It’s been an amazing week of sharing adventures with Amanda as well as trotting off on our own to explore some “must sees” as well as more obscure and out of the way spots in this amazing capitol city.

Click on photos to enlarge them!

Friday 9/1/2023: Steak & Eggs for breakfast doesn’t appear on breakfast menus in London but we were fortunate that the staff at The Coffee Cup in Hampstead agreed to prepare us an excellent off-menu version of our traditional September 1st breakfast. Then back at La Gaffe Amanda joined us and served as our guide as we headed via The Underground to Tower Station. When we emerged at street level two amazing views greeted us, The Tower of London dating from the late 11th Century and a remains of the Roman Wall that enclosed Londinium in the early 3rd Century, After paying our respects at The Roman Wall we walked out onto Tower Bridge which dates only to the late 19th Century then along the Thames side of The Tower of London, past Traitor’s Gate. From there we continued on along the riverside then up past St. Paul’s Cathedral, and to Temple Church dating to the late 12th Century which much to our chagrin was closed to visitors this afternoon. Despite our disappointment we promised ourselves and Amanda that we’d check opening times and return again during this visit. Then we proceeded earlier than planned along Fleet Street to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese rebuilt 1667 AD. Arriving early we sat in the Snug Bar and ordered a round of Extra Stout by Samuel Smith Brewery established in the mid 18th Century. As we sat there soaking up the atmosphere we read a piece about Polly the Parrot whose taxidermied remains watched over us. Then we proceeded to the Chop Room. Amanda had reserved for us the seats often occupied by Dr. Johnson and by Charles Dickens. We indulged in delicious traditional British food and soaked in the atmosphere of this most historic of places.

Saturday 9/2/2023: Fist item on the agenda as we and Amanda walked down Heath Street into the heart of Hampstead we to find brunch but since it was a beautiful Saturday we were competing with many Londoners who flock to this charming village on weekends. We opted to order sandwiches and tea at the Takeaway window at Ginger & White then make our way to benches near the entrance to St John’s Church nearby. Once we’d finished our repast we toured the church then wandered the surrounding Hampstead Parish Churchyard. It was an opportunity to learn about the invention of the marine chronograph by John Harrison, the landscape paintings by John Constable, and the relationship of Elizabeth Austen to the renowned author, Jane Austen. Then later we stopped by L’Antica Pizza on Heath Street for an amazing Neopolitan meal.

Sunday 9/3/2023: About midday on Sunday after enjoying a La Gaffe continental breakfast with Amanda the two of us made our way via the Underground to King’s Cross Station and made our way to view the Coade Stone Caryotids at St Pancras New Church and discovered the sculpture Flight by David Breuer-Weil installed in the church grounds. The search for a loo led us on an extensive tour of Euston Station where we also enjoyed a couple of bottles of water and some digestive biscuits. Then on a whim we decided to drop in at The British Museum and join the hordes looking to visit the Rosetta Stone and TheElgin Marbles also known asThe Parthenon Sculptures. We have other items that we want to visit in the museum but we’ll save those for subsequent visits. On the way to a nearby Tube Station we walked past the First YMCA in the World. How is it we’d never wondered where the YMCA was founded?

Monday 9/4/2023: From Hampstead we took the Northern Line south to Leister Square then walked south to Trafalgar Square approaching The National Gallery from behind. Although the gallery was our destination we took the opportunity to linger in the vicinity of Nelson’s Column and The Landseer Lions surrounding it, taking pictures and discussing what we knew about the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson. From there we walked across the square to The National Gallery, an amazing art museum. We did some picking and choosing since the collection is so vast, but we lingered in front of Van Gogh’s Two Crabs, Leonardo da Vinci’s Burlington House Cartoon, two paintings by Johannes Vermeer, and Delaroche’s The Execution of Lady Jane Grey. Of course all of that made us hungry so we trooped off in search of a pub and promptly found Walker’s of Whitehall where we ordered Sausage & Mash and Chicken Schnitzel & Fries and enjoyed a lively conversation with George. After that we headed to meet Amanda for cocktails at Winter Garden but discovered they are closed on Monday. Oops! We popped around the corner to All Bar One where we got drinks but it lacked the atmosphere we were seeking. For the next round we headed through Chinatown to the legendary Bar Italia on Frith Street in Soho where we enjoyed Spritzes, made with Aperol, Cynar, and Vecchio Amaro del Capo.

Tuesday 9/5/2023: Taking the advice of a couple of people we took a River Bus from Embankment to Greenwich. Once we figured out that the Uber Boats were part of the Transport for London system, and that we could pay our fare with our Apple Watches like we do on the Tube or on the bus, we were ready to wait a bit for the next boat. It was quite scenic to make the journey along the River Thames. Once in Greenwich we bought tickets for the Cutty Sark and for the Royal Observatory thinking we’ll save the National Maritime Museum and the Queens House for another day. Both of us remember learning about the Cutty Sark back in elementary school but had no idea then that this once fastest ship in the world had survived more than 150 years since her launch. It was incredible to tour her below decks and to learn about the 19th Century tea trade. Once steamships took over that trade the Cutty Sark shifted to transporting Merino wool from Australia. Originally owned by Jock Willis who always sported a white top hat, she had many owners through the years but has been based in Greenwich and hosted visitors since the 1950s. But if that wasn’t enough for one day, we then walked up the hill to the Royal Observatory Museum. We didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit the Prime Meridian but learned so much more. We were particularly interested in John Harrison and the Marine Chronograph that we detailed in another blog post. There’s so much more to see and do in Greenwich, we’ll definitely need to make our way back again but this was enough for one day so we took the train/underground from Greenwich Station to Hampstead instead of returning by river bus.

Wednesday 9/6/2003: Today was departure day for Amanda after a long sojourn in London. She’s been here since April but now she’s off for Spain and a series of adventures involving trains, and buses, and three cruises before she returns to the States. It was tremendous fun for us to share the early stage of our visit here with her and we’ll follow here continuing adventures closely. Once we’d done final hugs and waved her off on her Uber ride, we headed out to Temple Church. Yes, we checked the website and noted that the church is open for sightseeing today. There we were warmly welcomed. When we arrived we were the only visitors and one of the docents gave us a wonderful introduction to the fascinating history of The Temple Church, the Knights Templar, and it’s role in the Magna Carta and changes in the interior through the eight centuries of it’s existence. We also paused and attempted to get a photo of the gravestone under glass of Thomas Selden (1584-1654) who is apparently a distant cousin of Karen’s. From there we walked to the nearby Twinings Tea Flagship Store and museum where we sampled some teas at the Tea Bar and purchased some Oolong. Next was a needed repast at The George on The Strand. This 300 year old pub has a storied history but also evoked scenes from novels we’ve read. Was this the The George from some of the Napoleonic Wars maritime novels Steve loves? Or from Thomas Rutherfurd’s London that Karen’s read? There are many George pubs and taverns in London but for sure this one served as a mailing address for Samuel Johnson for a while when he was writing his dictionary. We also stopped by the Covent Garden Apple Store to get a MagSafe Battery Pack. Even with new batteries our iPhone 12 Minis are not holding enough charge to get us through a whole day of navigating in London so hopefully this will help. On the way back to the Leicester Square tube station we stopped by the Agatha Christie Memorial. Back in Hampstead we paused to admire the latest paintings in the window of Catto Gallery on Heath Street.

Thursday 9/7/2023: Before heading to Westminster Abbey today we knew that the history of this church stretched back more than a millennium, that Edward the Confessor built the church in 1065 and was buried therein in 1066, that William the Conqueror was crowned there as have all British monarchs since. We’ve seen videos of the interior many times including with the Coronation of Charles III and Camilla earlier this year. And we’ve known that an incredible number of royals and notable citizens have been interred in this august place. We also knew that tourists flock to this “must-see” location in huge numbers. So we came to see it ourselves. What we truly learned today is that there is so very much to see that it’s mind numbing and absolutely glorious. We appreciated the headsets that guided us through and narrated our visit. We paused in the Quire reflecting on the incredible number of services that have been held here through the centuries. Everything amazed us. A special moment came when we found the final resting place of Aphra Behn, an amazing 17th Century playwright, poet, spy, and woman of fierce independence who is of special significance to a family member of ours. Loving this life of adventure and discovery!

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2 Comments

  1. Amanda Evans

    Fantastic post! Whew! Great pictures and love the links to all the places. Very helpful!

    Reply
    • Steve & Karen

      And we had an excellent guide to get us oriented. Thanks!

      Reply

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