England Revisited – Hello London!

Last but certainly not least, it was time for the big town.

Having returned our rental car at Heathrow, our taxi ride in a black Mercedes into London was a crescendo of anticipation. A long ride on M4 was followed by A4, Natural History Museum on Cromwell Rd, Harrods on Brompton Rd, Hyde Park, Wellington Arch, and a few more minutes of snaking through the traffic of Piccadilly, we arrived at Cavendish Hotel. Centrally and conveniently located with fantastic view from our room on 9th floor, I couldn’t have hoped for a better welcome to London! Adding to the excitement were Jubilee activities taking place on Jermyn Street.

And I couldn’t be happier with the location, walking distance to many great places, Fornum and Mason, which I had visited often, is just across the street, Academy of Arts practically a block away, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Portrait Gallery, The Mall, Buckingham Palace, Green Park and St James Park, Hyde Park, St James and St Martin in the Field where I had been to for concerts and such. The list goes on and on. It is close to luxuries such as Ritz, Lanesborough, Galvin at Windows, Old Bond Street, Burlington Arcade and Piccadilly Arcade, but also close to packs of eateries and shops that are easier on the wallet, and main shopping areas on Regent Street and Oxford Street are also close by.

It seems that central London is always busy, with the exception of first lockdown in 2020. During our stay, it was less busy than before the pandemic, especially after the Jubilee, which I preferred. The rest of our stay was a whirlwind of visiting with friends, shopping, eating, and having a good time.

Old Bond Street

Burlington Arcade, Fornum and Mason and Piccadilly Arcade

Lovely dinner and best Crème Brulee ever at Cote on St Martin’s Lane

Cote is one of my favorite places to eat in London. We walked there via Leicester Square and strolled leisurely back via Trafalgar Square.

Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus

Shopping on Regent Street, lunch at Bilmore then a leisurely stroll back via Oxford Street.

Green Park and St James Park

London has many amazing parks. We were able to revisit the closest two, Green Park and St James Park.

A Happy Birthday!

I am a tea drinker and Afternoon Tea works its wonder on me. I think I can safely say that nowhere else comes close to the variety and quality of Afternoon Tea that London can offer. Among a list of places I’d tried, Dorchester and Fornum and Mason come up on top, Dorchester for most gorgeous tearoom, and F&M for most delicious savories and sweets. This time, I booked Peter Pan themed afternoon tea at Aqua, Shard for my birthday.

Fortuitously, Jane Ausen Society London Branch, of which I am still a member, organized a walking tour following Jane Austen’s footsteps between Convent Garden and Twining on The Strand that would coincide with my birthday. I couldn’t have planned it better.

Highlights of our walk included Royal Drury Lane, Convent Garden Markets, St Paul’s Church, Henry Austen’s house on Henrietta Street where Jane Austen stayed, Somerset House and Twining where Jane Austen was believed to have shopped.

“What! Are they naked?”

In addition to the lucky walking tour, we landed on extra entertainment. One day while waiting at a bus stop on Piccadilly just outside the main gate to Academy of Art and across from Fornum and Mason, a large group of cyclists appeared a few blocks away on Piccadilly. My husband was wondering out loud, “Are they naked?”. I couldn’t tell and had to use my camera to zoom in. Yup, they were wearing between very little to utterly nothing. We thought they might be passing by but they turned down to St James Street instead. And I was not disappointed, I’d probably be more embarrassed than the nude cyclists if they got too close, ha-ha!

And guess what! An hour or so later, having done my shopping at Twining on the Strand, I was standing outside the store front, admiring the majestic Royal Courts of Justices right across the street, who else but that same group of cyclists, hundreds of them, appeared on the other side of the street, streamed down The Strand eastwards right by the Royal Courts of Justices. Being closer this time, I had a better view, but was still able to avoid the embarrassing details, thanks to my nearsightedness. While a few painted themselves orange, green, or something else, the majority of them had nothing but their birthday suits on. A few boasts of eye pleasing physiques, most are average, and a few not so great.   

It couldn’t be comfortable riding in one’s birthday suit, could it? I couldn’t help but wonder what they were baring themselves for!? It was picked up by many news media of course, but this is the official website, World Naked Bike Ride London: https://wnbrlondon.uk/

London is probably not stranger to quirkiness, but we somehow didn’t run into this one when we lived there.

London, we will meet again!

Dinner at Hawksmoor on Air Street on the day before leaving was delicious and London under full moon was memorable. I won’t say good bye London, we will meet again!

England and Norway 2015 (2) – London

London, England

Our stay in London this time was not long, two nights before the cruise to Norway and a night after the cruise. Going into it with no pre-planned itinerary, we ended up visiting Victoria and Albert Museum, Selfridge, Harrods and Fornum and Mason.

Most impressive at Victoria and Albert Museum was the Cast Court. As casts of some of Europe’s most famous master pieces, these works are remarkably beautiful all the same, let alone seeing so many of them in the same room.

A 13th Century Pulpit

A 13th Century Pulpit

Trajan’s Column

Trajan’s Column

Last day in London was a Sunday, and happened to be the day UK celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s birthday. The Rubens at the Palace, where we stayed for the night, was right across the street from south west end of Buckingham Palace. From outside the hotel we got a glimpse of the Fly By and the colorful trails it left in the sky signifying the Union Jack. By the time we got to the front of the palace the crowd was dispersing and palace workers were removing the red carpet and drapery from the balcony.

The crowd was a motley of people. Those more appropriately dressed and hatted were probably the local royal enthusiasts, the rest, tourists.

We walked amongst the last of the crowd through the mall towards Trafalgar square. And of course it was quite crowded as well. I took a photo from across the street and turned around to head towards the nearest underground for Fornum and Mason.

Looking for Fornum and Mason, we went through Oxford Circus and Piccadilly, there were big crowds everywhere; it looked like everyone was out shopping. Interestingly, it seemed that quite a few people in London did not know about Fornum and Mason. Getting off at Oxford Circus by mistake, we got a bit lost and stopped to ask for directions. We asked a few passers-by, a shop keeper and a guy handing out religious pamphlets who said he was not from London, and none of them knew about Fornum and Mason, which turned out just a stop away on the tube from Oxford Circus.

Fornum and Mason was busy too but not too bad. We had a great meal at the Gallery, at a table with full view of busy going at the shop. We like Prestat chocolate and since it is in Princes Arcade next to Fornum and Mason, we had to stop by.

We used the Oyster card this time. You have to pay five pound up front for the card but it is refunded to you when you return the card. You can put as much on the card as you need to and recharge it. It works for both street buses and underground trains. You get one emergency ride, i.e. if you don’t have enough left on card, you can still ride one last time till your recharge the card. We found it very convenient.

Turkish Delight at Selfridge

Turkish Delight at Selfridge

Dim Sum at Harrods

Dim Sum at Harrods

Fornum and Mason

Fornum and Mason

Fornum and Mason

Fornum and Mason