Oh London, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…
I think Disney is responsible for my original infatuation with England. Mary Poppins is magical, she just is, and then of course Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Angela Lansbury learning witch craft through a correspondence school while the adorable Charlie, Carrie, and Paul watch on. Even though I do love Portobello Road (obviously totally shot in a studio for the movie, but instigating a dream in me to visit Portobello Road one day) my favorite scene in the movie will always be the one in which Miss Price brings the museum’s knight’s armor and military uniforms to life to help fight the Nazis in ‘Substitutiary Locomotion.’ Even Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (not Disney) is thrown in there in the 1960’s for good measure. I adored these movies as a child. I am not a huge fan of animation so these films with mostly real human characters really caught my fancy with their catchy tunes, fun characters, bright colors, and mostly English (mostly in movie studios, but hey what does a kid know) settings. Truly Scrumptious with her treacle tarts (must be said with my very dodgy British accent) and Caractacus with his Toot Sweets. Come on, who does not love Dick Van Dyke, so very NOT British, but once again, what does a little kid know of that sort of thing.
In late November 1993, with our youngest barely a month old and his brother just a couple months past his second birthday, we moved houses. We sold the little starter home that Blue Eyes’ parents had helped us purchase. At the time I had my own thriving bookkeeping business (all my clients in Portland) and I was tired of living in Vancouver, Washington. The commute is horrendous. Even though it is right across the river, I wanted to be back in Portland. I found an adorable post WWII cape cod style home very near a wonderful community center where my children would attend childcare and preschool. This was by far one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was not without some stress, however, because I needed to quickly sell our little patio home (new ones were still being built at the time, which made it more difficult as buyers still had the opportunity to purchase new and pick out all their own finishes) as the sellers of the little cape cod were anxious for a sale and gave me a firm deadline. I did manage to make the deal happen. By making this move, Blue Eyes had a reverse commute (he was going the opposite way of everyone else), which was a whole lot easier than me (going with the masses) with two very small children. Anyway, on moving day that late November morning, it started to snow and freeze up. The move would be a dicey one. The little Pragmatist was underfoot running around like a whirling dervish making the entire move quite a bit more interesting. My Dad suggested we pop in a movie for the little guy. Well, our little guy did not watch television at two years old. My Dad, having nine children of his own, knows all the tricks. I remember being so exasperated seeing my little brothers glued to Disney’s Robin Hood, watching it over and over and over. I swore if I ever heard the song ‘Oo De Lally’ again, I would rip my own hair out. We have never owned that movie. I doubt my kids have ever seen it. I don’t even care that Nottingham is in England! So, on that moving day and out of frustrated exasperation, I grabbed my VHS copy of Mary Poppins and stuck it in the VCR. The pragmatist was mesmerized by the movie. One of my sisters did have to comfort him at one point when all the nannies flew away, he seemed very very disturbed by that scene. Otherwise, Mary Poppins would become my boy’s favoritest movie. He would beg to watch it. He called it “steppy time” and would look up at me with his big brown eyes and say, “pleeeaaaasssseee mommy let me watch steppy time.” Once while Blue Eyes was on an extended trip to Asia and the boys were three and one, I contracted pneumonia. All my friends had small children themselves and my entire family worked. Even with (undiagnosed at the time) pneumonia, feeling like an elephant was standing on my chest and I would never stop coughing, I felt I was strong enough to do everything on my own. Mary Poppins became my nanny. The movie is over two hours long. I put the movie into the VCR and watched as huge smiles covered my little boys’ faces. I crawled into my bed for just a little nap. Four hours later I was awoken by my three year old. He had come quietly into my bedroom to grab a toy for his brother. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. Thinking about how sick I was. How neglectful. How mature and sweet my three year old was, taking care of his baby brother, and how sad that my children’s father just wasn’t there sometimes when I needed him. Blue Eyes wasn’t acting out with other women. This was very early on in the making of our little family and early on in his sex addiction escalation, but it still prompts a bit of melancholy. I have a special place in my heart for Mary Poppins. She arrives just when you need her.
So, all that blathering on brings me to the real reason for this post… lovely lovely London. We departed Gare du Nord station in Paris on the Eurostar, and a quick two and a half hours later arrived to St. Pancras Station London. I have visited London three times previously. Every single time I fall more in love with the city. I blogged about our last trip here London 2013. This time around we had the better part of five days and one of those days was my 53rd birthday. Here goes…
Hotel prices were high, so we opted to stay outside the city just past the Canary Wharf area at the Intercontinental right next to the O2 Arena. It is pretty far out to be honest, but with the North Greenwich tube station at our disposal, no problem! Did I ever mention how much I love the TUBE!!!
The hotel we chose is very new, like five months old new, and it seems they are still trying to figure some things out, like proper service! We had just left the Intercontinental Le Grand Paris hotel and their impeccable service, so we knew what we should be expecting. The hotel had upgraded us to a high room with a view of the Arena. The top of that arena is so ugly to me, I do not even want to post a picture. We politely asked to be moved. After much conversation and Blue Eyes wandering the hotel looking at different rooms/views, we settled on the room across the hall from our original room. A beautiful one bedroom suite with an amazing view across the Thames to Canary Wharf. By the time we settled in, this was our view…
We had received some recommendations for things to do, see, and eat in London by the lovely Totally Caroline who lived there for many years. One of her recommends was the Victoria and Albert Museum on Cromwell Road. The V and A is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design and it is simply gorgeous. Blue Eyes had a meeting to attend, but he joined me for the first hour at the museum and for one of the special exhibits. He then scooted off on the Tube to his meeting and I stayed and enjoyed the museum for about three additional hours.
There was also an expansive special exhibit of the photos and films by American photographer Paul Strand.
Totally Caroline also strongly suggested I check out the Museum Cafe. Always one of my favorite things to do as they often have wonderful food. In the case of this museum, they happen to have spectacular rooms, casual in their seating, but elaborate in terms of the wall, ceiling and window decoration. I chose the most gorgeous room to consume a scone with clotted cream and a comforting hot cocoa.
After relaxing a bit and savoring my afternoon snack, I took off down the street to meet up with Blue Eyes at Harrod’s Food Hall. I have been there once before and I must say, it is the most spectacular food hall I have ever seen. Again, I read recently in an online review of places to go in London that tourists should skip Harrod’s food hall in favor of smaller and better dining options. Well, hello? Harrod’s is not really for dining necessarily although after saying that, I have to come clean and admit that Blue Eyes and I were both so hungry we gave in to the intoxicating smell of steak at the Harrod’s steak house. Not a fancy place to eat by any means, really just a little outpost in the corner in the middle of the bustling hall, but boy oh boy was the steak good. Harrod’s is eye candy. Plain and simple. I mean I am sure there are people who actually shop there for fancy chocolates and other delectables, especially if they live in the area, but otherwise it is really just something to behold.
When we returned to our room that evening, these lovelies were waiting for me:
Day two, Saturday, was my birthday.
We dressed up fancy. I really really wanted to wear a dress but had not packed any stockings/hose/tights/whatever you want to call them. It turned out to be a beautiful day if not a little chilly due to some wind. As we departed the tube station near our destination, my bare legs were just too cold. I ended up running in to an H&M store (I had never been in one) and picking up a pair of leggings. H&M saved the day and the leggings were super cheap.
My birthday was very special in that we went to the Connaught Hotel for Afternoon Tea (also recommended by Totally Caroline). The day was beautiful. The location was so quaint. The atmosphere in the tea room was relaxing and yet elegant, and the company was divine. Oh, the food wasn’t bad either!!!
After consuming such a decadent afternoon meal, we decided to take a walk. The neighborhood where The Connaught Hotel is located is very very beautiful. We strolled through Mt. Street Gardens and came upon not one, but two parties. One a child’s birthday party and second, a wedding party making their way out of the park after taking some photos.
We then walked over to Hyde Park.
I had an amazing birthday day in the heart of London. What could be finer.
Day three was dedicated to a day in Windsor and a visit to Windsor Castle. Blue Eyes had never been to Windsor. In 2008, the boys and I had taken the train and I fell in love with the little town and the castle and that DOLLHOUSE!!!
There are no photos allowed inside the castle anywhere. The royal family still frequents the castle on weekends. It is an amazing place. The areas where visitors are allowed are magnificent and full of history.
I could literally spend hours looking at Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. It was completed in 1924. Again, no photos, so I had to find these on the internet.
The following well known writers wrote or collaborated on special books for the doll house’s library: Sangorski & Sutcliffe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, M. R. James, A.A. Milne, J.M. Barrie, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling and W. Somerset Maugham.
After visiting the castle, we were famished. We ate at this lovely pub, but I was so hungry, I think I forgot to take photos of the food, imagine that! 🙂
Our last full day in London was dedicated to the markets. We had intended to head to Brick Lane for one of Blue Eyes’ favorite foods, the salt beef sandwich on a bagel from Beigel Bake, but first we wanted to visit Borough Market. Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. In 2014 it celebrated its 1,000th birthday! Um, wow! Much to our surprise (and pleasure) we discovered that Beigel Bake has a stand at Borough Market, so we were able to cross Brick Lane off our itinerary.
For nostalgia sake, we made a quick stop over at Portobello Road. It wasn’t a weekend, so the vendors weren’t around and neither were the crowds. We did some window shopping before heading off to Fortnum and Mason, one of my favorite happy places.
I believe I waxed poetic about how much I love Fortnum and Mason in my other post about London. I did find out from Totally Caroline, however, that F&M has colonies of bees living on the roof of the building. I would love to see that some day.
After all that walking and shopping (mostly window shopping), we were ready for our last real meal in London. We strolled the streets of London’s Soho area near Carnaby Street and came upon a Korean restaurant named Jinjuu. We ordered the seven course set meal. We loved every little morsel of it.
The next morning we were off to the airport for our long day of travel back to home. On our final little hopper from Seattle to Portland, we passed this close to Mt. St. Helens.
It happened to be the day before the 36th anniversary of it’s eruption (1980). Boy do I remember that day! On that sunny May day, it snowed ash in our front yard in Portland, 75 miles away.
As much as I love traveling, I also love coming home!