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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Our Grand Tour - London At Last.

London, August 23, 2014, Saturday

The flight to London was quick, about an hour and 40 minutes.  My seat mates were two young men from Poland, who spoke very little English.  Ann had the luck to sit next to a pilot from Amsterdam who gave her some advice on what to see in London.  We arrived at Heathrow for the second time in our journey.

Because we gained an hour, it was only about 4:30 when we landed.  We went through security and customs, claimed our checked bags and headed outside to find a taxi.

We gave the driver the address of our hotel, 27 Devonshire Terrace and started off.  There were very dark clouds and it started to rain.  Our driver said he was a native of London, and that the area we were headed for, was in a good neighborhood and an easy place, from which, to travel around London.  Most of the ride was along a highway, but we could see houses and buildings.  The rooftops had Mary Poppins chimneys.

Mary Poppins rooftops

Finally we were on the city streets and our driver pointed out Hyde Park and told us that our hotel would be in walking distance.

BW Shaftesbury Paddington Court
When we got to the hotel, our bags were carried in by staff while we paid the driver. We think he must have taken us for more of a ride than necessary.  Our fare was £64 and we had read it would be about £50-55 but what can you do?  Ann checked in for our first two nights.  
Hotel Lobby

We had an additional reservation that started on the 25th and went through the 1st. We thought it best to see what our room was like before we committed to a longer stay.  Two young men took us, and our bags, to our room on the first floor.  It was a twin club room with a window that looked out over the street.   

We had read that hotel rooms in London were small so we were not surprised that our did not have a lot of extra space. We were pleased that it was clean.  We explored the room and hotel and then went out for a walk around the neighborhood.  We walked around the block and found that we were at the edge of a residential area. Block after block of four story townhouses, most divided into several apartments on every street we took.  We have discovered that Charles Dickens, once lived across the street from our hotel.  It is so amazing to walk the streets, knee deep in history.  We were just around the corner from Craven Road.  

Craven Road

We walked the few blocks up Craven Road to Paddington (tube) Station. We went inside and asked about how to get an oyster card.  An employee walked us through the process at one kiosks and we put £30 each on our cards.  Lots of restaurants, markets, hotels, and shops near Paddington Station.  

Paddington Station

There were a lot of people out on the streets.  We were both in awe,of the fact, that we were walking the streets of London.  Most of the restaurants had menus posted out front and we stopped to look at couple.  We stopped in front of Bizzarro's, an Italian restaurant about 3 blocks from our hotel. 

Bizzarro, Craven Road

The maitre de convinced us to go inside.  We were tired and hungry.  I ordered Petto di Pollo ai Funghi Porcini which was a roasted chicken breast served with a very tasty mushroom sauce.  Ann had Petto di Pollo con Ricotta, Spinici e Salsa al Funghetto which was a roasted chicken breast stuff with ricotta and spinach and mushroom sauce.  The food and the service was very good. 

We left for our hotel, full and ready to settle in for the night. 

London, August 24, 2014, Sunday
I slept very well and woke up hungry, about 7.  We got ready for the day and headed to the dining room, which was in the basement.  There we found a buffet, with scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, beans, roasted tomatoes, roasted potatoes, croissants, hard rolls, and chocolate pastries.  

There was cold cereal, milk, orange and apple juice, cold cuts of cheese and ham, and sliced fruit, melon or pineapple.  A choice of coffee or tea was offered.  
We fueled up and headed out for the Notting Hill Carnival.  

Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival

The carnival is a yearly event held the weekend of the August Bank Holiday, which occurs on the last Monday of August.  It began in 1964 and with more than a million attendees in recent years is one of the largest street fairs in the world.  

Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival
 We saw people, lots of people.  

Notting Hill Carnival

There was music and food 

Notting Hill Carnival

and more people.  

Notting Hill Carnival

We spent some time just walking and exploring the Notting Hill area.  It was here that the movie Notting Hill was filmed. 

Notting Hill

Notting Hill

Notting Hill

 We walked back to Bayswater Road when we left the carnival and headed back along the route we came on.  We stopped to make a photo of Cafe Diana.  

Cafe Diana, Bayswater Road

Just across the street were several armed officers guarding the entrance of a road.  We crossed over and asked if we could walk through.  

Entrance to Kensington Park Gardens

An officer told us that it was a private road, named Kensington Park Gardens, and we would be allowed to walk through.  

Kensington Park Gardens

He warned us to put away our cameras as no photos were allowed.  I managed to find a few photos online.  The road was lined with mansions, closed in behind walls, fences and gates.  

Kensington Park Gardens

Armed guards stood outside some of the gates.  Some houses were identified by plaques, as embassies of various countries or homes of foreign ambassadors.  

Russian Embassy

We have found out since, that the road is called Billionaire's Row and is the most expensive road in London.  We came to an entrance for Kensington Palace and went through. We walked through the gardens and made photos of the palace. 
Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

We went inside to get information and decided to become members of Historic Royal Palaces.  Our membership card will admit us to several places, including the Tower of London, without having to wait in line. 

Kensington Palace and Gardens
The oldest part of Kensington Palace dates to 1605 and it was once known as Nottingham House.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

If there is a family tree around you know I will find it.

Kensington Palace

Over the centuries the palace was expanded and has been home to many members of the Royal Family.  Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace and spent her early years there.

Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth lived at Kensington Palace for many years. This was the palace where Princess Diana lived when she was first married to Prince Charles.  She kept her home here, after she was divorced and her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry were raised here.  Prince William and Kate and their little son Prince George live at Kensington Palace today.  Prince Harry also has an apartment in the Palace. 

There was a special exhibit of dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. 

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth
Princess Margaret

Princess Diana

We left Kensington Palace and walked back to Kensington Park Gardens Road, and continued to the end, at Kensington High Street.  This was a great street, very busy, with lots of shops, stores and restaurants.  

Kensington High Street

Kensington High Street

Kensington High Street

About a block down we came to St. Mary Abbotts and walked through the church yard which was paved with grave stones.  

St Mary Abbots Church

St Mary Abbots Church

St Mary Abbots Church

St Mary Abbots Church

St Mary Abbots Church

There were many great old buildings along Kensington High Street and down the side streets.  We went into a few stores.  One was TK Maxx, which we had also seen in Berlin.  I asked why it was called T K instead of T J.   A clerk told me there was a chain of stores in Europe called T J Hughes and so as not to cause confusion the name TK Maxx is used there.

Kensington High Street

Kensington High Street

It was getting late in the day and we stopped at a restaurant, the Spaghetti House, to eat. We had an appetizer of Nocellara del Belice olives on ice. We both ordered Lasagne bolognese pasticciata and bread for our meal.  I was quickly learning, when I ordered water, that I needed to ask for still water.  Otherwise I would be served sparkling or carbonated water.  Preferred by Europeans, it tastes terrible to me, a bit like drinking vinegar.

After dinner we found that Kensington Park Gardens Road was closed.  We walked back through Kensington Park, along the Broad Walk, past Kensington Palace.  We saw the larger than life, marble statue of a young Queen Victoria, created by her daughter, Princess Louise.

We also passed the Diana Memorial Playground.  We left the park at Bayswater Road, just across from Queensway Tube Station.   We walked east on Bayswater, turned north at Craven Hill Terrace and back to our hotel.

London, August 25, 2014, Monday

We had our breakfast at the hotel and then started out for the day. It had to happen, rain in London.  We were prepared with umbrellas and rain jackets.   Our destination was 84 Charing Cross Road, in London's famous West End.  We walked to Paddington and took the tube to Tottenham Court Road Station on Oxford Street.  Charing Cross Road was nearby.  We walked along Charing Cross Road, passing lots of theaters, restaurants and pubs.  In 1970 I went to Zibart's Book Store on Church Street and purchased the book, 84 Charing Cross Road.

I had read an excerpt of the book and fell in love with it.  The story took place, in part, in a bookstore, Marks & Co, located at 84 Charing Cross Road in London.

The book store is no longer there but a plaque on the outside wall commemorates Marks & Co. and the book by Helen Hanff. In 2014 there is a Belgium restaurant at the location, Léon de Bruxelles.

Leon de Brussels

I never imagined I would stand there on that spot. Something to cross off my bucket list. Just across the square which was actually sort of round in shape and called Cambridge Circus, was the Palace Theater.  The Palace Theater was built in 1891, and was originally the Royal English Opera House.

The Palace Theater

I looked up the definition of circus as it applies to areas in London.  It simply means, a rounded area where several streets meet.  I guess we have our own Five Points Circus in Nashville, haha.    As you take a turn to look at the buildings around the square, they all appear to be late 19th century.  The Cambridge, a pub built in 1887, is across Charing Cross Road. A building in the opposite direction with 1889, over the door is home to a Pizza Hut.  There were a number of book stores in the area.  We didn't take a lot of photos because of the rain.  We walked around the area, just looking at the architecture and shops of all sorts.

Cambridge Circus

Many book stores in the West End.  Still in Cambridge circus at the corner of Shaftesbury Ave.was a sign pointing toward the Picadilly Theater where Jersey Boys was playing and just across was the The Ape & Bird pub.

Ape & Bird Pub

 The buildings are amazing and there are red double decker buses everywhere.  There were also a couple of adult shops, Harmony and Soho Original Books.

We had not yet gone into a pub but passed many, such as the Montagu Pyke, formerly the Marquee Club.

We traveled along Shaftesbury Ave toward Great Russell Street to the British Museum.

British Museum
It had been raining all morning and we were happy to go inside.  The place is huge and very old.  We went into the Enlightenment Gallery where there were artifacts, books and sculpture from many cultures and countries.

 There was a marble sculpture of Paris of Greek and Roman mythology, holding the fabled golden apple, which dates to the 2nd century.

A bust of the Roman goddess Minerva, found in Rome in the 18th century, was also from the 2nd century.  It would take days to see and read about everything in this room.

There was jewelry carved from stone.  Weapons from the Bronze age, on display, thought to be about 4,000 years old, were found in peat bogs in 1741.  We saw 16th century maiolica pottery and dishes from Italy.

We both wanted to see the Parthenon Gallery and the Elgin Marbles.  Nashville's Parthenon houses replicas of the Elgin Marbles, made from casts of those in the British Museum.

British Museum - Elgin Marlbles

British Museum - Elgin Marlbles

We also wanted to see the Rosetta Stone.  We went through many of the 95 galleries.  It was overwhelming to see so much in such a short time.

Rosetta Stone

We left the museum and found our way to Oxford Street.  We walked to the Oxford Circus tube station and headed back toward Paddington Station.  It had rained all day and my thin rain jacket was wet all the way through.

Did I mention it rained?
We went to our room and put on dry clothes.  The rain had nearly stopped so we walked to back to Paddington station and went to Garfunkels for supper.   Ann and I both had meat pies and shared a pot of tea.  Mine was chicken leek and ham pie with mashed potato, broccoli and and carrots.  It was good, warm, comfort food. 

London, August 26, 2014, Tuesday

August 26, 2014, Tuesday - Our Route

Started out in the rain again this morning but lighter than yesterday. Londoners are used to the rain, I guess.  Saw many folks with bare heads and no umbrella.  Guess you just have to deal with what life gives you. We walked to Paddington Station and took the Bakerloo line all the way to Charing Cross Road tube station.   We got off at the opposite end of Charing Cross Road from where we were yesterday.

Charing Cross Underground Station

Most of the time we were babes in the wood, until we would come up on one of the handy street corner maps and get our bearings. We should have invested in a guide book for London.  We missed so much that was near the areas we visited.  You learn as you go, maybe we will go back someday.  We were at Tralfagar Square, but had no idea.  We did see Nelson's Column, figured it out later with the internet.  The giant blue rooster could not be missed.  Wish we had known more about where we were at the moment.  We wandered around the square, trying to take it all in and at the same time keeping our heads low because of the rain.  We headed off down Whitehall Street, our destination being the Banqueting House.  As we walked, we passed Great Scotland Yard, the original location of the London Police Department.

Scotland Yard (Old)

The area is covered with government buildings.  We had purchased a membership to the Historic Royal Palaces when we were at Kensington Palace and the Banqueting House was included.  We arrived a little early, and stood in line for a few minutes, as the doors did not open until 10 am.

Banqueting House
The Banqueting House, constructed in 1622, is all that remains of the Palace of Whitehall, which was destroyed by fire in 1698.

Banqueting House and Palace of Whitehall

It was here that King Charles I was executed.  He stepped through a window, onto a scaffold, and was beheaded. (Charles I)

King Charles I

At his death, the monarchy was abolished and a republic called the Commonwealth of England was declared.  The monarchy was restored in 1660 to Charles's son, Charles II.

The hall, within the house, was used not only for banqueting but royal receptions, ceremonies, and the performance of masques,which involved music and dancing, singing and acting.  The entertainment given here would have been among the finest in Europe, for during this period England was considered the leading musical country of Europe. (Banqueting Hall)

Banqueting Hall

The ceiling of the hall is adorned with huge paintings by Sir Peter Paul Rubens.  The paintings, on canvass, were installed on the ceiling in 1636.  (Ruben's ceiling)  There was an interesting film to watch detailing the history of the building and an audio guide is included with admission.

Banqueting Hall - Rubens ceiling

The final stop on the tour is the basement level or the Undercroft. This area was designed as a drinking den for James I and his friends. 

Undercroft - Banqueting House

On our visit there was a small cafe located in the Undercroft which open only in the summer months.  We didn't stop but it appeared they served breads, pastries and tea and soft drinks.  The hall is used for events of all sorts and has been visited by many heads of state.  President George Bush and wife Laura were here in 2003.  

It was still raining when we went back out to the street.  We continued down Whitehall and passed Downing Street.  We didn't take the short walk down to number 10, to view the Prime Minister's residence.

Downing Street

I suppose the rain kept us moving.  Richmond House, the headquarters for the Department of Health was on our way.  As we walked, Big Ben came into view.

Big Ben

We arrived at Bridge Street and were just across from the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.


Westminster Abbey

We circled Parliament Square and found another of the street post maps that give locations of tube station and bus stops.  We found the maps also point the way to area landmarks.  This one directed us down Great George Street towards Buckingham Palace.  We soon found ourselves on Birdcage Walk, at the edge of St James Park.  We walked through St James Park, which has an interesting history.

Chinese Bridge - St James Park

It was once very marshy land and was the site of lepers hospital in the 16th century.  After the hospital was closed, King James I opened a menagerie here, where he kept all sorts of exotic animals and birds, hence Birdcage Walk. 

St James Park - Eurasian Coot

In the 17th century, King Charles the II, had the park transformed into formal gardens, in the style of the gardens at Versailles and opened the park to the public. (St James)
Flower Beds - St James Park

We came out of St James Park, back onto Birdcage Walk and had our first real view of Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace

It is huge, has 775 rooms.  We looked for the flag on top of the palace and saw it was the British Flag which indicates Her Majesty was not at home.  We walked around the east front of the palace, peering though the fence and making a few photos.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace
The rain must have soaked into our brains.  I don't think either of us thought about getting tickets to go inside.

Buckingham Palace
Out in front is the Victoria Memorial, dedicated to Queen Victoria in 1911.

Victoria Memorial

Across from the palace is another royal park, Green Park.

Green Park Gates

It has 19 acres and lies between St James Park and Hyde Park.

Green Park
You can literally walk for miles through the adjoining parks, from St. James Park at Whitehall to Kensington Gardens at Notting Hill. We crossed to the Victoria Memorial, and went to the other side and over to Green Park.  Walking around the edge of the park we came to the Mall which is a busy roadway.  The Mall is closed to traffic on Sundays and holidays.  It is a beautiful tree lined road with wide walkways on both sides.  We passed by the Stable Yard Road and stopped to make a photo of the guards there.

Guard at Stable Yard Road

Guard at Stable Yard Road

 This gated road leads to Clarence House, the London residence of Charles, Prince of Wales.  His grandmother, the Queen Mother, lived at Clarence House until her death in 2002.  We continued on until we passed under the Admiralty Arch, which looks like a monument, but is an office block with rooms inside. It was commissioned by King Edward VII to commemorate the death of Queen Victoria.

Admiralty Arch near Buckingham Palace

The inscription along the top reads ANNO DECIMO EDWARDI SEPTIMI REGIS VICTORIÆ REGINÆ CIVES GRATISSIMI MDCCCCX, which is Latin for In the tenth year of King Edward VII, to Queen Victoria, from most grateful citizens, 1910.

DAVID ILIFF -,_London,_England_-_June_2009.jpg
We were back at Trafalgar Square and we were hungry.  There were several restaurants and they all looked very busy.  We settled on Little Frankie's on Whitehall.  It was a diner, decorated with autographed photos of celebrities.

Little Frankie's

We both ordered soup, that was served with garlic dough balls floating in the bowl.  I had a cheeseburger and lemonade.

Ann - Little Frankie's in London

The food was not memorable, but the soup was warm and welcome after walking in the rain.  We left the restaurant and went towards St Martin's Theater, walking about a half mile.

St. Martin's Theater

There was a matinee at 3 pm of The Mousetrap.  The Mousetrap has been showing in London since 1952 and has been playing at St Martin's since 1974.  The theater was wonderful, just what you want to find inside an old theater.There was dark polished woodwork and paneling.  The wallpaper was red and gold as was the carpet.  The seats were upholstered in red velvet.

St. Martin's interior

We were in the dress circle and had a great view of the stage.  The play was wonderful and it is one of my best memories of London.


The rain had almost stopped when we came out of the theater. It was after five and we wanted to go back to Oxford Street and find Selfridge & Co.  We walked through Litchfield Street to Charing Cross Road and over to Oxford Street.  We walked along Oxford Street, passing Oxford Circus tube station.  The buildings are not as old here, as in some other areas we have walked in.  There appears to be a lot of 19th century and some 20th century structures along the street.  This is a very busy shopping district.  We reach Bond Street tube station and Selfridge's is just ahead.  Ann watched the Mr. Selfridge, Masterpiece Theater series on PBS and seeing the store up close was something she wanted to do.  We went inside and walked through for a few minutes and then exited back on Oxford Street.

We took the tube back to Paddington and walked to our hotel.   Later we went around the corner from the hotel to Chelsea Deli. We were not very hungry and did not want a full meal. I ordered something that was labeled, potato chicken.  It was chicken with potatoes, flavorful enough and Ann got a different chicken dish.   The price was fair and we left satisfied.  The rain was gone and we walked around the neighborhood awhile, before going back to the hotel. 

London (2)

London (3)

Our Grand Tour - Berlin