I’m just back from my annual trip to the UK. Each year Rom and I visit his family in Sussex and spend a few days in London. I like the city/country mix!
Day by Day:
Overnight nonstop flight, 6 hours, little sleep. We arrived at 9:30 am local time and stayed up til 10 that night – despite having been up the entire day and night before. The direct flights from Halifax to London are limited so we always take this one. It means staying up for about 36 hours (minus the napping during the flight) but it’s the only way we can function on British Summer Time the next day.
We went out for a cream tea at a local garden centre with Rom’s family and had a quiet evening of visiting and catching up.
Strolled around the tiny town, and spent the rest of the day at Standen, a “stately home” run by the National Trust. The Beale family planned the estate with architect Philip Webb, and the house is filled with William Morris wallpapers and textiles. The Trust is restoring the gardens to the 1920s plan. It was a gorgeous place to walk and explore.
Shopping at Royal Tunbridge Wells and a family dinner at a classic English pub. RTW is an historic spa town with a modern shopping mall and a pretty promenade for “taking the air.”
A look around the nearest centre of commerce (see photo of my unhealthy lunch) and our one-hour journey up to our London-area hotel. We stayed at a modern hotel which was a one-hour “underground” trip to Central London. We saved a lot by staying out of town and buying the off-peak day travel cards, which allow unlimited trips after 9:30 am. That meant we arrived in the City Centre at about 10:30 each day. Since we arrived late afternoon, we decided to spend the rest of the day wandering along the riverbank in Richmond, which was very relaxing. Especially watching others row the river while we just strolled 🙂 By this time I was so vegetable-deprived that I insisted on going to the noisy chain restaurant Wagamama for dinner!
Our first full day in London. Since we’ve had many previous trips here, we travelled a little further afield to the Thames Barrier and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. I really enjoyed travelling the DLR trains to the newer stations in the Canary Wharf area. Everything is spacious and gleaming! I was surprised by all the public art. It was a gruelling climb up to the Observatory (and I say this as a moderately fit person). The Observatory itself was underwhelming but its site is spectacular and of course, you get to stand on the Prime Meridian! While in the area we took a peek at the O2 (arena) and ended up having a long visit at the free Docklands Museum. The exhibits display the history of London through seafaring and trade – which is, of course, also the history of slavery, colonialism and war. It was high-impact and I highly recommend it – kudos to Rom for scheduling it in!
A proper city day, scheduled around our lunch reservation at the ritzy vegetarian eatery Vanilla Black and our tickets to see the new theatrical production of Shakespeare in Love in the evening. It was a jam-packed day as we shopped near Seven Dials and I found out that 84 Charing Cross Road is in a location I had walked past unknowingly several times in the past! We took a browse around the London Transport Museum (not just for trainspotters – it is a good social history site) and Somerset House. Completely unexpectedly, we stumbled across an exhibit of photos of Nick Cave, from a new book by Bleddyn Butcher. It was fantastic! As soon as I got home I spent the day listening to The Birthday Party. Egads! As a theatre lover and Shakespeare fan I could not have done any better than the play we saw. Dare I say it was better than the movie – after all, a movie about the theatre does not have the magic of live theatre. The music and dance were thrilling and I was delighted by how comedic it had become.
Our last full day was spent shopping all along Oxford Street and visiting the iconic department stores: Liberty of London (completely unlike all others and a must-visit), Selfridges (which, ahem, required another cream tea), John Lewis, British Home, and Debenham’s. But you know me, I spent the most time at the giant HMV! We also made a repeat visit to Covent Garden where I like to check out the latest menswear looks at Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, Paul Smith et al. It was strange to browse all these luxury stores – I didn’t have much desire to buy, and (by my standards) spent very little. I would never go into comparable stores in my own city – it’s just not part of my everyday life, but was a nice bit of vacation escapism!
Departure through Heathrow Terminal 2 – the new “Queen’s Terminal.” It was eerily spacious and relaxing – huh?
Happily, I have a few days off before returning to work on Monday so I am just recovering from vacation 🙂
Thanks everyone for checking my page while I was away, and all of your kind wishes!