Saturday morning was a slow start after Friday’s wine-lubricated late night. We went in search of fast food to help our hangovers, settling in a McDonalds under Oxford Street. It’s London Pride tonight, and there’s already a wide array of very dressed-up people rolling the streets. It doesn’t seem to be quite the same scale as the Sydney Mardi Gras, but it’s still clearly an important event, and the numbers of people toting rainbow flags, socks, wigs and t-shirts makes it clear that it’s going to be an important day for the LGBTI community. I think there’s also a part that’s responding to the Orlando shooting – a show of strength to offset the recent homophobic horrors.
Tanks refilled with greasy food, we caught the tube out to Hampstead Heath to meet Sarah’s friend Brigid and her family for a picnic and a wander. We started with a coffee/hot chocolate in Hampstead,
where we chatted and the girls were entrusted to look after the little stuffed kangaroo and koala that had stowed away in our luggage for them. They were very excited – I’ve never seen a kangaroo toy put through such immediate and ferocious bouncing!
After that, we went to a couple of local provedores and shops to get supplies, then started the walk out to Hampstead Heath. We made our leisurely way towards the park, which gave us time to chat and look at the beautiful (and very English) houses out that way. We finally got to the Heath, and wandered around through the green, looking for a dry spot to have our picnic. We walked up Parliament hill and found a spot on the city side, with views of the towering buildings and even higher storm clouds across the city. There we plonked and feasted!
After lunch, we walked back around the ponds in the Heath, having promised the girls (and me!) that ice-cream was forthcoming. We stopped by a little gelato shop in the village, standing around in the afternoon sun eating our brightly coloured treats and looking at the local shops. We eventually got back on the train, and caught the tube home, saying a fond farewell to the Brigid, Tim and the girls, and their new cuddly Australian guests! Hopefully we’ll see them again next year (maybe even in Australia!)
On the way home we stopped by the Pride parade to have a look. It was a big and jubilant crowd, full of colour and punctuated by the extremes – drag queens dressed in Ab-Fab glam and toting giant vodka bottles, groups of hairless and shirtless bodypainted male fitness models walking in their underwear, packs of roving tourists carried along like flotsam in the tide of celebration. Carnaby Street sported a giant rainbow, and multi-coloured flags and displays were everywhere. It was joyously chaotic, but after a week of crowds and walking, it was a bit overwhelming for us, and we wanted to make our way home.
We stopped at M&S, picking up a quick dinner. The week of heavy walking is taking a toll on our feet and ankles, so we headed home to rest a bit and just be still. We had some pasta and wine, and half-watched movies while looking at the week’s photos and updating our diaries.
We got up, ready to tackle our last day in London with a bit of wandering and a much-anticipated lunch! We started repacking our bags and tidying up, then caught the tube out to Brixton for a quick wander around, before getting another bus to Becca’s place for Sunday lunch. And what a lunch it was! There’s something very comfortable about being invited around for an English lunch – more leisurely and a more familiar atmosphere. Certainly the roast, Yorkshire puddings, some Spanish wine and delicious apple cake for dessert, accompanied by some reminiscing and travel stories traded around the table, made it a lovely affair. We also were able to give Becca and Pete’s daughter a very special task – looking after a plush-toy wombat for herself, and minding a soft-toy baby kangaroo until her new sibling arrives!
Sunday night, stuffed full of hearty food and reeking of good vibes, we went home and packed our bags up and watched some last minute TV. There’s another big week of exploring just around the corner!