Anita and Dana in London Town

Keep Calm and Travel On


I’m currently waiting at the airport for a flight to Chicago followed by a four hour drive with friends where we’ll spend the weekend helping with the Go Bo Foundation Bake Sale. This a huge annual event involving hundreds of bakers with over 10,000 donated decorated cookies that will be sold to raise money to assist families with a terminally ill child. It’s an incredible cause and if you’d like to know more about it, please pop over here and then, donate. Cash. You’ll feel astonishingly good after you do.

It was three weeks ago today that Dana and I returned from London. The first week home was a total blur of living in one time zone while our bodies thought we were still seven hours ahead. I’d force myself to stay up until 7:30-8:00 p.m. when I’d crash in bed only to wake up ready to go at 4:00 a.m. Even our puppy became confused by the strange hours we were keeping but we’re finally back to normal…as normal as anything ever is in our home.

London, as you probably were able to tell from our updates, was amazing and wonderful and fun and amazing and wonderful and fun. I only repeat myself because referring to the incredible awesomeness of our adventure a single time would never do. And while we’re glad to be home there have already been several times when the craving for London has hit me and thought has crossed my mind, “I’d love to be strolling around Shoreditch today” or “Oh, I’d love another plate of those incredible pan-roasted tomatoes!”

Any of the hassle that comes with international travel is so worth it because the benefit of traveling is not only do you have the anticipation of the adventure and the adventure itself but for years after, as long as there’s two marbles rolling around in your head, you can remember and relive the moments you cherished on other soil with other people. On any given day, even two years later my mind and senses can propel me with a single passing thought back to standing on a corner in Rome with Dana and sharing our first cone of gelato. Pistachio on the top, stracciatella on the bottom if you must know. Or the warm rain pelting my face and fogging my glasses as we walk-ran across over the footbridge leading into the cliff town of Civita di Bagnoregio on a late dark afternoon. And now we add London to the storehouse of memories. Walking along the Southbank, climbing the tower at Windsor Castle, standing in the room where the Queen greets dignities in Buckingham Palace, chomping into a creamy sweet Portuguese custard tart at the open air Portobello Market, listening to the collective animated chatter of the Speaker’s Corner on a Sunday afternoon, or the awe-inspired silence that fills the labyrinth of rooms at the National Gallery, all of which combined is only a small piece in our storehouse of memories.

Will Dana and I go to London again? Probably. But if it happens that you go before we have a chance to return this is what I want you to do.

1. Stroll through Portobello Market. Look through the tables buckling under the weight of a thousand old books. You’ll find some wonderful books at incredible bargains bound with leather and filled with pages edged in worn gold leaf that holds that incredible fragrance that Kindle can never replicate, that musky combination of smells from all the places the book has been carried and read over the years, and accented with the mold and dust from time spent in damp basements and unswept attics. Find the woman who bakes and sells the individual savory pies surrounded in a egg-washed pastry glimmering in the sunlight and buy one, eating it while you walk. When you’ve eaten the last crumb, go back and buy another one.

2. Spend Sunday afternoon at the Columbia Flower Market. Have a baked good and coffee at Lili Vanilli or some fresh shucked oysters (if ocean boogers are your thing). Sit on the curb (even if chairs are available sit on the curb) and listen to the street musician keeping in mind that with the right connections he could be on a concert stage playing before thousands. Grab a handful of those 5, 10, and 20 pence coins from your pocket that seem to reproduce like bunnies and toss them in his open guitar case. Then go join the throngs moving through the flower market and buy a bunch of hydrangeas and then give them away to someone on your way back to wherever you came from. I wish we’d done that so do it for us, would you?

3. Take a bag lunch or a book and go sit in the glorious silence in the garden at St. Dunstan in the East. Be moved by the history and stories held in the ruins that surround you, and then take comfort in knowing you won’t have been the first person to have shed a tear there.

4. In Westminster Abbey run your fingers over the familiar names of poets and writers even if it means reaching down to the floor to touch them. A mere slab of granite separates the skin of your fingertips from their jagged bones.

5. Find the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising and as you walk through the chronological exhibit locate the moment when the objects transition from being relics of history to the everyday objects that are part of your own history.

6. When you find yourself standing in a palace or castle where ancient kings or a current queen have lived, take the hand of the person you’re with and say “I can’t believe we’re really here!” Go ahead and say it to yourself in your out loud voice. The Brits already think Yanks are a bit daft anyway.

7. Go to Speaker’s Corner on a Sunday and practice listening. Practice listening most of all to the speakers who are saying what you find to be most disagreeable and focus on keeping your mind calm while your ears remain open.

8. The British Museum, The National Gallery, The Victoria and Albert Museum, the National History Museum, and the Museum of London are all absolutely free so go. You haven’t invested anything so you have nothing to lose and if you find even one thing that’s beautiful or interesting or expands your world by so much as a smidge you’ve come out ahead.

9. When you go to St. Paul’s Cathedral (and you must go to St. Paul’s Cathedral) take time to sit outside on the steps of the church with the locals and tourists. See and be seen.

10. Walk as far as your feet will allow along the bank of the Thames. Any section will do. Or take the bus to a neighborhood like Chelsea or Shoreditch or Notting Hill and then walk and weave your way through the streets of the neighborhood. Any neighborhood will do because those people have hidden little treasures in every nook and cranie of the city.

10. Walk as far as your feet will allow along the bank of the Thames. Any section will do. Or take the bus to a neighborhood like Chelsea or Shoreditch or Notting Hill and then walk and weave your way through the streets of the neighborhood. Any neighborhood will do because those people have hidden little treasures in every nook and cranie of the city.

11. Go to a real candy store, the kind where the walls are lined with glass jars filled with sweets and point to a minimum of three jars and ask for 50 grams of each but be sure the candyman or candylady puts them all together in one small paper bag. Leave the store with your bag of candy in your hand and remember being a kid and thinking “When I grow up I’ll buy all the candy I want.”

12. Heat a little olive oil in a pan. Drop in a dozen cherry tomatoes and let them cook until they just start to pop open and have little roasted spots on them. Remove them from the heat and sprinkle them with sea salt and then have them with eggs for breakfast. Roasted tomatoes and eggs for breakfast will never taste as good at home as they do in London.

13. If you notice a solid hedge of green growing along a black wrought iron fence on one side of a neighborhood street, try to find a hole in the hedge you can peek through. Chances are there’s a secret garden on the other side. London is full of secret gardens and hidden benches.

14. Speaking of green space, when you’re done milling through the crowds of tourists in Parliament Square wander over to St. James Park and delight in a beautiful lush park filled with flower beds and a still pond that’s home for some of the Queen’s swans. Take peanuts to feed what must be the fattest squirrels on the planet. They’ll eat them out of your hand and then come back for more. Oliver Twist could have leaned a lesson in begging from bushy – tailed creatures.

14. If you go to Borough Market and don’t eat some of the panella made right before your eyes in the ginormous panella pans then you have failed yourself and humankind as a whole.

15. And if at any point while in London you find yourself growing weary of the crowds and the noise and the trash that plagues any big city, remind yourself that you’re not just in any big city but you’re in London. You’re in a city where thousands of years of human history has unfolded, where acclaimed artists and poets across time were inspired, where political leaders and crowned royalty determined the fate of the world and a moment in time, and where the lives of imagined characters, heroes and scoundrels that fill the pages of classic tales and children’s storybooks were lived. Remember all that about London and it will always remain an enchanting and magical place.

Our time in London was an adventure of a life time and we’re so grateful you came along with us.


I can’t believe I pushed the “publish” button on that last post without including yesterday.

What should first be noted about Tuesday is that it was my one and only “no camera” day. Everyday we’ve headed out I’ve carried a backpack and my camera but Tuesday there was no backpack and no camera. Just me, my iPhone and all my necessary possessions safely stowed away in my Roo pockets. I have a pair of jeans where the front pockets go all the way around to the front zipper. Hence my kangeROO pockets.

Tuesday was a bit of a re-run day for us beginning with another visit to the British Museum. We hadn’t been able to get tickets for their current exhibit on “Ancient Lives, New Discoveries” when we went to the museum over the weekend and so we headed back on Tuesday with our online tickets booked.

What a phenomenal, impressive, incredible, mesmerizing, sobering, awe-inspiring exhibit and I’m not going to tell you anything about it but only because I could never describe it in a way that would do it justice. You really should check out the information on the museum website.

The long and short of it was that the exhibit is based around 8 specific mummies and the information about their lives that’s been discovered through the newest methods of research techniques. Without unwrapping the mummies which has ended up destroying and losing part of the information in the past, they’re now using 3-D scanning that allows them to precisely replicate the contents from the person’s tissue and bone structure to the objects that were buried with them. As it was often the practice to remove the dead person’s organs, and wrap them individually for burial, you can see the wrapped organs that were placed back in the body prior to burial with the scanned images. Their research has also uncovered that one of the most pervasive health issues people ancient Egyptian experienced was dental, as the scanned images highlighted significant tooth abscesses that could be seen in the mummified tissue that in the past would have been destroyed by the process of unwrapping the body. ANYWAY, it was so worth the return visit!

Then it was off on a one and a half mile walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral that we had visited on our first day here and along the way I snapped a few with my iPhone.








As you probably noticed by the photos blue sky was sorely lacking yesterday but as with every day since we arrived the weather has been dry and warm. The only rain we’ve experienced at all was about two hours of drizzling on our first full day in London. Otherwise, our umbrellas and raincoats have gone untouched.

Oh and the reason we went back to St. Paul’s Cathedral was to pick up a tea towel for my collection. Have I failed to mention I’ve been collecting tea towels in London?



Uh. I can’t imagine why that would have slipped my mind.


Would you even hazard to guess how many tea towels I’ve managed to gather up and can you even imagine how embarrassed I’d be if no one guessed high enough? Oh, and on a side note, I thought I remembered buying a tea towel at St. Paul’s the first day we went but after searching the flat everywhere twice over I couldn’t find it and just chalked it up to me remembering something that never happened which is never a good sign with the advances of the years. All that to say just as I was writing this post Dana pulled a bag from the closet she’s been using and let’s just say I am now in the possession of two matching tea towels from St. Paul’s. At least my mind isn’t going after all.

Before we head out for our final day or the day ends, whichever comes first, let me leave you with the last thing we did yesterday.

After two weeks of riding buses and walking instead of splurging for cabs, after lugging groceries up three flights of stairs for cooking our own breakfasts and dinners and eating lunches in museum cafes we decided to go all out and have one exquisite fine-dining experience during our London stay and the place we both agreed on was Michel Roux Jr’s 2 star Michelin restaurant, Le Gavroche. I tried making reservations over six months ago but was told at the time they didn’t start accepting reservations until three months in advance. So I waited and waited and waited and then…I forgot. And when I remembered to make the reservations it was only a month in advance and sure enough when I wrote to make reservations for dinner on one of three nights during our stay, I was told there was nothing available and that, during the time from September 1 until September 18 (the length of our stay) there were only two openings. Both were on September 16, one at 6:00 p.m. and one at 9:00 p.m, and as my favorite Brit would say, we screamed “Oh my giddy aunt!!!” and snatched up the 6:00 p.m. table!

In my youth I had a recurring dream that you can all have a field day trying to interpret but in it, I’m in the back seat of the family car and my sister is driving me to school. The only problem is that when we pull up in front of the school I realize I forgot to get dressed and all I’m wearing is my dress slip and a smile. In the dream I climb out of the car and walk into the school feeling, well, just as you might imagine an adolescent would feel wearing just a slip to school back in the days when girls actually didn’t wear undergarments on the outside of their clothes.

Hold that Freudian-laced recurrent dream of mine and now let’s forward to last night as I entered the doors of Le Gavroche.


Stop. Now take that feeling I had in my dream upon entering the school in my slip and super-impose it on me entering the doors of a 2 star Michelin restaurant last night. There. That’s how I felt. Like a duck out of water, like a deer in headlights, like a school girl in her slip. From the minute we walked in the door we had staff attending to us and I’m just going to say it, I felt totally awkward. Going out to eat where they take your order at a table rather than at the counter is a night out on the town to me but this was something else.

Since they weren’t yet seating for dinner we were led, by two staff members, to a table in the lounge for drinks. Yes, I had my second drink of the year while in London and yes, for those of you keeping record that’s approximately one drink over my annual quota.


While sipping away at my fancy drink that I had pointed at the menu to order rather than attempting to say in my out loud voice (did I mention Le Gavroche is a French restaurant and therefore they feel the need to name everything in French?) , one of the two Maître d’hôtel who were spitting image identical twins but more of that later, approached us holding two menus against her chest.

“Might I inquire if you are Anita who booked the evening?”
“Yes, I am.”

And with that she handed me a menu and then turning to Dana handed her the other one. It took us about ten minutes of pouring over the menus to realize that the reason she wanted to confirm that I had booked the reservation was so that she would give me the menu with the prices listed while Dana’s menu was absent of all pricing. Little did Ursula, or was it her twin sister Silvia, realize that all money for the evenings meal would be coming out of Dana’s purse. And the funny part about the twins is that for most of the evening we never saw more than one of them at a time so while Dana was reasonably sure there were two identically dressed red-haired women moving through the restaurant, she wasn’t absolutely convinced she wasn’t just losing her mind. How reassured she was when both appeared on the dining room floor at the same time near the end of the meal.

Once we were led down into the dining area, much to my great pain, I opted to put my iPhone away, because nothing screams, “Golly gee, this here is such a fancy restaurant like we ain’t never seen before” than snapping photos of the gorgeous decor, the beautiful custom table settings, the silver piece holding two varieties of salt because nothing says fine dining like a choice in salts, and the luxurious cloth hand towels in the bathroom. Yes. cloth hand towels. No paper towels for these hands.

Was the food amazing? Yes. It was delicious and presented so exquisitely it made you hesitate taking the first bite and destroying the work of art your body would soon be digesting in ways less glamorous and fine. But really, it was, at least for me, about the staffing and service. Watching them move among the tables was like watching a ballet. And before you needed something, before the thought even crossed your mind that another roll might be nice, they were there with a china bowl of fresh bread and silver tongs. I kept one staff member hopping all night just keeping my water glass full because forbid that it not remain at least half full at every moment. After dinner and after desert (do NOT get me started) they brought us a wooden box with a silver lid to our table which the waiter took and twisting the box into two stacked sections placed it before us as a final taste to our evening. In one of the boxes were freshly made nougats and the other held individual chocolates laced with little ribbons of honeycomb.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, by the end of 2 1/2 hours of being catered to like queens, I didn’t care if my slip showed or not. It was a grand evening!!!

I can’t even believe nearly three weeks in London is coming to an end. Sometime today I’ll be getting an email from British Airways telling me it’s time for our online check-in and we’ll start packing up. I admit though, we’re ready…for home, for puppy, for cats, for our bed, and whether I’m ready or not it’s time to fall back under the supervision, guidance, and care of my personal trainer Rachel who has three weeks of carbs and puds to tackle. I suspect my spin bike will be missing its seat for the next few classes.

The last couple days have gone by so quickly as we tried to check a few last things off my insanely pie-in-the-sky marathon list of “must do, must see, must eat.

Here’s the round up of Monday and Tuesday in short order. On Monday we went to see Leadenhall Market which we made the mistake of getting to via bus rather than tube which meant 26 bus stops on Bus # 11. For those who don’t know Bus #11 follows a route that winds through all the major stops of tourist attractions….Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square, near the theaters, down Fleet Street and to St. Paul’s Cathedral and beyond, which is great for seeing all the top stops from the top deck of a double-decker but no so much when you actually want to get somewhere during the noon hour. As slow as I move there really were times when I could have easily beat the bus on foot between stops. At noon, go Underground, even if it means giving up fresh air for the duration of the ride.

Leadenhall Market itself was a stunning structure but the shops were way too high end and of little interest to us since we weren’t in the mood to shop for diamonds or haute couture hand bags. At least we finally escaped the rest of the tourists in town because the only other people there, and there were hordes of them, were sharply tailored business men and women on their lunch break and since we were there in black gym pants and backpacks we felt somewhat like clowns at the opera.





After a quick lunch and a delightful conversation I had with the young Moroccan waiter we headed off on foot, no thank you Bus #11, to St. Dunstan in the East. St. Dunstan’s is tightly wedged in between tall downtown business offices that overshadow it on all sides. The original church dates back to 1100, was added on to a couple hundred years later and then was virtually destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Over the next few hundred years the church was eventually rebuilt and by the early 1800’s was opened for worship once again. During the Blitz in 1941, the church was bombed and suffered catastrophic damage, leaving everything but the tower and steeple in ruins. Rather than rebuilding the church it was made into a garden. Though only a portion of the exterior walls remain, the space within is still considered church and so no photography is allowed within the garden though you can catch a tiny corner of it through the arch way door in the middle photograph or look for photos online that were acquired with special permission. When we were there about 15 people were seated in the garden eating their lunch or reading in silence. It was such an odd and beautiful thing to know that a two minute walk in any direction would take you to a busy major thoroughfare, to a high end hotel or into hundreds of business offices and yet everything was so still and quiet inside these ruined walls. The next time we visit London I’d love to go on a weekend when the garden is all but abandoned.




The second half of our day was spent, following a mile or so walk, at the Museum of London. Built in an area of town where a number of Roman walls remain to this day, the Museum of London is all about London with artifacts and displays taking you back before the Romans had settled and claimed the area as Londinium to contemporary times. It’s an entire history of London and is excellently presented, well stocked with incredible objects and interactive displays, and well worth a visit if you’re as fascinated by this city as we are. And like most of London’s best museums, this one is free as well.

Oh, I forgot to mention. On our walk between St. Dustan’s and the Museum of London we came upon The Monument to the Great Fire with 311 spiral steps leading to the top. Dana looked at me and said, “I’ll wait here if you want to go up” to which I replied, “Thanks but no thanks.” Let it be noted these are the first and only steps in our travels both here and in Italy, we have declined. Sometimes you just have to listen to your feet.



It’s 8:45 a.m. on Monday and we’re still sipping coffee in our pajamas. Why? Because we can. We have three last days remaining in London and only a few stops on our list today and none of them involve a museum. The same can’t be said of Tuesday and Wednesday.

So remember how I said our Portobello Market day was one of my top favorites of our whole time in London? Well, yesterday might have topped it. On second thought it definitely did, though one might have doubted that would be the case when the morning started.

One thing to keep in mind about London is that the bus system in London, though wonderful, will always keep you on your toes with it’s little surprises. A diverted route here, a closed bus stop there, and a skipped over stop now and again just because they can. Yesterday morning turned out to be all three in one in our attempt to make the typically easy bus ride to Parliament Square due to a combination of the Tour of London cycling race along with major construction in the same area.

Two things about London. There is always major construction happening somewhere and there is always a special event taking place. Always to both. End of.

Anyway, as often seems to happen, the unexpected ended up being a good thing because rather than getting off right in the center of Parliament Square the nearest place we could exit the bus was directly opposite Parliament on the other side of the Thames. What a nice stroll and view to begin the morning.






The reason we headed over to Parliament Square was to attend Sunday morning worship at Westminster Abbey, something we’ve been planning to do ever since we spent last Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dialed in to the BBC watching services from Westminster.




Should you ever be around Westminster Abbey on a Sunday, position yourself over by the West entrance where churchgoers wait and watch the groups of tourists mingling around who can’t seem to figure out where they’re suppose to enter for tours. Then, just for the fun of it go over to the tourists, point out the “Open Hours” sign right in front of them that has opening hours shown for Monday through Saturday. After they look for a moment and then ask “Yes, but what about today?” take a moment to enjoy kindly telling them that “Today is Sunday and Westminster Abbey is a CHURCH.” Even so, some still walk away scratching their heads at the absurdity that the Abbey isn’t opened for part of the weekend for sightseeing.

While Dana and I didn’t attend the wedding of Kate and William (we had other commitments that weekend) the blue circle shows where we sat during the church service.


There were several remarkable things about attending worship at Westminster Abbey. First, the lack of pushing and shoving and the overwhelming silence from the absence of several thousand people moving through the building with one ear glued to their audio guides. When you enter the building on Sunday you’re not in a tourist attraction, you’re in a sanctuary. Second, when you consider all the bones and ashes and memorials held within the Abbey’s walls and floors it gives new and literal understanding to the Scriptural passage found in Hebrews 12:1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” And lastly, the voices of the men and boys choir will move you if nothing else does. Two notes in and they had me.

After a cappuccino in the Westminster Cafe, because doesn’t every church sell scones and coffee after worship, we headed over to the Shoreditch area to check out the Columbia Road Flower Market. All I knew was that it was a Sunday-only open air flower market but when we got there it was so much more. When we turned the corner at the top of the market we walked into this incredible area with food and vintage shops where people were gathered listening to music and talking with one another. There were definitely tourists there (Anita and Dana among them) but there was a real sense that the locals made up a big part of the crowd. I could have sat on the curb and stayed there all day.













If this wasn’t all a big enough surprise something else of significant awesomeness appeared. One of the things that’s been happening during our time in London is that I’ve been scratching “must see must do must eat” line items off my list because even with nearly three weeks there’s no way to do everything. One of the casualties to my regrettable but needful deletions was a bakery I’d seen photos of on Pinterest called The Lili Vanilli Bakery and Flour Market. But guess what? Do you see it just beyond the tall guy’s right ear?


That’s right! We turned another corner and walked right into Lilli Vanilli’s!




The reason I wanted to go to Lili Vanilli’s was less about the baked goods than about how cool the place looked in photos. That being said, their bakes weren’t shabby looking either.




Rather than going with a sugary bite I chose this incredibly yummy concoction of a thick slice of dark bread topped with pink pickled onions, grated beet root, carrot and little bits of goat cheese. It was all shades of scrummy!


With the last few bites of beet root voodoo in one hand and my camera in the other we rounded one more street corner to find ourselves on the edge of the flower market. You can tell we’re on the edge because you can still see the ground. That will soon change.


Hold on. Here we go!





If you hate crowds as much as I do here’s something to keep in mind. These are mostly Brits and not Americans and comparatively speaking they’re about as polite as possible given the tight quarters. I didn’t notice any elbowing or shoving. No one was rolling their eyes or showing red-faced exasperation. For lack of having the mindset of a Londoner, it just seems they’ve come to accept that wherever they go there’s going to be a wait, a crowd and a queue. I doubt they like it anymore than we do but they seem to tolerate it a fair piece more than we Americans do. Regardless of the tight quarters, the display of flowers made the sea of humanity more tolerable even for this London-Loving Yank.










And when you’ve traveled the main thorough fare, seen all the flowers and need to go back to where you started from, no need to worry. You don’t need to navigate the moshpit of flower-shoppers again. Instead, just find your way over to one of the sides of the road where you can wiggle your way through the quaint shops filled with things you can’t possibly live without or munch on lightly-bread and fried shrimp purchased through store front windows.


After a long walk through Shoreditch on Bernal Green Road (which appeared to be the United Nations in transit) we boarded the spacious and comfortable confines of the tube for our next stop at Hyde Park.



That was some kind of fun.

The Speaker’s Corner takes place in a corner of Hyde Park closest to the Marble Arch every Sunday afternoon just as it has been since the mid to late 1800’s and it’s one wild and fascinating sight to behold.

The Speaker’s Corner is just that. It’s a corner in the park where people come to exercise the right of free speech. People climb up on a box or platform they brought with them and begin to extrapolate on whatever topic they want to express. Their viewpoints are strongly stated with passion and a whole lot of absolutes and so you can probably imagine they attract a fair amount of heckling but as a posted sign nearby reads, “hecklers turn a monologue into a dialogue” and so hecklers are as welcome to the party as the speakers. It’s like a Sunday afternoon under the trees version of the British parliament debates where opposing view points are aired, the debate gets heated and yet there’s this underlying edge of humor (ever so British in nature) that helps to diffuse the tensions from becoming explosive.

Take for example this guy.


His main topic was on the Christian faith but at some point he had gotten pulled a little off topic by a few hecklers and was trying to argue that there is one ultimate truth but that we all perceive and thus interpret that one truth differently, to which the gentleman in the photo behind him interrupted to say, “You have it backwards. That there’s one ultimate truth may be nothing more than your perception while in reality maybe there is no truth.”


Without losing a beat the speaker looked at the heckler and with a shrug said “And maybe my perception is that you aren’t real and so therefore I’m not going to waste anymore time talking to you because you don’t exist,” which led to the crowd and the heckler laughing in response. It was so fascinating to watch because the heckling, rather than being disruptive, created a banter back and forth, not only between the speaker and the heckler but between individuals in the crowd who in groups of 2, 3, or more would begin talking to one another.



Unfortunately I’m not able to upload video from my iPad but Dana took a video of the Speaker’s Corner which she posted to Facebook and in the video you see a few random shots of groups of people caught up in debating. One of these groups is made up of four young people including a black woman and a woman in a lavender head-covering who appears to be Muslim. In the video all that can be hear clearly is the black woman saying something to the other woman along the lines of, “No, that’s not what you said a minute ago when you were talking to him….” before the video tails off.

I didn’t witness the scene captured in the video. All that I saw that day was a young woman in a lavender head-covering who had turned in my direction and was beginning to softly weep. Just as I was wondering if I should go up to her, a young black woman approached her from behind and asked if she was okay. When she saw the woman had tears forming in her eyes she said, “Oh, it’s okay” and hugged her. As she searched around in her purse to find a Kleenex to give the woman she reassured the woman in the lavender head covering that she had expressed herself well and that she had been heard and listened to. No personal name’s were exchanged because it was clear these two women didn’t know each other before today. They had only met in the midst of their debate and yet here was this young woman going out of her way to offer some assurance and comfort to another woman with an opposing view on a topic that clearly mattered to both of them.



I just found the whole thing fascinating and at times quite moving perhaps because I keep hoping for the day when differing sides can let go of debate for dialogue and actually listening to one another. I’m not saying they have it down perfectly at the Speaker’s Corner but at least they’ve been trying for more than 150 years.


Okay, this will be a short one because while the day was packed, there’s not much to tell that will intrigue, amaze, and entertain.

We started the morning with a quick second visit to Covent Gardens Piazza so Dana could get a hip-slick-and-cool painted London teeshirt like I’d bought during our first run last week. We finished up our intended errand and then hung around for a cappuccino and a stroll. Please note, another market can only mean one thing. That’s right. More food porn.










And a pretty girl.


Then it was a hop, skip, jump, and a semi-frustrating search for Neal’s Yard. I’ve seen some incredible photos of Neal’s Yard on Pinterest but the real thing was fairly meh. The moral of the story I took from all this is that some things are better enjoyed on Pinterest than in person. Take note. You’re welcome.





From Neal’s Meh Yard we headed off on foot to . . .drumroll please . . . The British Museum which is a really really big museum filled with lots and lots of old stuff from a whole bunch of places around the world.









If you haven’t figured this out for yourself I’m not what you might call an intellectual who exhibits a diverse knowledge and interest in culture, history, and the fine arts. I like street markets, museums with vintage toothpaste tubes, and food porn, okay?

Regardless, as a minimalist museum apprecianado there were a number of the more famous pieces at the British Museum that I was fascinated by including the Rosetta Stone (I’d have to be a nit to not appreciate that big rock), the Lewis Chessmen, Hoa Hakananai’a (big ugly stone guy from Easter Island), the Parthenon Sculptures, and the Lindow Man (5000 year old worn-out leather dead guy). Do I know my artifacts or do I know my artifacts? Without question, there was one piece that gave me my “shock and awe” moment and that was seeing the lion panel that would have originally been in the Babylonian throne room of King Nebuchadnezzar II who reigned between 605-562 BC. Think Daniel in the Lion’s Den and the hanging gardens of Babylon. Yes, that Nebuchadnezzar and I was inches away from this incredibly fierce and powerful lion panel that he had looked upon thousands of years ago. I would have touched history were it not for the security alarms that were set to go off if you got within arms length of that magnificent glazed brick wonder. Seriously, it was incredible.


After viewing approximately .003 of the museum’s current objects on display we along with the four feet that were begging mercy from a few hours of doing the museum shuffle, we headed to the bus stop only to find the bus stop was closed. So we walked the bus route up to the next bus stop which was also closed. Silencing my internal scream, we kept hoofing it until we found ourselves surrounded at an intersection by a large group of paparazzi who were all bending down and shooting upward in our direction. There I was thinking the stardom I’ve always deserved had finally found me when I realized they were aiming their lenses about 6 millimeters to my left at this whosit.


That’s right. Apparently, the scruffy haired young blonde in the torn jeans was of more interest to them than the gray-haired older woman in the black yoga pants. There’s really no accounting for taste, is there? Anyway, it seems that this being London Fashion Week, she’s some famous model or B-list celebrity or whatEV. I’m clueless yet curious to know who she is so if you have a clue, would you pass it along to me?


While Thursday was all about being inside museums looking at artifacts, Friday was all about being outside with people and I LOVED it! The outdoor market held on Portobello Road is located in Notting Hill, or Nottin Hill if you go by this sign.


With or without the G, Notting Hill was just as I imagined it. It was a bit of bus schlep out there but once we arrived Dana and I were both excited to see a Cabman’s Shelter. No. I take that back. Dana was excited to see the cabman shelter because I had no idea what it was until she told me about it.



Aside from a little green shed in the middle of the road, here are a few more look-see’s of the Notting Hill . . . or Nottin Hill area.









Can you tell they have a thing for color? Either that or they just want to have easy directions for finding their house. “Come to our house for dinner. It’s purple. See you around 7:00.”

And of course, colorful houses should be filled with colorful people.





And then there was this bookstore front that’s been photographed a thousand and one times and if you’ve watched the moving “Notting Hill” with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant you know why.


But that was nothing compared to the store immediately across the street called “Books for Cooks,” a book store filled with books about food and cooking with a cafe right in the middle of the store. Thinking about it. Eating a scone with clotted cream and jam surrounded by cookbooks. Stop the presses! That’s gobsmackalicious!!!



I could go on and on about the neighborhood but it’s time to go to . . .



Now I’m just going to be quiet and let the photos speak for themselves. Sigh. . .
















And whenever there’s a street market in London there’s food porn.









Portobello Market. As the sign says, we really did!


Before we ended our day in Notting Hill we had two other stops. The first was two blocks up from Portobello Market and is a little tricky to find unless you have the Citymapper app which you’d be crazy to visit London without in the first place. This quirky attraction off the usual tourist grid is a museum I stumbled across while planning our trip and can be found in a corner of this unmuseum-like location.


The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising doesn’t allow photography but trust me, if when you come to London you have to check this place out. It’s about the most fun you’ll have at any place that has the word “museum” in its name.

The second stop was two blocks away from Portobello Market in the other direction and while it might not be a top tune on your hit parade, for this cookie baker and decorator it was swoon-worthy.





So this was one of my favorite days because while London is filled with historical buildings and the best of museums, London, the real London, is much more than that. It’s the neighborhoods and the culture whether sophisticated or quirky and the street markets and the pubs flowing out onto the curbs with customers and a constant mishmash of languages and food representing every corner of the universe and of course, the people.

I love London.

I’ve been a bad little travel blogger. Let me explain by giving you a little idea of the kind of schedule Dana and I are keeping here in London. Every morning we’re staring into the bottom of our coffee cups by 7:00 and then by 8:30 – 9:30 are hoofing our way to the bus stop. Whatever part(s) of the city we’ve been to that day, we’re usually back to Chelsea between 4:00 – 5:00 in time to stop by the grocery store so we can be sure to not drudge back up the narrow winding three stories of stairs at our apartment without lugging up liters of bottled water and groceries. By 7:00 we’ve taken our baths, eaten our dinner and then spend the rest of the evening watching the BBC (I’m bingeing on episodes of “Come Dine With Me”) until bedtime.

Do the math and we’ll see it’s not like we’re going full steam for 10-12 hours everyday. Most days we’re only out there for 5-6 hours but in those hours we’ve managed to walk just under 88 miles or roughly 5.85 miles a day and most of those miles have involved a bulky camera and a backpack and while every mile has been full of the best adventures, I’m usually too bushed to blog by nightfall.

And tonight is no exception but we’ve had too much fun to not tell you all about it.


Thursday was all about museums. We started the morning at the Victoria and Albert Museum which was a nice twenty minute walk from our flat through Chelsea and Kensington where the V&A is located. Once there we went on a short introductory tour with a museum volunteer and then wandered aimlessly on our own for about two more hours and we only saw such a little bit of it given that there’s 8 miles of museum within it’s walls. What an incredible museum and one of the things that really sets it apart from any museum I’ve ever experienced is that they place each piece in a setting where it belongs. For instance, sculptures originally intended for gardens are placed in a brightly lit room with a water fountain and their finest rug, the Ardabil Carpet made in 1539 is displayed on the floor within a glass case rather than hanging on a wall. Every room is so unique so that just when you think you can’t possibly look at another artifact you turn the corner and are drawn into a whole new experience.












I also have to add that the V&A has one of the nicest cafes in London both in the quality of the food and in the grandeur of the three original dining rooms which are the first museum restaurants in the world. You might want to remember that little tidbit to impress your friends and family.
Them: “Gosh, I wonder what museum had the first restaurant?”
You: “Why, that would be the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.”
Them: “Wow, you’re so smart!”
You (whispering): “Thank you Anita.”
You’re welcome.

The second half of our day was spent over at the National History Museum which is located immediately next door to the V&A. The NHM was a must see for me as they currently have a special exhibit of live butterflies in a large tented space. Making time to see the butterflies was a small tribute for my friend Jill who remembers her beloved daughter through the beauty and re-birth of these incredible creatures. For you Jill.





Once we were inside the NHM the building design itself was so overwhelming that we found ourselves paying more attention to the building than to it’s contents. So much so that we’re going back one final time before we leave London to look through what’s on display.






Two museums. All day. And we barely scratched the surface on either one of them. With that it was a walk back home to end the day. At least for us and our sore little pitty pads.




Okay, enough about Thursday! I’m going to post this so I can move onto Friday which was one of my top favorite days!

Wednesday was another rare late out of bed and on the road morning.


One of the restaurants I wanted to try while we were here was The Riding House Cafe located in Soho immediately across the street from my new coffee mecca, Kaffeine. Riding House specializes in modern British flavors using fresh produce which sounded like a good combo considering the meh bangers and mash of several days earlier.


Being in Soho, Riding House came off looking like a trendy place for the local crowd with customers ranging from fashionable young women with expensive shopping bags to GQ hunks in tailored suits chatting up business over high scale burgers. With that said, we loved it. Along with a long table for communal seating, the tables and chairs that wrapped around the rest of the room looked and felt comfy cozy. And I wish I’d taken my camera down into the restrooms because as restrooms go theirs are about as nice and stylish as they come.



We arrived before noon without reservations and were able to talk ourselves out of being seated at the bar as long as we were willing to give the table back in an hour when it was reserved. Since Dana and I can eat our lunch and wash the dishes within 15 minutes, no problem.

Since this was a theatre day for us we decided to go big by starting off with a glass of wine for Dana and an aperitif for me. That would be my yearly aperitif. I ordered Breakfast Champagne which was a mix of champagne, Grand Marnier, and marmalade. I’m going to assume it’s called Breakfast Champagne because after you take the last sip you have a small gob of marmalade to finish it off. It was good but I would have been just as happy with the marmalade on toast.


Both Dana and I went with small plates instead of a full meal. Dana went with pumpkin and red lentil dhansak with flat bread and an old spot pork fritter with caramelized pear. I’m clueless as to what “old spot pork” is and I prefer not dwelling on the possibilities. Regardless, Dana loved every bite.



I opted for seared scallops with grape on artichoke puree and beet root carpaccio with ricotta because the only thing I love more than beet root is ricotta and the only thing I love more than ricotta is seared scallops. I loved every bite of both . . . all 9.4 bites were tasty good.



And just when you think things can’t get any more delicious, Dana had a piece of some kind of caramel nougat cheesecake that was so airy she had to hold it down with a fork to keep it from floating away. Yes, I had a bite, and yes, it was creamy sweet magic voodoo.


With the theatre only a ten minute walk away we headed over to Kaffeine for a cappuccino before setting off toward Piccadilly Circus where the Prince of Wales Theatre is located.



So . . . we saw the show and that’s about all I want to say about it other than the theatre interior was charming, the performers were talented, the stage setting was impressive, the musical score was great but beyond that, we found the content offensive to the point of blasphemous. I enjoy edgy humor as much as anyone but this was far beyond the pale of what’s okay with both of us. Maybe it’s just me but I prefer not leaving a theatre production with feeling the need to repent and wash my brain with soap. Next time we’re in London we’ll probably play it safe and stick with Annie.

After the show we wandered around a bit and took in the sights of London’s Chinatown before catching a bus for Chelsea where we enjoyed a yummy Lebanese dinner at a restaurant up the street from our flat before heading home.



It was up and out early on Tuesday to catch a commuter train (read that, many stops) to Windsor Castle. Due to my need for a generous cushion of time prior to departures we were at the station in plenty of time to enjoy an espresso and catch up on current world news.

After a bit of a mess that involved hurrying to our platform and then immediately leaving our platform to search for a restroom at the other end of the station and then running back to our platform with our train scheduled to depart in less than four minutes and then having our train cancelled and then hurrying to the other end of the station to find a station attendant who could refund our tickets and then having her tell us another train for our destination was departing in a few minutes from the platform we had just been on and then racing back to the platform at the other end of the station only to then stand and wait for our late arriving train. . . pant, pant, gasp. . . our train finally arrived and off we went, stopping at a handful of stations before arriving 45 minutes later in Windsor.






Our day at Windsor Castle was yet another, and I mean this sincerely, perfect day. The weather, as the photos prove, was a gorgeous day. Mild temperatures and blue sky in every direction. And Windsor Castle far surpassed our expectations.









In addition to the cost of general admission I’d booked us for two events within the castle that are only available during the months of August and September. The first was a tour of the Great Kitchens. There were only four other people in the tour so it really felt like we were getting to sneak behind the scenes and see something off the grid to other tourists. I mean, I know Dana and I are little princesses but it’s nice when others treat us like the royalty we know we are too. Anyway, since once again no photography was allowed within the buildings, you’re just going to have to trust me that the kitchen was impressive with all the best and most modern equipment in a kitchen that’s been functioning for 750 years and where a gas oven and stove top installed by Prince Albert in the 19th century is still in use today. You can get a taste of what we saw by going here and watching the brief video.

The second tour was a climb to the top of the tower for a birds eye view of the Castle grounds and surrounding area. As far as tower climbs we’ve done both here and in Italy it was small potatoes at only 200 steps but what an incredible view!





And while they didn’t allow us to photograph the area to the left of the main courtyard in the photo below because it’s where the Queen’s private residence is located, you can see the wooden doors in the upper far right corner which is the official entrance for the Queen. Now, I want to tell you about the most magnificent sight we saw all day but I’m going to need you to use your imagination. Do you see the arch in the center of the right wing in the photo? Okay. That goes all the way through the castle. Now, on the exact opposite side from the archway is another arched door that leads into the hall where the reigning monarch would receive guests to Windsor Castle.


Okay, this is where you need to use your imagination because on our private tour of the great kitchen we were taken to the reception area and stood looking out through the arched door across the courtyard and then through the archway on the opposite side, and beyond the walls of the castle we were able to see the full length of The Long Walk photographed from a side angle below from the tower.


I can’t begin to tell you how impressive it was to be able to look across the courtyard and glazing through the archway on the other side see a full, unhindered view of that long narrow 2.65 mile pathway that guests would travel to come to meet with the reigning monarch. It was such a mesmerizing sight I could barely pull myself away when the tour moved on and not being able to take a photograph . . . as the Brits say, I was gutted. There are a number of photos online taken of the castle from the opposite end of The Long Walk but I’ve not been able to find any of the view we saw, a view I will never forget.

At some point during the day we heard instrumental music and noticed everyone was moving down toward the lower ward (lower section) of the castle so we followed along to find out what was going on.


It was hard to see over the crowds but at the far end of the interior castle area a band comprised of the Queen’s Guard as well as the Changing of the Guard was taking place. I took a photo or two of the Queen’s Guard and then turned my attention and camera to the real attraction . . .


. . . camera bearing tourists in their natural habitat.


It was well past tea time when we left the castle and headed into town to find The Crooked House of Windsor.




And there it was as seen on the internet.


And if you want to read my scathing review of their tourist trap afternoon tea it’s right here on Trip Advisor, complete with my standard number of typos but because you know me you’ll be able to make sense of it with minimal effort.

Travel Tip #3
When traveling in London, always carry some spare change with you and that way when you’re wandering around town and need to use the toilet you can always head to a nearby tube or train station where clean toilets can be accessed for 20, 30, or 50 pence. This seems an insignificant tip until you find yourself regretting drinking a bottle of water before heading out for the day.

Here it is Wednesday night in London and I’ve yet to travel blog about Monday and Tuesday which really, I need to do more for me than for you since Dana and I just spent 10 minutes trying to remember what we actually did on Monday. The days start blurring on vacation so let’s just throw in an extra tip here at no extra charge . . .

Travel Tip #4

When traveling keep a journal, public or private, sketching out each evening what you did that day. It’s not that in the grand scheme of things it matters which day you did what but for me, the more accurately I remember the details, the more I enjoy reliving our travel adventures in the months and years ahead.

So. Monday. After our grand adventure with Michelle over the weekend we finally took a morning to lounge around before heading out for the day. The girl wore us out! When we finally got moving we took the bus over to Parliament Square to join a London Walks tour of Westminster Abbey. Arriving an hour early we stopped in at the Methodist Church located kitty corner to Westminster Abbey for a morning cappuccino in their basement cafe. One of our minuscule issues with the Brits when it comes to their cappuccino is that they tend to be milk heavy…more like espresso-flavored milk, but the cappuccino in this church basement cafe was perfecto! Great cappuccino along with comfy chairs, free WiFi, and a quiet brightly-sunlit room made for a wonderful start to our morning.


Oh, and while I’m on a milk versus espresso ratio jag . . .

Travel Tip #5

When you order an iced coffee in London it seems they assume you want it with lots of milk and sugar unless you tell them differently. So if you just want coffee and ice (your daily three ice cube quota), tell them.

Back to Monday. After coffee we wandered over to where we were to meet up with the London Walks tour guide. If you don’t know about London Walks they offer at least a dozen different tours a day around the city. You don’t need to book in advance. Just show up with 9 pounds to the meeting place and that’s all you have to do. The guides are entertaining, funny, informative and have the answer to any question you might have. Granted, I’m no expert on London Walks since this was the only one I’ve taken with them at this point but in preparation I’ve read a massive number of reviews on them and listened to audio and video excerpts from their tours on the internet and what we experienced on Monday totally lived up to our expectations and then some.

When we visited London two years ago Westminster Abbey was the place I loved the most and it remains high on my list. It’s magical and it’s holy. I can’t leave without running my fingers over engraved stones with names like Darwin, Dickens, Isaac Newton, and Handel or running my hands over the burial graves of queens and kings. It’s history on steroids and then on the hour the place goes silent as everyone is invited to join their hearts in prayer because whatever bones are buried there, it remains a House of Worship and I love that. In the end, it’s not a renown scientist or poet or monarch, but God who is remembered.

Since photography isn’t allowed in Westminster Abbey here are a few random photos from the areas within the Abbey where photography is allowed along with the area around Parliament Square.













Having spent nearly three hours at the Abbey it was time for lunch and time to tick one of the boxes on Dana’s list of “must see, must do, must eat.” Time to go on the quest for the best bangers and mash within London’s borders and so we headed off to find Mother Mash, a bangers and mash place in the Soho neighborhood that I’d read such good reviews about online from London foodies. But first, a stroll through the park . . .





Mother Mash. There’s a lesson to be learned here and it’s just this. . . don’t believe everything you read. The restaurant was a bust. Not good. Meh at best. Ugh at worst. The food photos might look good but not so much. Check out my restaurant review on Trip Advisor.



But don’t feel sorry for us because after a sad little lunch we popped over to one of the places on my list. Kaffeine.


Oh nevermind. I thought I heard angels but it was just my heart singing.

This, my friends, is a coffee flight from Kaffeine. Begin with a sip from the center cup, a cascara palate cleanser that includes an infusion of cascara (a brew from dried coffee cherries), a touch of Earl Grey, and a “secret ingredient” that I think may be java voodoo. Now in one long sip drink the liquid in the espresso cup that’s about the sweetest, richest sip of liquid heaven to pass your lips. Move back to finish the cascara and then enjoy the sublime sweet cappuccino with hints of cocoa or was that caramel or does it even matter? If you have a thing not just for espresso but for the espresso experience, then this is for you. It definitely was for me. And yes, Dana liked her cappuccino too!




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