London : England

London : England

Not too long ago, when we still lived in Didsbury, we often thought about having time away in London, but never got round to it, because, well – London was just too far away from Manchester. The traffic would be awful. We’d end up sitting on the M6 or the M25. It was over-priced and over-crowded. And so, for a long time, we never did the trip. The last time we were in London was, I think the early 90s. But things are different now. We think nothing of long trips – and so when we were planning our Christmas road trip back to England, we decided that this time we would take in London.

Not all of it, of course – we were on a fairly strict timescale and so had to narrow down where we were staying, so that we were able to do a bit of the touristy trail, but also head up to Manchester quite quickly. As we were driving, we took a ferry from Calais to Dover, so it made more sense to stay in the East, rather than driving through the London traffic on the afternoon of the last Friday before Christmas. Rather than search by area, I searched for accommodation that I liked the look of first, and then checked out the area – and this was how we came to find the very lovely Pilot Inn, in Greenwich. The journey from Dover up to Greenwich was easy – just over an hour, straight up the A2. No traffic jams either. As you will all know, Greenwich has changed beyond recognition. We’re lucky enough to now visit lots of places on our roadtrips, but there was something quite exhilerating about being a tourist in London, and seeing for real some of the landmarks we’ve only seen on TV.

My usual choice of accommodation isn’t usually a pub with rooms above, but The Pilot Inn ticked our boxes. It has been refurbished and whilst it is still a pub downstairs, it has been very stylishly renovated. There’s a restaurant too, and we chose to eat here – it’s clearly a very popular choice amongst locals as it was packed. The food was exceptionally good, too – definitely not pub grub. Breakfast next morning was as good, with plenty of vegetarian options, too. Our room was lovely – just what we needed after a long journey through Slovenia, Austria, Germany, France and across the channel. Very tastefully decorated, with a super comfy bed, metro-tiled bathroom with a powerful walk in shower, strong wi-fi and views of the O2 Arena and the iconic gas holder at East Greenwich Gas Works. Another bonus was free parking bays, just outside the accommodation.

A good sized piece of green space, right in the heart of Greenwich Peninsula. The Pilot Inn is at the end of the little terrace, to the right.

Love a navy wall. Makes me feel right at home!

River View, Greenwich, with The Pilot Inn at the end of the terrace. The very terrace (albeit with doors now painted blue) that featured in Blur’s “Parklife” video…

Blur : “Parklife”. With red doors.

The Pilot Inn is perfectly located for the O2, which is no more than a ten minute walk away. Again, ashamed to say, we’ve never been here since the area was redveloped and so were quite surprised at how beautiful it all is now. With the Canary Wharf glass towers glistening in the winter sunshine, and the redevelopment of the river area, and the explosion of modernist buildings around Greenwich Peninsula, we really did regret not having taken more of an opportunity to explore the capital when it actually was a lot easier. Now, a journey of four hours seems nothing. Previously, it seemed like such a long time to spend in a car. How your perspective can change!

We spent a good few hours just walking, taking it all in – and I even persuaded my other half, who has a very real fear of heights, to do a round trip on the Emirates Air Line, which crosses the River Thames between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. I thoroughly enjoyed my aerial view of London. Not too sure about him…

Body language. Arms folded. Steely, fixed expression. *I am not enjoying this*

The Emirates Air Line, Greenwich

Beautiful facade of Ravensbourne University, next to the O2 Arena

It was a shame the next day that we couldn’t extend our touristy trip of London, but we had to head north to Manchester. Instead of skirting around the M25, we decided to do a drive through the city and so were able to see some old haunts, as we drove through Deptford, Bermondsey, Southwark and over Tower Bridge to the north of the river. We’d wanted to get to see The Cutty Sark, The Royal Observatory, The Naval College and of course, a bit of retail therapy at Greenwich Market, but time was against us.

Tower Bridge, London

However, our taste for London has returned. Now that our preferred way to get back to the UK is by driving, we’ll factor in a capital visit next time. Especially as I’ve now got my eye on The Good Hotel – the concept of which is described on the website as combining…

…premium hospitality with doing good for the local community. The hotel is located in the historical Royal Victoria Docks in London, on the river Thames, and is a profit for non-profit business. This means it employs a social business model that re-invests all its profits…

 

the georgian townhouse : walton-on-the-naze : essex

the georgian townhouse : walton-on-the-naze : essex

Recently, we travelled south to Essex to visit a We Are Life client and decided to make a bit of trip of it. Not having ever been to Essex before, assuming it was all brash a-la “The Only Way is Essex”, we weren’t really sure what to expect and I certainly didn’t have high hopes for a bit of high end, but affordable, luxury. In fact, this was probably what I thought Essex was all about…

But, Walton-on-the-Naze, is so much more than jellied eels. Sure, there are very traditional English seaside touches but there’s also a lot of beauty…

And, in a major stroke of luck – especially as they don’t have a website or a twitter account – we found The Georgian House. It’s described as a “B&B” over on website booking sites, but I don’t think it would be stretching it too far to say that it’s as good as any self-described “boutique hotel” we’ve stayed in. The house itself is very large – a stunningly restored Georgian townhouse over four floors, full of the original features. Perhaps one of the reasons it is described as a “B&B”, is that it is primarily a home, lived in by the owners, Geoff & Chris. However, it’s not the kind of B&B where it’s stuffed full of the owner’s mis-matching knick-knacks. This one exudes style, taste and elegance. Everything – from light switches to door handles to cutlery to taps to bedding to Farrow & Ball heritage colours – is in keeping with the style of the property, whilst acknowledging that guests probably also want a bit of 21st century luxury. It is beyond clean – taps literally sparkle. The bathroom was pristine – and like a boutique hotel, with complimentary toiletries. No half used bottle of liquid soap here. Towels were big, white and fluffy. Lush!

There are two “rooms” available for guests. Ours was just off the main staircase on the first floor and it was not a room at all. It was a mini apartment. A huge bedroom (again attention to detail was superb) with a separate bathroom (free standing bath) & toilet – although our room didn’t overlook the sea, this was not a problem because the accommodation was just spectacular.

Now, breakfast. I always have an issue with B&B breakfasts. Either the dining room is pretty horrible, or the food is bland or just plain awful. But The Georgian House does breakfast, with bells on. There’s only one table in the dining room – which is at the front of the house so all you can see is the sea – but as there are only two rooms to let, I don’t think you’d ever be fighting for a seat. Fresh fruit, juices, cereals, fresh breads & croissants, proper coffee served in a proper silver coffee pot and a full English that ranks up there with one of the best I’ve had.

Our first visit to the Georgian Townhouse was in 2013 and we always said if we were ever in the area again, we’d definitely do a stop-over. Fast forward to 2019, and we’d moved to Istria from Manchester. But on a trip back to the UK in September 2019, we drove and did a ferry crossing from Harwich, meaning were back in Essex and close to the Georgian Townhouse, so we made a booking.

It was good to see that, after fouor years, the high standards were still there. We got to stay in the same room again – but were shown the other – and everything was still pristine. Just as we remembered. As was breakfast – superb quality ingredients, fabulous presentation and all served in a room, with huge Georgian windows, overlooking the sea, right across the road.

We have not been paid to write this blog post – we paid full price for both of our stays – but we felt that The Georgian Townhouse is well deserving of a very high recommendation.