After a slow morning at home, we’re finally on our way to London having travelled to Leeds to catch an LNER service to Kings Cross. Trains are surprisingly quiet today. Our 3-car Northern unit from Halifax was quieter than normal. As we pulled into Leeds we watched the 12:15 to the Cross depart with lots of empty seats. OK, it may fill up on its way South but then the station itself was far quieter than expected. Is everyone taking time off to stay at home and watch endless hours of TV about the royal funeral, or are people simply talking the time off anyway?
We caught the 12:45 to Kings Cross which was formed of a Mk4 set straight off Neville Hill depot. Propelled by Intercity liveried 91119 it was a substitute set for the scheduled working that should have been inbound from Kings Cross but that was cancelled due to a track circuit failure. This train is also empty. We’re in coach B (the quiet coach at the rear) with just half a dozen others. I’ll be interested to see how many get on at our intermediate stops of Wakefield, Doncaster and Peterborough.
After our stops at Wakefield and Doncaster I had a wander through the train to the buffet and counted 85 passengers in Standard Class and around dozen in 1st. Stopping to chat to the crew they reminded me that today was meant to be a strike day which has clearly had an impact. Our fellow passengers are a mix. There’s one or two who look like they’re travelling for work but the majority are young single travellers (a surprising amount of whom are of SE Asian descent) plus one or two elderly couples – just the leaven the mix.
We’ve arrived and checked-in to our hotel just off the Bayswater Rd. Now we’re getting ready to explore. We took a roundabout route via Farringdon and Paddington just so Dawn could have her first taste of the ‘Lizzie line’. London seems rather subdued and not as busy as I thought it might be. But then we’ve not hit the areas where the mourners are yet…
Today’s been very much the tale of two cities. After dumping everything in our hotel we went for a walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, following the Serpentine. The parks weren’t busy, but a massive enclosure with screens was being set up in the N/E corner of Hyde Park with more portaloos than you could shake a stick at. I’m assuming this is to do with the funeral. Afterwards we went for something to eat at a Wagamama at the base of the Edgeware Rd. The restaurant was almost empty which was a real surprise.
Bellies full of delicious food we caught a bus along Oxford St to Oxford Circus before wandering through Soho to Chinatown. These areas were absolutely packed. All the pubs had people spilling out into the streets and the atmosphere was anything but funereal.
It was only when we walked down to Charing Cross and across the Thames to the South bank that the atmosphere began to change. As we crossed the river we could see the queue of people who were going to pay their respects to the Queen, but it was moving very quickly and people were hardly nose to tail.
Ambling along the South bank we recrossed the Thames at Westminster bridge which was closed to traffic. It was very busy with people taking in the sights but the atmosphere was subdued, almost respectful. It was the same in Parliament Square. We lingered for a while so that Dawn could soak up the atmosphere before walking along Whitehall (also blocked to traffic) and back to Trafalgar Square.
From there the hardest thing to find was a pub that was selling decent beer. If I’m going to be paying £6.50 a pint I at least want something decent to drink – and a seat! Eventually, after several false starts we found a Sam Smiths pub called The White Horse on the corner of Rupert St and Archer St. It was a typical London corner boozer that was surprisingly quiet and ideal for a quick pint and chance to rest our feet.
We decided to eschew further refreshment stops and headed back to the hotel by bus after stopping at a supermarket to pick up supplies. We’ve walked miles, seen a lot and need time to relax and digest. Tomorrow’s another day…
I’ve a small favour to ask…
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