Decades passed since we'd enjoyed a pint in the Henry Holland. Now we were back!
The first time we heard London calling was in 1971. It was one year after Dinah and I were married and I was working at a radio station in Brisbane, Australia in their Promotions Department. Beatlemania of the 1960s had passed and London was moving to a new beat driven largely by Ziggy Stardust aka a young David Bowie. A number of our friends had embarked on what was then the great Aussie pilgrimage to London. Dinah and I had talked about joining them there. On an impulse one lunch hour I strolled into the downtown Brisbane office of Qantas and booked two one-way airline tickets to London for the following March – just 5 months away. I was just 22 and Dinah was 21.
March 1972 arrived. We were organised and had sufficient funds (just) to support us until we found work in the UK. We had friends working in London who had promised to help us find employment on our arrival and we had friends following us from Australia with whom we planned to share accommodation in London. Final farewells to our parents and off we flew. We found a nice place to live in Kilburn and we found jobs, good jobs; I worked for Selfridges’ Advertising Department in Oxford Street and then Brunnings Advertising and Marketing in Whitechapel, and Dinah worked for the Hendon Town Hall. We had a fabulous two years in London working, partying with old friends, making new friends and travelling to the continent. We arrived home in mid-1974.
Decades past and it wasn’t until recently that we had the opportunity to go back to London and to enjoy a pint of Best Bitter at the bar of the Henry Holland, the Marylebone pub just across the road from Selfridges in Duke Street that we had frequented all those years ago. Much had changed, much had stayed the same.
Through my role in the advertising industry and subsequently as a Professor of Communication at Australian universities, I was a member of the International Advertising Association (IAA) and for 12 years, a Director of the IAA Australia Chapter. In this capacity I had the opportunity to attend many IAA industry functions in major international cities. So, it was that I was invited to attend the IAA 75th Anniversary Leadership Forum at the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane. As well as attending the Forum, I used the opportunity to meet with the IAA UK Chapter to discuss the possibility of organising a student advertising industry study tour to London. Additionally, I met with academic colleagues at Bournemouth University in Southern England and Bath Spa University to discuss possible student exchanges between their universities and my own university.
After all those years
Dinah and I flew into London from Australia via Singapore, arriving at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3. I recall some 40 years earlier standing in this airport after what had been a marathon flight from Australia via Darwin, Singapore and Amsterdam, thinking “Here we are…in a city of 16 million people. Bloody hell!” In those days, the London Underground did not run all the way to Heathrow Airport, so you had to bus or cab it into the city. Today, the Heathrow Express train speeds you directly to London Paddington in under 20 minutes. This compares with around 40 minutes by taxi and 50 minutes by tube, so the Heathrow Express is definitely the fastest and best way to get from the airport to the city. A one-way off-peak express ticket, Airport to Paddington Station costs around £22. Paddington is a major British Rail and London Underground hub station, so you can connect here to your final destination, wherever that may be. Paddington Station is also very close to Central London so you can take a taxi or tube train to your London hotel. You board the Heathrow Express at Heathrow Central, which is adjacent to Terminals 2 and 3. It is well signed. You can check times and destinations as well as book tickets online at: www.heathrowexpress.com
As luck (or good planning) would have it, our London hotel was actually in Paddington, a 5-minute walk from the station. Super convenient! Located in picturesque Talbot Square just off Sussex Gardens, the Rose Park Hotel is located in the City of Westminster near Kensington Gardens. This is a moderately priced, 3-star hotel in the traditional Victorian terrace style. Small but comfortable bedrooms, your own bathroom and a free English breakfast – eggs, sausages, toast and tea or coffee. But its biggest advantage is its location. You can literally walk to Marble Arch and Park Lane, the West End and Central London. Turn left out of Talbot Square into Sussex Gardens and walk until you reach the Edgware Road. Turn right and walk down Edgware Road to Marble Arch and the West End. About 25 minutes. Or a 5-minute walk back to Paddington Station and a tube to almost anywhere in London. You can book the Rose Park Hotel through most online booking sites. You can book the hotel directly at: www.roseparkhotelpaddington.com
Exploring one of the world’s great cities
I remember Dinah and I arriving in London in the early 1970s and thinking that we had landed on a giant Monopoly board. Here were all the places we’d hoped our dice would land on – Mayfair, Park Lane, Euston Station. Now, some 40 years later, here they all were again. Fashions had changed, hair was a lot shorter and beer a lot more expensive, but London remained largely the same.
As I’ve said on many occasions, if you have never been to a city before, one of the best ways to get a ‘lay of the land’ is to take a Hop On-Hop Off bus tour. Yes, it is a bit touristy, but then again, we are tourists. And it’s fun. Invariably the commentary from the bus tour guide is both informative and witty. In London, it is generally delivered with a Cockney accent. London is an expansive city and there are any number of bus tour companies to choose from offering a range of tour routes and durations, including evening tours. You can pre-book or simply buy your tickets on the sidewalk from the bus company’s representatives. The Big Bus is one that we have used. Check it out and purchase your tickets at: www.bigbustours.com/
Having settled into our hotel, we ventured out to look around Paddington. This is a major inner London residential and commercial precinct, with wall-to-wall cafés, restaurants, coffee shops and, of course, English pubs. A 90 second walk from our hotel, left into Sussex Gardens and left again into London Street took us to the Sawyers Arms. This is very much a traditional London pub, cosy atmosphere and great pub food. The ‘Arms’ became our regular watering hole after a busy day.
My weekdays were filled with meetings, including a few days in Bournemouth at Bournemouth University as well as in Bath at Bath Spa University. But we still had the evenings and one weekend to enjoy this city. I won’t go into detail about the business aspects of the trip, save to say that we had an opportunity to catch up with old friends in Winchester near Bournemouth and to revisit the magnificent old Roman city of Bath. After full days of travel and meetings our evenings were conveniently spent in and around Paddington, as well as in the West End. We discovered a great Italian restaurant on London Street called San Marco Ristorante and Pizzeria where the pasta was fresh and excellent and the red wine cheap and cheerful. Just down from San Marco was a very good Indian restaurant, The Mughai’s Indian. Authentic Indian food that is prepared to your taste.
The weekend arrived and it was the opportunity to explore a little of London. Where to start? I maintain that the best way to really see a city is to walk it. This is certainly true of London. We’d spent time living in London, so we basically knew our way around. We set off on the Saturday morning walking down Edgware Road to Marble Arch. From there, down Oxford Street and into Selfridges. It had changed a lot since my days working there. The Ground Floor appeared less cluttered, though there were the usual hundreds of shoppers milling about. From Selfridges, we turned into Duke Street and there it was…the Henry Holland Hotel. We entered the pub and it was much the same as I remembered it, perhaps a little smaller. The barman greeted Dinah and I and we ordered two pints of Best Bitter. 40 years had passed since we last enjoyed a beer at this bar. What 40 years?!
From the Henry Holland we continued down Oxford Street to Oxford Circus and then into Regent Street. This is my favourite street in London. The magnificent architecture of the buildings that classically follow the curve of Regent Street is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Here you’ll find some of the best shopping anywhere in the world. Then on to Piccadilly Circus, through St James’ to Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace. Another great shopping precinct for bargain hunters is Portobello Road Markets. This is the world’s largest antique market, with over 1,000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectable. Last time Dinah and I visited the markets in 1974 we were in search of trendy Afghan coats – long suede coats with fur lining and colourful embroidery emblazoning the back. This time we were just browsing, though we did pick up a little something for our collection of travel memorabilia at home. The easiest way to get to Portobello Road Markets is by tube. Take the Circle Line to Notting Hill Gate and exit the station by the north Portobello Road exit. Weekends are the best and busiest time to visit the markets. You can review the markets online at: www.portobelloroad.co.uk/the-market
While we had lived in London in the early 1970s, we had never visited Abbey Road and the legendary studios that had produced much of the music that had influenced the world. We caught the tube to St John’s Wood Station and walked about 1.3 kilometres to Abbey Road. There it was, the pedestrian crossing made famous on the cover of the Beatles iconic Abbey Road album. The crossing was manned by local council staff who obligingly stopped the traffic and took photos on our mobile phones of us crossing the road, Beatles-style. Dozens of people were doing the same. Its one of tens of thousands of pedestrian crossings in London, but as a photo opportunity it’s a ‘keeper’, so it is definitely worth the journey.
There is so much to see and do in London – pubs, parks, palaces. If you haven’t visited this city before, I suggest that you check out some of the “What to see and do in London” websites such as: www.londonpass.com/what-do-see or: www.thecrazytourist.com
Other than walking, the best way to get around London is by London Underground – the tube. It will take you everywhere quickly and economically. You can purchase tube travel cards on line at: www.londonpass.com/tube-pass
We have great memories of London. Dinah and I can hardly wait to return – for a pint of Best Bitter at the Henry Holland.
Tips for the Trip
Depending on your country of origin, you will likely need a visa to enter the UK. You can check if a visa is required at: www.gov.uk.uk-border-control You can also apply for a UK visa at: www.gov.uk.apply-uk-visa
Unless you are being met at the airport, the Heathrow Express is the fastest and best way to get into London. Express to Paddington Station, then tube or taxi to your hotel.Check times and book at:www.heathrowexpress.com The best way to get around London is by tube or bus. You can buy a London Travelcard or a Visitor Oyster Card at any London Transport station. Full information at: www.visitbritainshop.com/London-Travel/Tube
There are thousands of hotels to choose from in London, from the super-exclusive and super-expensive hotels of Park Lane and Mayfair in Central London, to the backpacker hostels of outer London. And then there are the airbnbs. Beyond price, the main criteria for choice should be location. London is an expansive city and the best way to get around (other than walking) is by tube. So, select a hotel that is close to a tube station. This way you can easily access all the attractions (theatres, restaurants, shops) that interest you. There are lots of sites on line that can help you make an informed choice when it comes to selecting your hotel, including: www.londontoolkit.com If B&Bs are your preference, try: www.airbnb.com/london
Main picture: The Henry Holland, our favourite London pub from the 1970s. Revisited
- Our hotel in London, the Rose Park Hotel in Talbot Square in Paddington
- The best way to see London is from the top deck of a Hop On-Hop Off bus
- The amazing architecture of London’s Regent Street
- Dinah outside Selfridges Department Store in Oxford Street
- All roads lead to Abbey Road
- The London tube network is absolutely the bast way to get around
- Hard Rock humour
- Relaxing after a busy working day in London at my ‘local’
- Festivities at the IAA 75th Anniversary Leadership Forum at No.1 Park Lane
- For Dinah, the evening was formal
- For me, a black tie event