London Town in 24 Hours

In England, Photo, Travel 2011 on March 9, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Well I have to admit, I wasn’t too too depressed when my girlfriend in London broke the news that she would have to be working the few days I was planning on spending there. Sad that I wouldn’t be able to see her very much, but as for London, I’ve never been a huge fan. It’s fine, just not my favorite, and as everyone knows, it’s super expensive. So to stay there you really have to want to be there spending money.

That being said, I wasn’t going to skip through London, and my flight to Portugal was leaving from Heathrow. So I committed to 24 hours in the home of the Queen, and I must say, it was a bit of a magical time in Foggy London Town.

First, it wasn’t foggy. It was actually a beautiful day. So a bit thank to the London gods of weather for that. Second of all, a big thank you to whoever in the marketing department at Soya decided yesterday was a good day to give out free breakfast at Victoria station. Not only did you save me a bit of money, but you made some other dreams come true with your two yogurts, soy milk and granola.

I started the day by dropping my bag at my hostel and heading straight in the direction of the National Gallery. I knew it opened at 10. So I had a bit of time to kill before I could really get going.

I stopped by Buckingham Palace to sit and eat in St. James park, snap a quick picture and wave to the Queen – staying true to my earlier entry. Swanky it may be, but a palace is still a castle. So unless William or Harry sends me a personal invite, I have no desire to go in.

Then came a very nice upside to me keeping my type A personality in check and not planning every minute of every day. I worked my way over to Victoria Theatre, home of Billy Elliot – the internationally acclaimed musical with music by Elton John. Rumor had it that you can buy same day tickets for less that £20. Turns out you can, and a quick budget rearrangement for the day, and of course with the discount of free breakfast, let me buy a ticket guilt free.

Precious ticket in hand, I hopped on the underground to Westminster – figured I would detour just a bit so to at least walk past some of London’s favorite icons. I stepped out of the station just in time to hear Ben toll twelve and made my way past Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, and more red phone booths than I could count.

Finally making it to Trafalgar Square, I enjoyed a bit of sun and people watching on the steps before heading into the National Gallery. Now I could go on and on – believe me, I’ve got the notes to pretty much give you a play by play of what I saw, but suffice it to say that I saw one of my favorite Monet’s (amongst others), a few Van Gogh’s, some works by Botticelli, and portraits by Rembrandt – the list goes on like a who’s who in the world of European art.

It never ceases to amaze or humble me when I stand in front of a painting I truly respect and admire. I realize it’s a somewhat naive and romantic thought, but I can’t help but think about the last hands creating it, those of this incredible master of art. On the other side, I love seeing mentions of mistakes: for example, Cezanne painting over a woman in a street scene. You can just barely still make her out as a shadow. Then of course there is the incredible presence of leftover grains of sand in one of Monet’s paintings of Camille and a friend on the beach. He painted it on location and apparently never got around to touching up the little imperfections.

Anyway, if I keep talking about the art gallery, I’ll hit my art blogging quota, which will be a huge issue when i get to Paris. So I better stop now.

After a few hours in the gallery, I jumped the tube to Knightsbridge. As a Harrod, it’s sort of a requisite that I stop by. I’ve actually been before, but this time I had a goal in mind. I did enjoy a quick trip up and down the escalators – typically a great disappointment for most, unless you have a particular love of shoes, jewelry and really pretty things – like I do.

After a bit of drooling over designers (including a diamond encrusted leopard necklace by Cartier, which despite the fact that I have no business owning it, I secretly would wear. . . If only it weren’t £70,000) I headed to a much more affordable department – the food halls. Ohhhh if only the Harrods food halls were in the Harrod home. Mr. Harrod would be in heaven. Genuinely every gourmet ingredient you could want, and some not so gourmet, namely Krispy Kreme. Tempting though they were, I had my sights on something else.

Laudrée. Oh Laudrée how magical you are.

I had looked at the various options for tea at Harrods, something I have very much wanted to do, and after deciding that afternoon tea is for a different trip on another budget and another dress code, I decided on Laudrée – best decision ever. Delicious tea (Earl Grey with Flowers) and, my absolute favorite treat, macaroons (rose, salted caramel, and blackcurrant with violet). Not the healthiest, but certainly the best lunch yet!

Back to the hostel for a quick shower and organization of stuff for a very early morning start, and I was on my way to Victoria theatre for Billy Elliot. For those who have seen the movie, see the show. For those who haven’t seen the movie, rent it, fall in love with it, and then see the show. It was really just excellent, and I was shocked at how many kids were in the show and how ridiculously talented they are. Let me tell you, if I was twelve, I would so have my heart set on Billy. He was just achingly good.

Anyway, that was quite long, but it was a bit of a long day. I suppose that’s what happens when you do London in 24 hours.

I’m in Lisbon now, just for the day – mostly relaxing in the sun and getting ready to go grab a bus ticket to get out to my WWOOF site. I’ll be there for the next two weeks, and not really sure what my Internet situation will be. So, hopefully I’ll be able to blog at least a couple times, but if not, you’ll get another nice long one when I get back to Lisbon.

Pics from London below, and of course check out my gallery (link below) for some others that I haven’t posted here.

At Buckingham Palace, saying my hellos to the Queen

Trafalgar Square getting ready to head into the National Gallery.

Laudrée – look closely and you can see the macaroon towers in then window.

Victoria Theatre – home of Billy Elliot.


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