We’d had a full day on Saturday, and felt pretty exhausted (in that good, satisfied way) when we got into bed at around midnight.
At The Cavendish, we didn’t have to check out until 1pm and they served breakfast until noon. This was our kind of place! Knowing we needed rest, we didn’t set an alarm and said we’d sleep in if we needed to.
In the end – as is usual – our stomachs were our wake up call and we went for breakfast around 9am. We’d had a good night’s sleep by then anyway. The bed was comfy and we’d barely heard a noise outside, even though it was Saturday night and we were just a few minutes walk from the hustle and bustle of the Haymarket.
Now, we place a lot of importance on breakfast. And this could have been one of the best hotel breakfasts we’d ever had. Fresh fruit, then smoked salmon, full English, toast and pastries… well, let’s just say we made the most.
Now fully replenished and wanting to use the rest of our time well we checked out at about 10am, leaving our suitcase with the hotel.
Tower of London
I’ve never been to the Tower of London before. Rather than ‘a tower’ it’s actually more like a little walled village, a fascinating enclave with lots of different buildings making up its whole. The Queen’s Crown Jewels are, of course, its most famous inhabitants but there are actually about 300 people who live and work there as well.
Your entry ticket does include a 60-minute guided tour with a Beefeater but we prefer to freestyle rather than be part of a group.
As well as seeing the jewels (no photography allowed, unfortunately) you should do the wall walk, because the Tower is the perfect place to admire the unique way the London skyline effortlessly juxtaposes old and new. The Tower of London was established by William the Conqueror in 1066, but now it sits closely and happily alongside such modern architecture as The Shard, the ‘gherkin’, the ‘walkie-talkie’ and the ‘cheese grater’.
Also interesting is the Royal Beasts exhibition, which tells the story of the animals that lived at the Tower for 600 years. Exotic animals were often given as gifts and used for entertainment in what became known as the Royal Menagerie. King Henry III’s polar bear would be tied to a long rope so it could go fishing in the Thames! The wire mesh sculptures are by artist Kendra Haste.
Columbia Road flower market
Sucked in by other bloggers’ pictures of colourful blooms never found in your local florist, I persuaded him that we should go to Columbia Road flower market (Sundays, 8am-3pm). We took the tube to Bethnal Green, then it’s about a 20 minute walk along Bethnal Green Road.
It was a beautiful blue-sky day. This is a grittier, more ‘real’ side of London than the tourist hot spots (though it probably still costs several hundred thousand pounds for a flat). As we got closer, we passed people holding miniature trees and bunches and I began to picture us meandering between the stalls, breathing in the scents, admiring intricate petals, like something from a Richard Curtis film.
Unfortunately, such was the throng when we got there that ‘walking’ between the stalls was more like being confined to a conveyor belt; one that took slow, tiny steps and stopped regularly. There was plenty of atmosphere, but the crowd made enjoying the buzz or actually seeing the flowers – much less photographing and buying them – pretty difficult.
In the end we ducked out half-way along the stretch, and went into a couple of shops. As well as the flower stalls, there was a great-looking pub and a few shops and cafés that under normal circumstances I’d have liked to spend longer wandering between. But we’d had enough, so I grabbed some white and blue hyancinths and a purple succulent, and we beat a retreat.
Disappointing, but something I wanted to see and now don’t need to go to again! We arrived at about 1pm; maybe the trick is to get there first thing in the morning?
So that brought our weekend to a close. We popped in to see my brother, sister-in-law and niece before heading back up north. We were full of new memories, new experiences, and an eagerness to get back to London soon.
Need to know: one night at the 4* Cavendish Hotel including breakfast, plus entry into the Tower of London, Vintage London Bus Tour and top price evening tickets to the Jersey Boys costs from £285 per person (based on arrival on the 28th March 2015). Our hotel and Tower of London entry ticket were complimentary for review purposes but all opinions are my own and honest.