I've been to London 6 times. Four were as a single woman, when I’d planned every detail out to the nth degree. I had set times for getting up, going to bed and in between, 2 major and 2 minor sites to visit per day. I wore myself out, but did get to see all the important tourist sites in Greater London….from The Tower to the Silver Vaults to Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park to Westminster Abbey – where I had to restrain myself from impulsively and inexplicably flinging my body over Mary Queen of Scots’ tomb. I ventured as far out as Windsor, Eton, Bath and Hampton Court which were all well worth the short train rides.
I’d always stayed in Knightsbridge, despite the higher prices, because…well, isn’t that where one should stay? And frankly, twice my company paid the boutique hotel price as I was there for 3 days of work at the beginning of a 10 day trip, I stayed in a friend’s flat another time, and took my mother to a boutique hotel in the same area. This time, however, I was accompanying my husband on his business trip, and we stayed at what I thought of as the “top of London”, at least according to the map.
Our hotel was the Double Tree and accommodations were much larger and more modern than those I’d stayed in in the heart of London. The nearest tube stop was Angel, and past that, the architecturally interesting St. Pancreas/Kings Cross Railroad/Tube Station. No sauntering to Harrods’s for tea & scones, or a quick tube trip to Fordham and Mason’s for the same. However, this allowed me to discover some wonderful jewels I might not otherwise have found. Okay, I did allow part of a day to visit the old haunts in Knightsbridge…but this time they seemed changed, less “jolly old” London.
One of the days my husband wasn’t working it rained, so we took ourselves off to the British Museum (www.britishmuseum.org). It’s an incredibly well laid out and ultra-interesting museum, and was featuring an inspired, carefully constructed exhibit titled Defining Beauty: the body in ancient Greek art, as well as a room of old English comic drawings of Napoleon, ala the New York Times. Quite a hoot! This is a museum one can spend days in – especially if you’re interested in Egypt and Mesopotamia, so keep it on your list for any rainy day.
Getting off the tube at Baker Street, I passed the Sherlock Holmes Museum and Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks, which I’d seen on a previous visit, and entered the Queen Anne’s Rose garden. Smaller and well less populated than Kensington or Hyde Parks, it was simply laid out and serene. Granted I was there the beginning of May and the roses were not yet in bloom, but never mind, there was still plenty to see and smell as you strolled along uncrowded paths.
Becoming a bit “peckish” after 90 minutes, I worked my way around to the lake, passing a café that was offering a “picnic” bagged lunch for a mere 6£ with your choice of fruit, sandwich, chip and drink. The sandwiches were gourmet and I chose smoked salmon, brie and arugula (rocket) on homemade grainy bread - imagine!
Finding several unoccupied beach chairs lakeside in a field of miniature daisies, I plopped down in one to eat my lunch in the sun while watching a variety of shore birds on the lake and in their protected area off shore. A little man came by shortly to almost apologetically collect one pound for an hour’s use of the chair, which was little to pay for the enjoyment, and explained why most picnickers were sitting on the ground with or without blankets.