We’ve been having too much fun to post in the past few days, so I’ve got a lot to catch up on…
Wednesday was spent in the Trafalgar Square area. First we hit Liberty of London, a high-end department store, equivalent to our Barney’s in New York. So you may be wondering why two travelers on a very tight budget were browsing the Armani suits and Chanel dresses? Liberty is known for its fabrics and over the years, Mark has collected a suite of Liberty ties. It was a little strange to visit the fabric department in a high-end department store, but it was somewhat magical as well. Next on the list was the National Gallery, where we (and throngs of thousands seeking shelter from the pouring rain) got to see masterpieces such as Monet’s Irises, Picasso’s Sunflowers and Rembrandt’s self-portraits. The rain let up enough to wander past Parliament and Big Ben before heading home.
Thursday brought a break from the rain. In the morning, we made it to the Kazakhstan Embassy, only to realize that we’d left our passport photos at home. Rather than wandering around in search of a photo booth, we ran across the street to the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was never on our to-see list, but upon entering and seeing a Chiluly chandelier hanging in the entrance hall, I was so happy we’d left the photos at home. It is home to an incredible collection of art, ranging from renaissance sculpture to tiaras dripping with diamonds. We would have stayed longer, but another Christie’s auction was calling our name. It was the “Rock and Pop Memorabilia” sale with incredible items such as the Sergeant Pepper’s Drum, Pete Townshend’s Gibson guitar, John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics to “Give Peace a Chance” and a pair of Jimi Hendrix’s striped trousers. We were hoping to run into Ringo or Elton, but no stars were spotted.
We spent the afternoon wandering around Kensington Gardens, the highlight of which was relaxing in deck chairs in front of the lake. Mark promptly fell asleep (are you all seeing a pattern here yet) and I people watched. We later met up with Steph Lindsay, one of CeCe’s friends from Maine, who introduced us to Mamoosh, a tasty Lebanese restaurant. But the highlight of the evening was going to the 606 Club, an underground Jazz club. It was a fantastic experience.
On Friday, we remembered our passport photos for our Kazakh visas, and since we were in the area, got to return to the V&A for a few hours. Then we were off to Borough Market. It was amazing. Mark had wild boar pie, a chirizo sandwich and a caramel pot de creme. I had a goat cheese and sweet potato pie that was to die for and rice pudding. I’ve heard people complain about English food, but any country that includes pieas a staple in the diet is on the top of my list. And it’s not just the fruity pies we’re accustomed to in the US. In fact, most pies are savory, with roasted meats, fresh veggies and cheeses. It’s heaven on earth. Truly. We walked off our huge lunch with a meander along the Thames before meeting Jill and Rob at a pub for drinks and then Tapas for dinner. The day was a gastronomic celebration.
Yesterday (Sat) was road trip day. Jill, Rob, Mark and I squished into Rob’s little Peugeot and drove out to Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, and often considered the grandest palace in England. The town was charming (apparently all English countryside towns are that cute, but it was my first so I was enchanted) and the palace was immense and opulent. We toured the staterooms, the gardens and even went through “The Untold Story,” a Disney-like tour of behind the scenes stories told by creepy animatronic figures. Dinner was in Oxford, just up the street from the university.
Sorry for the laundry-list of everything we’ve done. We’re running out the door to another market (more pie perhaps?) but are having a “homework” night tonight and will have time to post photos, etc.