Trip 2 of 2014 was a weekend in London – a surprise birthday present for my BF. I’ve always felt a bit sorry for people who have birthdays early or late in the year – being born in June means the weather’s pretty nice everywhere that Ryanair and EasyJet fly, and being outside school holidays means flights and hotels are fairly cheap. The two together means I usually get to mark my birthday somewhere exciting. February is a bit more of a challenge…
Still, February is definitely cheap, and the weather’s not an issue if there’s plenty to do indoors. So with our #EUtour project in mind I booked the train tickets and hotel and kept my mouth shut until his birthday.
We travelled on Virgin Trains from Manchester to London – it’s only two hours so really convenient but can be incredibly expensive if you don’t book in advance. The train arrived into Euston and we started off by walking five minutes down Euston Road to see the British Library. If you love beautiful books the tall, tall shelves of the King’s Library in the centre of the building are worth seeing.
We carried on a bit further past the glorious St Pancras to Kings Cross. This station for the eastern side of the UK always used to be a bit grotty, but since the huge restoration and rebuilding programme was completed in 2012 it’s a joy – the 1970s extension that used to cover the facade has gone so you can see it in all its beautiful simple glory, a lovely contrast to St Pancras next door.
After having a look at Platform 9 and 3/4 and the Harry Potter shop (they sell actual wands!) we went over to South Kensington to have a look around the Victoria and Albert museum then over to Westminster to do our #EUtour duties. The dark stormy skies and some rays of late afternoon sunshine made the river and Big Ben look very striking and we were lucky enough to see a rainbow over the London Eye.
Our hotel was the Premier Inn Waterloo in a fantastic spot just on the other side of County Hall. I like Premier Inns because they’re reliable – always clean, the beds are comfortable and they’re cheap without that prison chic feel of some other chains. What we weren’t expecting was an amazing view over Waterloo with the Shard and Canary Wharf in the distance.
In the evening it was time for the main event – The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The show was great and the theatre felt a lot more small and intimate than I was expecting.
The next day we headed for the Science Museum with high hopes and the expectation that we’d stay all day. Unfortunately we found it badly planned out with lots of empty space waiting to be filled with exhibitions and the permanent collection a bit confused. There were some high points like the aviation and space galleries but overall we were really disappointed. Last year there was a huge controversy when the Science Museum management threatened to close one of their northern museums in order to save the London museum – we’ve visited them all and thought that the National Media Museum in Bradford, the National Railway Museum in York and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester were all far more interesting and entertaining.
We went next door to the Natural History Museum. What a difference! We entered through the side entrance and were immediately taken up through a “burning planet” into the galleries. When we emerged into the central hall it was just breathtaking, a huge cathedral-like space with a replica diplodocus skeleton in the centre.
The star attraction for me was the building itself. The detail is incredible, with carvings of plants, animals and fish all around the walls to denote which area you’re in. I particularly loved the cheeky monkeys hanging on to the hall’s arches.
We’ve been to London quite a few times now at different times of the year. London in February doesn’t have quite the appeal of London in the summer but if you’re planning to hit the museums, take in a show and don’t mind the rain too much it can be a great time to come.
We stayed at: Premier Inn Waterloo
We saw: A West End show, a lovely rainbow, dinosaurs
We ate: Beanburger meals from Burger King
We drank: Diet Coke from Burger King