Monday, August 24, 2015

Goodbye London

Although Paris is my happy place, and I would dearly love to spend all kinds of time in Bath, I have to say that I feel most at home in London. It may only be a matter of familiarity, it was more or less my home base after Martha left. Even while the kids were with me, it was where we went to meet people coming to join us, and to say goodbye to them when they left. 

A couple of days before I left, myself, I took a very long walk around the city. It wasn't really to say goodbye, I very much hope I will somehow be able to return next summer. No, it was more an effort to see as much as I could of those things I had missed, things which ordinarily would be at the top of a tourist's list and I couldn't bear to leave without doing.

So I went to see both Kensington and Buckingham Palaces. But I walked a very big circle, taking in as much as I could on the way and in between. And when I say a long walk and a big circle, I mean I set a personal distance record. I walked over 14 miles that day. FOUR. TEEN. MILES.

The first new to me thing I came across was a big ferris wheel. I wouldn't have thought there would be a need for another ferris wheel with the gigantic London Eye on the South Bank, but there was the Marble Arch Conservation Wheel proving me completely wrong.

I got to see Kensington Gardens for the first time. Parts of it

looked like a fairy tale.

I sat on a bench overlooking the Italian Gardens and had a picnic with the fruit and sushi I'd brought with me.

Just as I was thinking that my surroundings reminded me of
Audubon Park in New Orleans, that all parks can kind of look the same after a while, I happened to catch a glimpse of Royal Albert Hall through the trees off to one side. So, no...some parks can be pretty damn different.

I then went into Kensington Palace, which will have its own post soon. For now, suffice it to say that it was interesting on multiple levels...even though I didn't run into Will and Kate there. 

From there, I walked to Buckingham Palace, where many of
the State Rooms are now open to the general public for several weeks during the summer. (Didn't see Liz, either. Spent all day stalking the Royals to no avail. sigh.)

Unfortunately, no photos are allowed at all, so I don't have much to show from there - only the front and the back. I can say that it is truly exquisite inside, and I highly recommend it as an extremely worthwhile tourist attraction, in terms of both time and dollars.

I enjoyed a snack in the outdoor cafe in the back of the palace, but the whole tour was very bittersweet for me, because I couldn't help thinking how much my mother would have enjoyed seeing the inside of Buckingham Palace. 

Every time we went to London, she dragged us to see the
Changing of the Guard there. She would have been beside herself to see the inside, particularly all of the china and crystal used for State dinners.

Well, who knows, maybe she can see everything from where she is now. I'd like to think so, anyway.

On I went from there, seeing all manner of establishments
adorned with lovely flowers, which I found quite captivating.

Then a long walk down Piccadilly and Oxford Street, brought
me to Selfridges, the iconic department store...

...and Fortnum & Mason, the famous food emporium...

...which had the most sumptuous window displays. 

I also passed in front of the original Hard Rock Cafe, which I first visited decades ago. I think that one and the one in Las Vegas are the only ones I've ever been in. Since there is a hotel and casino attached to the one in Vegas, as well as a cozy little concert space, there is a lot more reason to visit it than most of the Cafes spread around the world. I do remember finding the one in Key West very attractive, though we never got around to eating there.

I passed the entrance to Chinatown, but by then I was
running out of time, so didn't get to explore.

Anyway, I finished that marathon sightseeing session by having a lovely meal at my favorite inexpensive eatery, The King of Falafel. 

I got a bottle of water and this fabulous Middle Eastern equivalent of Spaghetti with meatballs, except it was lamb, for just £6.50. About ten bucks.

Then I went back and collapsed into bed. My last day was spent organizing my bags for the long trip to New York, my last night at the
movies near Piccadilly Circus. We'd changed Underground trains at that stop, but I don't think I'd passed through Piccadilly Circus more than once before on this trip. It seemed fitting for the last evening.

I love London greatly, I have since the first time I set foot in the city so many decades ago. And I was genuinely sad about leaving it, all I could do was hope to get back again, preferably within the next 12 months. Navigating a re-entry into the States at JFK late in the evening kept my mind off it, but was not necessarily a welcome alternative. 

But when I stepped out into the sunshine the next morning, just half a block from Central Park, all of my thoughts quickly focused on being back in New York after waaay too long. And I could not have asked for a better first day back. 

I'll have another post shortly about it, meeting back up with Charlie and Maureen, hanging out with them and Andrew in Harlem in the afternoon and going to the theater in the evening. 

It was magical, and it reminded me that New York has always been another happy place for me. Though I'm not looking to move here for two years, like I did when I graduated from college, I'm thinking that a few months of temp work and a nice room in the city might be an enjoyable way to pass the time. In any case, being in New York has certainly softened the blow of ending my trip abroad.

I'm baaaack...and I'm loving it...which is a highly unexpected, but pleasant, surprise. 

The Adventure continues, after all. Stay tuned.

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