This is the year of London, apparently. I went over in September just for a day with a French friend – she told me I was her interpreter! And when we came back in the evening, she said her brain was about to explode from speaking English all day. Ha! That’s how I feel every day in Paris!
We went to see the David Hockney Portrait exhibit at the Royal Academy of Art. And stopped by the Victoria and Albert Museum where we went to the new exhibit Revolution. Totally unplanned spur of the moment. It was about the period of 1965-1973… or so… Mostly US, Britain and some French and German. It was my life. And mostly music-centric and revolution – the changes in society. Kent State. The Beatles. Vietnam. Woodstock. Even Altamont was mentioned on a sign. That’s my claim to fame. The Paris students’ revolt in 68. Great fun.
And tea at Richoux Tea Room. I have been there several times and wanted a great experience for my French friend but we were terribly disappointed. Scones were a bit stale. But their private blend of tea was delicious – I bought some. She shopped Whittards for chocolate powder for her husband. Never heard of it before but quaint.
It was a great preview for my Leave-France-When-My-Visa-Expires Trip that was set for October 10.
That trip was for four nights. I didn’t have to stay that long – just needed to cross the Schegnen border for an overnight.
On the Visa trip, I stayed at the Mornington Hotel at Lancaster Gate. It was the best location! Not on Bayswater Road but back a block so very calm and quiet. And across Bayswater Road is Hyde Park and the Italian Gardens. It’s a comfortable walk to Marks and Spencers on Oxford Street, a traverse of Hyde Park to get to Harrods, and Portobello Market just to the northwest. And buses and underground stations handy.
I like traveling alone for the degree of flexibility. A group of friend went to Berlin last week – they have named themselves the Sisterhood of Traveling Parisiennes. There were 6 or 8. Yikes. I am the Traveling Sisterhood of Me Myself and I. And in England when I have the urge to be chatty if I am traveling alone, it was simple to start up a conversation with a Brit. Everyone wanted to know about Trump.
At least on this trip, being solo made it easier to make decisions. So I woke up on Tuesday and switched everything to go that day to the exhibit of the Queen’s Fashion at Windsor so I could also see the Changing of the Guard there and see it in London on Wednesday. No matter that my Windsor ticket on line was purchased for Wednesday.
I have been to London enough in recent years to easily navigate the rail system. No problems with the Windsor ticket date (I must admit I folded it over…). In theatre, I never worked much with costumes so I continually surprise myself with how much I enjoy these fashion shows – from Balenciaga and Gauthier and de la Renta at the De Young in SF to these in London. And the show was in a set of rooms that are closed during the summer (the Queen uses them, I guess – although I thought most of the summer she was in Scotland. Who knows?) Anyway, beautiful rooms.
And why did I find two posters of labyrinths in the Underground?
And then a late but great pub lunch before going back to London. Except two hours later, it wasn’t so great – food poisoning. I think the lettuce was the culprit. But I survived the evening (thanks to Sugar Pops).
And Wednesday caught the Changing of the Guard – but in different places. The guard and a band start at St James Palace and march down to Buckingham Palace. The guard that day were RAF so very normal blue/grey uniforms. I ended up with a walking tour and learned a great deal – gave her a 2 pound tip after. Seemed the polite thing to do when we separated. I wasn’t going to crash the entire tour! Then I marched myself over to the other side of St James Park to Wellington Barracks. This is where the other guard and band start out from. They all meet at Buckingham Palace and take quite a bit of time to inspect, give report, and change. The band plays on. Frankly, I got bored the last time I watched it from there – well, the action is all behind the Palace gates. So Wellington Barracks gave a new perspective. Then off to the Horse Guards to see how the two horses and guards were faring. Quite well.
Other highlights… and low lights… The Silver Vaults! Oh it sounded delicious. Old bank vaults turned into stores. Well, ok, it’s in the basement. The doors are vault doors and quite thick. But my goodness, I had my fill of silver by the second shop. I mean, how many tea sets, letter openers, and silverware can you see? Even if Liberace bought his candelabras there. Far too much for me. However, it’s a place now checked off my list.
Also, back to the Victoria & Albert for their Underwear exhibit – more clothes from the 1700 til now. And even this fig leaf… that, seriously, was made specially to cover up a statue when Queen Victoria came by to visit… Really!
I found the statue of Peter Pan in Hyde Park. You can wave your phone at a sign and Peter Pan actually calls your phone and talks to you for quite a while.
Wondering if this will be a long distance charge?
After walking through a delightful and colourful neighourhood, I made it back to Portobello Market after 30… 40 plus years. It was a weekday so it wasn’t too crowded. And not very impressive either. Lots of antiques. Some silver. Arts and crafts. I bought a small magnifying glass I thought would be good for my bag. Only 6 pounds. Sigh. Two blocks down – identical for 3 pounds. Oh well.
Holland Park was a new discovery. I was searching for Kyoto Gardens – sounded wonderful and maybe a bit of meditation. It was wonderful. And everyone else agreed with me. Too many noisy tourists to have any meaningful meditation. But the walk there and back through Holland Park was delightful. It’s like a forest! OK. It IS a forest – in the middle of London.
And then there was the THEATRE. I was able to get a ticket for No Man’s Land by Harold Pinter. (I forgot in the rush and excitement that I really don’t care for Pinter.) The two stars: Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Sir Ian had the bigger part – he was on stage almost… well, the entire time. They were both marvelous; it was a treat to see them. But it was still Pinter…
I scored three pair of shoes at specialty shop in the London suburbs that I found online. (I have a wide foot and orthotics… This is a challenge in France where all the petit ladies have tiny narrow feet!) They shipped two pair which arrived before I did! It is amazing how fast you can go through walking shoes when you walk 6 miles a day. (Last year I had to wear actual hiking boots for 5 months – doctor’s orders – arch and tendon injury. I actually walked holes into the soles!)
And lastly, I was so happy to be back to French cuisine! English food is NOT my cup of tea. Even though their tea is my cuppa… I even had a dinner at an Italian restaurant that just wasn’t very good. Miam Miam to Paris!
I enjoyed London more these past two visits than I have for a while. I realized how much I know my way around. Makes it feel homier.