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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London Diary – Autumn Amble Highgate to Stoke Newington

Oct 2, 2016

It was a perfect autumn day for an autumn amble.

The walk started out of Highgate, which is known to be a nice suburb, but we got no more than a glimpse of its High Street on the way to Highgate Station where we met the group. From there we quickly tuned on to Parkland Walk, which is a local nature reserve converted from a former railway. The railroad track has been gone and replaced by dirt and gravel pavement. Overall it is a narrow long strip of wooded path and the branches so thick, we were shielded from the bright sun most of the way.

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The walk became more interesting after that. Finsbury Park is a nice big park. New River is a manmade waterway opened in 17th century to supply London with fresh water. Woodbury Down is new neighborhood of modern apartment buildings with great view of New River, West and East Reservoirs and London. Clissold Park is beautiful. Finally, the walk ended at Stoke Newington.

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London Diary – Autumn Amble City Hall to Canary Wharf, Fortuitous River Cruise and Decorative Art and Textile Fair at Battersea Park.

Oct 1, 2016

London offers free guided walks throughout the city 3 weekends a year, Winter Wander in January, Spring into Summer in May, and this weekend’s Autumn Amble. There are a number of choices on each of the weekend days, all great opportunity to explore London. Not only new comers but long time Londoners participate as well. We’ve got ourselves on the email list and received invitation to sign up weeks before the walk. This time I choose City Hall to Canary Wharf for Saturday and Highgate to Stoke Newington for Sunday.

City Hall is south of River Thames across from Tower of London and Canary Wharf is further to the east. It is a great route, half of the time we were right by the river, the other half we had to go around buildings that are right on the river.

Both City Hall area and Canary Wharf are highlights of London. In between are many less known but still interesting spots. Among many others are old wharfs that have been converted into flat buildings, St Catherine’s Dock and Marina, St John’s Church, Wapping Wall that is a lucky spot with fantastic views to both The City and Canary Wharf, Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant Narrow near end of Regent Canal, and many pubs along the way, of which, Prospect of Whitby from 1520 is the oldest on the river Thames.

The weather was however not so lovely. It rained on and off. Luckily it didn’t go too hard at us and we were able to carry on with umbrellas, rain coats and jackets.  The sky was as grey as lead but chose to clear up just as the walk was coming to an end.

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We had dim sum at Royal China right at the wharf. It was very good, no wonder that place was fully packed. To return to the city center, we decided to try the ferry boat Thames Clippers instead of tubes or buses. By then, the weather had turned around 360 degrees, and the ferry ride from Canary Wharf to Westminster turned out a fantastic river cruise.

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There was one more program for the day, Decorative Art and Textile Fair at Battersea Park. Antique, design and art fairs and trade shows that take place in London come in great numbers and quality. Imagine the endless opportunity for decorators and shoppers. Impressed by a few others, ADFL, LAPADA and Masterpiece, I wanted to check out this one too. Not to mention I’d been given an invitation that would admit two, more than happy to make good use of it indeed. It was nice, lots beautiful things to see. The fair ran a shuttle bus between the park and Sloane Square, which is close to Knight Bridge and Harrods. We ended the eventful day with a dinner at a pub nearby, Antelope.

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London Diary – Henley Regatta

Jun 29, 2016

Henley Regatta is one of top events in the scheme of rowing competition, held annually at the picturesque village Henley on Thames. This year it runs from Wed to Sat this week when teams from the world, including many teams from US, Harvard, Yale, Columbia to name a few, row against each other. It is an exciting sport all right. But it is the social aspect of it that makes it a very English experience.

As it was demonstrated by the daylong program yesterday, which was the first day of event, the Brits surely knows how to live the high life. Watching from one of the river front boxes at Phillis Court, a private club right at the end of the race, guests were treated to noshes and continuous flow of spirits, coffee, tea and Danish pastries for breakfast, champagne and bar snack not long after, Pimm’s (one of those things with a firm British mark on it) heralding lunch, 3 course lunch served in a separate dining room with plenty of wine, then more tea, coffee or champagne continued in the river front box.

There was watching of the sport of course, but it seemed that for most guests, of our group anyway, there was more social going on, along with the people watching. The hats were fabulous and you might have guessed that there is a strict dress code for the club, skirts only for ladies and they have to be just sitting on the knees or below, not an inch higher or you’d be turned out. Gentlemen have to wear suits or blazers/sport jackets with chinos and ties/cravats. All was part of the fascinating experience.

Only thing I would have like to change was the weather, it was so cold few could stay out for long, not what you would hope for a summer day, is it. Anna from Rusia who has lived in England for more than 16 years said there is no summer in England, that one weekend in May was probably all the summer we’d get for the year. If she was correct then English summer had finished before it even started. In any case, it is not going to stop the fun is it.

P.S. I tried Pimm’s first time yesterday, it is a delightful sweet and fruity drink. It is made by mixing Pimm’s into lemonade and flavored and garnished with fruits. Although Pims’s is heavy at 25%, the mixed drink tasted however very light and I figured there can’t be too much Pimm’s in it right. But I was warned. The English likes their Pimm’s, one said, it is more likely there is more Pimm’s in there than it tastes.

 

London Diary –Spring into Summer! (2)

Yippee hooray the sun came out, and the sky was a concert of blue patches and myriad of white puffs. I could hear children running and shouting on the soccer field. That was in the early morning. Things changed a bit later in the day.

But no matter. Spurred by the success of yesterday, I was eager for more lovely spring outing exploring London.

Walk London Spring into Summer continues with day 2. We are doing Twin Peak of Capital Ring, a section of Capital Ring between Greenford and Harrow on the Hill. After lunch at Black Horse, a pub by the Paddington Canal near Greenford station, we met up with the group which was about 60 people this time, twice as big as yesterday. Our guide were Marlene and David, who are both small in size and appeared to be septuagenarian. Marlene was the lead and goodness gracious, she was strong and as sprightly as can be, setting a brisk pace the entire way. Long walk and two steep climbs later, she was as fresh as when we first started, and we actually finished almost 30 minutes earlier, 4.5 miles in 2.5 hours.

We started at the head of the line but it proved to be difficult to stop to take photos and enjoy the moment and still keep up with the place in the line. I decided to forget about that. What good it is if you can’t stop and enjoy it along the way :o) The whole thing was a bit too hurry to my taste but we managed. After this however, I need a whole week to rest up :o) On the other hand it was worthy every bit of the effort.

In fact, I think today’s route surpasses yesterday’s, we saw delightful green space, interesting locales, and reached hill tops with stunning views.

Leaving Greenford Tube station, we took up Greenford Road by McDonald at Westway shopping center, and quickly entered a nature preserve, where we were surrounded by verdant green, butter cups, cow parsleys and lots of hawthorns.

In a little while, we found ourselves by the canal. We followed Padding Canal for about 20 minutes before changing direction and starting the climb up to Horsenden Hill, which is the highest point in Ealing. The path to the hill top was lovely with profusion of cow parsley lining and enlivening the way. The view of west London once atop the hill was absolutely rewarding and refreshing. You can also see the spire of a church north west of the hill. That spire in the distance is Harrow on the Hill, our next stop.

Harrow on the Hill seemed far from Horsenden Hill, and it was. First, we went through a tract of woods, which is so dense, deeply green and jungle like that it seems out of character, not what I expected to see in London. Once out of the woods, we were back to town and civilization.

After a bathroom break at Sudbury Hill Tube station, we zigzagged our way through residential neighborhoods, passing rows after rows of terrace houses, a small number of which had gardens in the front. I like the brick houses here, they are on average characteristic and handsome, but I’d much prefer them to be detached houses, single family home set in a decent size yard, with nice lawn and garden, which of course is a handful minority in a crowded city like London.

It had been an upward climb for about an hour by now and I started to feel the weight on my body and the reluctance of my legs, then the scene turned interesting. Elegant houses and eventually, the beautiful buildings of Harrow School loom ahead. A boy’s boarding school founded in the 16th century, Harrow School is one of most expensive private schools in UK at more than £12000 per term. Its impressive list of alumni include Lord Byron and Winston Churchill.

On top of the hill, a few steps from Harrow School is the grand church of St Mary and its soaring spire, which we saw from Horsenden Hill. Next to a stone tablet with inscription of Byron’s written words is a look out with stunning view of west London. Walk London Spring into Summer ended with a pretty high note.

 

London Diary –Spring into Summer! (1)

May 21, 2016

London is as wonderful as the rest of the country in cultivating and keeping up its network of foot paths. Moreover, Transport for London sponsors free guided walks three weekends a year, Winter Wander in January, Spring into Summer in May and Autumn Amble in October. See the following link for details and sign up: http://www.walklondon.org.uk/

Having missed Winter Wander in Jan due to a bad cold, I was very happy when the invitation for Spring into Summer came, which falls on this very weekend. The number and variety of walks available are impressive and all seem interesting to me. At the end I settled on a couple of them, High Barnett to Cockfoster for Saturday and Twin Peaks of the Capital Ring for Sunday.

The weather had been sunny most of the week, but it had to turn cloudy this morning, typical London weather for you. Despite that and the sprinkle during the walk, it turned out a great experience.

High Barnett to Cockfoster are two areas far north of London and took 90 and 60 minutes for us to travel to and from respectively. Once the Tube is out of central London, it is out of the underground tunnels and as it gets even further out, you can see large parking lots attached to the stops, the park and ride system for long distance commuters.

Looking for lunch before the walk, we ended up at Red Lion, a pub on High Street of High Barnett. Interestingly, it serves buffet. There is a Carvery where a chef serves by slicing off the roast of your choice, which can be any combination of pork, beef, gammon (ham) and turkey. Next to Carvery station are side dishes, gravy and sauces that you help yourselves to. On top of all that, there is the Yorkshire Pudding which the chef simply calls “Yorkshire” and serves you one only if you want it. Side dishes are stuffing, peas, green bean, red cabbage, carrots, mash potatoes, fried/roasted potatoes and roasted squash.

After some waffling, I decide to try. I chose beef and gammon, which were surprisingly good. Green beans and red cabbage were average but I loved the roasted squash. All those packed in this traditional, hearty English meal and came with a surprisingly low price tag of about £6.50. For another £1.50, you can switch up to a “King” size, I guess you get more meat with that. Interestingly many there were elderly customers. Among the younger customers, a few got their plates piled up quite high.

After lunch, we met up with a group of about 30 walkers at High Barnett Tube station, our guide Paul, and his wife cum assistant of the walk, Jeanette, who was from the French Alps. With a brief introduction, Paul commenced the “walk and talk”. It was a nice route to walk and Paul’s “talk” made it more interesting.

A quick walk through a residential area, we arrived at the first stop, one of those wooden gates that locals call kissing gate. It marks the entering of a natural area, and Paul took advantage of the opportunity to make a friendly banter, aiming at the young couple who were newly engaged, a white women and a black man.

It took a little climb to reach the hill top of Hadley Manor Field, once there though, you get a nice view. The field is also known as the field where Battle of Barnett took place. Across the field is Haley Green. After passing another kissing gate, this time, existing the natural area, we arrived at Monken Hadley, which is a pretty Georgian village with connection to Anthony Trollope and David Livingston, and home to many footballers.

Have you seen the movie Lady in the Van? I saw it on one of my long international flights. Guess what/who I ran into? Sitting on curb of the street between Alms House and village church was this interesting, albeit peculiar, van, across the street from it was a large elegant house in its high brick wall and wrought iron gate. Interesting van and interesting spot for it to park.

Hadley Common is on the outskirt of the village, at the end there is a little stone bridge and a vast fishing pond hidden in the wood. The walk ended shortly after that and near Cockfoster Road and Trent Park.

It was a great time exploring this part of London. Paul set a good pace and Jeanette was in the back making sure no one was left behind. Along the way, there was verdant green around, lots pretty little wild flowers and a variety of flowering trees bursting with colors, abundant of Hawthorns and Horse Chestnut trees in particular, plus a few California Lilac, Gorse, and many others that I could not name.

At the end of the walk was The Cock Inn, a nice pub where we took a nice break, hot tea with sticky toffee pudding for me, beer and sweet potato fried for my hubby. Happy ending to a great walk.