World Athletics Champs in Doha via London

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September 20th 2019
Published: September 21st 2019
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The World Athletics Championships are being held in Qatar from September 27th to October 7th. We had always planned to attend them, not so much to visit Doha, as just to catch up with friends from around the world and see the competition. However, we found that by travelling to London, then back to Doha as a stopover, we would save $1000. therefore, it was obvious that a four day trip to London , on our way to Doha, would be a good idea!

We left Adelaide on Wednesday night on the Qatar Airways flight. As this leaves at 10-15pm, it is great for sleep. And so it was!! After take-off and "dinner" I did sleep for several hours, off and on, and so did Fletcher. The plane was fairly full but I did have a spare seat next to me. We arrived in Doha at 5-50am local time and found the Qatar Business Lounge. However, this was full so we were directed to the First Class Lounge where we rested until our plane for London left at 7-50am. The flight to London was again comfortable but packed. I watched two movies, The Aftermath and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I enjoyed both although the former was very slow moving. We arrived in London at 1-15pm local time. The Heathrow Express into Paddington and then a taxi from there to our hotel, the Park Plaza Waterloo, saw us arrive about 3pm.

Once we checked in we set out to walk to South Bank and explore the area. It was a warm, sunny afternoon and many people were strolling along the riverbank, riding the London Eye or the sideshows and enjoying the pop-up bars and food outlets. We walked past the Royal Festival Theatre and visited the Foyles bookshop in the complex next to it. We bought three books! After a beer at one of the bars, we walked back to to an All Bar One where we decided to have an early dinner. This was very busy but we found a table and ordered some tapas and a bottle of wine. We have always enjoyed this chain, as they have good food and a wide choice of wines. Our wine took a while to come but the place was buzzing and they were very understaffed. Eventually we had a great meal and a lovely bottle of white wine in a noisy, but pleasant atmosphere.

On the way back to the hotel we walked through the Leak St Arches. This is an interesting space under the Waterloo Railway Station. Grafitti artists have decorated the walls and ceiling, and there are small restaurants and bars there. After buying a bottle of wine at a Convenience Store, we returned to the hotel and after watching some TV we both went to sleep about 9pm.

Thursday morning was bright with the promise of another sunny, warm day. We headed to the nearest Tube station, Lambeth North. However, we stopped at a Costa coffee shop next door to the station for coffee and croissants for breakfast. Then , armed with our Oyster cards we travelled on the underground to Picadilly. Emerging from the station the familiarity of the surroundings were reassuring. We always feel at home in the West End, as we used to stay there often on our many visits to London. We walked through Leicester Square and down to Charing Cross Road. Here we headed for Foyles, one of the best bookshops in London. We found several books we wanted, all at much lower prices than in Australia. From there we walked back through Soho and went to Piccadilly. Two more bookshops were on our list, Waterstone's and Hatchards. Both are on Piccadilly. In total we bought 10 books we wanted!!

After a successful book buying spree we caught the underground to Knightsbridge and went to Harrod's. Here we decided to splurge and have lunch in their dining hall. We wanted to go to The Fish Bar. We had to wait for 15 minutes at the Wine Bar but then were taken to a table where we ordered lunch. Fletcher wanted the Dover Sole, while I opted for the battered haddock and chips. It turned out that mine was the winner. Fletcher's sole was small and rather dry as he had requested not to have the capers sauce which was served with it. We washed all this down with a Vino Verde from Portugal, very drinkable. This was a great experience though!!

After a pleasant interlude we went back to Knightsbridge station and took the underground to Pimlico Station on the Victoria Line. This was the nearest station to the Tate Britain. Here there was a special exhibition of William Blake's work which a former student, Lea O'Loughlin who now lives in London and is an art curator, alerted me to. This is a comprehensive collection of Blake's engravings and illustrations spanning his career. We spent a couple of hours admiring and trying to understand his images of his own invented mythology and religiously inspired images. I liked his illustrations for his own poems, including The Tyger!

As Fletcher had not been to the Tate Britain before, we also visited the other galleries. As the name suggests this gallery is devoted to the best of British art. We wandered through several rooms and found some of our favourites, the Pre-Raphaelites, and others we had seen on shows like Antiques Roadshow and Flog It. It was nearly four o'├žlock when we emerged and , not wanting to retrace our steps ,we walked towards Westminster. However, when we reached Lambeth Bridge we both felt a little weary. We saw a bus bearing the Waterloo destination sign so boarded. This inched its way across the bridge and we alighted at Waterloo Staion. A one stop underground trip and we were at Lambeth North.

We decided to stop for a drink at the appropriately named, The Hercules, a pub across the road from our lodgings. This is a very pleasant place with efficient, young, friendly staff. The place was buzzing and we enjoyed a couple of beers and people watching. After returning to our room we rested for a couple of hours and then decided we did not want to head out again, so we had dinner in the hotel's restaurant, The Florentine. The place was packed but we had a pleasant table where I could watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen. I had had a large lunch so opted for an entree size buffalo ravioli with a truffle sauce. Fletcher chose the half roast chicken and we shared a tomato and basil salad. A Pinot Gris rose completed what was a pleasant meal, with attentive staff and welcoming atmosphere.

After dinner it was back to our room and the activity of the day caught up with us, so we turned off the lights, planning to wake early so we could watch the first of the Rugby World Cup games, Australia v Fiji!

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