England Revisited – RIP Queen Elizabeth II!!

It is sad that Queen Elizabeth had passed away. I wish I had published my posts, especially the one about Jubilee, a lot sooner. In any case, it now feels even more precious that the queen did make Platinum Jubilee and that we were in England at that time.

The queen was 96, and I had noticed some sort of decline since Prince Phillips passed away. Still, she had been around for so long and going on so strongly, I somehow had expected her to go on forever, or rather perhaps I had wished her to last forever, along with the steadfastness, stability and unity she embodied.

Although I had been an Anglophile for a while, my understanding of the British royal family didn’t become meaningful and real until I lived in London. It is tradition, a way to unite the country through the constant changes of politics, added diplomacy for the benefit of UK and the Commonwealth, a boost to tourism, on and on.

QEII was extremely privileged, but she was also exceptionally dutiful, determined and hard working. She was beautiful and graceful. She had unrivaled stamina, uncanny ability to carry on with perfect balance of dignity and humanity, also intelligence, empathy, adaptability and sense of humor.

She was what had made the British Monarch a great success for the last seven decade and a powerful example to womanhood all over the world.

I watched the Queen’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall for her Lying in the State, via Sky News Live on YouTube. The ceremony immaculate, the Funeral Marches by Beethoven, Chopin and Handel evocative, it was a memorable event like no others. It is also touching to see so many people show up to show respect and say goodbye. The line to enter Westminster Hall to see the queen at this moment, at 9pm BST on Sep. 15, 2022, is almost 5 mile long, and growing.

Reflection and recollection brought back a fond memory, 2017 Trooping the Colors, when we saw the queen in person, albeit from a distance. I regret my phone camera at that time didn’t have a powerful zoom and closeups were fuzzy. It however certainly did not diminish the memory.

RIP Queen Elizabeth II! As we mourn her loss, we also wish great success to the new monarch.

England Revisited – QEII’s 70th Jubilee

Friends had put me on alert once Buckingham Palace announced the dates a year ago for Jubilee celebration, Jun 2nd to 5th, 2022. It was lucky we were able to make our visit coincide with it.

So how do the Brits celebrate the Platinum Jubilee? With gusto! That is for sure, plus bunting galore and lots of bubblies. We spotted buntings and Union Jack flags on buildings and houses everywhere. The Mall, the thoroughfare in front of Buckingham Palace, was certainly leading the pack and decked out with numerous numbers of Union Jack flags.

Buckingham Palace organized a four-day celebration and almost every village, town and borough of London has its own celebratory activities. There were many private parties too. My friend Amanda’s village organized an impressive four-day program that included a fly past! We attended its Big Lunch on Sunday, June 5th. Main section of The Street, the main thoroughfare of the village, became pedestrian only and families set up gazebos and tables with spread of food and drinks. The patriotic theme of red, blue and white was apparent. It was a treat to have experienced this unique British tradition!!

As a bonus, we saw Buckingham Palace’s light show on June 4th from our hotel room, The Cavendish, sweet! Just so happened, I had a lunch date with some girlfriends the day after the celebration ended. These are girls who love a few drinks and were always drinking every time we had met. Yet they were not drinking at that lunch. Reason? They had been drinking too much over the weekend and still “hanging over”, ha-ha!

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 Revisited – Chelsea Flower Show

Have you heard of Chelsea Flower Show? This annual horticultural event has been held in London since 1913. My first attempt to visit the show was in 2020 but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. This year it became a reality on May 27.

The show is truly a stunner, likely the most incredible flower show ever, for it is hard to imagine anything better!  The variety and quality were simply mind blowing. Prepare to be wowed by everything, including a bonsai from 1860, and smell David Austin’s roses at your own risk of intoxication!! My favorite Show Garden is Perennial Garden with Love, designed by Richard Miers who is quite dishing himself.

One of the wonderful takeaways from our London sojourn is appreciating the British culture of gardening and developing a love for gardening myself.

This event is organized by RHS, Royal Horticulture Society, and one that is graced by the royal family. If you attend on a member only day, you might get a glimpse of the royals. Follow this link to learn more about Chelsea Flower Show, https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/

Oh yes, there is shopping and food at the show too. Now all that is left to do is let the pictures speak themselves!

England Revisited – Staying in an English Village

Where to go for first oversea vacation in 2 years? No brainer really, back to England of course!

At this point, dear Blog, I should explain about this hiatus of more than two years. We moved back to USA in Sep. 2020. Although that is not the only reason for the abrupt halt to my posts, I’ll spare you the details of vicissitude, and focus on returning to England for a holiday.

Living in London between 2015 and 2020 was truly the time of my life. Although I had been a fan and visited multiple times prior to moving to London, those five years afforded me the opportunity to explore further the British Isle in length and depth that I had not expected. I am now convinced that, despite its own host of issues and imperfections, the British Isle is my happy place. Interesting fact was that I didn’t come to the conclusion until after moving back to US. Sometimes one must step away to see the big picture.

Needless to say, it was exciting to be back. During almost three weeks’ time between May 26 – Jun 13, we stayed with a couple of friends in their village in Essex, took a road trip and finally spent a good portion of time in London. As a friend put it, “England is the best this time of the year”, I couldn’t agree more, I was reminded many times why I love England!

As much as I enjoy London the big town, I love the countryside too, and no visit to England would be complete without experiencing its countryside & village life, its heart and soul! Luckily, we were invited to stay with our dear friends Amanda and Ian in their village in Essex.

Having arrived at Heathrow Airport on May 26, we picked up our rental car from Enterprise, and drove towards Amanda and Ian. Heathrow, Enterprise, M25 and service areas on the way are formerly familiar stomping grounds, fatigue from the long flight swept away, and the excitement built, “Hello UK, I am back!”. As we left the traffic behind, entered the rural scene and along with it that sense of peace and quiet that I enjoy so much in the English countryside. Thus we began the first 4 days of our holiday.

Being close to London, our friends get the best of both country and town. Meanwhile, like many villages in UK, it boasts a long history and hosts a number of Grade II listed buildings. Although I have visited multiple times before, I still find it irresistible!! Take a little stroll with me through one of the walking routes, crossing wheat fields, picking on Elder Flowers, Dog Roses, and Sticky Grass while minding and avoiding Nettles, looking for the elusive manor house, which alas was completely concealed in greenery this time of the year, visiting Parish Church of St Mary dating back to 12th century, walking through high street spotting various old and new buildings, stopping at a war memorial, which is something you might see in every village of certain age and a way of reminding its residents how precious peace is, and watching a Saturday cricket match. And certainly, don’t forget delicious tea and cake at the end of the walk.

London Diary – Wimbledon is Fun

Jul 7, 2018

London is best in summer and Pimms never tastes better. Yesterday we visited the famous Wimbledon Championship for the first time. It is one of a kind experience, lively atmosphere and great fun even if you are not mad about tennis (or rather Lawn Tennis as it should be properly called). To better experience it, prepare to make it a full day event. In fact, you can be there literally sun up to sun down.

Here are the multiple ways to get into Wimbledon Championship: buy reasonably priced tickets through pubic ballots the year before, or pay loads for debenture, ie the right to buy best seats in Center Court or Court No. 1, or vie for limited number of seats during the tournament for upwards £1000 each, or join the majority of visitors and do the queue on the day. See the official website for details, http://www.wimbledon.com/index.html.

I might try the ballots for next year’s tournament but this time around, the queue is the opted option. The ground opens at 10:30am, the official queue guide recommends visitors to arrive a few hours before, but some start camping the night before. We arrived fashionably late around 12:30pm, not knowing we’d be able to get in or not, but just about an hour and half later, we entered the complex, having paid £25 each for ground admission.

The interesting thing is, although Center Court and Court No. 1 to 3 require tickets, other courts are first come first serve. The most popular watching area seems to be Aorangi Terrace on Henmen Hill. Crowd gathers to watch on large TV screen match live that plays out at Center Court close by, enjoying fabulous view of London’s skyline in the distance, picnic and bubblies.

We joined in the fun, soaking in the joviality and witnessing a few corks popped into the air. Shortly after, the match between Britain’s Kyle Edmund and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic started and we stayed for the entire game. Since the match coincided with soccer world cup game between England and Sweden, there in between the tennis match cheers and updates for the soccer game spread around. We didn’t leave until almost 9pm.




London Diary – Chinese New Year of Dog 2018!

Feb 18, 2018

It is truly inspiring to see London embraces Chinese New Year with gusto, what a fantastic celebration today, certainly living up to its reputation of being the largest outside China. The area between Chinatown, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square was turned into car free zone and was packed with activities. Trafalgar Square was once again the centre stage for the traditional Flying Lions, Dragon dance, and other stunning performances, singing, dancing, acrobats and magic shows that we missed the last time. China Town was as expected the busiest of the year. While having dinner at Joy King Lau, a couple of lions paid a visit, prancing and frolicking. Delicious and auspicious!




London Diary – Pink Floyd at V&A

Jul 28, 2017

Thanks to dear Lauren who is a fan, we went to the Pink Floyd exhibit at V&A. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Going into it knowing little about the band, I learnt lots and became fascinated by the music and the band’s journey. I can imagine the joy it brings to the fans, introduction, memorabilia, videos, and a very cool audio guide that plays automatically the relevant content and music as you come into range.

Alas, sad as it maybe, it seems that all parties must end, and the band did not stick together all the way. Nonetheless there is no denying the musical brilliance of the band.

The grand finale, a segment of a live reunion concert from 2005 projected on all four sides of the performance hall, is evocative both in sound and image, Pink Floyd through and through! I walked away with that in my memory.

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London Diary – A Charming, Classic English Village and a Roof Garden in the Heart of Kensignton.

Feb 5, 2017

We had a wonderful time on Saturday, visiting Amanda and Ian at their home in Essex, a quiet, lovely, English village, not far north east of London, but what a world apart.

We took a walk through the village to work up the appetite, going by houses and fields, having two sightings of deer, where mud and wellies were all part of the pleasant experience.

We enjoyed a brief stop at the village church, which interestingly was very much reminiscent of Jane Austen’s Steventon Church. It couldn’t be more befitting, Jane Austen was after all what had brought us together. Amanda contributes her time and skill to the making of church pew cushions, and showed us one with her name sewn on it.

Delicious food, wine, lovely company and interesting conversation was the order for the rest of the day, just the way Jane would have done it 🙂

Love Amanda and Ian for their hospitality and friendship!

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Saturday Feb 11, 2017

Doing Valentine today, lunch at Roof Garden in Kensington, to be followed by a stroll in its garden.

Just as we were getting ready to head out, snow flaked down persistently.

How did it turned out?

Pretty good. The food was excellent. Getting up close to some interesting flamingos, and a Spanish garden, where they were least expected, were all part of a lovely experience.

Already thinking of coming back in spring/summer.

We also checked out Whole Food on the next block, with numerous items spread out on three spacious floors, it was impressive.

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London Diary – Women’s Mach on London

Jan 21, 2017

How do you deal with something that is so wrong in so many ways and so many levels – Having Trump as the president of US? Women’s March on London was a cathartic first step.

Women’s March on London carried on from US embassy at Grosvenor’s Square to Trafalgar Square, men, women, young, old and children, and so many showed up. Mr. Sun joined in too. Inspiring!! Very proud to be part of it.


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