Two weeks ago, my daughter, Julia, and I set out on an amazing adventure--a similar-yet-different trip to the one her sisters and I took when each of them turned 16. Sadly, I'm out of teenagers now, so this special mother/daughter trip time of my life is now coming to a close.
So, we left Chicago for London where we made South Kensington our home for a few days. I had never stayed in that neighborhood before, but I liked it. Our hotel was close to the tube, restaurants, and museums.
And one of the coolest French patisseries I've ever seen: Aux Merveilleux. They specialize in two things and two things only: brioche and merangue. And they do those two things very well.
We might have stopped there more than once.
We arrived on a Wednesday morning, got settled into our room, and took off to get money, coffee, and wifi access. We were getting pretty tired from our overnight flight, but we were determined to simply keep going on Wednesday--the best way to fight off jet lag. First stop: Harrods, which was pretty much down the street and which we found once we got on the right bus. We "ooohed" and "aaahhed" our way through the most expensive department store in the world, but only ended up buying a cupcake.
The rest of the day was a lesson in frustration. We had hopped on a red tour bus, hoping to get a good overview of the city while simply staying awake, but traffic was absolutely not cooperating. Apparently, the Queen had left the palace to open Parliament earlier that day, and this played havoc on traffic. At one point we spent about 45 minutes in essentially one spot. And they wouldn't let us get off the bus!
If you know me, you can just imagine the scenario.
We finally got moving, so Julia and I decided to stay on the bus until we got to Covent Garden where we would enjoy our first meal. British comfort food. Ahhhh.
After a delicious meal of steak and ale pie and our first (of this trip!) sticky toffee pudding, we headed back to our room to sleep soundly.
The next day was amazing. Let me just say right off the bat that those of you who enjoy lying on the beach for hours on end would probably hate traveling with me, but my feeling is that if I'm somewhere incredible I want to see as much as I can see and do as much as I can do while I'm there.
I can sleep when I get home.
And soak my feet.
So Thursday was a flurry of activity. We started at St. Paul's Cathedral.
We walked to Shakespeare's Globe Theater to take a little tour.
After the Globe, it was time for lunch at my happy place in London: Borough Market.
Borough Market is a foodie paradise filled with fresh produce . . .
. . . cheese . . .
. . . and the tastiest grilled cheese sandwich you will ever eat.
We needed to walk off our delicious lunch, so we decided to stroll along the South Bank toward the London Eye. Very fun! This was a new perspective of the city for me, one I really enjoyed.
We thought we would try to take a flight on the London Eye, but when we got there, the line was crazy. Like two or three hours crazy. There was no way we were going to waste that kind of time, so we left the Eye and hopped back on the red tour bus to finish our tour of London. Besides, our feet needed a break.
We got off the bus near Westminster Abbey, one of my favorite places in London. Thankfully Julia thought it was pretty great too, so we spent a bit of time wandering around there. In fact, we closed the place down!
Our feet were getting tired, but that didn't stop us from hiking it up to Leicester Square to the TKTS booth to get tickets for a show. We ended up getting tickets to see "Matilda," which we absolutely enjoyed. Very much.
After the show, however, our feet would not carry us any further. We were beat, so we caught a cab to take us back to our hotel. And here's where our interesting day got even more interesting.
As we were driving, I was pointing out various sights to Julia. We turned down The Mall, heading toward Buckingham Palace, chit chatting with our driver about all the traffic we had encountered the day before due to the Queen's little visit to Parliament. Suddenly, we noticed that there was no traffic coming toward us on the opposite side of the road. And then we noticed two policemen on motorbikes, leading some sort of motorcade (not, by the way, the first motorcade we had seen that day--those Royals were out and about!). I nudged Julia and said, "Look, someone's coming. Wouldn't it be funny if it was the Queen?!"
Um. Yeah. It was the Queen.
We couldn't miss her because she was wearing a bright, chartreuse dress with, of course, matching hat. And sitting beside her, in full military regalia, was her husband, Prince Phillip. Right there! Not twenty feet from us on the other side of the road. (I learned later that they were on their way to a ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day launchings.)
Even the cab driver was a little gobsmacked.
[Side note: This was not my first Queen sighting. I also happened upon her in 2005 during a parade to celebrate VE Day. She and Prince Phillip were riding in a carriage, and Charles and Camilla were riding in a carriage right behind them. Double sighting!]
OK, I realize this is getting long, so tomorrow I'll give you a slightly briefer overview of the next two days.
All other photos are mine.