Travelogue: a quick trip to London

We’re still back in June, 2013. As part of our Paris trip, on Monday, we took a short jaunt to London on the Eurostar. It was fun. The Eurostar from Paris to London leaves from Gare du Nord (Northern Station). There is really nothing special about the station except I love to say it with a French accent.

gare du nord

We had great reserved and comfortable seats on the Eurostar that included lunch. The food was good, of course I took a picture:

eurostar meal

The train travels through the Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) that connects France with the UK, but it pretty much feels like you are in a really nice subway car for about 20 minutes. Other than that, it’s like any other high speed train.

landscape from the eurostar

Above: Countryside from the train

Once you arrive in London, St. Pancras station is much more impressive than its French counterpart, but I still like saying Gare du Nord better than St. Pancras!

st pancras station london

Above: artwork on display at St. Pancras Station, London

london underground

We then jumped on the London Underground to head to Westminster. Blue Eyes had a business meeting over afternoon tea at our hotel, which at the time was the Westminster Intercontinental. Now it is the Conrad London St. James. Beautiful hotel, by the way:

Westminster Intercontinental

the gay hussarThat evening, we had dinner at a cute, little Hungarian restaurant in Soho named the Gay Hussar. I fell in love with the simple and colorful flowered Hungarian china. One of our past interns is studying at Oxford and his wife is Hungarian. They took the train into London and suggested this restaurant. They guided us through the menu, introducing us to Hungarian delicacies like Hideg Meggyleves, chilled sour cherry soup and Csrikepaprikas Galuskaval, Chicken in a creamy paprika sauce and galuska (noodles). The meal was delicious.

hungarian cherry soup

Even though we were scheduled to take the Eurostar back to Paris in the afternoon, we got up Tuesday morning early with plenty of time to get our London fix. We have been to London a couple times before, once for a week over Valentine’s Day in 2007, and then again for about 10 days with our boys in November 2008. London is definitely one of my favorite cities, but we have seen a lot of the main attractions before, so we decided to take a walk on this gorgeous June day. We were only about a block from Westminster Abbey and in view of Big Ben. We headed to Westminster Abbey first. As soon as we left the hotel, however, we could tell something was up. There were swarms of people, traffic was diverted, TV vans were everywhere. News reporters were interviewing people on the streets. Basically, this was the scene around us:

waiting for the queen

We noticed flags with the queen’s face, banners, t-shirts with the queen on them. We asked around and found out everyone was waiting for the Queen (plus every other important person in the country) to appear for the 60th anniversary of her coronation, which was being held in about an hour right there in Westminster Abbey. There were still some spots on the sidewalk right next to the road, so we decided to wait for a bit and see if we could see anything. After inquiring of the people around us, we found out the Queen’s route into the secure parking structure was a secret, so people were standing around on all the streets heading to Westminster. We assumed that, because we were able to so easily garner a spot, we were certainly on the wrong road. For a minute we contemplated just walking away as what were our chances of actually seeing the Queen, or anyone. But, we were so taken with all the people and their excitement, that we stayed and lo and behold, about five minutes later, who drives by… the Queen:

the queen

A lot of other cars were going by before and after the Queen, but I really couldn’t make out anyone inside, except for her majesty herself in her lovely hat. I’m pretty sure the Prince and Camilla went by a couple cars ahead of the Queen (as there was a HUGE hat on display), but I cannot make out anyone in the pictures I took. Anyway, we were very happy with our sighting. Also, they basically had the entire Abbey cordoned off, so no cool pics of the actual building, just the Queen. We then headed out to one of my favorite spots, Fortnum & Mason. On our circuitous route, we passed by a few other fun London landmarks.

big ben

Above: Big Ben, of course.

Below: gorgeous late spring flowers in St. James’s Park. The park was just bursting with people on this beautiful and warm June morning just before lunchtime.

london flowers

Below: Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace

changing of the guards

We finally made it to Fortnum & Mason, which is just a multi-storied London department store on Piccadilly, but I love it there. I even purchased a little candy dish in honor of the 60th anniversary year of the Queen’s Coronation because I really like the little design. This is not something I would normally purchase. We usually do purchase tea and cookies, and this time we purchased my father a father’s day gift in the men’s department.

queen's coronation

Below: sweets counter at Fortnum & Mason

sweets counter

I used up every possible minute at the store, we had most of our goodies shipped home, and then hopped in a Harry Potter taxi cab and headed back to St. Pancras Station and the Eurostar back to Paris.

Harry Potter taxi

chicken dinner

When we arrived back at the apartment, our kids had dinner waiting for us: arugula salad topped with the amazing Parisian Poulet Roti (you can purchase these rotisserie chickens to take home at little stores usually near the train station and they are addicting), candied walnuts and fresh made croutons. They had shopped and prepared it all in perfect timing for our return back to Paris. Such great kiddos!

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