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London Belgrave Homes II

Walking around London with no particular destination is always a treat for me. The sights, the sounds, the people. I loved days when I had no fixed plans and could wander about. It wasn’t the case on this visit. With only four days in the city, we decided to re-visit as many of our favorite places and see as many friends as we could. That left little time for meandering.

Much as I enjoy doing my own research regarding the history of London, it’s always nice to go on a guided walk with one of the many, extremely knowledgeable and entertaining London Tour Guides. I’ve been on numerous London Walks which were all very pleasant and I learned a lot when we first moved to London. London Walks cover the basic history of a particular area and it’s mainly for those just visiting. For our return visit, I felt I’d outgrown the basic walks and wanted something more in-depth. A tour the locals would prefer.

Having followed Mark Rowland’s blog for over a year, I was thrilled when I read about his walk entitled The Gentlemen’s clubs of St James’s: Victorian London’s LinkedIn. It’s offered through Footprints of London.

We linked up with Mark in Green Park at 7 pm then went on a very thorough and interesting evening walk through Mayfair. He intertwined stories of these men’s clubs and how important they were for upper class networking.

White's on St James Street

Our first stop was White’s at 37 St James’s Street (building with the bay window in the above photo)

White’s Chocolate House was opened in 1698. Anyone could frequent it so long as they could pay a small fee. But by 1736, White’s owner realized it was much more lucrative to cater exclusively to the aristocratic men. These men would meet to discuss politics, world events and, of course, gossip. White’s became a members only club with a very long waiting list.

There was an awful lot of decadence happening behind the beautiful facade. Its members have always been the power brokers of Great Britain but White’s is also legendary for being a den of gambling, gossiping and conspicuous consumption. There’s a betting book which archives bets placed between 1743 to 1878. These wagers (and we’re talking about thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands) were placed on everything ~ sometimes morbid bets such as which celebrities would die first; personal bets as to length of pregnancies; and, as Mark told us, even a bet as to which of two raindrops would reach the bottom of the window pane first. Obviously men with way too much time and money on their hands.The betting lead to financial ruin for many.

To this day, White’s is an extremely exclusive club ~ there are 500 members, men only and a nine-year waiting list. Queen Elizabeth II is the only woman to have visited and that was back in 1991.

There were many other clubs we went by and talked about including Almacks, Brookes, Boodles, Automobile club, etc.  Mark had a lot of amusing tales as well as very interesting historic facts. Originally, when I told my 16-year-old the name of the tour, I got a raised eyebrow and a not so subtle skeptical look. About an hour into the walk, she whispered in my ear “This isn’t what I expected. It’s really interesting.”

London Chatham House
Chatham House, London

My favorite was the very respectable Chatham House. Membership consist of people and organizations interested in international affairs. Membership includes business leaders, academics, diplomats, the media, non-governmental organizations, policy-makers and researchers. It is ranked as the 2nd top Think Tank worldwide (Brookings Institute is #1).

And I’m a big fan of the Chatham House Rule which states:

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

If you’re able to partake in one of the Footprints of London walking tours, you won’t be disappointed. Click here for additional information and to pre-book your tour. There are several walks I’d love to go on and they will definitely be on the agenda next time we’re in London.

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It was such a comforting feeling of familiarity as we drove closer and closer to London. We returned the rental car at Heathrow and caught the tube to Baker Street where we rented a two-bedroom flat for our four nights in London. We stayed in the same flat when we left London last year.

Sherlock Holmes
Baker Street was a perfect location for us ~ the tube stop and bus stop were basically outside our door.

Sunday and Monday were reserved for John’s graduation from Kings College and for reconnecting with friends. On Tuesday, we went back to one of our favorite restaurants in all of London.

Maguros

Maguros beef bento box

We ate lunch at Maguro in Maida Vale. So delicious! If you find yourself in London and have a hankering for Japanese food, I highly recommend Maguro at 5 Lanark Place, W9 1BT / TEL 020 7289 4353. It’s an easy walk from the Warwick Avenue tube stop (Bakerloo Line). Click here for more info and the menu. They do take-out and it’s a great meal to take to the park for a picnic.

Michael at Electric Hair
Michael and Logan at Electric Hair, London

Another must was an appointment with Michael at Electric Hair. He does it all ~ color, cut, style. Logan and I both got hair cuts & Styling. Loved it! If you’re traveling through London (or lucky enough to live there) and are in need of some hair care, Michael is fabulous and can be reached here. Now if I could only figure out how to get back here every few months for another appointment.

Up Next: A two-hour guided walk that I’ve been planning for almost a year! Hint: it lived up to all the hype and more.

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I’m a big fan of Pub Quiz or as they call it here in the states: trivia night. I’ve written about it before here. We got started in London, going to different Pub Quiz nights in St John’s Wood but ended up becoming “regulars” on Sunday evenings at the Prince of Wales Pub at 138 Upper Richmond Rd, Putney. They have a fun quiz master (Alex) and our team consisted of all New Zealanders and the two of us. Fun times ~ great memories!

London our Pub Quiz group
At The Prince of Wales pub

Since moving back to Virginia, we’ve tried to keep up the tradition of Pub Quiz night and our friends found a great one at The Flying Fish in Alexandria. The quiz takes place in the lower level and they offer great happy hour specials on both food and bottles of wine. It’s an evening with good friends, yummy food, and I really like the quiz master/DJ (Don) as well. More good times ~ great memories!

Pub Quiz Champs
Our team finally won FIRST PLACE for the first time ever!! First place includes a $50 credit for future food/drinks at the Flying Fish. Lucky for us we have a sports expert (thanks Joe) on the team which is essential.

My advice if you go to a Pub Quiz (Trivia Night) is take scratch paper and extra pens so you can write down the answers so the other teams don’t hear your answers. Be prepared to tuck your phone/ipad/etc out of the way ~ cheaters are frowned upon.

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The weather in Northern Virginia has been foggy (yesterday) and rainy (today). It’s a great time to write about London and our last day in the UK.  With all I’m planning, we’ll have no time for sleeping! We can always sleep on the way home (well, at least John can ~ I’m a stay awake on the plane kind of person).

One thing I’d love to do but will have little no chance convincing John and Logan to join me: the Mad Hatter Tea at the Sanderlin. It’s a whimsical Alice in Wonderland inspired afternoon tea which sounds fabulous. This will stay on the to-do list for when I’m on a solo trip to London.

On to what we’ll do…

When we lived in London, I went on numerous London Walks tours which I thoroughly enjoyed. On a couple of the walks they would point out the Gentlemen’s Clubs of years past. Having been teased about those clubs, I’m very intrigued with Mark Rowland London Ramblings tour “The Gentlemen’s clubs of St James’s: Victorian London’s LinkedIn ” and I’ll definitely be booking the walk as soon as his July schedule comes out. Then we’ll head over to Regents Park for lunch with friends.

Regents Park Picnic

We had a picnic in the Regents Park on the day before we flew back to the states. We grabbed a couple of sandwiches from Pret a Manger and met up with friends in the park on what was one of the nicest weather days we’d had all year. We were witness to a proposal while we had our lunch ~ very romantic of them.

London Leaving Regents Park

Leaving Regents Park

Carina feeding the birds in Regents Park

Feeding Time in Regents Park

Close up of Water Fountain Regents Park

Regents Park Fountain Cover

Fountain in Regents Park

Spring in Regents Park

Flowers in Regents Park

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People Watching in Regents Park

We still have the “last” evening in London ~ the vote from the rest of the family is to spend the rest of the day in Covent Gardens for dinner and a West End show.  Now to decide which show and which restaurant. Any recommendations for a vegetarian friendly but will still appeal to a meat-eater kind of restaurant?

 

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Last summer, I attended The Taming of the Shrew  at Shakespeare’s Globe theater. The all-women cast did an excellent job, but the storyline is not my favorite of the Shakespeare plays. I would love to see Much Ado About Nothing but it’s not playing until April 2014. In any case, I was thrilled to see a play with fantastic actors at the iconic Globe theater.

Shakespeare’s Globe is a fabulous building with an interesting history. It’s located a few hundred yards from its original site. The building itself is as true to the original as they could surmise since there was next to nothing left of the original. The rebuilding of the Globe came about through the  efforts of  the American actor and director Sam Wanamaker. He founded the Shakespeare’s Globe Trust which reconstructed the theater. The foundation is also responsible for the education center and permanent exhibition. Thanks to Sam Wanamaker, there’s a beautiful and historic theater in a fabulous location (Bankside) in London.

Globe Theater

Globe theater and Millenium bridge
Globe Theater and the Millennium bridgeGlobe Theater II
Audience at the Globe TheaterGlobe Theater
Even if you don’t get a chance to see a play there, go for a tour. 

Borough Market is about a 5-minute walk from the Globe Theater. Borough Market has become so popular and hectic at peak times (weekends/lunch). But if you go early, it’ll be less of a crush. It’s recommended in all the travel guidebooks and there’s a reason for that ~ it’s a fantastic market.

Smell Me Truffles London

Market Mushrooms
Variety of Mushrooms

Market Peppers
Bright colorful peppers for sale

Market Fish
Fish at the Market

Market Cheese
Cheesemonger

Flower Shop London
Gorgeous flowers for sale year-round

Blooming Flowers London
Flowers in the Market

Monmouth London
Coffee Lover’s Favorite place in the market

The Market Porter London

The Market Porter pub always looked so inviting when I went by it but then one day a group of us decided to go in and the stench of urine was overwhelming. We just looked at each other and walked out. I was so disappointed. I still love the look of it from the outside.

The Rake Bar

The Rake Pub is a pub I’ve walked past many, many times and every time I would read the extensive beer selection on the sign outside. I seem to always say “next time”  but we ended up leaving London before I made good on next time.  The Rake is known as the smallest pub in London and, because it’s in busy Borough Market, I won’t be going on a Friday or Saturday night when it will be bustling with way too many people. Best to check it out in the afternoon while sitting outdoors watching the market-goers go by. They have 130 beers available ~ the Flying Dog K9 Cruiser looks like the one for me.

The Rake London

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One of my previous jobs required I prepare itineraries for visiting VIPs. One thing I learned is to always be flexible ~ it’s not a matter of IF things change, but WHEN things change. Only a week into planning our UK trip and the schedule has already been turned around. Due to John’s work constraints, we’ve decided to go to Scotland first then to London.

Day One in London will now be John’s graduation event so we’ve only got the morning to ourselves. Sounds like a good day to sleep-in, do laundry (from our week in Scotland) and then enjoy lunch at Maguro, our favorite Japanese restaurant. It’s located in Maida Vale.

Majuro Sushi London

My friend, Leslie introduced me to Maguro early on and we returned frequently throughout the year. I went once for dinner but I prefer their lunch. I always opted for the Tofu Teriyaki and it was consistently delicious. So yummy that my mouth is watering as I write this…

Bento Box, Maguros, London

Maguros, London Maida Vale

Tofu Teriyaki Bento Box

Maguro is located at 5 LANARK PLACE, LONDON W9 1BT, TEL 020 7289 4353 Take the Tube to Warwick Avenue Station (Bakerloo Line) then it’s a short five-minute walk to the restaurant.  The restaurant is tiny (!) and I would highly recommended making reservations. Great food, wonderful service and intimate atmosphere ~ you won’t be disappointed.

After lunch, we’ll head to John’s graduation ceremony and then the evening reception which hopefully will be followed with a last round with friends at a local pub. I better make day two a late start as well!!

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In planning my trip to London,  Day Three has to start with a visit to one of my favorite breakfast places in Marylebone, La Formagerie.

London Marylebone La Fromagerie

Located at 2-6 Moxon Street (W1), it has an extensive, glass-enclosed cheese room. For those non-cheese aficionados, the staff always seemed happy to help with my selections ~ I would tell them what kind of event/other food & wine/number of people and they made excellent recommendations. La Formagerie also serves lunch and dinner (excellent wine list). It’ll be a great way to start our second day. If you decide to go when you’re in London, click here for more details.

I’m planning to re-visit several museums and attend a play/concert during our stay. Logan didn’t get a chance to see the British Museum which she reminds me frequently ~ it just so happened she was unavailable every time I went.  I’m happy to return if just to look at the Rosetta Stone ~ which is near the entrance and the most visited object in the museum. Languages fascinate me and the Rosetta Stone was instrumental in deciphering of hieroglyphs. Think of it as the Google translate of the early 1800s.

British Museum Entrance London

And there’s so much more to see…

British Musem London small figurines

“No-Body with drinking glass and with a pipe” These are figurines from 1680-1700 from the publication “No-Body and Some-Body”

Brisith Museum London V

British Museum Glove II London

British Museum London II

British Museum III London

Hindu Goddess Gajalakshmi

Entrance to the museum is free so you can go in, see the Rosetta Stone, roam around at your leisure. It would take weeks to see everything so my advice is to check out the museum map and pick a section that interests you. When we go I’m going to take the “Around The World in 90 Minutes” tour. The guides are so informative.

For the afternoon, we’ll wander over to Knightsbridge which has lots of restaurants, parks, and shopping. At night, I’m hoping to attend an event at the Royal Albert Hall. Last year, I was blown away by the 9th annual Symphonic Rock concert we attended at the Royal Albert Hall.  The orchestra started with “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve which was spectacular and the rest of the concert got better and better. I remember looking around at intermission in awe that I was actually at the famous Albert Hall ~ it must be so surreal for the musicians who get to PERFORM there.  The Symphonic Rock is scheduled for May 2014 so we’ll miss it and I’m waiting for the “what’s on” calendar to update for the end of July. I have no doubt whatever we go to will be entertaining.

London Royal Albert Hall

The audience at the Royal Albert Hall

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When people find out we were lucky enough to spend a year in London, they usually ask “how did you like it?”  My answer is always “We loved it and still miss living there.”  The follow-up question is usually “So, what didn’t you like about it?”  That’s easy ~ doing the laundry. That may sound trivial (and it is) but doing laundry in a washer/dryer combo machine that doesn’t vent is frustrating. Clothes wouldn’t dry for days. Yesterday, while attending a cocktail party, a woman asked me the usual question “how did you like living in London?” but she got a shocked look when I said how much we loved living there and she followed up with “What exactly did you like about it?”  Hmmmmm….let’s see…”EVERYTHING”  

It got me thinking about our upcoming trip back to the UK in July. We’ll only have a week in London and a week in Scotland. There are so many places we want to re-visit. As much as I like to travel by the seat of my pants, I know we’ll regret not going back to see our favorite places and restaurants. A prioritized to-do list is necessary.

DAY TWO: 

Since we’ll be staying in our neighborhood, Marylebone, we’ll want to visit our old haunts. It’ll be easy to spend the whole day in Marylebone. It’s such a vibrant and beautiful part of London.

London: Marylebone High Street

Marylebone High Street ~ so many restaurants and shops all leading to either Regents Park or to Oxford Street

London:Daunt Books Marylebone

Best book store EVER ~ Daunt Books. Loved their author visits (wine served)

London St James Church Marylebone

The beautiful and Gothic St James Catholic Church ~ our “home” church while in London

London St James at night

…and it’s even more stunning at night

Wallace Collection at Night

The Wallace Collection is my favorite museum in London. It’s so cozy and intimate. I can imagine what it must have been like to be invited over as a friend of the owners to see the marvelous collection back in the mid to late 1800s. I visited so many times when we lived there (it was only a few blocks from our flat) and every time I left, I was already figuring out when I could get back to see more of the collection.

London Church alleyway

London Grotto Passage, W1

Lots of alleyways in Marylebone (and all around London). I love walking through them especially at night.

London Friday night at the pub

Local pub just off the High Street

London Royal Academy of Music

I knew two people who attended the Royal Academy of Music and I walked by it nearly everyday but never went to a concert there. Hopefully we can see a performance there.

London Thank goodness they have these as reminders

…and hopefully the directional signs on the road will help keep me from getting run over by aggressive cab drivers.

London Primrose Hill.jpg

A walk up to Primrose Hill in Regents Park to see the great views of London and of course to people-watch. Lots of buff athletes or the occasional one with his pants too low. I was photo-bombed.

London, Regents Park Station Underground

London US Ambassador's residence in Regents Park

Would love to spend a few hours walking around Regents Park

The pressing question is: Do we go back to our favorite restaurants or do we try new ones? Hopefully we can do both. One we’ll go back to is on Marylebone High Street close to Daunt Books ~ Topkapi. YUM! Lots of vegetarian options, meat eaters were happy and it has a lovely wine selection.

London Marylebone Topkapi

Day two will have us venturing out of Marylebone…

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In 2003, we visited London and rode the London Eye. Logan didn’t remember much of it since she was only five years old so she requested we go again before leaving London.

London The Eye

Lucky for us it was a somewhat clear day and we were afforded spectacular views of the city. At 135 meters (or 443 feet for us Americans), the London Eye, located on the South Bank, is the 5th tallest structure in London (after the Shard, BT Tower, Tower 42 and One Canada Square at Canary Wharf). The ride is about 30 minutes. If you’ve got a special occasion (maybe a marriage proposal?) you can rent out a private pod for £350.

A few photos looking at the London Eye from different locations in the city:
London Eye
From Westminster

NZH London Eye and Shard
From the top of the New Zealand Building

London Eye and Horse Statue
From the Horse Guard Parade (Whitehall)

And photos from within the the “EYE POD”:
7-2003, London, UK, London Eye, Logan091
Logan in 2003

7-2003, London, UK, London Eye, Patti & Logan089
Again in 2003

Logan and Patti on the London Eye
What a difference 10 years make

Views from the London Eye:
London Big Ben
Big Ben

London Eye from the inside
Looking straight up…

London Eye View

London Buses (2)
Love seeing all the bright red buses

Although I wasn’t keen on spending £29.50 on the ride, I’m glad we ended up going again. It was worth it!

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Our year in London came to an end much too quickly! I felt like I was just hitting my stride as an expat in London but the real world caught up with us and it was back to the Washington DC area in August.

The last few weeks were truly a whirlwind and I still have many updates to share about our time there. We enjoyed all London had to offer up to the last possible moment. My choice for our family’s “last days in London” to do list was to see the newly erected Hahn/Cock on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. It’s a fun piece of artwork and I’m thrilled I got to see it in person. I love the bold blue color against all the gray buildings in the square.

The plaque on the fourth plinth states:

Hahn/Cock 2013 by Katharina Fitcsh b.1956 in Essen, Germany
Hahn/Cock is a sculpture of a familiar domestic cockerel in ultramarine blue, made from glass fibre reinforced polyester resin and fixed on a stainless-steel supporting structure. It is 4.7 metres high and weighs over 800 kg.

Blue Cock II

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