight actually started boarding about 50 minutes prior to scheduled take-off time (I think that’s the earliest I have even seen). We took off a bit late as they had to reunite families that weren’t seated together (children must be seated with a parent/guardian). We found it odd that this had occurred – do you think that the parents tried to do it on purpose? 😉
Despite the departure delay, we arrived early in Heathrow. Although there was a line-up for the electronic border check-in, it moved along steadily and we were through quite quickly. Our luggage had arrived and so our journey was trouble-free. After about 13 hours of wearing a mask, it felt good to remove them when we arrived at our hotel.
For the first four nights of this trip, we decided to once again stay at a Heathrow Airport Hotel – the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross. It’s a quick one stop tube ride from Terminal 2. After an overnight flight, it’s great to immediately drop your luggage and freshen up a bit before continuing on with the day. We have found that taking an arrival rest is not a good strategy for combating jet lag – just power through until bedtime!
After lunch at the hotel, we headed for the tube. We topped up the balance on our Oyster Cards – although you can use your credit card to tap in and out of the tube, we like the convenience of using the Oyster card, without worrying about pulling out the credit card. We still wore masks on the tube and in the stations although the majority of riders were not.
We rode the new Elizabeth Line tube from Heathrow to Paddington Station. This line just opened in May – the Queen herself opened it – and is shiny and new, with great coaches. At Paddington, we did a quick switch to the Bakerloo Line and rode one quick stop to Warwick Avenue.
Our destination was the Maida Vale flat of our girl Kristin in London – so wonderful to see her in person after 5 months! It was our first chance to see her great flat in a lovely neighbourhood.
Maida Vale is located in the Little Venice district. The district centres around the junction of the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal, the Regent’s Canal, and the entrance to Paddington Basin. When Robert Browning’s wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, died in 1861, he returned from Italy and moved to Warwick Crescent. Some historians believe that Browning referred to the area as Little Venice. Others say that Lord Byron named it as a joke – no one knows for sure. The canals are lined by waterside cafes, pubs, entertainment venues and multitudes of houseboats. It’s a great place to take a canal side stroll or boat ride.
Kristin had a rugby game to play in Hyde Park and we walked through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park on our way to the sports field. Hyde Park originally included Kensington Gardens, until 1728 when Queen Caroline divided the two. The 350 acres covered by Hyde Park and the 275 acres of Kensington Gardens merge together seamlessly.
We wandered past the Italian Gardens and the Peter Pan statue.
Unfortunately, the skies opened to a downpour and although the rugby players carried on, playing the entire game followed by another ‘friendly’ match, we were less stalwart. We watched a bit from under our umbrellas and then headed to our tube stop and back to the hotel. A day of 17,000 steps after about an hour of sleep on the plane and we were ready for a good night’s sleep!
Kristin was attending the Henley Royal Regatta on Friday so we were on our own. A lazy morning and then we headed to Richmond, a lovely town bordering the River Thames. Like many others, our first insight into Richmond came from the Apple+ TV series, Ted Lasso. If you haven’t seen the series and have access to the service, we highly recommend this entertaining series about an American football coach who is recruited to coach the Richmond AFC, the local football (aka soccer) team.
We visited a couple of the iconic Ted sights, starting with the Prince’s Head Pub – rebranded in the show as the Crown & Anchor – and the bench where Ted & Coach Beard sat so often. Although interior scenes were shot on a set rather than in the pub, we still found it a great place for our first pub lunch of the trip – excellent fish & chips accompanied by a beer / cider.
As we strolled the picturesque streets, we also took pictures of Ted’s front door and favourite coffee stand, and the Richmond Green, a great park where we saw the youngsters kicking around the soccer ball in the show. The Green was the site of jousting in the 15th and 16th centuries when the Tudor kings and queens stayed at Richmond Palace.
The show was actually being filmed at the Richmond Theatre the day we were there, but we only saw the many production trucks.
The Thames River runs through Richmond and the Thames Walk is a great riverside pathway.
Richmond is a lovely community, with great streets and buildings.
We would definitely recommend a visit to Richmond, even if you aren’t a Ted fan!
Check out Little Venice, Maida Vale, Richmond and any other neighbourhood in London. There is always something unique and interesting to see.
Stay tuned for more on a fun weekend in London.
Bev & Harvey