You know those people who would do anything to hide their birthday? I’m totally not one of them!
There will be cake. You have been warned.
If you had exactly 24 hours in London, what would you do?
Myself and Conor asked ourselves that very question a few weeks ago – with hilarious results.
Our trip to Croatia had been booked for months. The accommodation and flights were paid for. But then someone threw a spanner in the works: Stevie Wonder.
He was scheduled to play in Dublin while we were away and there was NO WAY we were missing out on him. But then there was NO WAY we were cutting our trip short! So we compromised and booked a trip to London on the tail end of the trip to Dubrovnik. However, that meant getting to Dublin, and heading back out again within six hours of arriving home.
The Susan and Conor London Timeline:
00:15 – Arrive Dublin airport from Dubrovnik – pretty tired but excited
00:40 – Arrive at Conor’s house in Lusk – make sandwiches for London (broke from Croatia)
1:30 – Sleep
3:30 – Wake Up (wah?! Where are we?! What time is it?! Sandwiches?!!?!)
4:15 – Taxi BACK to Dublin airport
5:00 – McDonalds Breakfast (broke from Croatia)
6:30 – Plane leaves for London Stanstead
7:20 – Plane arrives in London Stanstead
8:30 – Cheap as chips bus into London town
10:00 – Arrive in London with bag of sandwiches ready for fun!
10:15 – McDonalds Breakfast (ahem! the first one didn’t count)
Luckily McDonalds had wifi and we were able to roughly plan our day on our iPhones (god we’re such a geeky couple).
By the way, did I forget to mention that our flight home was at 6:30am the next day – and that we had decided not to book a hotel or hostel??
First we went to the changing of the guards. Conor had never seen it before and hey! its free! While watching Conor asked lots and lots of questions about the guards. None of which I could answer. He also asked a very English police man..and he couldn’t answer them either (I didn’t feel so bad!)
Luckily the weather was amazing that day because we literally travelled with the clothes on our backs and some sandwiches (which we ate in a park while sitting on the grass!)
After the changing of the guards we headed for the West End because I couldn’t be in London and not see a show! We decided to buy the cheapest tickets we could get and see a matinee. The show was drumroll please BILLY ELLIOT! I’ve been dying to see this show in NY for years – and finally here I was in the back row, for £20! It blew my mind! I laughed, I cried, I was in awe! Watch out top 5 broadway shows, there’s a new kid on the block and he’s dancing!
I think Conor enjoyed it too.
After the show, it was time for the gig in Hyde Park. We had been walking around all day, so we decided to navigate the tube. That’s when something crazy happened:
When we were in Croatia, we took a day trip to Mostar (in Bosnia Herzegovina) with a whole bus of other tourists. One couple were noticeable because they had a little baby, which they carried in a contraption on their back. I think they were Australian.
So we’re standing on a random tube platform when Conor gasps “OH MY GOD” and I think “agh! What celebrity has he seen!?” and there they are! The Australian couple and the baby walking by us – when we’d seen them two days before that in BOSNIA! It was such a surreal feeling. They said “hi”, we said “hi” and we came to the conclusion that they are spies and the baby is actually some sort of recording device. Simple.
We finally got to Hyde Park, which was absolutely buzzing with people who had been there in the sunshine all day. We grabbed beers and nuzzled our way gently towards the front grabbing a good spot (next to some Eastenders type characters who sort of scared us…but were really amusing!).
So how was Stevie?
Best gig I’ve ever been to: hands down!
He came onstage and there was this incredible energy from him which must be because he’s a complete legend! He played hit after hit after hit and it all sounded like I was listening to a CD – except better! He also played Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”, a small bit of Alicia Keys “New York”, and The Beatles “We Can Work it Out”. My favourite song was “Living for the City” where I sang my lungs out and danced my bum off!
“Sorry auld lad next to me…but you only get to dance at Stevie Wonder once in a lifetime!”
So far so good with the 24 hours in London plan. However, we assumed the concert would finish around 11:30 and our bus to the airport was at 3:10am and ACTUALLY the concert finished around 10:30 leaving us with an extra hour. We assumed that we would want to go to a cosy pub somewhere but we looked a bit of a wreck (well Conor did, I looked immaculate obviously…) and we were well, wrecked.
Then I had a legendary idea: THE CINEMA.
In Dublin, cinemas close around midnight. In London, they stay open pretty much all night! So we booked two tickets to the new Russel Brand film, “Get Him to the Greek” for the midnight show.
How was the film?
Conor seemed to like it. I could hear him laughing in between deep and not so deep sleep. FYI: the cinema is a great place to catch some shut eye.
I felt like we were homeless.
We had to walk to catch our 3:10 bus and decided to take a route past Buckingham Palace for the craic, like. There wasn’t a soul around and we could see a light on – so we assumed the Queen was chillin’ out watching The Hills or what have you. We creeped around the palace gates whispering and Conor remarked “wow, we’re the only ones here” and I replied “yea, but I’d say there are about 100 cameras on us and Mi5 agents ready to take out the paddys at the front gates”.
The bus and plane journeys back to Dublin were full of sleep. In fact, I don’t even remember take off or landing on our 6:30am flight from London to Dublin.
Although we were exhausted, slightly sunburnt and full of sandwiches, it was one unforgettable day!
Relaxation, History, Culture and Action. Those are things that make up my perfect holiday. Those are the things that made up my recent trip to Croatia.
My first impressions of Dubrovnik were formed on the taxi journey from Dubrovnik airport to our little holiday apartment in Zaton Mali. As we drove along the small, winding, cliffside roads I couldn’t help but be in awe of the jagged coastlines, deep blue water and the vast expanse of terracotta roofs that stretched on for miles. The sun was setting as we arrived at our accommodation and I can’t think of a more perfect way to see Croatia for the first time – bathed in a warm orange glow.
Our apartment was perfect for two people – small and clean with a kitchen/living room, bedroom and bathroom. The best part was the little balcony with the stunning view of Zaton Mali (a bay just a few km outside the city of Dubrovnik). Using the shower was a humorous exercise to say the least. Croats like their shower heads mounted on the wall at your waist and expect you to use them handheld. Our bathroom was constantly covered in water as a result! The people who own the apartment were adorable, and had a big beautiful golden retriever dog called Otto who welcomed us home every evening.
There are a number of must-see things in Dubrovnik – the first and most important is a walk around the huge walls. The walk takes roughly 90 minutes, but it’s the best way to see the city and get your bearings. Another experience we couldn’t have done without was a walking tour of the Old City. Our tour guide was brilliant, taking us on an intriguing, funny and sometimes quite dramatic journey through the tiny streets. We enjoyed the tour so much that we returned to the same tour guide for a tour specifically on the recent conflicts in the area. To hear about the war from a native Croat who was resident in the city was an unforgettable and enlightening experience. I could never just stop in a country and sun myself for a week – I’m definitely an advocate of learning a bit about the place you’re visiting!
If it’s activity you’re looking for the Dubrovnik area has it all: Sea Kayaking, Hiking, Sailing, Mountain Biking, Jet Skiing etc. The first action we embarked on was a half day sea kayaking trip around Zaton Mali. It was amazing fun – especially because neither of us had really done it before! We were given life jackets and put in a two person sea kayak – Conor in the back and myself in the front! We were accompanied by our guide and two girls Haley and Nicole, from the US and New Zealand! When we first set out, the weather looked really changeable and sure enough we encountered some rough water and a bit of rain…but thank god we pushed through because once that cleared, the skies were blue and the sun made the water sparkle. First we stopped at a little private beach and had a swim in the clear blue water. We had time to sun bathe there and grab a quick coke before heading back out on the water! Then we hiked up through some woods and ended up on top of a ridge with the most unbelievable view of the sea, the coast line and some enormous cruise ships. It was magical.
Another action filled day was spent on the island of Mijet – home to one of Croatia’s national parks. After a hilarious search for breakfast among the dockside cafes (which only serve coffee and alcohol at 7:30am) we got on our ferry to the island. The place was like paradise. We rented some mountain bikes and set off to explore. Now, I’m not the most experienced biker – so it’s a good thing Conor has a lot of patience – but soon enough I was getting the hang of it and really really enjoyed whizzing around the place! We had lunch over looking one of the two warm water lakes and then went for a dip!
Lokrum is another must-visit island off the coast of Dubrovnik. It is by far the closest one only taking fifteen minutes from the Old Town to the shores. If fairytales really happened, Lokrum was the setting! The place is car free and inhabited by a large troop of peacocks that strut around the place calling to each other and showing off their magnificent feathers. Lokrum is also home to a really excellent botanic garden and a huge fort on the top of a high hill. We loved the island so much that we went there twice – spending our last morning at a spot called “The Dead Sea” – a little lake surrounded by trees and cliffs and the perfect spot to quietly get some sun. We were the only people there for ages that morning…just us and the peacocks. Ah, heaven.
One thing we really enjoyed about Dubrovnik was the cuisine! Famous for their seafood, between us we sampled a variety of dishes. Conor tried Oysters, Mussles, Squid, Trout and Black Risotto (Risotto with black squid ink!) and I, the less adventurous one, had fresh Scampi, Crap soup and Sea Bass. We also had some Bosnian food (Conor really had to push me for this…ha) which was actually delicious! The two fancy places we went to were Proto (located in the Old City) where Bono once ate, and a local place in Zaton Mali called Orsan. Both were absolutely fabulous!
Speaking of Bosnia, we couldn’t go to Croatia and not visit one of it’s neighbours, so we booked a tour of Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina. We got a coach from our apartment and a guide explained the area and its history to us. We took a guided tour of the visually and culturally interesting city and even had lunch with the local guide who was a really unusual sort of fellow! After an action packed week, it was nice to sit back and let the guide do the work!
It wasn’t really a boozy kind of holiday – but when we did pop out for a few drinks, we had a ball. One place that no visitor should miss is Buza Bar. There are two of these cliffside bars, both set up on the outside of the Old City Walls with not much indication of how to find them! Once you do locate that little hole in the wall (we heard the rat pack booming from beyond!) it is pure paradise. We sat at a table on a cliff overlooking the bluest, cleanest water I have ever seen. The sun beamed down as we sipped our local beers. Once we had finished our beers, we ventured down the rocks, closer to the water. After plucking up the courage – we both dove into the Adriatic sea! The rest of the day was spent lying on the rocks, drinking beer and relaxing! Perfect, perfect thing to do – day or night!