We flew in this morning at about six am, which meant we didn’t have to wait Heathrow’s usual eternity to get through customs. We made it through and grabbed our bags, and moved down to the Underground, pushing a trolley loaded with backpacks as we went. Oyster cards in hand, we swiped through, looking like double-sided snails with our front daypacks and big hiking bags. The train was a nice acclimatisation – amusing place names and a stop-by-stop increase in the number and variety of Londoners to look at and get a feel for. The headlines on people’s papers were Nigel Farage’s latest attempt to defend something racist he did, and the family of Jo Cox (the murdered British MP) talking about honouring her. Also apparently Anton Yelchin is dead, so that means the Star Trek movies and any follow ups to Odd Thomas are in peril. So it goes.
We got off at Green Park, and slogged up the stairs and through the gates, emerging onto the street in what can best be described as ugly, pelting rain. The kind that feels like it’s just going to keep going, like a relative’s story about a dream they had, told at a kid’s party that you were already done with and edging towards the door to escape from. We grinned and headed up past various UK stalwarts (Sainsbury’s, M&S, Caffe Nero, etc) to Hay Hill, where our accommodations were. The sign in the lobby did nothing to lift our suddenly soggy spirits – “Lift Out Of Order, Use Stairs.” Seven flights of them, fully laden, and my jetlag was beginning to bear down like a Chinese burn.
Oh, the bliss of that shower after 24 hours of airports and planes. I can’t tell you.
So we dressed and thought to pop out for a quick lay of the rain-splashed land and maybe a spot of breakfast. Which quickly became ‘Let’s find something out of this God-awful rain.’ Which quickly became a scone and hot chocolate at the V&A Museum, looking at the friezes and frescoes and giant balls of silvery metallic light. We wandered – looking at jewellery from the Marquess Of Londonderry’s extensive collection, including a diamond stomach brooch and one heck of a sword from Lord Castlereagh – 90 carats of diamonds in the hilt! We saw stunning metal sculpture pieces and some interesting stained glass – the bored face of St Edward and his semen-covered collar amused me no end. And then from the side of our eyes – a giant Chihuly glass piece, suspended from the ceiling!! Sarah was rapt – even though she’d seen this piece before. We saw some stunning Raphaels from 1515 (501 years old and counting!) and some other fun stuff.
I also found a bus I badly wanted to vandalise, given how close it was to having my name on it! So instead of doing that, we headed out to find lunch.
A quick discussion about lunch turned into a bus ride out to Sarah’s old stomping ground at Elephant And Castle. We wanted to hit up her old local, but on arriving, were greeted with a sign saying they opened at 3pm. This, my stomach advised, wasn’t going to be nearly good enough. We looked at Sarah’s old house (and snuck a picture) then walked around her old neighbourhood to eventually catch a bus to Waterloo. The rain started coming back in again then, so with umbrellas up and skirting giant puddles, we went to Southbank and meandered along the river until we found a pub.
We looked at Sarah’s old house (and snuck a picture) then walked around her old neighbourhood to eventually catch a bus to Waterloo. The rain started coming back in again then, so with umbrellas up and skirting giant puddles, we went to Southbank and meandered along the river until we found a pub.
Two big ciders and lunch (chicken, bacon and fries for me and bubble and squeak for Sarah) later, we headed across Blackfriars bridge and started walking back towards Piccadilly. We ended up doing an odd combination of food shopping without buying anything, and looking at landmarks from The Strand and Nelson’s column right down to Buckingham Palace. We had a nice walk down Pall Mall and then back up past the Ritz, stopping at Sainsbury’s for some quick supplies (including a sneaky bottle of wine) before heading back to the flat. And now we’re here, eating chips on the couch and the rain has not only gone away, but has left behind it blue skies and fluffy sheep-clouds that we’re just too tired to go romping in.
Turns out we weren’t too tired – a quick pizza and pinot grigio woke us up enough to go for a wander in the evening light. We walked through Berkely Square, down to Buckingham Palace and across into St James Park. The park was full, from exercisers to post work catch-ups on the benches, to the occasional flock of cyclists. Being in amongst the green and water, floating through the groups of people while squirrels and geese frolicked about was calming and very un-London from my experience.
We walked around to Westminster, and I shot a few photos of Big Ben, Westminster and the Eye (which was teeming with people in the height of summer). We walked up to Golden Jubilee bridge and wandered back through, up to Piccadilly Circus and Saville Row, before coming home for a well-deserved sleep.