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Tag: London

London Trip – Day 3

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More Hashing & Hammerton

Another day starting with a breakfast buffet, not to fuel me for a morning of museums this time, but for a mid-day run. Another kennel this time: the London Hash House Harriers. I packed all my stuff, put on my running gear, checked out, and headed to The Golden Fleece, where the run would start. More nice hashers—some the same as on Thursday—banter, a really nice, touristy trail, and of course some beer…

After the run I still had some time—although less than planned—to check off a few more beery places of my list. Caps and Taps and Indiebeer are primarily beer shops, so an excellent opportunity to fill my bag with a few cans to take home. Of course I also tasted a couple of the beers they had on draught…

My last stop this trip was the Hammerton Brewery, a microbrewery in Islington. Unfortunately the kitchen was closed, so I had to forego the pizza I was hoping for… The beers and cracklings were nice, though!

Eventually I made it back to St. Pancras International in time for my Eurostar back home.

So long London, is has been a blast, and see you again in a couple of months!

London Trip – Day 2

Culture, Comrades & a Ceilidh

After a big, hearty breakfast in my hotel—more than pictured—I was ready for a full day in London. I had planned some museums and exhibitions I hadn’t seen yet, and the first one was almost next to the hotel: the London Canal Museum.

The second stop was the library, to see the Treasures of the British Library. Among those treasures were the Magna Carta, and original manuscripts from Shakespeare, Dickens, and Austen. Great stuff, for a bibliophile like me!

I then visited to the British Museum for even older versions of the written word, in the exhibition Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt.

After all that sauntering I was well overdue for a coffee, so I went to Monmouth Coffee for my fix. That gave me the energy for one more cultural stop: the Museum of Freemasonry. We have one in Brussels as well, but London being the birthplace of freemasonry, and quite a bit more traditional, so not to be missed!

Time for a pie—well, a sausage roll—and a pint—well, halves and thirds—at the Sutton Arms! It looks like a classic pub, but had quite a few modern craft beers on tap! From there I got on the new—for me at least—Elizabeth Line, and train line that has been long in the making, and provides a faster connection with the west of London.

And in the west I finally got to visit The Dodo Micropub, where I also met up with some London friends for a couple of beers. On the way back east I stopped at A Pint of Hops for just a couple more… Crowded, standing space only, but nice people, and great beer.

Properly sauced, I was ready for the main event of the evening, a Burns Night Ceilidh, my excuse to walk around in London in a kilt all day… Loads of fun, although a bit more chaotic than other ceilidhs I’ve been to.

Before finally heading back to the hotel, there was one more important stop: BrewDog Camden! After ‘a couple’ of beers with Ryan, I then called it a night…

London Trip – Day 1

Waterloo & West London H3

The last time I was in London for more than a couple of hours, is almost four years ago! So it was about time to visit again, and today I finally found myself once again on a Eurostar under the English Channel. Lots of queueing—the train was full—but at least the biometric gates now worked with my Belgian comic strip passport.

Since I didn’t have time for a coffee before my departure in Brussels, and because I had a bit of time to kill before check-in time, my first stop in London was at Redemption Roasters for—apparently—some prison-roasted coffee, and a piece of banana bread.

My hotel for this trip is once again the very conveniently located—right next to the station—hub by Premier Inn King’s Cross, where I’ve stayed once before, returning from one of my Scotland trips. A swift check-in, change into my kilt, and it was time to hit the town!

First up was Mother Kelly’s Bottle Shop & Taproom in Vauxhall. Their taprooms have been on my to-do list for years, but somehow I never made it… This one has 33 beers on tap, so it wasn’t hard to find some beers I liked! The music I didn’t like that much, so after two beers I moved on.

The second stop was the Waterloo Tap. The bar is part of the same family as the Euston Tap, my usual last stop before boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, so I thought I knew what to expect: a nice selection of keg and cask beers. I wasn’t wrong about that, but the venue itself was so much more open than the Euston Tap: it was basically a railway arch with windows put in on both sides!

Then it was time to visit BrewDog Waterloo. At that moment it was still the newest London BrewDog bar, but that would soon, very soon change… I’ve visited BrewDog bars of all sizes, but this one was just ridiculous: apart from the bar itself—with 60 taps—and a micro-brewery like we’ve seen in other Outposts, this location also has a separate coffee bar, a hidden cocktail bar, a podcast recording studio, duckpin bowling, and a slide! My stomach was still on Belgian time, so I seized the opportunity to give the Vegan Allstars menu a try, and had some Loaded Skins.

I didn’t want to eat too much, because the next activity on the schedule was a run with the West London Hash House Harriers. In The Old Star pub I quickly changed into my running kilt and shoes, and off we went! As usual wen hashing, I met a lot of nice people, and as luck would have it, it turned out to be a very tourist friendly trail!

The last stop of the evening was BrewDog Wandsworth, for its Equity Punk (pre-opening) night, that just happened to be during my visit to London. So yes, from now on, that is the newest BrewDog bar in London! I managed to chat to some people I’ve been reading on the EFP forum for years, and some I had met before, which was a nice way to end my first evening in London.

FyneFest Trip – Day 9

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Back to London, on to Brussels

And just like that, it was time to head home again… After a bit of trouble getting my bag packed—adding a couple of T-shirts, a jumper, some whisky and beer glasses, and quite a few cans of beer will have that effect—I had my last breakfast and a coffee at the DogHouse, and I checked out.

I was in the station quite early, so I hung out in the LNER lounge for a bit, until the Azuma to London was ready to board.

In London, I had a couple of hours to kill, which I spent at BrewDog Camden, conveniently close to both King’s Cross and St Pancras International station. But eventually it was time to board the Eurostar, with which my FyneFest trip has come to an end…

FyneFest Trip – Day 0

To London, and on the Caledonian Sleeper

After a shorter hiatus than last time, I find myself once again on my way to Scotland. The main destination is FyneFest this time, but I’ll be spending a couple of days in Glasgow—obviously—and Edinburgh as well.

Lessons learned after last time, I only spent a couple of hours in London in between Eurostar and Caledonian Sleeper, although somehow I still managed to visit two more bars than planned…

I finally made it to the Great Nepalese this time, and the chicken Tikka Bhutuwa with garlic naan didn’t disappoint.

What did disappoint, was the lack of real cutlery and crockery on the Caledonian Sleeper

Flying Scotsman Trip – Epilogue

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Now some time has passed, the bags are completely unpacked and back on the attic, and I’ve reverted to a slightly healthier lifestyle again, I’m taking some time to look back on my epic Flying Scotsman Trip. In general, it went remarkably well!

Trains & Buses

All the trains I booked well in advance—notably Eurostar, the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness, and the LNER back to London—were on time, and fully functional. Only the catering side was still a bit sub-par, due to COVID measures, or other reasons: no full menu on the sleeper—which I only know about because of a text message sent to my Belgian phone number, since I only had charcuterie and whisky—and they ran out of bacon rolls on the LNER way too soon!

Most of my ScotRail train tickets were flexible, although most of the time, I took the train I planned on taking anyway. I used the offer to upgrade to first class for £3 a couple of times, mainly because I really prefer solo seats, especially when travelling in a kilt. On one train, the train conductor refused to sell me the upgrade, but let me sit in first class for free, because I was ‘not getting anything in return anyway’… It was nice being able to buy and save all my tickets in-app, an option that wasn’t available yet when I first started planning this trip.

To get to Culloden Battlefield, to Peterhead and Ellon, and to St Andrews, I used Stagecoach buses, usually with digital DayRider tickets. They were never scanned, by the way, I just had to show them to the driver. It’s really convenient to have USB charging ports available on those buses.

In Glasgow and Edinburgh I only used digital tickets as well for the local buses, and for the Glasgow Subway the smartcard I still had from years before. I didn’t buy a single paper transport ticket the whole trip!

Hotels

In northeastern Scotland (Aberdeen, Dundee, and Perth) I stayed in Travelodge hotels. It’s remarkable how different they can be! The first one had two extra single beds in the room, the second one just one, and the third one —just when you’re getting used to having an extra bed to put your stuff on—only had the double bed I actually booked. The last one, in Perth, still used actual keys, instead of keycards!

In Glasgow I stayed at easyHotel, as I had oft before. No surprised there, but I do think I’ve started to outgrow them, or at least their smallest rooms: when travelling for over a week—with a rather large bag and a kilt to air out every night—a bit of extra space is not just a luxury anymore.

In Edinburg and London I stayed at a hub by Premier Inn hotel, in virtually indistinguishable rooms. Even though they discontinued the room control app they used to have, the ease with which you can still control everything—light, temperature, DND sign…—and plethora of USB and power outlets, both UK and EU, to keep everything charged, make these my favourite rooms of the trip. A really nice bathroom helped too… To my surprise the London hub even had a breakfast buffet, which was really convenient on my last day.

Beers & Bars

This was a very beer-centric trip, to say the least… Apart from the BrewDog bars—discussed separately below—I also visited quite a few other bars and taprooms in the towns and cities I visited. Scotland sure has a lot to offer in that department! Unfortunately I missed out on a few, due to their often (still) limited opening hours, especially on Sundays and the first couple of days of the week. I’ll just have to go back another time!

I actually had about a third of my beers in London, and almost half of the bars I visited were there! Considering the only noteworthy hangovers I had this trip were after a day or evening in London, next time I might avoid cramming so many London bars in my schedule…

BrewDog Bars, Stamps & Badges

So the BrewDog bars I visited in Scotland were BrewDog Inverurie, BrewDog Castlegate, BrewDog Aberdeen, BrewDog Peterhead, Dogtap Ellon, BrewDog Union Square, BrewDog St Andrews, BrewDog Dundee, BrewDog Perth, BrewDog Stirling, BrewDog Merchant City, BrewDog Kelvingrove, BrewDog Cowgate, and BrewDog Lothian Road.

When people hear I visited all of them, they tend to ask “Which was your favourite?” Now that’s a very hard question to answer! Some of them will always remain special to me: Cowgate was my first BrewDog bar ever, and where I drank my first BrewDog beers. In Kelvingrove I spent many hours—and had over a hundred beers, according to Untappd—and it still feels like home there… To fully appreciate the other bars, I should really revisit them a couple of times. A hungover afternoon visit, or being the first customer in for lunch, or the last customer on a Monday night, it just doesn’t compare to a visit on a buzzing Saturday night, or when meeting a friend during quiz night…

That being said, I had a great time in all of them. I didn’t catch anyone on a ‘bad day’, and felt very welcome in every single BrewDog bar. And even though I already tried most of the BrewDog beers on tap—and it didn’t take long to try the remaining ones—the guest beers were sufficiently different and interesting to keep me occupied for quite a while, and without having to drink the same beer twice.

To keep myself from forgetting to get my Beer Visa stamp, I usually put the booklet in front of me on the table. More than once, a crew member would come to my table with the stamp when they noticed it. It was really nice to see how much pride some took in making sure the stamp was the nicely centred and the right way up, and rather funny to get warnings about other bars, because ‘they always put the stamp upside down’…

I tried to get a pin badge in all bars as well, but some didn’t have any: I seem to be missing the ones for Inverurie, Ellon, St Andrews, and Merchant City. Another reason to go back soon?

Even though they swiped my EFP card in about half the bars, none of the digital stamps appeared automatically. After reporting them online however, they soon showed up, and even the Homedog and coveted Flying Scotsman challenge now appear as completed!

Kilts & Compliments

From the moment I alighted the Caledonian Sleeper, until the day I went back to London, I was wearing my eight yard MacLaren kilt, and I loved every minute of it. Some of the time I wore it with brogues—not ghillies!—and with proper garter ties, especially in more formal settings, like museums and memorials. Most of the time though, I wore it more informally, with a T-shirt, hiking boots, and the hose scrunched down, showing off my calf tattoos… Since I hardly ever wear shorts, I don’t get to do that very often!

As I’ve experienced before, even when a kilt isn’t an everyday occurrence, even in Scotland, no-one blinks an eye. If there is any reaction at all, it usually is a smile. On a couple of occasions, I even got a “Nice kilt”, or “Love your kilt” shoutout—thank you Glaswegian girls! When in one museum I suddenly noticed being followed by a guard, it turned out he had recognised my tartan, because he used to be in the Clan MacLaren Society council.

Only once this time, I was asked “Is Scotland playing tonight?” Apparently for some, that, and getting married, are the only reasons to kilt up! I don’t really need a reason though, and next time when I’m going to Scotland, I will definitely do it kilted again!

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 10

Last Call in London

The last day of my trip was a bit calmer than originally planned. Instead of hitting the streets early in the morning, after breakfast in the hotel, I just went back in my room for a couple of hours. I prepared for the return trip—making sure I don’t have to dig too deep for my Belgian SIM, Brussels transport card, an house keys—and edited and uploaded the photos for the blogpost of the previous day. Those pull-out desks they have at hub Hotel really are perfect for this!

Then it was time to head out to Dalston for my vegan lunch… only to find out BrewDog Dalston doesn’t open until 16.00 on Mondays!

I briefly considered coming back then, but when I also found out that BrewDog Old Street wasn’t even open, I decided to take it very easy my last day, and save both those bars for another trip.

I did however go to BrewDog Chancery Lane, and had the blackened cajun chicken bowl for lunch there. That place is way bigger than I expected, by the way!

After that, I already I picked up my bag at the hotel, and walked over to BrewDog Camden. I spent my last hour and a half there, to meet up with its GM Ryan after all, and a last couple of beers.

From there it was not even a twenty minute walk to the Eurostar terminal in St. Pancras International train station.

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 9

LNER back to London

After putting on my trousers again—and that feels weird and uncomfortable after a week in a kilt—I boarded the LNER Azuma to London. Unfortunately, because of railroad works, it would take a different route, and take around six hours to get there, instead of the usual four. At least I would be well fed and hydrated, or so I thought… They already ran out of bacon rolls by the time the trolly arrived at my seat! A cheddar and pickle pickle roll for breakfast is was, then. A bit after noon I was lucky enough—yes, lucky, since they skipped the early boarders to feed all the newcomers first to see if anything would be left—to get a chicken and salad sandwich as well. Plenty of tea and cold drinks, though, and even their own ale!

The longer ride, also meant less time in London, so a lot of places to visit in a short time. A quick checkin in my hub Hotel—with a view on King’s Cross train station, highly recommended for trainspotters—and off I went!

I managed to get to the Bermondsey Beer Mile in time and have a drink—sometimes even more than one—in the Hawkes Taproom (yes, for a stamp), 73 Enid Street | Cloudwater London, new kid on the block Craft Beer Junction, and finally The Kernel Taproom Arch 7.

Then I went to that other set of arches in Hackney, where I visited Brew Club, Hackney Church Brew Co., and The Experiment.

To finish the night, I went to the OG London BrewDog bar: BrewDog Camden. Never seen it that calm, but it was a Sunday night, and already getting late. Still enjoyed my time there, some bars always feel a bit like coming home…

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 0

To London, and on the Caledonian Sleeper

Finally, it is happening! I had to postpone this trip three times already, each time amending, or cancelling and rebooking most of the eleven trains and six hotels. This Friday morning however, I was actually back in a Eurostar travelling through the Chunnel to St. Pancras International.

Because I arrived in London earlier than usual, I had decided to use that extra time to make the trek all the way to Ealing, after first dropping off my bag at a Radical Storage point, and a coffee at Origin Coffee in the British Library. In Ealing, one of the newest BrewDog bars had recently opened, not surprisingly called BrewDog Ealing. There I met up with beer friends Jackie and Simon, and BrewDog’s beer trainer Paddy joined us as well. Since it was only noon, and drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea, we had lunch there as well.

After lunch, we made our way back to the centre of London again, making various beery stops along the way: Kill the Cat, where we were joined by fellow EFP Liam, the Mikkeller Bar, the Mikkeller Brewpub, where Emma joined us, and finally, after picking up my bag again, the Euston Tap.