During our four nights (and days) in London, we saw a variety of different sights.
Our first day was spent walking around our home base for this trip, Kensington and Chelsea (but without our camera, if you can believe that!!). Its a wonderful area of London, where the Victoria & Albert museum is located, along with Diana's home, Kensington Palace, and the Kensington Gardens. and it has the added bonus of being the home of the Chelsea Football Club, also known as Ryan's soccer team. Alex's soccer team, Arsenal, is also a London football club, but they are based in north London. Chelsea and Arsenal fans are similar to UT and A&M. People always looked at us like we were crazy when we were souvenir shopping and had to buy items for both teams. The day before we arrived in London, Chelsea had just won the European World Cup, and there was a HUGE parade through Chelsea. I was bummed we missed the parade, but we did pick up a souvenir newspaper for Ryan.
I don't think there is a more beautiful sight than Parliament sitting alongside the Thames (even on a Foggy Day in London Town ... go ahead, sing along to Michael Buble right now, you know you want to).
I'm a history nut, and I LOVE places that make history come alive for you. This is one of the best places I've ever been at accomplishing this goal.
While we were walking from our tube stop at the Houses of Parliament towards the War Rooms, I noticed a whole lot of red and black in the distance. We walked a bit further, and lo and behold, it was the Royal Horseguards, all gathered together at the back of St. James' Palace.
Then we headed towards Trafalgar Square. One of my favorite churches, St. Martin in the Fields, has free lunchtime concerts. We arrived in time to eat lunch down in their crypt. Its nothing fancy, but it does have good sandwiches and salads in a fun setting. The concert was wonderful - good music in a beautiful little church, and we had more of a chance to rest our tired toes. This church has very little stained glass, since most of the windows were destroyed during the Blitz. They replaced it with all clear glass, fairly unusual for English churches.
Death by excess of cherries.
Considering my obsession with cherries (who can stop??), this is a good lesson to have learned.
I also loved looking at this group from the seventeenth century. They were called The Kit-cat Club, so named because they often met at Christopher Cat's tavern, and often ate the mutton pies known as Kit-cats. The description in the gallery said they were a group of influential Whigs, but just looking at the room, there has to be more than politics to them. I've added several new books to my TBR pile after seeing the room of paintings dedicated to them.
We then headed up towards Leicester Square, to see what shows we could get discounted tickets for that night. After some debate amongst ourselves, we ended up with The 39 Steps. Its a comedy based on the Hitchcock film, and I think the fact that it was set around World War II helped make it the chosen one in both our minds.
Next up was walking around Piccadilly and a visit to Fortnum & Mason's, my favorite store in London. They also have one of the best afternoon teas. I was a little overwhelmed to find four different restaurants in Fortnum &Mason's offering afternoon tea - I only recalled one choice in the past. Tea was lovely, but its hard to go wrong with scones and clotted cream. We also did some shopping here, and I stocked up on my favorite tea and jam to bring home.
Have I mentioned how much I LOVED the fact that Britain was all decked out for the Jubilee??!!
Carl was getting a bit cranky at this point, so we headed back to our hotel to rest before our show started at 8pm. We weren't there for long, though, before the fire alarm went off! We had to walk down 12 flights of stairs, and after standing around for some time and watching a frighteningly large number of fire trucks pull up, we decided to just take off for the theater and walk around Piccadilly for a while. We did more souvenir shopping, saw the show, and then had a late dinner before heading back to the hotel, which, happily, had not burnt down in our absence.
I picked the Imperial War Museum for the morning as a peace offering to Carl for the Garden Show. I'd never been here before, and we walked up and saw giant artillery shells and a giant gun outside the museum, I thought, this is going to be a looooooooonnnnnnggggg morning.
However, to my very pleasant surprise, I loved this museum! I quickly found a special exhibit on Families in Wartime. It was all about families (ie, the women and children) coping with the Blitz and rationing and other issues facing Londoners in WWII. This was not what Carl was here to see (no guns to be found) so we split up.
After lunch, it was time for the Chelsea Flower Show! "Crowded in like sardines" does even begin to do justice to describe how many people were there. It was beyond packed. We went on a members-only day, which is considered to have "small" crowds. I can't imagine what it is like on the days when it is open to the public.
I could tell the goodwill I had gained from Carl for the war museum was quickly going away. It was hot, the sun was out, and it was wall to wall people. So there went a lot of the shopping I wanted to do. We focused on the showpiece gardens, and one of the huge tents full of exhibitors.
Even QR codes!
My favorite exhibit was not one of the gardens entered into the contest, but one put on by a florist advertising their wares.
It starts out looking like this...
And then two days later, it becomes this.
Here are just some of the show gardens:
We were in awe of the whole event, and even Carl was impressed enough to say it was definitely a bucket list item.
After the flower show, we rested a bit before heading out for dinner. We took Rick Steves' advice and went nowhere near our hotel, to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub. The food was okay enough - fairly typical pub fare, but the atmosphere was the real reason to go here. The pub was re-built in 1667 after it was destroyed by a fire.
RE-BUILT in 1667.
The Making of Harry Potter.
Its a bit outside of London proper, so you take a thirty minute train ride and then board a bus which takes you to the studios.
Carl isn't the biggest Potter fan (UNDERSTATEMENT) so there was a fair amount of grumbling from him about the journey this day.
Carl on the left, in the Ministry of Magic.
Book in one hand, head grasped in the other.
Book in one hand, head grasped in the other.
"Can't. Believe. Wife. Brought. Me. HERE."
Still, I was in seventh heaven. I mean, I got to stand on the actual Knight Bus!!
Carl even came out of his grumbly state to take a picture with me for that one.
There was a chance to walk down Diagon Alley - which we had done at Universal last year along with a few other thousand people. It was nice to have it basically to ourselves here. And indoors and air-conditioned. ;)
Next, we headed back to central London. Carl was excited about taking a James Bond high-speed boat tour on the Thames I had found for us, so after some (okay, a LOT) shopping for souvenirs), and a trip to Buckingham Palace and the Queen's Gallery to see an exhibit on drawings by Leonardo da Vinci (at Carl's request, I might add - I am nothing if not amenable to pleasing my husband's sightseeing desires), we headed to the boat departures.
I love looking at the Houses of Parliament. Just seeing it puts me in my happy place.
And now that Carl was on the Eye, his happy place was coming out, too.
I even managed to not let my fear of heights bother me too much and actually moved about the pod a bit.
COMING UP NEXT: Paris and Giverny