The UK in Eight Days
I wish I were better at writing travelogues. Part of the problem is that I am not good about taking pictures on vacation. On every big trip like this, I usually end up mightily annoyed at the Asian tourists who insist on taking pictures of Every.Last.Thing, to the point where I think they must have to go home and look at their pictures to experience the vacation they missed because they were so busy taking pictures. I prefer to be in the moment and enjoy what I’m seeing while I am seeing it.
Nevertheless, I’ll try to give you highlights as they happened.
Day 1 (Saturday, May 25): We arrived in London after an uneventful nine-hour direct flight from Seattle. My mother and sister arrived from JFK at the same time. My sister had arranged for all the AirBNBs. Our driver deposited us at the first of three, in Kensington. It was a lovely flat—three blocks from the tube and bus stops in a very nice neighborhood.
[I played a game I dubbed “BMW Bingo” while we were sightseeing. This involved keeping track of all of the BMW models I saw, most of which are unavailable in the US. I granted extra points for station wagons, diesel models, and/or manuals. By the time we left, I was up to about two dozen models, including the unknown-in-the-States 2-series and 4-series cars. It was both exciting and depressing.]
We got situated, hit the local grocery store for supplies, and headed out to Chelsea to see the flower displays. We wandered around seeing the sights and doing some shopping until dinner time. DD#1—who arranged much of the itinerary—had made reservations for us at an upscale pub in Chelsea. Our table wasn’t yet ready when we arrived, so we went to the bar and ordered drinks. I had decided ahead of time that I was going to forego red wine as much as possible in favor of some whiskey cocktails. I don’t make them for myself at home. (That’s going to change.) I wish I could have gotten a video of the bartender making my whiskey sour. It was clear that he takes his job very seriously. He is also very good at it. That drink ranked as one of the best whiskey sours I had all week.
Day 2 (Sunday): We took the bus a short distance to Kensington Palace and picked up our tickets for the tour. I really enjoyed this visit. Having concentrated mostly on science classes in school, my grasp of history, especially British history, is pretty tenuous. The Brits do an excellent job with their museums and the exhibits were engaging. I learned that Queen Victoria, who lived at Kensington, often drank whiskey with one of her advisors.
After lunch, we headed to Notting Hill, which was a long winding row lined with shops and stalls. We stopped for cupcakes and also at the All Saints store, which is where the picture in yesterday’s post was taken. While everyone else was shopping, I was inspecting all the sewing machines.
My cocktail that evening was a Ginger Jack, which was honey Jack Daniels, ginger, and soda. It was a bit too sweet for me. I like to taste the whiskey in my drinks.
Day 3 (Monday): We headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum in hopes of getting tickets to the Christian Dior exhibit there. All of the pre-reserved tickets were sold out so we had to stand in line. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the cashier, they were sold out of all the tickets. Undaunted, we spent another couple of hours there looking at the fashion displays that were free to the public. I could have spent all day there, and if I ever go back to London, I will put a visit to the Clothworkers Company on my list of things to see.
I have to say, the gift shops at the British museums are really nice. The gift shop at the V&A Museum had one entire section featuring cross-stitch kits, precuts of some reproduction fabrics from some of the textile collections, and an entire table of Merchant and Mills sewing tools. I almost bought a couple of charm packs for a quilt, but as soon as I spotted the Merchant and Mills sewing tools, it was all over. I have some M&M patterns and books but I’ve never seen the tools for sale here in the States. I treated myself to these:
I never have enough snips, and these are really nice. They are going to go next to my industrial Necchi.
DD#1 had arranged for us to enjoy afternoon tea at the Draycott Hotel in Chelsea. We were treated to plates of cookies, baskets of scones, unlimited pots of tea, and delicious finger sandwiches. Smoked salmon and cream cheese is a popular sandwich offering in London, and I indulged in those as often as I could because seafood is hard to get where I live. I enjoyed this tea experience very much.
[I am, according to my genetic profile, a “slow metabolizer.” This means that drugs, including caffeine, take a long time to exit my system. The husband routinely drinks a pot of coffee a day. I’m limited to one cup in the morning and a cup of tea at lunch. Any more than that and I get too jittery. I overdid it a bit with the tea the first few days we were in London and had to scale back. I wish I could have drunk more, because the Brits certainly know their tea.]
Day 4 (Tuesday): We left our flat on Tuesday morning and headed for King’s Cross train station to board our train to Edinburgh. It’s about a 4-1/2 hour trip. I was seated with a family of three—a mom and two children—and I learned the little boy’s name (Ennis) within the first five minutes of the trip because he was having a bit of difficulty. About halfway to Edinburgh, I took out my phone, pulled up the picture of last summer’s black bear from the game camera, and showed it to him. I told him that this was probably the same bear that broke into our chicken coop and ate our chickens. (His eyes got very wide and my sister commented that I had probably traumatized him with that story.)
The owner of the AirBNB in Edinburgh hadn’t been very forthcoming with details about the flat, and we soon discovered why. We exited the train station and had to pull our suitcases up a hill to the street where the flat was located. I estimated it was an elevation gain of about a thousand feet. (Edinburgh is built on the side of an ancient volcano.) We reached the flat and unlocked the door only to discover this:
My mother counted 54 steps up to our flat. With suitcases. I suspect the owners don’t volunteer that information because if they did, no one would rent this property. The flat had a lovely view overlooking the street, but that staircase was a hazard. My mother is in excellent shape for her age (77). We were walking an average of five miles a day on this trip and she did fine. However, we worried about her going up and down these steps and wouldn’t let her carry anything heavier than her purse. Even my small 15-pound suitcase was tricky to manage.
The location of the flat was terrific, though—we were right on the Royal Mile, which is the street situated between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. DD#2 had been to Edinburgh while she was studying in Italy two years ago, so she served as our tour guide. This post is long enough, though, so I’ll continue the rest in tomorrow’s blog post.