“There and back again…”* Nearly four years after my one other time being to England, I returned with Boyface to meet up with my parents, doing a very similar trip to the one I’d done before. But while we were meeting with family and friends, we altered our own itinerary to suit our shorter availability and personal needs. And by that I mean we started in London for a few days, just the two of us, finally getting a much needed break.
After a delayed flight, we landed in London later than we hoped, right around dinnertime. So after taking the tube to Paddington Station and finding our hotel (the Classic Hotel) which was right nearby, we attempted to visit a couple of highly rated pubs to get food, but everything was packed until we finally wandered further along to The Swan, across from Hyde Park. It was busy downstairs but the restaurant upstairs had room and was all done up for the holidays, which was lovely. The food was okay, my fish and chips large enough to feed a family (or so it felt), and the service was unfortunately very dependent on the server. But it was still okay and just what we needed that night.
The next day we walked around, taking Oxford Street to Leicester Square. We stopped in at Selfridges and Co. to do some much needed holiday hopping (for ourselves) and enjoyed the abundance of lights in the streets, changing with each district. By Leicester Square we picked up our tickets to see The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre before wandering back to the hotel for a rest and to unload our things. Mid afternoon we finally got into the popular bar across the street, The Monkey Puzzle, which had some delicious and very interesting beers on tap (Fursty Ferret anyone?). Relaxing there for a bit, we finally headed back to town, passing by Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland to see what it entailed before getting some Italian food in Leicester Square and going to the theatre. We were there early enough to enjoy a drink and pick up a program (I may or may not collect them) before the show started. It was fabulous! And so needed. I hadn’t been to a show since I was last in London and I was in desperate need of that beautiful exhilaration that comes from musical theatre. We walked back along our original morning route, breathing in the cold air but totally refreshed from the performance. If you still haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.
Our final day in London was full to the brim with activities and wanderings. After breakfast at our hotel (during which we overheard the numerous different Scandinavians staying there chatting; we always encounter Swedes now, somehow), we took a bus to King’s Cross Station to see Platform 9 3/4. I will say that the line was very long and I am not a patient person, plus they have everyone do the same pose that is not how I would be go through the barrier, but that’s just me. Yes, I’m a snob, but mostly I just don’t like to wait in lines unless there is a roller coaster at the other end. But after some shopping we then walked towards the water, with a surprise detour to Forbidden Planet, a geekery/comic/book store where the bottom floor has many signed books as many authors come that way on tour. It’s very cool. Then we passed through Trafalgar Square and crossed the Thames, wandering through a Christmas market before finding Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, which I just have to see when I am there. If you ever doubted I am a book nerd, please reread this paragraph carefully.
Back through the market we stopped at a Scandinavian-style, closed-off little market area with the Rekorderlig Cider Lounge, getting a hot cider to warm up before heading back out into the cold. Back across the Thames and passing by Big Ben, all scaffolded off right now and for the next couple years, we went through Regent Park and stopped out front of Buckingham Palace. Let me just say that while the park is lovely, there are a lot of massive squirrels and birds all over the place, which people feed, so naturally if you have food some may try to take it for you. But mostly beware the squirrels… They are evil… But that may just be me. Anyway, we walked from Buckingham Palace back through Hyde Park and passed Winter Wonderland again, which on this weekend day was absurdly busy based on the crowded lines, in case you ever want to go yourself (it’s an amusement park with a Christmas market). For dinner we went back to The Monkey Puzzle and had some incredible food and drinks, loving the very short walk back to the hotel as we had an early morning.
The next day, we were off to Bath to meet up with my parents and their friends!
*from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien