Last Day in London

Our last full day is Sunday – always my favourite day in any city. It’s when the locals relax usually in a park.

We started at Westminster Cathedral at a choral Mass. The Cathedral was packed and the singing was beautiful.

We skipped the invitation to have tea with the congregation in the church hall. We had a lunch date!

I had booked at Tredwells – a restaurant recommended by a friend. It does a Sunday roast for £29.

Tredwells is near Covent Garden and it was great. We had a table looking out over a terrace to the street. For no extra we got a great little drama. The police pulled over a car. Not just any car but a rather bright blue Rolls Royce with a casually dressed man behind the wheel and another man – perhaps his boss? As the driver engaged the policeman in chat the passenger got out threw on his expensive jacket, looked at his Rolex and strolled off! What were we witnessing? I could speculate……

What to do after Church and Sunday roast? Go to the park.

So off to Hyde park to visit Kensington Palace, to see the flowers and words for Diana on the gate. To sit on the green deck chairs and watch the world go by. And believe me there were lots of people of the world here in the park today.

Kensington Palace gates decorated for Diana

We walked for an hour or so before heading back to the hotel to collect our bags and head to the airport hotel. We have reached the end.

With an early flight, we had the last night at the Premier Inn at Heathrow Terminal 4. What a great find. For £49 it was great. Best airport hotel I’ve stayed in.

Now just the long flight home.

The Wonderful Wallace Collection

When I asked visiting ADFAS lecturer Viv Lawes “which London Gallery I should not miss?”, she had no hesitation in answering “The Wallace Collection”.

So today was the day.

I also wanted to check out Marylebone High Street. So off I went and Steve went to the National Army Museum (which he thought better than the Imperial War Museum).

The High Street is lovely. Lots of beautiful shops including The White Company – which just happens to make the pyjamas handed out on Qatar Air – for business class passengers.

I witnessed a rather posh baby christening where the guests looked dressed for a wedding. It was in St James’ church.

Then at 11.30am I joined the tour for an overview of the Wallace Collection. Our guide was a very little, very posh lady dressed in a lovely suit. She was a good age, so probably had been volunteering for ages. She led us around the house at a snails pace which suited me as I wasn’t in a hurry.

When it finished right on 1pm I made my way to the cafe to meet Steve for lunch.

Museums and Galleries generally have great cafes and gift shops and this was no exception. I had a lovely light quiche and salad. Just right!

The next hours were spent wandering the large house separated into rooms of various colour with an amazing art collection. Canelettos everywhere. And at the moment in each room are shoes.

Not just any shoes but Manolo Blahník works of art. They have been arranged to match the colours and the themes of art in each room. It’s extraordinary.

Steve was rather taken with the armour room and there was a ‘try it on session ‘ so naturally I tried on a glove!

Leaving the gallery we walked back to our hotel through the streets of Marylebone. I saw a little chair on the pavement! Needed some care and a new home! A lovely area of London.

The evening held another adventure. We met up with Chris, a swim friend from our very first trek in Sardinia back in 2013. We met in a pub near St Martyn’s in the Field – a church near Trafalgar Square and the wonderful National Gallery.

Again we caught the bus there as I love looking at the famous landmarks from the front seat on the top deck!

Following a pub meal and a goodbye selfie with Chris we went to the church for a performance of some “oldies but goodies”. Vivaldi & Bach just for starters. Very enjoyable.

Then the evening ride back to Marble Arch by bus.

Swimming the Pond at Hampstead Heath

Today it’s catch up day with friends made through our swim trek in Montenegro several years ago.

Somehow swimming is a social sport- something I didn’t realise until I took it up several years ago.

We’ve now been on about six Swim Trek holidays. They involve a week of swimming with like minded people. We’re there for fun, exercise a holiday.

This group from Montenegro: 6 came from England, 1 each from France, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. And us!

We’ve kept in touch and the ones from England, France and Switzerland have all caught up and swum together. So when we said we’d be visiting London we organised a catch up.

And where better than the pond / lido ( as pools are called here in England) at Hampstead Heath. You may have been there so let me know if you have. This area has featured in a few movies including one last year starting Diane Keaton. It looked great so I was keen to visit The Heath.

We caught a bus there. I prefer a bus if the traffic is flowing as you can see where you are going. We arrived at Hampstead for coffee then walked down some charming streets towards the Heath.

It’s a beautiful area to visit. Both the village and the Heath.

There were lots of people out walking, most with dogs, as we made our way along the track leading up the mixed pond. There are three bathing areas: a mixed pond, a women’s pond and a men’s. We were meeting at the mixed pond in case Steve wanted a swim. He didn’t!

I’ve heard the women’s pond is amazing and I bought a book in a book store which is a collection of women writers writing about their swimming experience st the Ladies Pond. Anyone read it?

Well the two brave girls, Lucy and Catherine jumped in ! not a problem. Water temperature was 18! Yeeks.

When they got out they had to have a cold shower !

Brrr. We must be soft Qld swimmers.

We then went to the nearby pub – the Freemasons Arms , where we were joined by Ellie, Rosie and Lexie. And that’s where we stayed all afternoon.

Steve was the only guy there – Chris couldn’t make it today so we’re seeing him tomorrow.

What a great group.

Kew Gardens comes alive at Night: Chihuly

After walking all day we headed out to Kew Gardens on the train. Well – 3 trains and a walk. About 45mins.

I wanted to see the glass sculptures by day light – with the sun on them. And as magnificent as they were in the day it was the night light that really made them shine.

We entered the gardens and had an hour and half to walk through the main areas and see all 12 sculpture locations. So we walked.

We went to the Hive. A steel structure which lights up depending on vibration from real bees in a hive nearby. Read about it here.

https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/real-bees-drive-the-hive

We continued to walk around the locations of the sculptures.

Here are some of the glass sculptures.

Read here about Dale Chihuly. It’s a great story. You may have seen his work. Let me know if you have.

https://www.chihuly.com

When the gardens closed st 7 we had to leave then wait outside until 7.30 when we could get back in for the night session.

So we resisted queuing until the last minute. It paid off know how to plan our tour of the night garden. We hurried to the Pavilion before the crowds and ordered some food and drink listening to the music 🎶.

Then it was dark and off we went on a magical journey along paths lit by lanterns.

Each sculpture was a treat.

Inside the glass house they were hidden in and around the plants and suspended from the ceiling.

And in the smaller Waterlily pavilion the white sculptures were breathtaking.

It was a wonderful night out.

And I walked over 30,000 steps!

Walking London

London is a great city to walk. Not hilly and so much to look at.

I set off this morning across Hyde Park. Steve went off to the Imperial War Museum and I wanted to see the Saatchi Gallery.

The park is wonderful. So central but you feel miles from anywhere. You can only see one high rise building.

I passed the Serpentine with ducks paddling and little blue boats all lined up for people to pedal them around the lake later in the day.

I crossed out of the park to Sloane Street and followed the road down past the high end shops. Vuitton, Hermes, Tom Ford. Not for me. I took a detour to walk past the houses. There are some beautiful houses in this area.

I came to a cobbled street so pretty it could be a movie set. Motcomb St. And there was Ottolenghi deli. I’m a Yotam Ottolenghi fan. We went to Rovi his restaurant in Belgravia two weeks ago and this is a little deli. There a lot of cakes etc and most come and take away. There are two little tables outside but as it was chilly I sat at the round shared table inside. It seated 6 and had a big vase of flowers in the centre for privacy?! On the table a young couple sat sharing food from the one plate then a woman with a headscarf and dramatic eye make sat spooning cake into her mouth as she talked loudly in her mobile phone. Not good company when it’s loud and in a language other than English.

I continued on, weaving in and out of streets, then through Peter Jones , a department store I didn’t know. Rather lovely and expensive !

I passed a children clothes shop with a hairdresser in the back of the store – for kids. They got to sit and watch fish swimming around in a large tank. Very inventive.

the Saatchi Gallery has a lovely setting with a small oval in the front, tall white pillars and flags advertising Free Entry. That’s good I thought. I went in and the rather sullen lady on the desk looked at me with no smile and said ‘£10’.

I ventured a return comment ‘ I saw a sign outside saying Free Entry. ‘No she snapped. We charge now. I paid. No smile just a curt ‘ £12 for the special exhibition. ‘I declined and went through to find out that for my entry fee I got two small galleries. That’s it.

So I walked to one of the 7 galleries with the special exhibition and just walked in. No one on any of the doors to check tickets. Lucky! Also because I didn’t really love it! It was called Rave and it is…….

An immersive exhibition that celebrates the birth of dance music and the impact of rave on youth culture today. 

https://www.saatchigallery.com

So I relived a few memories and left the gallery.

I walked along Kings Rd Chelsea and window shopped or popped into some I found interesting.

I came upon The Chelsea Gardener and spent done time soaking up the garden settings both plants and furnishings.

I walked onto St Luke’s and nearly stopped for lunch in the church cafe. It was set up in the back of the church and on the portico. It looked good but the queue was long so I walked on.

The shops around Chelsea are good to look at …….

Arriving at the Brompton Oratory is always exciting. It’s wonderful. The surrounding road and building works aren’t so appealing. It seems half of London is being rebuilt or renovated.

I stumbled into a cafe. It was another great people watching place.

Delicious salads

I headed back onto the street and just had to call into Harrods. It’s iconic. It’s a pity it’s so expensive these days.

I finished by retracing my steps through Hyde Park. It was a lot more awake than this morning.

It’s a really great place to visit and walk.

Visit London.

I got back to the hotel around 4, met Steve and off we went to Kew Gardens.

I must have been mad. Walking all day then heading to the wonderful Kew Gardens which involves lots of walking.

I’ll do a seperate post on the visit to The Chihuly exhibition. It was an incredible experience. So read the next post.

Has anyone seen it? Please comment.

Sunday in London

We finally had a sleep in! We’ve been so busy – up and swimming and running around.

Today we had a slower start. We heard the Church bells from St Mary Abbots, a very old church at the back of our place. They got us going. We wanted to investigate.

Coffee at the same cafe as yesterday. When you find a good place I think you should stay with it. This place is great.

Then a wander down the street to look at the Church. We went in and chatted to a lady there about the history of the place. Steve’s sister nursed at the nearby hospital of the same name when she lived in London in the 70’s. It’s gone now – turned into luxury apartments!

Our good friend from our first swim trek, Chris invited us to lunch today. It’s nearby in Kensington. We really looked forward to going there and meeting his French wife, Cecile. She doesn’t do the swim treks, so hadn’t come to the various swims since we met Chris back in 2013.

We bought some gorgeous flowers and headed to their house. It’s a lovely 4 level house with a garden and sun terrace. Very special in this part of London. I didn’t like to whip out my camera so have very few photos.

The sun was out so we sat on the terrace and their daughter Susan was home from Paris where she works for a fashion company. She’s very sweet.

Then their eldest son Tim arrived. He’s been living in NY but is transferring back to London with his Australian girlfriend.

They are a lovely family. Cecile was a teacher Librarian like me! But works now as a careers advisor at the French Lycee.

Later in the day Steve went to the Science Museum and I went walking and window shopping in the area. It’s so nice around this part of London.

The blue spot is where we are staying. Quite close to Kensington Palace.

Later in the evening we walked to The Ivy Kensington Brasserie just down the street. We just had one simple course – but it was very nice. I had a fish curry and Steve had Shepherds Pie. Both little serves and quite delicious.

Now we are packing to leave this little Airbnb. Tomorrow we head towards Henley. Our friend Bill – yet another friend from our Galapagos swim trek – has a ‘camping’ spot on an island in the Thames! Yes. We are camping tomorrow night so that will be a change of pace. And the temperature is dropping.

Apparently we’ll be swimming in the Thames, perhaps a little rowing and hopefully a Gin & Tonic!

London

Arriving back in London was a change of pace.

Our Air BnB in Kensington is centrally located and great. It’s small but has everything.

Landing at 8.30pm it was late – so straight to bed.

The morning was clear and fine and I explored out the back of our apartment.

It backs onto a garden which is private and quiet. Really lovely.

We got ready and headed off to Covent Garden and Somerset House to explore it before lunch at Spring.

Covent Garden was alive with buskers – very good performers including an Australian opera singer. There’s so much life to the place. It’s infectious.

Then a tour of Somerset House built into 1547.

https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/plan-your-visit

In the new wing of Somerset House is Spring. It’s a restaurant owned by Skye Gyngell, an Australian.

http://springrestaurant.co.uk/about/skye-gyngell/

It’s elegant, pretty, delicious. I’d heard about from Gourmet magazine and a friend, Shelley who visited it earlier this year.

She was right. The sommelier, Monique from Cape Town, was welcoming and friendly and looked absolutely gorgeous in her ‘uniform ‘ as did the young waiter.

Everyone admired her ‘uniform’ and she demonstrated how it tied up!

If they looked so good, with attention to detail , then the food would be great.

We had the set menu at 27 pounds. It was delicious. I had a salad then octopus (yes can’t get away from it), Steve roasted beetroot with tomatoes and onglet (hanger steak) with beans. So pretty, so delicious. But light!

Passing by the restaurant we saw the latest demonstration about Brexit. They are heartily sick of it here. Boris is standing arrogantly against opposition and I think not worrying what the demonstrators are saying. They blocked the bridge near Somerset House causing disruption to Saturday traffic.

So we escaped the blocked traffic and caught the tube to the V&A where we were meeting Bill, our Galapagos swim trek friend.

The V&A is wonderful. Another tribute to Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

We saw the exhibition on baths (pools) or Lidos in Great Britain.

Then an eye opening exhibition on Food.

We really need to wake up and get moving with sustainable food practices. It’s a wonder we could eat after we saw the way some food is produced – en masse. We should all be growing our own and never waste anything.

With that in mind we went to Royal Albert Hall, another magnificent building used for big concerts notably the BBC Proms – one we were attending tonight.

https://www.royalalberthall.com

We had a pre-concert dinner at Elgar one of the lovely restaurants.

Then into our box for the Henry Wood tribute concert. Henry Wood a former great conductor, musician and composer. He died in 1944 after a long career. He started the Promenade Concerts in 1895 now called the Proms. What a legacy.

The concert was wonderful. A real mix of music types but all told his story.

The Royal Albert Hall is a great place to visit if you come to London.

Lovely London

The first day of any holiday is exciting. Things to discover, sights to see.

We had a good night’s sleep on the 8th floor of the Victory Services Club – off Edgeware Rd near Hyde Park Corner.

It’s a big old club, quite grand from the exterior with good sized rooms and a very good breakfast for about 150 pound – quite a bargain in expensive London.

Steve headed off early to find a laundry to wash our travel clothes and I went walking. We are staying near Connaught Place and the little village nearby had some beautiful shops and fortunately the summer flowers still remain.

After breakfast we crossed Edgeware Rd and explored Marylebone and Fitzrovia before heading toward Regent St and popping into Liberty.

This is always a must when visiting London. We found the coffee shop on level 2 and thoroughly enjoyed our $15Aus cup of coffee each!

London is looking good. It’s clean and despite the woes of Brexit and the cricket not going well, it seems happy. Lots of tourists.

At midday we made our way to Rovi.

https://ottolenghi.co.uk/rovi

Check it out.

It’s an Ottolenghi restaurant- one I’ve been keen to try.

Back in 2012 we were in London staying with friends in Islington. We went to dinner at their ‘local’ restaurant. I hadn’t heard too much about Yotam Ottolenghi then. But I loved the restaurant, the food, the atmosphere and have been a fan every since. He’s from Israel and does fresh Mediterranean style of cooking.

He now has several restaurants in London and ROVI is in Fitzrovia. It’s very stylish. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and the food is designed to be shared.

Today we were sharing with Nick and Yumi Young. We’ve known Nick since he was a little boy – he’s the son of good friends in Brisbane.  He and his lovely wife are living in London after a few years working in banking in Oman.

We started with a cocktail – for me a Rovi with Pink Gin and a few lovely ingredients. Then it was onto the shared plates. Mussels with chilli, beef carpaccio and burrata – all done well and so tasty.

Next it was a lovely Pinot to accompany a shared beef and a salmon dish. All delicious.

The afternoon slipped by until it was time to walk! And we did ….. down to Covent Garden, which was hopping. I checked out The Petersham – a superb garden shop and cafe. Beautiful things everywhere.

https://petershamnurseries.com

We wandered across the Enbankment Bridge to The Archduke and met up with swim trek friends Bill Murie, Lexie and Betty – my swim buddy from LA who is coming to Turkey with us for a week of swimming.

Here we shared some wine and lots of stories and felt pleased that our swimming adventure in Galapagos, a few years ago, has given us such wonderful friendships.

By now quite late we felt we’d had a great first day of our holiday. No time for jet lag. My advice …. Just hit the ground running. Preferably taking in a little sun!

First stop Sydney

Welcome back to my travel tales.

We’re off again!

This time London , Turkey and back to London.

But first a mini stay in Sydney as Steve has a board meeting before our flight tonight.

Last night we met up with my sister Catherine and David, nephew George and niece Helen.

Today a gorgeous ferry ride to Double Bay to visit my sister at her school, Double Bay Primary, where she works as a teacher librarian. So no lunch with her!

Then lunch with nieces Pip and Clare and little Max. We were so busy talking I forgot to take a photo.

But the ferry ride was wonderful so lots of photos. It’s a world beater ride. The views in the sunshine are breathtaking.

I haven’t been to Double Bay in years. It’s still has it’s Village feel but there are as many Beauty bars as espresso bars.

The little beach next to the ferry wharf is a beautiful place to chill.

The public Library is another place to spend time. It’s so inviting. Libraries are not dead!

I’m waiting on the ferry back to Circular Quay , meet up with Steve then out the airport. A Qatar flight to London.

So follow along for the next few weeks as we rediscover London and swim along the coastline of Turkey. Another swim trek based in Kas.