Last Sunday, we took the train from Rugby down to London for the day. We booked tickets on the Trainline site, for £72 total for the two of us, which wasn’t bad, but which unfortunately meant being on the slower (non-express) trains that take about an hour and a half (or more). Luckily, I had driven to and parked at the Rugby train station on the Wednesday that week, to go to the Microsoft Future Decoded conference in London, so I knew how the parking garage worked, how to pick up our tickets, etc.
Our 9:06 train didn’t arrive until about 9:50, though, due to “engineering works” delays or something. It was kind of funny, at one point along the journey, there was an announcement that if the train arrives delayed by more than half an hour, we would all get “compensation”, which I gather meant a credit toward a future ticket. But the engineer was apparently able to floor it a bit, and we arrived at London Euston station only 27 minutes late 🙂 As another passenger said: “That guy probably gets a bonus today!”
After a quick second breakfast near the station, we took the Underground (which I had also scoped out a bit on Wednesday), Northern Line to the Bank stop, and walked to the Monument. Al had found a cool website with free self-guided walking tours of London (LondonForFree.net), and we had decided the walk through the old “City of London” would be interesting. London is such a huge place that we felt we just wanted to choose one thing to focus on for this day trip, rather than spend a bunch of time going between sights and only seeing each thing for a few minutes. Just means we’ll have to go back another time or two or three!
The guided walk does a fair bit of zigzagging around, and some of the streets were closed due to construction (or rather, works), so we took some liberties with the route. It was a very interesting slice of London history, most of which was completely unfamiliar to us. As I said, we started at the Monument, which is a memorial (by Christopher Wren) to the Great Fire of London in 1666, which started just near there, and basically gutted the city within the walls as it was at that time.
From there, we walked to the Thames and along it a bit, past the Old Billingsgate Fish Market, where there’s a nice terrace and walk along the river. What a busy river it is, too! It was chock full of boats: tour boats, cargo boats, police boats. It looked very quick, too (and rather murky).
Doorway of a merchant’s house, circa 1703
Then the walk went across King William Street and wandered around along little cobblestone alleys among some very old buildings… just the sort of thing we like. This part of the walk also took us past the Mansion House, which I see I failed to take a photo of. There was some sort of reviewing stand set up in front of it, and later we put two and two together to realize that must have been from the installation of the Lord Mayor of the City of London the day before.
Arms of the Corporation of the City of London
I’d had no idea there was a separate “City of London” within the city of London. And to be honest, after reading their website, I still don’t think I quite understand the relationship with the whole city; it sounds separate, but then maybe it’s just in a similar way to how there’s a mayor of Washington DC, though most of what goes on there is related to running the country, not the city. Maybe one of my British friends can explain it to me later 🙂 . There are photos of the parade we missed on this site (Worshipful Company of Butchers??)
Another point of interest was the home of Richard Whittington, a medieval mayor of London – you know, the one with the cat.
The next point of interest (to us, though not part of the tour) was a really lovely pub called Ye Olde Watling, which had been rebuilt after the Great Fire destroyed it, so it dated from the late 1600’s. It seems to now be part of a sort of chain of pubs (Nicholson’s), but I guess if that’s what helps to keep places like this in business, I’m for it. One of its claims to fame is that Christopher Wren made it his drawing office as he was designing St Paul’s. We drank some very good real ales (i.e. cask ales to Americans), and had a delicious late lunch. We didn’t have room for dessert, but they had a great selection of gins (being, apparently, a former gin palace), so I tried a Silent Pool gin with Fever-Tree tonic – very nice!
Then we skipped ahead a bit in the walking tour, as our leisurely lunch had brought us to late afternoon, and walked back along the Thames to the Tower of London (more of a fortress than a tower) and Tower Bridge. From there we walked to the Tower Hill tube stop and took the Circle Line back to Euston Square.
Then we got into a bit of confusion over the train back to Rugby. For the morning train, we had bought tickets for a specific time and reserved seat, so there was no question of what train to get on (and of course, there weren’t actually any other trains in Rugby on Sunday morning anyway). But in busy London Euston station, we were there about 2 hours ahead of the train we had originally looked up as the latest train we wanted to take home, and our tickets were good for any return train on the same day… except for the fact that for that fare we could only take a London-Midlands train (i.e. not Virgin), and we had to choose one that would stop in Rugby, which they all don’t. Unfortunately, just as we deciphered the overhead boards, we realized there was a train meeting those criteria whose doors were closing, so we had to go wait for the one we had planned on. Then, about an hour later, we just caught the PA saying something about Rugby, and on a closer look we found we hadn’t noticed Page 2 of one of the trains’ listings, which said that only the first 4 carriages of a train we thought only went to Northampton, would actually go on to Birmingham, including “calling at” Rugby. Again unfortunately, the train was just boarding, so we rushed to the platform, and hopped on, only to hear a PA announcement about this train going only as far as Northampton (not far enough) – so we hopped back off just before the doors closed, since we were too unsure about the whole dividing train thing. We asked the conductor who was hanging off the door of the last carriage, and he said yes, the first four carriages were indeed going on further, but he was just closing the doors, so it was too late to get back on the right car. If we had been more sure of ourselves, we could probably have gotten on the last car and made our way forward by the time the train divided, but we just didn’t know. So in about another hour there was the same sort of train (dividing in Northampton), so with our better understanding of the system, we allowed enough time to get on a forward car, and had an uneventful (though very long) ride to Rugby. It did seem that a lot of passengers were confused and uncertain about the train splitting, so we didn’t feel so dumb.
All in all, a very enjoyable day in London town… we’ll probably do it again at least once while we’re here.