Monday, May 09, 2022

Back From London

My daughter is probably my best friend. We have been wanting to go to London together for years and years, but things, including the pandemic, have gotten in the way. This time we did it. This is a long post because I'm going to pack the whole trip in one post (and you'll understand why at the bottom).

 I was in London for a day before we met up since she was working about an hour away that week. 

That day I visited the British Museum twice, which I really enjoyed. First I visited first thing in the morning to see the one thing I really wanted to see, then I visited later in the day for the rest. So many things that I had only read about, like the Rosetta Stone, make such an impact when seen in person. 

I watched the movie 'The Dig' about the discovery of a funeral boat in a field at Sutton Hoo. At the museum in the morning I was able to see the iconic helmet (see the actual helmet, plus the one created to try to depict what it probably looked like when buried, just above), plus many other items recovered there...such a thrill. I walked around, being somewhat awed by the truly huge dome (see above, photo at top of post) over the central entry area and the library. The bookshop is excellent, too, and I enjoyed a section on clocks as well as another section that has this lovely musical instrument, a kind of a lute I think. 

I often take photographs to record the design of things and watching design elements repeat in different eras and countries is fascinating. Look at the amazing work on this celtic brooch, gold clasp, and carved bone or ivory crozier topper.

I had to get back to the hotel to check out, and then I visited a bookstore near the museum - the London Review Bookshop, so I browsed there and had a delicious vegan lunch in the attached café before returning to the museum.

 I had the pleasure of watching one of the employees use different colors of chalk to write out a fairly long quote by a poet she liked on the prominent chalk board near the door to the outdoor seating area. It really is an art.

The afternoon included viewing of many other sections of the British Museum, although I barely scratched the surface. I was just finishing viewing the treasure in the section that has many of the earliest items the museum collected which included Greek vases, Egyptian statues, rare books, and treasures from China,

and was ready to do some souvenir shopping, when a fire alarm rang and we had to leave the building! Fortunately I was able to return to the delightful bookstore nearby, and sit in the courtyard with some lemonade and enjoy the British spring, then walk the neighborhood and enjoy Russel Square.

Walking around the city is the best many beautiful terraced homes, parks, and people watching. There were white lilacs blooming in the Russel Square Park near the British Museum and the daffodils had just finished. Lots of walking the first day, which I loved.

The next day we were together and our first stop was the Borough Market on the Southbank. My first time using the London Underground or Tube. I was impressed with how efficient and clean it was, how quickly people moved and what a complex system it is, but the signs were there when you needed them.

 Lots of people were in London for the Bank Holiday weekend, so lots of people everywhere we went and no one wore masks or acted like the pandemic had ever happened. That lent it a festive, positive energy. Highlights of the market were an amazing spice stall, delicious Greek food, a stall that had everything lavender, and one in the Borough Market Kitchen that had fruit crumbles with proper pouring custard (although we didn't have the appetite to try it). These photos show some of the market and crowds.

The days kind of run together, probably because I'm still running a slight fever, but we had a fine time, especially the first few days. We kept exclaiming, 'We did it!' since truly it has often seemed like we would never make it together to London. We had some lovely dinners out, including our first one at Andrew Edmunds near our hotel. The lamb was delicious and we had an unusual and delicious white. 

A highlight was on Saturday when we saw the musical Wicked at the Apollo Victoria, and the two lead singers were probably the best singers I've ever heard in a musical.

I saw Hyde Park  and Mayfair a few days later and discovered that it's not always easy to get a cab in that area.

We had a most unusual tea near Leicester Square. It was a ten minute or so walk from our hotel, through the weekend crowds. There were some amazing buildings around the square, too, plus more being built.  The venue for the 'tea' was Simmons Bar, the decor is kitschy, and the afternoon tea is the usual tiered tray of tea treats (with delicious vegan ones for me), but the teapot holds a mixed drink instead of tea, plus there was prosecco. It was a lot of fun and surely different. Very popular with the twenty-somethings, especially groups brides and their bridesmaids getting started on an evening out bachelorette party. They mostly played loud music from the 80s, but I guess that's nostalgic or something if you're 30. Since it was a weekend it was loud and crowded and very high energy and fun.

Unfortunately, the end of our trip wasn't as delightful as the beginning since COVID came anyway. I tested negative and was able to fly home, but tested positive later. My daughter tested positive, so she was stuck in London an extra six days until she tested negative. We knew it was a risk to be around all these unmasked people, but that apparently is the plan...we should all get COVID or something. 

Just to make things even more interesting, on the flight home I had to change planes...but they lost my bag. Once I got to San Francisco (and this is after about 18 hours of travel, with the time being in the wee hours London time), I had to go to baggage claim and they found out that the bag never made it on the plane! Fortunately it made it to SFO the next day and got here before bedtime. All's well that ends well. Much as I fell in love with London, it's good to be home.

So I have to tell you that the two places I stayed are highly recommended if you get to London. The Bedford Hotel is a short walk from the British Museum. It has character and very kind staff, they serve a delicious and filling full English breakfast buffet, but I had lunch there, too, and it was also delicious. The bathroom was tight, but well designed and the room seemed spacious since it had a bay window and view of the garden and across to the skyline many blocks away. The bed was perhaps a bit too firm for my taste, but the price of the room was reasonable by London standards and service was impeccable. They have a sense of whimsey, too, with a abstract rabbit print wallpaper in the small elevator and metal butterflies on the wall into the dining room.

The Resident Soho, where the two of us stayed for the rest of the trip is a more modern hotel with a beautiful lobby, wine reception in the evening, very comfortable beds and huge, soft bath towels. It's price point is higher, too, about a third more than the Bedford. Fortunately, considering we ended up quarantining there, it was larger and also comes with a small kitchen behind doors, complete with small fridge, microwave, and sink, plus a coffee service, electric tea kettle, and plenty of plates, glasses, and cutlery. It is nicely located, too, about two blocks from Oxford Street for shopping, and a block from Starbucks for lattes for my daughter! Probably the priceless part of The Resident Soho is the excellent, and very kind and thoughtful staff. They did everything possible to make my daughter's extended stay comfortable, considering that we didn't want them to come into the room and be exposed. 

London is such a cosmopolitan city. I met people from all over, from the hotel manager from Italy to the wheelchair woman from Romania who is worried that Putin will invade her country, too. Overall, the most impressive people I encountered throughout the trip were the service providers, of all sorts, many of whom were immigrants, most for over 10 years. The black cab drivers were often Brits by birth and generally over 50, amazing both for their driving and for their knowledge of all the many byways of London. Uber drivers were younger but quite efficient. Everyone at the airport (Heathrow) that I met were interesting people as well as fine at their jobs. I learned with kindness that you purchase your bag to carry home your grocery shopping, that credit cards are used almost exclusively rather than cash, and that Oyster cards are great for all kinds of public transit, so do purchase one. 

It seemed like the Brits were glad that people were coming again. With the way they are so kind, everyone should visit...just be prepared that you might get COVID because no one behaves like it is a thing anymore. Of course that's true in the U.S, too, now. Bring (and wear) plenty of N95 masks to protect yourself! We wore ours a lot but took them off to eat and while walking were there weren't crowds, which I guess is enough time to be exposed, although it's possible that we were exposed earlier. Masks were rare on the flight to London and in the airports, too. Here I am on the flight home, one of the few with a mask.


  1. Anonymous8:21 PM

    Also remember that you are better protected with N95 or K95 masks. If you wear cloth masks you should double mask with a surgical mask underneath.

    1. The cloth mask was because it was absorbent and I needed that then, but KN95 has kept Sweetie negative so isolation.

  2. I suspected you might have gotten Covid based on something you said early on. I’m sorry for that and hope it hasn’t been awful for you! What a lovely description of your trip. Such strong visuals in your writing with wonderful photos to accompany. The teapot drinks are a fun addition to a tea I’ve not seen. What a great idea! And I agree that my favorite aspect of London is walking and taking in the various sights and sounds of each distinct area. Thanks for sharing your visit. Now I want to be there, of course!

    1. I hope you get to visit soon Kelly. Thanks for your kind words. I took a photo of the contents of one of the teapot drinks so that I can 'try that at home' once I can entertain again. My daughter cautioned that I should go light on the alcoholic parts because it can sneak up on you with fruity if that never happened to me already in the past!

  3. Sweetie9:08 AM

    So glad you got to do this & what a great montage of photos, all at your usual exquisite camera eye. 😘

    1. Next time you need to come, too. It will be such fun.

  4. I'm always so glad to see people I know to be wise and safe begin to travel. We returned last week from a teensy trip to Iceland - (which I still need to blog), and it was both terrifying and exactly what we needed.

    It's difficult to have to test before being admitted back into the US - especially when there aren't many Covid precautions being taken just now - and I'm so sorry your daughter had to stay back! I guess we all have to get used to traveling with extra time built in, just in case.

    Wearing a mask for the short flight to Seattle, and then the seven hour hitch to Iceland was hard - but doable, and I'm glad to know that I *can* do it, so traveling again may not feel so fraught.

    Hope you're feeling better.