London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

My Memorable March Trip To London (And England And Elsewhere) - Part 2

07/06/2003, By Vicki Park

Reader Rating: 2.8 from 759 votes

Peter Pan had managed to elude me on previous walks through Hyde Park, but this time I found the fellow and took several shots of him with my camera to take home. It is a lovely walk down a pathway passing the Italian Gardens and next to the Long Water. I then walked to the other end of Hyde Park and toured Kensington Palace and saw the Queen's wedding dress collection and some of Lady Diana's formal wear as well. Quite interesting history with an informative audio tour provided and included in tour fee.

I continued my walk until I reached the doors of Harrods. I roamed the floors looking at all the wonderful items. I especially love the Food Halls of Harrods, and thus spend a long time looking at all of the goodies. I made my tea purchases to take back home, as Harrods does not sell this on the Internet.

This was my 3rd trip and the first time I got brave enough to stay out on the streets after dark. I travel alone and my family worries after me and I had promised to not be out on the streets walking after dark. I broke that promise this time and was quite brave and apparently safe as well. I wandered around a lot in the dark trying to find the correct bus to take!!

There were throngs of people all through the day and the night in London. I believe one to be safe as long as they stay in areas where it is busy with other people and activity. One evening I boarded a bus to go back to my hotel around 7:30p, sat in traffic for 30 mins and at 8p, the bus driver told us to vacate the bus as he had no idea how long the traffic queue would last. There was an antiwar rally in Trafalgar Square. I did get lost that night and wandered around for 2 hours before finally hailing a cab to take me back to my lodging.

I did get a bit scared when I wandered the wrong direction and it got sparse with people and not much activity going on. I cannot even tell you what road I was on. I thought it was the way to the Hard Rock Cafe, but as I said I got scared and turned and retraced my steps ending up in Piccadilly Circus again. The next day I discovered that I had been but only a block away from the Hard Rock when I gave up and turned around.

Another worry of my family and friends was my being treated badly because of the war and political situation. I told them no worries, as I must have looked as if I fit in and belonged, a native so to speak since I was asked for directions on several occasions. I told my family I would blend in and do fine and no one would know I am American until I opened my mouth. I have yet to pick up the British speak, oddly enough I do pick up accents in other areas. I guess I will have to work on that!!

I made my traditional visit to Hamley's Toy store and bought Teddy Bears with Hamley’s on them back to my 2 grown daughters. I think they now expect a snuggly critter from Hamley’s. My youngest named her first puppy from there, Hamley. She was with me on that trip. The second time I went I bought them both teddy bears with a sweater on them saying Hamley’s. The youngest named that bear Hamilton.

Now this trip I brought the girls squishy soft Hamley’s teddies and sweaters saying "My Hamley's Teddy". She thought for hours and hours on what to name this one and came up with "Hamlet". As you can see, she is trying to stick with the Hamley's name in a creative way, of course at 23 one would hope she has a creative streak.

I left London and went to Germany for the weekend to visit my "daughter" who was an exchange student with us for 8 months in 1993. I had to fly out of Stansted to get to Nuremburg where they drove from Bamberg to collect me. I gained experience of using your wonderful transports again. I had to leave at 4:45am to get to the Liverpool Street station to take the Stansted Express, a 45 min journey to get to the airline an hour before time. The departure times for the airline I had to fly were not real desirable times either. It was a nice trip and the kids took me to castles and her home village and to meet her mother.

Upon my return to Britain I found myself saying in my head, ‘I sure am glad to hear English spoken again!!!’ I left by coach from Stansted Airport and visited Oxford for a couple of days before heading to a Farm Holiday outside of Brecon, Wales. I spent about 4 days there and then returned for another 3 days to London for touring. I visited Hampton Court Palace, a gorgeous and wonderful place. I had a costume guided tour and then some self tours with listening devices. I arrived at 1:30 at the train station thinking I had plenty of time. However after my tours and wandering through the palace, I closed it up. I had saved purchasing items from the shops until I left so I did not have to carry the things. My problem was that the shops shut 15 minutes before the palace itself. So I recommend not waiting until too close to closing before making your purchases.

I went to Colchester to tour the University of Essex where my daughter had applied to post graduate school to get her graduate degree in Art History. She applied there and to University of Manchester and London City College. While I was away, she received letters of acceptance to University of Essex and Manchester. I made a point of going to Colchester since it is less than an hour by train from London. I did not have time to get to Manchester. After viewing the school and spending the afternoon with a delightful student Ambassador, I decided that my daughter needed to see the places herself to make an intelligent decision as she would be the one living there for 1 year.

The day before I flew home I found the half price ticket booth in Leicester Square and purchased a front row seat to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was a marvellous production and I highly recommend it. However I would preferred to have been seated a few rows back as I could only see the actors from their knees down. This was at the London Palladium Theatre, so keep this in mind when booking your tickets there.

One last time before I close, do not be afraid to try to make a deal with the cab drivers when you need airport transfers. I had hired a cab to take me to Paddington Station to take the Heathrow express to Heathrow. My flight had been changed to a connection so I transferred from flying out of Gatwick to flying out of Heathrow as my friend was unable to take me to the airport. I did not wish to walk and manage my luggage down to Paddington so had hired the cab to take me there.

After in the cab, making conversation with the cabbie, I asked what the fare to Heathrow would be. He was a very nice young man and asked if that is what my final destination was and I responded yes. I had been told that it would cost about £45 in a black cab. This fellow was a black cab driver and said, "if that is where you really want to go, I will shut off my meter and take you there and get you a trolley for your luggage."

At that point he did in fact shut off his meter and drove to Heathrow, pulled up to the curb and got the trolley and loaded my bags on and told me where to find the counter in the terminal. What a wonderful last impression of a British citizen. I had not been ill treated at all in my nearly 20 days in Great Britain and Germany. I have never been gone that long before anywhere, however I did not get homesick or wish to be home at any point. I think I could stay in London and Britain forever if possible.

On a closing note, I did go to Covent Garden one evening as they were shutting the stalls, but was able to see some entertainment in the plaza. I wandered up and down streets until I found Porters. Had a drink, and found that you were yet again not on the premises. Do we need to set an appointment next time, Sir Richard?? I am to come back to London with my daughter so that she can check out the Universities herself, perhaps we can come lift a glass with you then.

Vicki Park

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