My visit to London was amazing but also, looking back, exhausting. When we arrived, I was already starting to get sick and, after two weeks of incessant travelling, also a bit tired of being constantly on the go. But it was my first visit to London in three years and there was so much I wanted to fit in to my few days there that I decided to just ignore my tiredness, drug myself to deal with my cold, and soldier on, knowing that in a few days I’d be on a plane home and could be as sick and tired then as I liked. Generally not the smartest strategy but one that worked nonetheless.
We arrived into London on a sunny afternoon and, for once, I was on a plane that didn’t end up doing endless loops in a holding pattern over the city and which actually arrived at Heathrow on time. I can still hardly believe that happened. After finding our way to Pimlico and checking into our hotel, my mother and I hit the streets. After the grey, cement-bound streets of Vienna it was such a pleasure to walk along tree-lined roads and through shaded parks. We walked past Buckingham Palace, through Green Park, and then wandered through the residential streets of Knightsbridge and South Kensington. After a few hours, we wound our way back towards our hotel, searching for somewhere that would feed us and provide my mother with copious, well-earned amounts of white wine. Our delight when we walked into the dining room at The Queen’s Arms was immense. Cozy and comfortable, it was the perfect place to relax after a long day of travelling. We walked the few blocks back to our hotel arm-in-arm, the very picture of contentment. Except when my mother had to figure out which way to look when crossing the street. She gets stressed about that at the best of times in the UK, never mind after a long day and three glasses of wine.
Our second day in London was the only one I’d actually planned. And by ‘planned’, I mean that weeks before I wrote out an agenda that set out our movements from seven in the morning until six at night, accounting for every minute in between. But, to justify my insanity, it did all go perfectly. Neither my mother nor I had ever visitedSt. Paul’s on any of our previous trips, so we decided to start the day there, walking over to the City from our hotel. We, of course, walked along the Embankment most of the way and I got to have a nostalgic moment at Cleopatra’s Needle, which was the meeting point when I used to come up to London on school trips from East Sussex. Ah, such happy memories of a hundred exchange students waiting in the rain for our coach buses to arrive.
St. Paul’s was absolutely amazing. We spent several hours there and were thrilled the entire time (except when we went up to the whispering gallery. Then I was just terrified). Having done A LOT of gallery, museum, church and abbey touring recently, I was also incredibly impressed by the quality of audio guide St. Paul’s offers. It incorporates videos and pictures as well as the normal audio tracks and was remarkably thorough – very important for history buffs like me! And, after using the public washrooms in the crypt many times on previous trips, it was rather exciting to finally see the rest of that floor.
From St. Paul’s, we took the underground to Charing Cross and made our way to St. Martin in the Fields. We had lunch in the café in the crypt (surprisingly excellent) before heading up to the church for a beautiful lunchtime concert. Afterward, refreshed, we walked across the street to the National Gallery and plunged into those amazing rooms. We concentrated on the post-1750s works, particularly the Impressionists. My mother is mad for Monet and I am just as enchanted by Renoir’s At the Theatre (La Première Sortie) as I was when I saw it for the first time when I was twelve. After several hours of art appreciation, we reached the end of the plan for the day, walked back to the hotel through St James park (where photos were taken, including an amusing one of birds terrifying a woman on a bench), and promptly collapsed.
The following morning, after heavily drugging myself with cold medication, we set off for Bloomsbury and the British Museum. Mummies, the Rosetta Stone, the Lindow bog Man, even a few Haidi totem poles to remind us of home…there was so much, all of it so amazing. It is a place I definitely plan to revisit on future trips. And then, after downing some orange juice in the vain hope that vitamin C would suppress my cold for a few hours, I went to the London Review Bookshop to meet Simon! We spent a lovely afternoon trolling through bookstores and I learned what inadequate book buying skills I have, though I did pick up four that day. We were both fighting colds so I can only imagine what damage we could have done had we been at full strength! And then we met up with my fellow Canadian Darlene for dinner inBloomsbury. Having only ever met one other blogger in person before, it was surreal to get to meet two of my favourites on the same day, together! It was a wonderful day and definitely one of the highlights of myLondon trip. And my mother was very happy when I came back to the hotel, thrilled to be proved incorrect in her suspicions that my online friends were in fact white slavers.
And, gratuitous library shot, look where my mom went while I was off buying books. It’s a corner of the member’s library at the University Women’s Club in Mayfair. Isn’t it lovely and cozy?
On our last day in London, we shopped. We walked from our hotel up to Oxford Street and played around in Marks and Spencer for several hours, buying lovely coats but also trying on impractical hats for no reason other than to laugh at ourselves. Further walking lead us to Bloomsbury and bookstores. The patience of my non-bookish mother throughout this exercise was amazing. Persephone Books was actually closed when we first went past with something go on inside so, taking that as a sign, we headed for Bea’s of Bloomsbury. The sweet tea was delicious and very generous (and pretty). Definitely sufficient fuel for my very satisfying browsing at Persephone! (If you missed it the first time, you can find out what I picked up here.)
And then the next morning we left for Amsterdam. Whew. It was a busy couple of days and only reminded me of all the amazing things London has to offer that I didn’t get to see. Just think of all the bookstores that went unvisited! Time to go back, obviously.
Read Full Post »