They say that June is the best month to be in London and we would have to agree as we had a really great month, in fact it has been so busy that we had no chance to document our activities of the first two weeks. This is a catch up blog covering June 2-18. Saturday June 2 we take the bus rather than walk the 5K to Richmond Park to participate in a 5K run in the park. In Tel Aviv and Prague we walked 5K to run a 5K and then walked home. Today we get in the extra 10K walking around after the run. Sandy beat Jim by about a minute again. Richmond Park is an open rolling green expanse of land with a beautiful view of London from Sawyer Hill which we ran over. The run was very small with only 106 runners but it was very well organized and was run on trails, grass and sidewalks in the park. We were definitely the oldest two runners there but not the slowest. After the run we walked 1.5 miles to meet two of Peggy Scott’s friends that she had connected us to by email. We never cease to be amazed at the beautiful houses and gardens in this country. We walked by absolutely magnificent mansions with spectacular blooming gardens. We came upon Christ Church which was so cute that we had to go in. A sign on the door welcomed us in for tea, coffee and biscuits. The female Vicar was there with a couple of other ladies so we sat down and had coffee and a biscuit with some very nice conversation.
We then continued our walk into Richmond to the home of Paul Greenop and Sigi Mueller who have been to Boston a couple of times and stayed with Peggy. They have a very cute little two level house with a rear garden. We sat in the garden and got to know them over coffee and cake.
Sigi has been a flight attendant with BA for over 20 years and also became a nurse about six years ago. He presently works at both jobs part time and continues to work on additional degrees. He also does a lot of cooking and baking. Paul is retired from Public Health and works as a gardener now. They are both just delightful and we really hit it off with them. They took us on a tour of Richmond where we stopped at a Beer Garden for a snack and a drink.
Other activities in June that have gone unmentioned are a candlelight piano recital at St. James Piccadilly.
We also went to a matinee showing of As You Like It at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. We elected to purchase the 8£ yard tickets where you have to stand in the area directly in front of the stage. It was a hot afternoon but it was quite an experience standing right at the edge of the stage and having the actors coming by us in the crowd at times. It made us feel a part of the play. The actor’s parts are gender indifferent with males playing female roles and vice versa.
We also toured the Tower of London which we had seen when we were here in 1999. This place is so interesting and steeped in history. It was started in 1066 and the white castle which gives this place its name was built in 1078. It has had numerous functions through the years including Royal residence, prison, armoury, treasury, menagerie and now home to the Crown Jewels of England. We joined a free tour being given by a Yeoman Warder, popularly known as Beefeaters many of whom live on the grounds with their families. We were also able to view the Crown Jewels with essentially no queue.
After the Tower of London we walked across the river and attended the Choral Evensong at Southwark Cathedral. We were there one day after a one year memorial service for the London Bridge/Borough Market terrorist attack.
We have been drawn to Hyde Park numerous times as it is directly in our path on our walks to central London and it is so large and varied. On one of our walks we learned that the whole western half of the park is not Hyde Park but is Kensington Gardens with West Carriage Drive as the divide. Very similar to Boston’s Public Garden and Boston Common which are separated by Charles Street.
On the day pictured above we were headed to the Courtald Gallery which was just under a five mile walk from home. We meandered down Kensington High Street and through Hyde Park taking the above pictures and around Buckingham Palace which was preparing for The Trooping of the Colour which has marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign for over 260 years. Over 1400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians come together each June in a great display of military precision, horsemanship and fanfare to mark The Queen’s official birthday. We were unable to get tickets for this as we learned about it too late.
By this time we were quite hungry so we had a late lunch at The Sherlock Holmes Pub. We were only a 10 minute walk from our final destination but at the conclusion of lunch we were 45 minutes from closing time so we just took the tube home and are saving this museum for another day.
We have been to the Victoria and Albert Museum twice as it is under a 2 mile walk from home and they have a fabulous collection of over 2.3 million objects and is the worlds largest museum of decorative arts. On our last visit we took a free drop in tour of Britain, 1500-1900.
Our nephew Paul Steen, oldest child of Jim’s oldest brother Claude, was in London on business and took us out to dinner at one of the Israeli-British celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s numerous restaurants, Nopi. We started dining at 8pm and were the last to leave as we were enjoying the evening so much. Paul travels the world frequently and extensively on business and his wife Alicia is a school psychologist who has been traveling extensively on her own during summer vacations for many years. They occasionally get to travel together. While Paul is in London with us, Alicia is in Transnistria and Moldova on a summer of touring Eastern Europe all by herself and racking up her 80th country visited.
Two days after Paul Steen’s visit Audrey & Neil O’Connor arrived on a Saturday morning, having worked on Friday and flying overnight to London. We have exactly 48 hours together before Neil and Audrey take the train to Edinburgh and we fly to Boston for daughter Jennifer’s wedding. We make a group decision to take the tube and a boat to Greenwich for the afternoon as none of us has been there before.
We walked by the Cutty Sark immediately after disembarking but elected not to visit the ship and museum.
We explored Greenwich before walking up the hill to The Royal Observatory and Sandy and Audrey did what they do best, especially when together, shopping.
Once the shopping was done we did tackle the hill up to the Royal Observatory which rewarded us with beautiful views of London.
We walked on up to the top of the hill but did not go into the Royal Observatory which Jim did on Jack’s last full day in London in July. We did see their true 24 hour clock though.
We walked back down the hill and took the light rail and bus to The Coach for a wonderful dinner.
After a good nights sleep, Neil was up early and joined Sandy and Jim on our routine three mile run, poor Neil had to slow down a lot but we all enjoyed it. We then set out on a 12 mile walking day with them. First stop was a local cafe for a great English breakfast and then on to Kensington Palace so that Audrey could see the Diana exhibit which Sandy has now been to three different times.
We then walked down Bayswater Road which runs along the north side of Kensington Garden turning back into the gardens at The Long Water where we camp upon a flock of green parrots and the Peter Pan statue.
We had seen this weeks earlier when it was still under construction. Neil and Jim then enjoyed two circuits of The Serpentine being pedaled along by Audrey and Sandy.
After the paddling we walked through the east end of Hyde Park into Mayfair stopping at a lovely wine shop to pick up some wine for dinner. We also stopped by the Barley Mow Pub which is a tradition for Audrey and Neil as they stop here on every trip to London. We then headed north through Marylebone coming across the Marylebone Summer Fayre which consisted of street food, drink, music, children’s activities, craft stalls and a farmer’s market. Unfortunately we did not eat or drink as we had reservations for dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant which allowed BYOB on Sunday nights.
We continued north through Regent’s Park as our goal was to walk Regent’s Canal from Regent’s Park to Little Venice. Neil & Audrey had introduced us to the little known canals of Paris so we felt it appropriate to spend a little of their precious time in London walking one of London’s best kept secrets. The canal is so peaceful and well hidden from the surrounding city by trees and buildings. There were boaters, cyclers, walkers and a lot of house boats moored along the side of the canal. Unfortunately we had to bail out early and did not reach our final destination due to our 7pm dinner reservation but we did get a very nice taste of the canal. Our dinner at The Kitchen W8 in Kensington near our flat was memorable as we all had the tasting menu with the wine we had bought earlier in the day. On our last morning together we went to The Shard which is a 95 story skyscraper designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. It is the tallest building in the UK and the EU. You can pay £30 to go to the top for the view or just pay much less for breakfast on the floor below the viewing level.
We had a very pleasant last meal together here before Audrey and Neil took the train to Edinburgh and we returned home to take a car to Heathrow and our flight to Boston for Jennifer’s wedding.