I must be the luckiest girl in the world. I have been to London four times in my life (twice on my trip with Mom, once for orientation, and yesterday) and every time the weather has been absolutely beautiful. The sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, and it was just warm enough to forego a coat most of the afternoon.
And therefore perfect for a picnic lunch in Regent’s Park with my friends.
Jordan lived in London for six months when she was 14 while her dad taught at a university here so she played tour guide and showed us around her old neighborhood. We got off the bus at Marble Arch sand began to meander through Marylebone (pronounced Marley-bone) to a small museum/noble house. No nobility currently live there and it was such a small museum that I can’t even remember its name, but like most museums in London it was free and therefore so were its restrooms! It was a pretty well-stocked museum with an interesting exhibit on suits of armor, allowing Janosz to enjoy some more manly items while preparing for a day of being an honorary Straight Gay Best Friend to three girls.
We were pretty hungry by then so we walked toward Regent’s Park and found a decently priced cafe to grab lunch (baked sweet potato stuffed with chicken and bell peppers and a tomato salad in case anyone wants to be jealous because it was delicious!). Luckily for us in an odd twist of fate, there were no tables available at the cafe so we walked about ten minutes away and ate our lunches under a big tree in the middle of Regent’s Park, surrounded by guys playing soccer and parents pushing their babies along in prams on their way to the vicious swan pond. Apparently the ducks there will literally steal food from a baby.
Next we walked down Bakers Street, passing the famous 221B of Sherlock Holmes, and made our way to Daunt’s Bookstore. Needless to say Jordan and I were in heaven shuffling through the shelves of England history books while Kelsi looked at recipes and Janosz perused…well, I’m honestly not sure. He went to the bathroom and I didn’t see him for about 40 minutes because I was too obsessed with the books. I now have four new editions to my Kindle because I promised not to buy hard copies of books if I could avoid it (I was a good girl!).
We honestly had no real plans for our day apart from enjoying ourselves so we decided to just walk. And walk. And walk. And when we got tired of that, walk some more. We headed from Marylebone to the proper City of London (detouring down the street that Jordan used to live on) and eventually made it to St. Paul’s Cathedral. I was really saddened because neither Kelsi nor Janosz had ever seen St. Paul’s, and it was marred by the protest camp set up on its steps. I can’t help but feel that protesting the economy is a little sacrilegious when done on the grounds of one of the most historic churches in the world.
We are also on a tasty search for the best cream tea in England, so of course we had to find a tea shop while in London. Unfortunately, we are also poor university students and wanted to find a cheap tea. With the help of a trusty guidebook, we headed off for TeaPod and a five quid cream tea. We walked down to the Thames River, saw the Millennium Bridge, and crossed the very sturdy London Bridge, and walked on the other side of the Thames until we finally reached TeaPod on Shad Thames. The road was completely unexpected; you felt like you were walking through London in the time of the WWII bombings (in fact, we probably were as we were in a region that had been targeted). The scones were decent, the clotted cream more like butter than the fluffy sweet cream we expected, and the jam was excellent. I had a Rooibus that was supposed to be flavored like Earl Grey but without caffeine, and it was good but not comparable to Earl Grey at all. Definitely worth five pounds.
Exhausted from walking around and being faced with a setting sun, we opted to take the Tube back to Notting Hill Gate where we would catch the bus back to Oxford. I was completely happy with that decision as the closest Tube station required us walking around the Tower, one of my favorite places in London (yes, I teared up again, couldn’t help it). Janosz had never been on the Tube so it was a historic moment for us. We successfully navigated the Underground with no casualties and picked a Greek restaurant on a side street in Notting Hill for dinner. Service was fair, which means great by English standards, but the food was pretty good (I tried moussaka and tiramisu for dessert!). And we got a free show with our dinner.
The table directly across from us and therefore unavoidable to our eyes held a middle aged man and a slightly less than middle aged woman completely sucking face for lack of a better term. I have never seen two people literally staring into each other’s eyes so intently for so long. They couldn’t bear to part their faces long enough to look at separate menus, instead sharing one and not even paying attention to it long enough to order any food. The man knocked over their water pitcher as he struggled to get even closer to her (which I promise was not possible) and then the waiter slipped in the spilled water because the man neglected to tell him about it. We were pretty floored the whole time over this couple. It was pretty inappropriate, even for the Brits who are a lot more open about PDA. But as Janosz said, “That’s one way to share a meal.” At least we all had more than a few laughs over it.
We arrived back in Oxford at around 9:30 pm, utterly exhausted, and were all asleep by 10:30. Today we mapped out our journey on Map My Run and we apparently walked over 9 miles total!!! No wonder we all looked like zombies today. All in all, great weather, great sites, great friends, and great trip 🙂