City Swap: this little lady goes to London
I go to London all the time for work, but for fun? Forget it. I lived in London for two years and the pace, the noise, the dirt – it wasn’t for me. I’m now happily settled beside the seaside in Bournemouth and, other than running in and out of the Telegraph office in Victoria for a few days every month, I’m more than happy with my Dorset life.
But when Hertz challenged me to a town vs country City Swap – coming to London for 24 hours as a tourist, driving an Audi A5, staying in an apartment in Kensington – it made me think. Why not? Why not try to see London through fresh eyes, to enjoy its hustle and bustle for once? Why not drive an automatic two-litre beast of a car, for the experience, at least?
Well, it was certainly an experience… Picking up the car at Hertz Bournemouth airport, I couldn’t even figure out where to put the key and I didn’t know the difference from a handbrake and a parking brake. Eeeek! The nice fella at Hertz managed not to laugh as he coached me through the basics but I still needed a couple of Google searches before I felt confident with the Audi A5 controls.
Luckily, the roads around Bournemouth airport are perfect for getting to grips with a new car and I soon had it nailed. The drive from Bournemouth to the edge of London was so much fun. The car was smooth, luxurious, plenty of boot space… If you doubt that you will ever be able to afford such a car, I really recommend hiring one, it’s a dream to drive.
Unfortunately, as I hit London, the dream turned into a nightmare. Nerves got the better of me – the car felt HUGE and finding a car park, let alone negotiating the ramps, freaked me out and pushed my temper. However, the parking sensors were a huge help and as soon as I had parked and left the car, I could shake off my nerves and reclaim the day.
Lunch was essential and, as I was staying in Kensington, the first stop had to be The Warwick Arms, which has been soothing frazzled travellers in London since 1823. There’s a full Indian menu alongside English classics such as sausage & mash, fish & chips, salt beef sandwiches, baked potatoes … perfect for decompressing after the journey and planning my London adventure.
Next on the agenda was checking into the newly opened Presidential Apartments for my overnight stay. A gorgeous Kensington house converted into apartments, it was a real home from home – and frankly the most cosey, spacious, well-designed studio I’ve ever come across. There was a double bed and fold-out sofa bed and you could comfortably house a family of three in here for a considerable amount of time.
But comfy as it was, it was time to get out and about and luckily a walk to Chelsea bridge from Kensington takes just 20 minutes. We walked via the Hummingbird Bakery for sugary sustinance and I did a bit of window shopping at Amanda Wakeley, too. If only I could afford a swanky frock to go with my Kensington apartment… I’m also in love with the new Bodie clutch. One day…
After snapping a few photos of the Thames like a proper visitor, it was the 24 bus to Westminster to hit the key tourist traps, Big Ben, Aquarium, EDF Energy London Eye… It’s not cheap, apart from viewing Big Ben for free, of course. But Aquarium is cheaper after 3pm and you can buy a combi ticket for £29.70 online that will get you into Aquarium and onto the EDF Energy London Eye.
Dinner was a bargain-acious £10 for two courses at All Bar One after 5pm, and we went to the branch just round the corner from the London Eye and a short walk from Waterloo station. For starters, I had Gorganzola Mushrooms on toast – luxurious, tangy, tasty – and my friend had calamari, which came with a vibrantly sharp sweet chilli dip. For mains, we had a bit of a gender role reversal in terms of traditional choices – I had a big, fat, juicy cheeseburger while he went for a delicate and flavoursome asparagus & goats cheese risotto. Both mains were beautifully presented and excellent value.
Even better value was our dessert, however – we bought some raspberry cheesecake from Kensington Tescos and ate it back at the Presidential Apartments on the balcony overlooking a leafy London square. The perfect end to a pretty perfect day.
Day 2 started at a leisurely pace and, while I’ve always thought of brunch as an American concept, when you are on holiday, it’s important to get a good start to the day. The Presidential Apartments offer room service continental brekkie for £7 but we wanted something more substantial, so I surfed one of my favourite websites, UrbanSpoon.com, for a breakfast suggestion.
A short walk away, The Prince Of Teck was an oasis of laid-back cool in bustling Earl’s Court. UrbanSpoon.com was bang on, the full English, mushroom omelette and mugs of tea came to under a tenner and set us up for a day’s travelling.
We just had time for a scoot to Harrods and a nose round Kensington Palace before it was back to the Hertz-mobile to drive up to Stansted airport for the next leg of our journey, in Glasgow… but that’s another story…
Hertz car hire comes highly recommended for a pleasant journey and a chance to drive your fantasy wheels, even for a couple of days.
Start your own #cityswap adventure at www.hertz.co.uk and be sure to tweet me @suzidixon77 and keep me posted with your adventures!
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