Our Last Days in London

England, Full-Time Travels

It’s been an amazing four weeks in London.

Saturday 9/16/2023: On our third trip to the British Museum we again took the approach of making a list of the specific things things we wanted to see. This time it was a Viking Sword, the Lindow Man bog body, an original floor tile from Temple Church, and Egyptian mummies. It was all on the Upper Level and we made notes as to which galleries we’d find what, but we didn’t consult the museum map closely enough and make a plan for moving from one gallery to the next. It’s not quite intuitive when Gallery 41 is in between Galleries 47 and 49! Nonetheless we were rewarded with the chance to visit everything on our list and more including information on Castell Henllys where our son did some archeological field work in 1998. Besides having some tea and a light snack at a little cafe on the Upper Level, we visited a nearby Nicholson’s pub, The Marquis of Granby. The local gentleman at the next table commented to his dining companion that they served a proper Fish & Chips and for us it was a great way to cap off another visit to this iconic museum.

Sunday 9/17/2023: Something we’ve dreamed about for more than two decades is watching The Jive Aces, our all time favorite band, perform in their home country. Besides dancing to their live performances at venues all over the Tampa Bay Area and even in Virginia, we’ve gotten to know all the band members. So in preparation for this trip we checked their Gig Guide and learned they’d be performing at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club while we were in London. When we faced difficulties buying tickets online we appealed to Amanda who was already in London and the very next day she took herself to Soho and purchased tickets at the club on Frith Street. She then proceeded to gift the tickets to us as a 50th Anniversary gift! So earlier today, well before doors opened we arrived and were the first in the queue in front of the club. Because there’s no back door we were able to watch Ken unload equipment as we chatted with others waiting with us. Soon from another direction we watched as John approached and spotted us. It was fun watching his face as he recognized us then had to process that we were in London, he wasn’t in Florida! Moments later Ian arrived and posed with us for a snapshot. Instead of a Sunday Roast, we opted for cocktails while we listened and yearned for a dance floor. The music was a phenomenal as ever and included their iconic Bring Me Sunshine with Ian on his yellow ukulele. And they acknowledged us during the concert when Ian asked, “Are their any Americans here?” while looking straight at us. Afterwards we were able to visit a bit and get five members of the band to autograph one of their CDs for us. Unfortunately since the drummer, Peter was on holiday, we missed him. It was a fabulous experience. We’ve promised to try to catch them again either when they are in the States in April or next summer when we’re planning on being in the UK again!

Monday 9/18/2023: Buckingham Palace tours are available for only about ten weeks each year, from mid-July until late September. Knowing that demand is high, we booked out tickets online ahead of time. Then today took ourselves through some misty rain and The Tube south to the City of Westminster. After arriving at Victoria Station, we made a stop at St George’s Tavern for a bit of British pub food to sustain us before making our way to and around to the front of the palace to learn just where we were to queue up to wait for our tour. Once there we learned where we needed to go first to procure paper copies of our ticket then on to stand in line to wait our turn. Finally we were issued head sets with a recorded tour and embarked on our State Rooms and Garden Highlights Tour which took us through amazingly opulent spaces. Places that we’d seen bits of in photos and videos but we found ourselves live and in person in spaces frequented by royals and world leaders! Besides the ceremonial rooms, In the Queen’s Gallery (or is it now the King’s Gallery?), we paused to search out a few particular works including Vermeer’s The Music Lesson. We were not permitted to take photos indoors but did purchase the Official Souvenir book and took photos of the photos in the book! After following the paths through the grounds we emerged near Hyde Park Corner, paused for a bit at The Bomber Command Memorial, then wandered a bit before deciding to head back to Hampstead. Along the way we learned of a delay affecting our route so at Camden we transferred to the bus. By the time we reached the village we were more than ready to step into Gail’s and grab some delectable grub to take back to La Gaffe and pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly to cap off another great day in London!

Tuesday 9/19/2023 St Paul’s Cathedral, another iconic London location was our destination today. Its history dates back to 640 AD during the Anglo Saxon era. It was destroyed by fire in the 11th Century and rebuilt in a process that took two centuries. Then again it was destroyed in 1666 during the Great Fire of London. Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to design and rebuild the cathedral, a process that took forty-four years. Having hosted innumerable ceremonies and served as witness to many historic events, St Paul’s is today still a vibrant center of worship that welcomes visitors to explore its spaces and revel in its beauty. We particularly enjoyed exploring in The Crypt. This is one more place where you can’t absorb it all in just one visit, but we enjoyed getting at least an orientation today. Afterwards we went in search of The London Stone, which once stood in the middle of Cannon Street but now resides behind glass in the wall of a building located a few feet from its original location. After that we made our way to Ye Olde Watling, a pub that ushers you deep into the past. We then walked to Bank Station to catch The Tube, realized we’d left our umbrellas at the pub, so walked back to retrieve them before heading back to Hampstead for our last Underground ride of this visit.

Wednesday 9/20/2023 Today was a day to spend lingering in Hampstead. We enjoyed breakfast at La Gaffe, then worked on getting all our things organized and packed up. Finished up writing postcards to all our grandkids then walked down High Street to the Post Office to send them off. And we just walked the lanes and alleys of this lovely village stopping one more time to admire the artwork in the window of the local gallery, enjoying another meal at The Coffee Cup Cafe. We’re already looking forward to our next visit!

Thursday 9/21/2023 Awakened and breakfasted at La Gaffe savoring these last few minutes of the amazing hospitality of Lorenzo and the team that is the La Gaffe family then wrangled our luggage downstairs, settled up at the front desk, and called an Uber for a ride to Waterloo Station. We could have taken The Tube but would have had to negotiate some steep stairs with our luggage. We did that four weeks ago and prefer to not repeat the experience. We’re promising ourselves we’ll pack lighter next time. Soon we were on the South Western Railway London Waterloo to Southampton Central train, then enjoying the half-mile trek to the Cumberland Park Premier Inn to check in before heading off to the SeaCity Museum. Southampton’s human occupation dates back to the Stone Age and this museum addresses the big sweep of that cultural history but a major part of the museum is the Southampton’s Titanic Story. On the eve of our own departure from Southampton to New York, we paused to immerse ourselves in the story of another attempt in 1912 to make the same passage. The emphasis here isn’t the opulence of the first class experience, or even particularly the experience of the passengers, but the engineering, the equipment, and most especially the crew most of whom were from Southampton. The tragedy hit this community with incredible intensity. More than a third of the 1500 people who died in the sinking called Southampton home. A map on the floor of one of the rooms, with a red dot for each fatality helps one understand the impact on this community. On our trek back to the hotel we got some fish and chips takeaway and headed back to our room to enjoy once more this quintessentially British meal. Tomorrow we sail, but already have reservations for another stay here next year!

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1 Comment

  1. Mary Lou Jackson

    What a delightfully lovely post! Rich in detail and spirit. Thank you for sharing your adventures!

    Reply

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