UK and Berlin, part 3b

Our second full day in London we had a few things we needed to check off our list – Westminister Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and at least a walk-by of the Natural History museum. Since our hotel was so close to the Natural History Museum, we walked by it and admired its architecture and size while keeping an eye out for a possible breakfast place. We soon found Le Pain Quotidien, where Stephen got porridge and I had a soft-boiled egg with bread. I have never had a soft-boiled egg before, and didn’t quite know where to start, but I managed to enjoy it without making too much of a mess or getting bits of shell everywhere. Stephen thinks I’m silly because I have told him I don’t really like eggs, but then I persist in ordering them, or eat them when he fries a couple on Saturday mornings. I would have rather had a scone with berries and cream, but knew that the protein in an egg would stick with me longer than the sugar and carbs of a scone. And really, I just don’t like scrambled eggs. Once again, not super speedy (ie. American) service, but there was really no rush, and it was nice to just sip our coffee and take in the dreary London morning.

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From Le Pain Quotidien we hopped on the Tube at South Kensington station and off again at Westminster. This time we went straight to the Abbey, where there was already a line queue to get in. It was outrageously expensive at £18 each, and you weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. Westminster is significant architecturally, but the real draw for some visitors (not us) are all the famous people buried or memorialized there. It is more shrine than sanctuary. Don’t get me wrong, it is pretty neat to be able to say we saw where numerous former monarchs (including my ancestor Mary, Queen of Scots) are buried, and notables such as Charles Darwin (ironic), Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens. But Stephen and I both agreed that the hundreds of memorials and plaques marking burials took away from the sanctity of the place.



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After spending a couple hours at Westminster, we walked along St. James’s Park to Buckingham Palace. On our way, I was stopped by a middle-aged Indian man with a camera. I thought he was going to ask me to take a picture of him and his mother. No, he wanted to take a picture of me with his mother. I have no idea why but now some family in India has a picture of me with their grandmother. Perhaps he thought I was a typical English girl, but I was very much playing the tourist though, with my big fancy camera around my neck, so I didn’t think I looked like a local…

Buckingham Palace was a quick stop, as tours of the Palace were not available. There is only a short time when you can actually go in Buckingham Palace, in August and September, when the Queen is out of town. Snapped a couple pictures, and continued on our way. At this point in time we were on the look-out for a late lunch, which is pretty much how all our lunches went this trip. Popped into the gift shop at the Royal Mews for some royalty-themed paraphernalia, and just past that found Bag O Nails. It had food, which was good enough for us. We aimed for a light lunch as we were planning on dinner with a friend later. I had their fish finger and mayo sandwich, which is exactly what it sounds like, and just ok. The chips that came with it made up for the so-so sandwich.

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After eating we wanted to get on the Tube to make our way back to South Kensington to see the Palace there. Such a simple goal was made difficult by the fact that there was major construction going on around Victoria Station, and we had to take a rather circuitous route to get to an entrance. We made it though, passing Westminster Cathedral on the way. We got off at High Street Kensington, a short walk from Kensington Palace and Gardens. The Gardens were pretty in February, so I can only imagine how lush and beautiful they are in the spring and summer. Kensington Palace itself was a little anti-climatic. Really, it just looks like a huge brick house that lots of history just happened to occur inside. Queen Victoria grew up there, which is the main reason I was interested in it. William, Katherine, and baby George live there now, but we did not see them. After checking out ticket prices (£16) and calculating how much time we had before needed to get ready for dinner, we decided against actually touring the museum portion of Kensington, and settled for just peeking in the few rooms we could without actually paying anything.

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On our way back to the hotel we walked though Kensington Gardens and past the Albert Memorial, Queen Victoria’s tribute to her beloved husband, Prince Albert. I told Stephen when he died I would try to do something similar for him. We also swung into the Victoria and Albert Museum, home to a vast collection of decorative arts from around the world. It is huge, but also free, so we didn’t feel about walking quickly though just a couple exhibits. You could easily spend 2 days seeing everything in the V&A.

 

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Our plans for dinner were to meet up with my college roommate, Molly. She actually lives in Harrogate, which is very close to Leeds. Unfortunately, she was traveling when we were up there, but was back and house sitting for her parents in the south while we were in London. It was close enough that she was willing to come into London to meet us. Sadly, our plans were thwarted by the flooding affecting the south at the time, and she couldn’t make it. I already know we will be visiting England again (there is still so much to see!), so until next time, Molly! Stephen and I decided to continue our tour of London pubs and went to the Princess Louise, another place Rick Steves-approved. It is a Victorian-era pub with a bar downstairs and informal dining room upstairs. It looked much like someone’s living room, with a fireplace, couches and coffee tables, and smaller tables for eating at. Very cozy. The service there was excellent. There was one waitress manning the small bar and room. We told her we wanted to eat dinner, and she encouraged us to grab a seat at a coffee table until an actual table was ready for us. The food was good English comfort food, and we lingered for a bit, enjoying the local atmosphere and our last night in London.

 

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