Martha in London (1)

November 19, 2011

As will come to no surprise to anyone that’s been within ear shot of my mom in the last 3 months, Martha came to London in October.  =)  She arrived on Friday and we stayed in London through Wednesday.  I had only two guidelines from the guest: no museums and no educational experiences.  The requests were for tea in a castle (cool!), going to the zoo (lame) and going to a movie (lamer). Got it.

On Saturday, we tried my newly patented jet-lag cure: long walk, big meal, alcohol.  We stayed close and went to Hyde Park, which is a whole block from my flat.  We ended up at Kensington Palace. Unfortunately, it’s under construction and most of the place is closed.  This is quite common at the moment as the Olympics are a catalyst for construction and refurbishments.   But they do have some beautiful gardens and an Orangery which serves afternoon tea, coffee and snacks.  We peaked through the holes in the construction long enough for Martha to decide that she wasn’t impressed with the palace.

Kensington Palace Gardens

But I’d had my eye on another spot for afternoon tea, so we headed there instead.

Aerial View of Hyde Park

The park is huge, taking up 625 acres of the city, and technically contains both Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (separated by the big lake in the middle).  Henry VIII set the park aside as a private hunting grounds in 1536, and it was opened to the public by James I in 1637.  In 1733, The Serpentine (the big lake) was created, and now hosts a year-round swimming club, has row boats for rent and runs a solar powered shuttle from one end of the lake to the other. There’s also a cafe, my pick for afternoon tea.

Afternoon Tea #1

So with the long walk out of the way, we moved onto the big dinner and alcohol portion of the evening.  We wandered around the nearest grocery store for a while and came up with an odd array of snacks: Welsh Caerphilly cheese, mushroom pate, parmesan and poppy seed twists, fresh fig and French wine.

Fancy pants dinner

And the plan worked! After a solid night’s sleep, we headed out early(ish) on Sunday to the Portobello Market in Notting Hill, the neighborhood just to the west of my place.  The market is touted as the world’s largest antique market, but also includes food stalls, a market and new goods and runs along Portobello Road for a little over a mile.

Jewelry at Portobello Market

Portobello Road Market

Churros and Chocolate at the Portobello Market

Donut stand

Suitcase drum!

Crepe stand

After the market, we hopped over to Covent Garden for our official fish and chips experience at a “chippie” that’s been open since 1871, when it was the third shop ever in the city.  Then we strolled around Covent Garden, walked to Trafulgar Square and then over the river to the Southbank.  On a split decision, we decided to hit the London Eye at night.  It’s the largest Ferris wheel in Europe, standing at about 450 feet tall. The capsules hold up to 25 people each, and there are 32 capsules total.

London Eye from Waterloo Bridge

London Eye and Big Ben (to my left)

On Sunday we went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards ceremony.  Again, mom was not impressed with the palace.  It’s only 830,000 square feet of living space with 750 rooms. Psh.  The ‘crowd control’ guards were super nice and quite entertaining, joking with the crowd and giving us clues on when to look out for something, and even bringing over a horse guard for a girl in the crowd to pet.

Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guards

Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guards

Changing of the Guards

After the ceremony (one of those tourist things you HAVE to do, but don’t get much out of, we agreed) we walked to catch a boat tour on the Thames River (which runs through the city from west to east, roughly).

Royal Horse Guards

St. Paul's Cathedral

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

River Cruise

I ended up giving in on the movie, in fact, it started sounding like a good idea.  So we hit a cinema down the road in Notting Hill.  It was built in 1898 as a theater (like for plays) but turned into a cinema when the West End took over the market for theater. One of the screens is quite grand, with three tiers of seating and old (lumpy) seats.  Definitely a cool venue.

Coronet Cinema



One Response to “Martha in London (1)”

  1. Martha Wallace Says:

    Now that was fun to read! Sounds like I had a good time….can’t wait to hear about the rest of the trip!

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