TravelKiwis Month in Review – April 2018 London

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Spring is one of the best seasons to enjoy London, and once again we would be house sitting in Putney, south-west London.

We had spent the last three months in south-west France, so the opportunity to spend five weeks in London to look after Gracie the dog and Gordon the tortoise was exciting.

House sitting is a great way to enjoy London without spending a fortune on accommodation.

Here’s a link to get a 25% discount with Trusted Housesitters.

Dog on grass
House sitting for Gracie

But first, we had to get to London



French Train Strikes

We had booked the 7.40am train from Saint-Raphael on the Cote d’Azur to Nice airport to arrive in plenty of time for our 12noon flight to London Gatwick.

However, when we arrived at the train station at 7.20, we found it was closed. It was supposed to open at 6.30am.

What we didn’t know, was today was the first day of rolling strikes by the SNCF (French Railway) staff, and all trains for two days were cancelled.

Perhaps we should take note of the local news?

We found there was a bus leaving for Nice at 9 am and due to arrive at the airport at 10.15am.

Whew, still plenty of time. Plus, the flight was running 30 minutes late.

So why did we leave from St Raphael?

We had to leave our car in Europe and one option is to use OnePark.

How it works, is hotels with excess carparks, advertise their carparks for rental at a reduced cost. So, the closest and within our budget to park for 5 weeks was at St Raphael.

Check Whose Bag you Take off the Carousel

London Gatwick is a busy airport and so we were surprised to see our red and black High-Sierra luggage immediately on the baggage carousel as we arrived after passport control.

Perfect timing!  Terry grabbed the bag and off we went through customs, lining up for the shuttle to the main terminal for the train service to Clapham Junction.

Just as we were about to board the train, Terry noticed one of the two locks on the bag was missing.

“Hey, they cut off one of our locks”, “actually, um it’s not our bag!”

Identical in appearance with even the same lock, Terry had taken Jack Pollock’s bag!

Shit! in all of our travels we have never done this or had it done to us.

Dammit! How do we deal with this?

We went to EasyJet Customer Service and sheepishly told them what had happened. Fortunately, they had seen it all before and after a bit of paperwork, Terry was led back through security to pick up his bag.

He was advised his bag was waiting for him, and presumably a very angry Jack Pollock.

But neither our bag nor Mr Pollock was there. He had also mistakenly taken the wrong bag and had left the airport. Fortunately, he was staying in a hotel attached to the airport and was able to quickly return with our bag.

Terry greeted Mr Pollock by saying “Thanks for taking my bag!”

Jack apologized profusely and still thinks that he took our bag and made us wait for his return. Sorry, Jack.


More Train Delays

Once again perfect timing as the train for Clapham Junction was due to depart in 2 minutes. But, oh no the train wasn’t moving as the announcement came this train was broken down.

We would have to wait 30 minutes for its replacement. At least it’s only a 1km walk to our house sit.

Welcome to England, the heavens opened as we arrived at Brian and Ros’s house soaking wet.


House Sitting in Putney

Returning a second time to a housesit is a win/win for both the homeowner and the housesitter. With routines already established gave us time to get reacquainted with Gracie on her walks and with Gordon coming out of his hibernation.

Tortoise having food
Gordon the Tortoise out of hibernation


For us to enjoy travelling longer, house sitting has become our main source to manage our travel budget.  We get to stay in some great cities and regions, looking after some wonderful pets in their own home. And for April, our house sit was London which has given us time to explore and enjoy the city.

You can check out our house sitting page to read some stories of what is house sitting. Just click on this link House sitting.

Trusted Housesitters is one of the main sites we use to find, or be found, for our house sits. This site is international with house sits in the UK, Europe, Canada, America, Australia and even New Zealand.

If you click on the display ad below you can learn more about Trusted Housesitters. And if you decide to sign up, this link will give you a discount on your subscription.



Day Trips into London City

East London

Meeting up with friends from Instagram is always a bonus on our travels, so when our Instagram friend Jess @jesstravelsdotnet took time to meet up, we were able to see another side of London. Check out her website Jess Travels

Tower of London
Maura and Terry with Instagram friend Jess

We met at Brick Lane in East London in a wonderful chocolate shop Dark Sugars Cocoa House.  Brick Lane could also be known as Curry Lane as it had so many Indian restaurants.

Brick Lane Chocolates
Dark Sugars Cocoa House, Brick Lane

A wander through the undercover Old Spitalfields Market with lots of trinkets and quality goods. So different from the old Petticoat Lane Market not far from here.

We were tempted to stop for lunch with the many food stalls enticing us with their delicious array of food.

Jess suggested we should try a Halloumi wrap at BoxPark in Shoreditch and so pleased we did as the wrap was delicious.

A walk-through Shoreditch for the famous street art and we popped into The Blues Kitchen. As we were admiring the decor, the creative director invited us in to see more of the decor, especially the private bar downstairs.

The Blues Kitchen, London
The Blues Kitchen, London

Museum of Methodism and John Wesley’s House

As we walked back towards the River Thames we all noticed a beautiful old church, and being curious, we decided to take a look.

The interior of the Wesley Methodist church was beautiful as was the small garden area behind the church.

If you are interested in the history of Methodism, the Museum of Methodism is located here on the grounds. To learn more, you can take a virtual tour by clicking on this link here.

Wesley Methodist church
Wesley Methodist church

Leadenhall Market 

Leadenhall Market was the highlight of our visit with Jess because we arrived at the market and were greeted by a group of people from a bygone era.

Winston Churchill was giving one of his illustrious speeches as onlookers stood and listen, with a pint in hand.

Experiencing quirky things like this is was makes travelling so memorable.

The Leadenhall Market building is beautiful with boutique shops, bars and restaurants.

Winston Churchill at Leadenhall Market
Winston Churchill at Leadenhall Market

Admiring Modern Architecture

From Leadenhall Market, it was an easy walk to see examples of modern architecture like the Leadenhall building, the famous Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie building and City Hall on the opposite bank of the Tower of London.

A few hours with Jess and we were now introduced to another side of London.

The Shard, London
The Shard, London

Sky Garden

There are a few options for seeing an overview of London, from the popular London Eye, The Shard, The Modern Tate Museum and Sky Garden.

We heard about the Sky Garden in the Walkie Talkie building on our last London visit so we were keen to visit.

Entry is FREE. You just need to book online for a free time slot at least one week ahead. To learn more, click here.

Since Terry was celebrating his birthday in London this year, we decided to enjoy Terry’s birthday celebration at Sky Garden.

With drinks and a fabulous view of London city, the atmosphere of Sky Garden was a great choice.

Walkie Talkie Building London
Walkie Talkie Building, London

Sky London London
Sky Garden London in the top of the Walkie Talkie building

Sky Garden London
Birthday Celebration for Terry, Sky Garden London

We can highly recommend you book a time for your free access to the Sky Garden.

Just remember you need to book ahead on a Monday for the following week.

Time slots go fast so make sure you know the day and time you want.

You will be amazed to see how green central London. And enjoy views of boats cruising the River Thames far below.

Museums in London

When the weather isn’t on your side, one of the best options is to visit one of the many FREE museums in London, open from 10 am to 6 pm.

Our favourite this time was The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square for its paintings but also the beautiful interior.

The National Portrait Gallery
Inside The National Gallery


The National Portrait Gallery, London
With van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ at The National Gallery, London

Day Trips from London City

With Putney situated in southwest London, you are spoilt for choice on what park to visit.

A favourite of ours and Gracie was Richmond Park with Isabella Plantation. But we also liked to visit Bushy Park with Hampton Court Palace and the famous Royal Botanic Kew Gardens.


Kew Gardens

Springtime was spectacular at Kew Gardens and it is so easy to spend a few hours here wandering amongst the many areas on display.

The blossom trees and tulips made the walkways so pretty with the flower beds near the Palm House capturing your attention.

A walk along the Treetop Walkway or exploring inside The Hive or a walk through the Princess of Wales Conservatory were all new exhibitions for us since our visit 30 years ago.

The Temperate House recently opened after a major five-year refurbishment is one of the best things to see in Kew Garden.

And if you are staying for a picnic lunch, Kew Palace is a beautiful setting. We were able to see inside with a small donation.

To learn more about the Botanic Gardens of Kew, you can click here

Blossoms at Kew Garden , London
Blossoms at Kew Garden, London
The Hive, Kew Gardens, London
The Hive, Kew Gardens, London
Treetop Walkway, Kew Gardens, London
Treetop Walkway, Kew Gardens, London


Temperate House, Kew Gardens
Temperate House, Kew Gardens
Richmond Cricket Club, London with view of Pagoda, Kew Garden
Richmond Cricket Club, London with a view of the Japanese Pagoda, Kew Garden. He missed the catch!

Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park

Springtime at Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park, London
Springtime at Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park, London

One of the best walks we enjoy with Gracie is Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park. Finding the season of spring in full bloom is a highlight of spring in London.

You just don’t want to leave this wonderland.

Catching up with Friends in London

With a week in between our house sitting assignments and our return to France, we booked the week catching up with family and friends.

We have to say our social calendar was full this April in London.

St Paul's Cathedral London
Maura and Sarah (from New Zealand) enjoying the sights of London

Sarah, our daughter in law’s Mum was over for a visit.

Daniel and Jess in Richmond Park, London
Daniel and Jess in Richmond Park, London

Our son Daniel and wife Jess spent time in London.

Waffled, London
Maura with Rod of Waffled, London

Catching up with Rod and Karsia of Waffled at the Broadway Vegan Market.  We had met this cool couple during a walking tour of Porto and became good friends quickly.

Romanian Party in London
Romanian Party in London

Costa and Diana, we shared a yummy southern Indian meal and a BBQ with some great Romanian wine from Costa’s Dad. We had travelled northern Thailand and Laos with these guys and have remained close friends.

Maura met up for lunch with her cousin Ann in Solihull and said Hi to Julie while there.

In London, it was a lovely lunch on the River Thames with Maura’s old colleague Ian and his wife Sandra.

BBQ madeness
Steve, Trevor and Terry reunite. They played in the 1986 season at Richmond Cricket Club

Finally, a BBQ evening with Terry’s Richmond Cricket Club friends Trevor and Fiona, and Steve and Sheneen who were visiting from Australia.

Rikki and Carmel - Fellow Kiwis and Instagrammers
Rikki and Carmel – Fellow Kiwis and Instagrammers

We even caught up with fellow Kiwis Rikki and Carmel who we had met through Instagram whynottravel_x. They were staying near to us, so we had a few drinks and some laughs on a night out in Putney.


HouseSitting in London

One of the great benefits of Slow Travel is using housesitting to experience and revisit cities like London.

And returning to London for a second time, we still find new landmarks to visit.

Housesitting is an affordable option to travel for longer. And you can choose to housesit for short or long term breaks, even a weekend getaway.

Here’s a link to get a 25% discount with Trusted Housesitters.