Monday, June 2, 2008

London Calling

Growing up, my DS Judy and I adored England and everything English. I still remain so enamored while Judy has moved on to other cultures. Be that as it may, ten years ago she and I were lucky enough to journey to London for about two weeks (?) to take one of our finest summer vacations ever. I, being the Anglo-fan that I am and was, remained in a perpetual state of awe and wonder over every little thing. Case in point, I found the climate to be fabulous. Being used to stifling heat and oppressive humidity during the summer months (as well as during parts of the spring and autumn), I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover crisp, even cold, early mornings which required the use of a jacket! At times, it did get alittle warm during the day but it was a mild, sunny warmth. Nothing to get into a sweat about - at least as far as I remember. Sadly, my memory is getting worse and worse every year so it is good that I am getting all of this down, while I am still able. Anyway, back to the topic of weather, I think I always carried a jacket and had to wear it often throughout each day. Sometimes I even had to wear long-sleeves under the jacket and long pants as well. Can you imagine CHOOSING to wear long sleeves and long pants in the Texas summer heat? No way!

We ended up switching lodgings the first day we arrived (long story which I won't bore you with). The next day we checked in at our new bed and breakfast, called I think Victoria Inn (I am almost positive about the place but it was ten years ago!). We loved it and were so glad we found it. It was charming and, most importantly, their full English breakfasts were scrumptious!!! Every morning we would dash downstairs to sit in their breakfast room, and dig into the fried bread, tomatoes, sausages, bacon, and probably loads of other good stuff. We always started our days with full tummies and that's a treat AND a real money saver during a vacation. Breakfasts were included.

The rest of the food that we ate during our vacation was pretty gosh darn good too. The first few days we were in London, we still didn't have our currency situation figured out yet. So we had to keep eating at places near our b&b that took traveler's checks. After a few days, we came across a small place within a few minutes walk of our home away from home which cashed travelers checks. Hooray! We had English cash in our pockets, and could eat anywhere we wanted. That was a huge milestone for us that made the remaining days of our stay in London much more flexible, and gave us so many more options. The highlights of our culinary adventures included eating at this Japanese noodle bar called Wagamama (I believe - I MAY have a picture). I think it was quite new and hip at the time where service was pretty quick and you waited in line for your turn, then sat down with others on long tables. Yummy. We had lots of fish and chips of course. We also had high tea at (I think) Brown's Hotel in London. It was a joyous experience and quite the splurge, where we gorged on tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and delicate pastry desserts with really good tea. That was the first time I drank tea with loose leaves so I was quite perplexed about the strainer. But we managed. Ah, I hope to find a tea place here in McKinney, just for their tea sandwiches, scones, and pastries alone. If and when I do, you can be sure I will post about it here.

In terms of the sights and sounds, we covered alot of ground on foot and accrued lots of mileage on those tubes, trains, and buses. Just a sampling of what we saw included the touristy stuff around London like Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Gardens, and Kensington Palace. We also paid a visit to Tate Gallery and the British Museum. We spent lots of time people watching around the various squares in London, and saw different street performers and bands playing for the crowds. We saw Miss Saigon in the Theatre District. We also took some day trips to the gorgeously lush Kew Gardens and stoic Cambridge, and ambled around the grounds as well as surrounding village streets. I also remember touring a BBC museum of sorts, where you could help make sound effects and all that good stuff. I can't remember whether we journeyed to the East End or not but I'm sure we must have tried, as we were very into watching EastEnders at the time. I think we also went inside Harvey Nichols (its mention in Absolutely Fabulous drew us to it) while we were touring around the West End.

I am positive I left out parts of our transatlantic adventure, but really, I am amazed at how much we saw and did just from my memories alone. When I try to think some more of our all-too-brief stay in London, (besides memories of the above) I will also think of Haribo candy, suit-wearing young men hanging out in pubs or restaurant balconies at 4 pm, riding a double decker bus all the way to the end of its line, the different British accents, the energy of the city, and the welcomed idleness of the country. I long for the day when Chad, Judy, and I can walk down those same cobblestone streets and vibrantly green grass together, melding our memories with a new perspective as seen from Chad's eyes and our own, more than a decade later.

I hope to post more photographs of our trip later, if I can muster the energy to scan them in first. I know, I can be so lazy! But here is one that has already been scanned - a photo of an area around Cambridge.

No comments: