London's calling for Ed Finn, with an amazing night at the Old Vic.
Set the Mood
The reason for my trip to London was simple - to see Kristin Scott Thomas perform in Sophocles' Electra at the Old Vic. Scott Thomas is my favourite actress. The (Greek) tragedy was that, by the time I heard about it, the play had sold out. However, the gods were on my side… after publicly grieving, a friend contacted me with a spare ticket. London, baby!
Got an appetite? I enjoyed a delicious meal in Quattro Passi on the Amalfi Coast last year, and had great craic with the proprietor Antonino. When I heard he'd opened in Mayfair, I had to try it out.
The tasting Menu was exquisite, the signature dish - linguine Nerano - is a revelation in Italian cuisine, an ambrosial dish of perfectly cooked al dente pasta served in a light, luscious courgette sauce. All of the produce at Quattro Passi (quattro passi.co.uk) is sent daily from Italy, too - so it really is a true Italian experience.
Pol O Conghaile was guided around London by Twitter.
Walking in London
You can do anything in London, for any price, but I was impressed with the idea of a free walking tour (newlondon-tours.com). Much more than I had expected, the 'Royal London Tour' followed in the footsteps of the rich and powerful - from Edward the Confessor to Winston Churchill - we sauntered through the City of Westminster, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. The guides work for tips, so they really go the extra mile.
Not so cheap, for £75/€95.60, you can go behind the gilded gates of Buckingham Palace (royalcollection.org.uk) and enjoy a 2.5-hour guided tour of 19 rooms - but you do get a glass of fizz! Keep an eye out for the throne room from William and Kate's wedding photos, too.
Finally, the moment I'd been waiting for: Electra at the Old Vic (oldvictheatre.com). This was an evening of unalloyed magnificence… Scott Thomas (recently awarded an OBE for her services to drama) was mesmeric in Frank Mc Guinness's excellent translation. After the standing ovations, I left with a feeling that Sophocles' Greek tragedy still has remarkable relevance today.
Electra can seem at times to be an exhausting monomaniac, but Scott Thomas kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire play. This was theatre worth a plane ticket!
I love London, but the Underground can be a bit of a nightmare during busy periods. Here's a tip - save money and avoid the crowds by buying an off-peak travel card for use after 9.30am in Zones 1-6. It includes buses with unlimited journeys from £8.90/€11.35.
Get me there
Sometimes small is beautiful. Flying from Dublin with CityJet (cityjet.com) took me to London City Airport - which, compared to Heathrow and Gatwick, is a dream. Why? It's easy to exit and within 10 minutes I was armed with my Oyster card (cabs can be very pricey in London traffic) and on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to my hotel.
I stayed at the stylish Bloomsbury Hotel, right in the heart of theatre-land on Great Russell Street (doylecollection.com). It has doubles from £179/€228, and the website also has a theatre break section offering to book the best seats for the top shows in the West End. Nobody does the theatre like London's West End!