Back In The Smoke

So the Edinburgh part of the trip came to an end yesterday with a Virgin train south back to London.

Pro tip: the Edinburgh flight from Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick takes about an hour’s flying time. None of those airports is a quick trip from Central London. Now add the the waiting time to board — about an hour unless the flight is delayed, which it is, often — followed by baggage retrieval and then the travel time from Edinburgh airport to the city, which takes about half an hour because the traffic in Edinburgh is generally terrible. Rounded up, the total time is about four hours. The express train from King’s Cross station direct to Edinburgh’s Waverly station — in the middle of downtown — takes three and a half hours.  And the big deadly secret: there are up to six trains an hour from King’s X to Edinburgh, the regular fares are comparable to air fares (mine cost £180 return), the train seats are far more comfortable than the average airline seat AND there’s no “surplus baggage” charge, “reserved ticket charge” or any of the other little scams the airlines have dreamed up to empty your wallet. Oh, and your train journey is not gonna be delayed by bad weather. Take the train. Life, and more especially your travel time, will be more precious than fucking around in airports or driving in heavy traffic to the airport.

But I digress. So I’m back in London and staying at a friend’s apartment (a couple of stops north of King’s Cross Station, incidentally) while he and his wife are in Corfu on their annual vacation. So I have the place to myself and can do London Things without having my wallet emptied by London hotel fees (which in summer… don’t get me started: this is why I prefer to travel in the fall or even winter).

So what are my London Things? They are, in a nutshell, the things I try to do every time I come to London. This trip, they are (in no specific order):

  • Dinner at the Kolossi Grill (Cypriot Greek food, yum)
  • Shopping at Harvey Nichols (for the reason, see here)
  • A visit to Green & Stone Stationers, to add to my ink collection
  • Tea at Fortnum & Mason. Yeah, I know I’ve already done the high tea thing at the Ritz. Don’t care. Besides, I need some Royal Blend tea for when I get back home (sometime in the next century, the way things are going)
  • Lunch or dinner with Mr. Free Market (if he can break away from tossing little old ladies from their homes out onto the street)
  • Dinner / booze with Mr. and Mrs. Sorenson at a pub TBD
  • Breakfast at Patisserie Valerie. I know, it’s just a chain — but it wasn’t always, at least not when I started going there. Best pastries anywhere outside France
  • Buy Maille mustard. I normally do this when I’m in Paris, but I’m not going to Paris anytime soon, and there’s a Maille store next door to Fortnum’s.
  • Walk the streets of London. I don’t think I need to explain why this is something I do every time I’m here. Those who’ve been to London need no explanation, and those who’ve never been to London need to get their shit together and do it before they’re a year older.

If London isn’t my favorite city in the world, it’s 1a. It should be everybody’s, because very few others can compare. And as I said before, I’m not tired of life yet.


  1. There used to be an advertising slogan, ‘Let the train take the strain.’ And you get wifi on the train. I’m sorry you didn’t venture beyond Edinburgh – there’s so much to see in Scotland.

  2. Small world. In a few weeks I’ll be 3 blocks south of King’s Cross Station for a brief stay.

    Any more suggestions of nearby places to sluice and browse would be gratefully received. That Kolossi Grill place looks great and google maps tells me I can walk there in 20 minutes. Google also tells me there’s a Fortnum & Mason near St. Pancras, pretty much next door to where I’ll be at, but there’s one in Piccadilly, 36 minutes away. Which one is better?

    I like the photo, with the urban McDonald’s discreetly visible.

    1. Fred, go to the Piccadilly shop. It’s the original. Book lunch in the St. James Room, if you can, or just have afternoon tea in the Terrace Room otherwise. Do NOT let yer missus see what’s in the basement.

      1. Thanks for the tip.

        I fear my wife is the frugal one. She’ll be struggling to keep me out of the basement.

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