I had more sight seeing to do while in London so the next day I headed out to three spots: The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, and Westminster Abbey. First, I stopped off in a restaurant and had a full English breakfast. Not to be confused with an empty or partial English breakfast. Living in Doha, I’ve actually gotten used to no having my normal breakfast with bacon. As a matter of fact, when I went home back in February, I think I only had bacon once or twice. I can tell you, English folks love pork. The full English breakfast was 2 eggs, ham, sausage, hash brown, toast, mushrooms, grilled tomato, and wait for it…baked beans. Not real sure about baked beans for breakfast but I went with it. It was a meaty meal that I enjoyed and I really didn’t need anything else to eat that day!
The National Gallery is another art museum in London. It had some nice pieces including Monet paintings. There were plenty of sculptures as well. I was a little distracted because I wanted to go to the National Portrait Gallery next door. So I didn’t make it through the entire National Gallery. I thought the idea of a portrait gallery was incredible. The first several rooms totally met my expectations. I saw the portrait of Kathryn. She looks old in the painting. There were a couple different portraits of Queen Elizabeth. There were photographs of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip and the children when they were young. I really enjoyed that. My favorite: a huge portrait of Judi Dench, the one and only M. I’m not real sure why I was drawn to it but it was meaningful to have portraits of prominent natives in the gallery. The rest of the museum wasn’t so exciting. The museums start to blend together after a while. There’s nothing to distinguish one from the other.
On to Westminster Abbey I went. I don’t really know how I feel about this place. Yes, it’s beautiful, inside and out. Visitors aren’t allowed to take photographs inside the church but I’ll post some exterior pictures soon. What’s intriguing to me is the fact that so many people are laid to rest on site. It’s like visiting an immaculate gravesite. The history is unbelievable and they have preserved things well. It’s worth seeing if you’re into that kind of thing. I mainly wanted to see the beauty of the church, the architecture, etc. It’s a bit of a let down when you can’t photograph anything. Overall, it’s a beautiful site.
I went downstairs to the café onsite at Westminster Abbey and had afternoon tea. I wanted to see how it compared to afternoon tea in Doha. It’s comparable. The tea was fantastic! I had elderflower and lemon tea. The little sandwiches were delightful. The scones were great. The sweets could use some improvement. The rest of the food that was floating around there looked pretty good though.
I made my way to the Royal Opera House to see La Traviata. The venue is breathtaking as so many things are in London. I had a great seat in the orchestra stalls but there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. There was great talent featured in the show and the opera itself was good. I admit, I did nod off a couple of times but I don’t think I snored. Sleep comes over me when I go to any theatre no matter how entertaining. It’s weird.
I ended my night at a meet up with the great Nomadness Travel Tribe. I met some great people and had a good time socializing. It’s amazing how a love for one common thing, travel, can bring so many together.
Tuesday I went to St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. Of the three churches: Notre Dame in Paris, Westminster Abbey & St. Paul’s in London, I have to say, St. Paul’s is the most beautiful in my opinion. I didn’t realize it’s a Christian Church so I got a little history lesson there. It’s a massive building and the dome is beautiful from the inside. I appreciate that it’s not as cluttered as the other churches. It was also touching to see the tribute paid to the Americans lost in the world war. They had footage of Charles and Diana’s wedding as part of the audio guided tour. What a show they can put on inside that place! It was a nice experience and I enjoyed it.
The Tower of London is a fine place to take kids. That’s about all I have to say about that. I was disappointed in the crown jewels. I think the Treasury at Notre Dame was more impressive. I guess the whole idea of royalty and crowns and swords can be fascinating.
I went for sushi that day as well. The sushi was pretty good for it to be conveyor belt sushi. They have things set up in a more efficient way than the ones I’ve been to in the US. Not only do they have the color plate system, each station has water dispensers (sparkling and still) that you can serve yourself and they have a little buzzer to push if you want someone to come and assist you with anything. I was enthralled!
My last day in London was spent wandering around Oxford Street, where a lot of shopping happens. I was trying to figure out why the same store is available on every other block. For example, I counted three H&M stores within a 10-minute walk. The stores carry the same merchandise. I thought it was strange until the first store I went into didn’t have the size dress I needed. The second one did! So then I was like…this totally makes sense! Lol. There are only a few of the really popular stores that have duplicates but I guess they’re selling enough to keep them all open.
Thanks to my lovely niece Paige, I made my way to the largest Lush store in the world. Lush has become one of my favorite products since being introduced to their hair care line about a year ago. Getting to know how the company operates and their values have made me like it even more. I purchased a few London exclusive products and had a chance to see the founders who were filming that day. I got a hand and arm massage from a lovely associate and just took in all the wonderfulness of Lush! It’s a cool place.
Finally, I treated myself to another theatrical performance. I went to see Wicked. I’d heard so many great things about the show. It was such great performances. I can see how people see it over and over again. I’m sure I’ll make it a point to see it again in another city. Wicked was the highlight of my London trip!
I’d be remissed if I didn’t tell you about Pret a Mange. I kept seeing this café literally every 5 – 10 minutes as I walked down the streets of both Paris and London. Literally there are more of these places than there are Starbucks in Seattle. I finally stopped in and was completely thrilled. It’s a healthy/natural/organic place. They have organic coffee and tea, fresh made sandwiches, wraps, and salads and several other food options. They also have pastries, other sweets, and yogurt. My first time, I had a berry smoothie. I went back and had a crawfish avocado salad, yogurt with pomegranate, apples, granola, and pistachios, and a mocha. I went back again and had a ham sandwich, chips, and a dark chocolate sea salt candy bar. I could have really eaten at this place 3 times a day and not had the same thing and been totally happy with all my purchases and would have been inexpensive. It’s my new favorite place!
Overall, I thought I’d like London more that I actually did. I’m willing to give it another try. I’ve gotten all the touristy things out of the way. Next time, I’ll just go enjoy the city. I also have a much better idea of where to stay when I go again. This time, I rented a room through airbanb, which was actually great. But I had no concept of how far way things were but now that I do, it’ll be better next time. Who knows, I may even learn how to get around on the tube on my next visit.
I’m back home now. It was a fun 10 days and I believe the longest vacation I’ve ever had. I met people who were on vacation and would be for a total of 4 to 6 weeks! I’m not talking about all retired people either. My next trip is to Long Beach, CA in less than 3 weeks. I’m heading to a conference and then some fun time with my beautiful college friends! Can’t wait!
Living life…and it’s good.