After our wonderful visit with Lydia and Steve Kirk, their kids Fliss, Tommy, and Betsy, Lydia's parents, and the incredible staff at the 390th/Parham Airfield Museum, Steve drove us back to London on Thursday, August 28th. We had lunch with Dad at Heathrow, then made sure he was safely escorted for his flight back home. Hannah, Aaron and I then headed for the apartment we’d rented for the next four nights. Through Airbnb.com, we’d found a gorgeous and roomy two story, two bedroom, two bath loft in the Wimbledon area for way less than what we might have paid for a cramped hotel room. We were all pretty tired, so we decided to stay in that night. I took a nap while the kids went to a corner market and picked up some groceries for us. Later, Aaron made us chicken alfredo. A man who can cook AND clean up afterward? It’s a beautiful thing.
Over the next few days, I have to admit I fell head over heels for London. As much as we got to see, I definitely want to go back sometime for a couple of weeks or more and do all of the guided tours. But we certainly got a feel for the city and its rich history.
Westminster Palace, home of both houses of Parliament and Big Ben (the main bell, not the clock) which tops the famous Elizabeth Tower which leans, but certainly not as much as it appears to!
Concert before the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Had to laugh to hear them playing a Billy Joel medley instead of something more, I don't know, English?
Quite a palace! Sadly, Her Majesty didn't have time for a cuppa
when we stopped by. Maybe next time.
when we stopped by. Maybe next time.
Off they go ... wherever palace guards ... go?
The iconic Tower Bridge (often mistaken for the London Bridge)
Can you imagine kayaking down the Thames?
One of the highlights was getting to see the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red" – an evolving installation of ceramic poppies in the moats surrounding London Tower to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. By summer’s end, a total of 888,246 poppies would flow from that famous tower, each one representing a British life lost in that war. (You can read more about it HERE.) It was such a powerful image symbolizing the high cost of freedom.
We strolled through open markets ...
posed with large hunks of cheese ...
and drooled over these amazing desserts (well, not literally, of course).
We did "The Betsy" by a red telephone booth ... (private joke)
bought roasted peanuts from a street vendor on the London Bridge ...
glammed it up in front of the Horse Guards Palace ...
paid our respects to a guard on a horse ...
and enjoyed amazing meals at lots of quaint pubs.
On Saturday night, Hannah had planned a special evening for just the two of us. We took the Tube back into town and dined at St. George's Tavern, sharing the most amazing chicken pot pie.
Afterward, she led me around the corner where I saw this ...
Oh. My. GOSH.
I’d seen the musical Wicked with my sister Morlee last year in Nashville and absolutely loved it. Unbeknownst to me, when Hannah found out it was still playing in London, she went on the hunt for tickets!
I was so shocked as we bustled our way into the theater with everyone else. As she led me down the aisle, she hesitated and said she wasn’t sure how to find our seats. Then she said, “Oh wait – that’s right. We’re on the FRONT ROW!”
I stopped in my tracks, and I’m pretty sure my jaw nearly touched the floor. Turns out, my Midas-touch daughter had discovered that the theater saves “day seats” – front row seats which are deeply discounted ($29), available for purchase at 10 a.m. the day of the performance. Hannah had snuck out before dawn that morning, rode the Tube into town, and waited in line for hours to get those tickets. Silly me. I assumed she'd gone to a nearby coffee shop to work. I still can’t believe she pulled off such a big surprise. Have to admit, I was still gobsmacked even as those colorful characters started singing and dancing mere feet from us! Best surprise EVER!Hard to top such a spectacular night, but on Sunday we ventured out on our last day. Have I mentioned how much we loved London's subway system?
Stopped by Kensington Palace ...
Thankfully, the clouds broke in time for our ride on the London Eye. The 365-degree view is breathtaking! Takes about 30 minutes for a full rotation.
Got a little lost (again) on one of those red buses, so we never made it to Notting Hill. Maybe next time. But we did pop down to the Shake Shack in Convent Garden. Somewhere in the open atrium an opera diva sang familiar songs as we enjoyed our treats ...
After walking a bazillion miles for 3 days and seeing so many amazing sights, we chillaxed our last night at the apartment. I'm not sure, but I think Hannah was a tad travel-weary after 3 months of traipsing through 9 countries ... ya think?
As for me, I will always remember the unforgettable time we spent in England. From our visit to the home of the 390th where Dad served during WWII ...
to meeting forever friends like Lydia and Steve Kirk ...
to spending time with Hannah and getting to know her travel buddy,
Aaron Bradshaw (and yes, they're just buddies) ...
to the pleasure of seeing a part of the world
I've always wanted to visit ... it truly was the trip of a lifetime.
Thanks for letting me share!
P.S. You're never gonna believe my next post ... coming soon!