Thursday, March 29, 2012

Travel Tales of London, Part 2

I've decided to go with a day of travel chatter between each book review, since I only have a few book reviews to catch up on (and those might end up being minis -- we shall see).

In Tuesday's post about book purchases, I mentioned that our flights to London had to be altered and our luggage didn't arrive with us. All three flights were exceptionally smooth, though, and we carry extra outfits and necessities to ensure that a luggage delay is not a total disaster. The man we talked to about retrieving our luggage was extremely courteous and competent -- and not having our wheeled bags meant not having to drag them through the tube! Wahoo! We arrived at our borrowed flat in Knightsbridge, bathed and rested before taking a walk around the neighborhood and through Harrod's, where a woman was singing opera in a formal gown on one of the balconies next to the Egyptian escalators. In the evening, I finished reading The Land of Decoration.

I must tell you about our funny moment when we arrived at the building. We knew the flat was a 3rd-floor walk-up (no lift) but there were no names on either the buzzer or the doors and when we arrived, we realized neither of us had bothered to inquire whether our host was referring to "3rd floor" in the British or American sense. What Americans refer to as the 1st floor is, of course, the "ground floor" in the UK. I guessed our host meant 3rd floor, British style, but Huzzybuns was uncertain and tried the key in the door of the 3rd floor flat, American style, very quietly. Nope. It was the next flat up (we were in a narrow building with only one flat per level). I counted 65 steps to the flat. Hopefully, we burned plenty of calories, last week.

On Sunday morning, the 18th, we had planned to head to Windsor Castle. But, since we weren't staying at a hotel and there was no doorman to accept our luggage from the courier, it was necessary to stick pretty close to "home" so we could dash back to the flat if we got a text saying our luggage was on its way. So, instead, we headed for Trafalgar Square and walked through the National Gallery for a bit. Most of Trafalgar Square was roped off for a St. Patrick's Day concert so I wasn't able to get a wide-angle view of Trafalgar, as I'd hoped -- just some side views, as above. That just means we have to return, right? I bought my copy of Fever by Lauren DeStefano in the Waterstone's at Trafalgar Square and husband bought Tea at Fortnum & Mason.

After eating lunch in the National Gallery (museum food is excellent in London), we walked past Charing Cross down to the Thames and across the bridge. We sauntered along the embankment, past the London Eye and enjoyed watching street performers. There was a very happy, celebratory crowd along the embankment, as Sunday was apparently the official day to celebrate St. Patrick's. Like typical tourists, we took a dozen shots of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament as we crossed back over the Thames.

From the embankment, we headed back on the tube to Knightsbridge and went to the Saatchi Gallery, which was recommended to me by a Twitter friend when I asked for recommendations to keep us occupied in the Knightsbridge area. We are officially in love with the Saatchi Gallery. It's a bright, cheerful, funky place. I hope you can enlarge this photo to see the look on the face of the man in the green shirt:

We walked through Partridge's of Sloane Square (a very pretty little grocery store) and sat in the Duke of York Square, watching small children on scooters and enjoying the atmosphere before heading back to the flat for a rest.

In the evening, we took a walk to the Royal Albert Hall to orient ourselves, since we were going to a concert at the Royal Albert, later on. It's a beautiful building, all lit up at night, isn't it?

We discovered we'd taken a longer route than necessary and returned to the flat a different way. Either way, the Royal Albert was just a 15- to 20-minute walk. Not bad at all. On the way back to the flat, we stopped to pick up dinner at a local grocery store.

We've seen the pre-made, easy-cook dinners they carry in English grocery stores, in the past, but haven't stayed in a place with an oven. So, it was really a treat to choose our evening meals, each day. On the first night, we had a lamb pie with squash casserole and salad. The second night, we chose this "Salmon and Brie en Croute," which we paired with a mushroom risotto that was out of this world.

Oh, my goodness that was heavenly. Why don't we have meals that taste home-cooked like this in our grocery stores? It was amazing. For breakfast each day, we had gluten-free meusli with milk from "only pure Jersey or Guernsey cows" and apricot yogurt, most days, which also had me wondering what on earth we do to our American cows. The difference in milk products between here and the UK is astounding.

By the time we'd eaten dinner, we were pretty much wiped out, although it was still fairly early. I read a bit of Kitty Cornered before caving in. I found that I was able to relax and read in the flat in a way that I'm seldom able to do in a hotel room, which was obviously a big bonus! More about our travels in a couple days.

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

26 comments:

  1. You know, I lived in London for a year and the UK for five years all up, but if I was going back on holiday I would absolutely do the whole touristy thing again. I really don't think you can get sick of Big Ben or Trafalgar Square or the Royal Albert Hall!

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    1. You are a lucky chick, Marg. I've always wished to live in the UK for a while.

      Yep, never tiresome to see the same landmarks. We no longer do certain things, like going into the Tower of London (so crowded!), but you don't have to go inside to enjoy walking past Traitor's Gate and ogling the Tower Bridge. London is such a great place to visit. I just can't get enough of it.

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  2. Lovely photos! I especially like the shot of Big Ben.

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    1. Thanks, Jill! I had a great time playing with the camera on this trip (and the post-processing is a bit of a kick, too, since Picasa's added some nice new features).

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  3. This sounds like such an amazing trip, and like something that I need to do at least once in my lifetime! I love that you highlighted each and every bit including the amazing dinners you got at the grocery! What wonderful photos as well! Great post today!

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    1. Oh, yes, Zibilee. You need to go. London is such a fabulous place, especially if you love history. We took our kids there for Spring Break, one year. It's an education. I wondered if people would think it's ridiculous that I mentioned the groceries! LOL Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed this post. :)

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  4. Lovely lovely lovely. (and now I'm tired. silly me trying to be up and blogging already...) Can I borrow that cloud photo to post on my blog with FULL credit and link to you?? cuz I will be posting a review of Cloud Atlas if I don't sleep away my afternoon and love that photo! you are masterful. Whaddya say?

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    1. You should rest, Carrie! Yes, of course you may borrow my clouds! Now, go back to bed. Sleep is healing. Hugs to you!!!

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    2. Thank you. Sleep is fine but a house all to myself is even better. The man just left to go fishing but has promised to be back to take me to the garden store in a few hours. Going a bit stir crazy, actually.

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    3. Know the feeling. I felt that way all week, with hubby back in England. I'm so glad to have the two guys home that I've been skirting the computer. Just snapped pics of a snake and had to load them, so here I am! Hope D. comes home to fetch you soon.

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  5. Those are wonderful photos, and I love the look on the man in the green shirt's face! I'm shocked that the frozen food was so good, since ours here is definitely not delectable. Also wondering about the milk. I'm sure I had some in the UK, but it's been years so I really don't remember a difference.

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    1. Isn't that expression great? Yeah, the frozen food shocked us both. There's nothing but microwavable slop available here, and the moment we find something we like it seems to be promptly discontinued or, at least, no longer stocked. I've always loved the cheese and yogurt in the UK, but it still surprises me how much better it tastes.

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  6. Love the pic of Big Ben, and staying in a flat is the way to go!

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    1. Thanks, Jenclair! Yes, staying in a flat was absolutely wonderful - much more relaxing than a week in a hotel. Being able to cook meals was definitely a huge bonus, as well.

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  7. Loved reading this post, Nancy. It sounds like such a great trip, and it leaves me wishing to do some serious traveling!

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    1. Thanks, Andi! I'm glad you enjoyed this post. It was a wonderful trip. I love traveling. I didn't get to go much of anywhere (except Oklahoma) -- and almost never without the kids -- for at least two decades. I'm trying to make up for lost time, here. LOL No plans for summer, though, so far.

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  8. I'm so envious! We took a wonderful trip to GB and Germany last summer and I've been ready to go back since I got the laundry finished. :) I would love to spend a week in London; you're giving me some wonderful ideas for the next time I travel there. There will definitely be a next time! Must! Go! Back!

    Here's our picture collection if you're feeling like browsing someone else's travel photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bennettanneb/collections/72157627395724789/

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    1. Oh, lucky Anne! Germany is way up there on my wish list of places to go. London is awesome. We know it as well as tourists can, having been there a few times, so we always feel very comfortable visiting. These days, we enjoy a lot of long walks along the Thames, in Greenwich (coming up, soon), etc. It's nice once you know the city well enough to feel like you don't have to hit every single touristy place but can just enjoy the museums, theatres and atmosphere. I'll look at your photos, later on! Have to dash out the door to work out, but I love seeing other folks' travel photos!

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  9. Loved this post Nancy! Awesome pictures and writing.

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  10. Just reading this makes me want to go back to London sooooo bad!

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    1. If you asked me, I'd tell you any excuse to go to London is a good one. ;)

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  11. I love the lighting in the photo of the Royal Albert. Gorgeous!

    I laughed at your story about the 3rd floor British or American style. We had a similar situation when we arrived at our friends' flat. They had a good laugh about it!

    That food looks and sounds delicious! I rarely ever buy microwavable food anymore. It NEVER tastes as good as the packaging indicates and I'm always disappointed. I'd rather eat yogurt and fruit than something mediocre or awful! Lucky you to discover such treats.

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    1. Isn't the Royal Albert pretty at night?

      We were fortunate not to be dragging luggage while we were trying to figure out which floor we should be on. It was pretty funny, especially when D. *very quietly* inserted the key into the wrong door, just to check. LOL

      The food was awesome. We mostly eat normal, homecooked meals, too. I think the older you get, the more you feel like there's no point to eating that disgusting crap. It isn't satisfying. We usually do eat from grocery-store fare in England, but typically pre-made salads and sandwiches (which are surprisingly good). It was exciting to have an oven and a chance to try some of their easy-cook oven foods. We pretty much loved everything we tried, although I wasn't hot on the lamb. But, honestly, I'm not a big fan of lamb, period.

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  12. Ok. All of your pictures are stunning but the Big Ben pictures?! GORGEOUS.

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    1. Thanks, Trish! It's funny, I was standing there thinking, "I am so typical, snapping a dozen pictures of Big Ben," while I was clicking away. But, it's very photogenic and pretty so I decided it's okay to be a tourist if that's what you feel like or blend in, if you prefer, regardless of how many times you've seen Big Ben and all the other touristy bits. London is just a great place to be.

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