Archive for May, 2013

It’s Saturday and the weather is beautiful – I knew it would be even though the weather forecast called for rain. The temperature was cooler but the sun was shining all day.

Borough Market

London’s Borough Market

We decided it would be a great day to go to the Borough Market – one of the biggest in England with over a 100 individual stalls including fresh fruit, vegetables, baked goods, meat and fish. We walked up and down the aisles through the many stalls to see and taste the different culinary delights.

Ted's Veg of Lincolnshire

Ted’s Veg of Lincolnshire

You could feel a real sense of pride in their products. The fact that many of them make, grow or rear the produce they sell shows the quality and the foods that we sampled along the way were the proof. In fact we were surprised when we walked past Ted’s Veg sign that said that all of the veggies were fresh from the farms in Lincolnshire – that is where we live. So we had to stop in and tell them that we are from Lincoln and they said, “you do not sound like you are from Lincoln,” so we said that we are originally from Southern California but we are living in Lincoln for the past five years. Then we all started to laugh and realised what a small world it really is.

The market has a vibrant and friendly atmosphere and an energy that only a market crowed with people eating and shopping and taking in the ambiance can create.

Mushrooms Galore

Mushrooms Galore

Just look at the many varieties of mushrooms and the beautiful presentation. Mushrooms have so many medicinal qualities and Steve & I eat lots of them.

Borough Market is known as London’s oldest fruit & vegetable market.

One of the Specialty Cheese Shops

One of the Specialty Cheese Shops

Fresh and Colourful Lettuce

Fresh and Colourful Lettuce

Now That is a BIG Pan of Paella

Now that is a BIG Pan of Paella

Fish so Fresh that it Still Looks Alive

Fish So Fresh that It Still Looks Alive

Fresh Fish Looks as if They are Swimming at You

Fish So Fresh that They Look as if They Just Jumped Out of the Ocean

Let’s not forget the freshly Baked Sweets. What a Lovely Display of Colours and Tastes.

Let’s Not Forget the Freshly Baked Sweets. What a Lovely Display of Colours and Flavours.

The Crowd wants to eat & eat &eat

The Crowd Wants to Eat & Eat & Eat

Freshly pressed juices creating this rainbow of colours. Just looking at them makes me feel healthy.

Freshly Pressed Juices Creating this Rainbow of Colours. Just Looking at Them Makes Me Feel Healthy

After a relaxing lunch of fresh and authentic falafel, we were ready to go explore another area of London.

London Bridge

The Famous London Bridge

The View from London Bridge

The View from London Bridge

We walked across the London Bridge taking in the skylines of both sides of the Thames River. Here you can see a variety of different shaped buildings, including the recognizable Gherkin.

The Shard

The Shard

Here is the Shard, the newest and tallest building in Western Europe, among the other unique-shaped glass buildings.

Maxine with Tower Bridge in the Background

Maxine with Tower Bridge in the Background

Tower Bridge with the skyline in the middle

Tower Bridge with the Skyline in the Middle

We continued to walk a good distance, and then we walked across the Tower Bridge.

A closer look of Tower Bridge as we approached it

A Closer Look at Tower Bridge as We Approached it

We also walked across the Tower Bridge. Steve is loving all of this walking around London.

We Also Walked Across the Tower Bridge. Steve is Loving All of this Walking Around London.

Our regular stop at Tube Station then a short walk to our hotel

Our Regular Stop at the Gloucester Road Tube Station, Just a Short Walk to Our Hotel

We took the tube to Knightsbridge which brought us right outside Harrods.

Every Station on the Tube has a Diagram of All the Stations on that Line

We took the tube to Knightsbridge Station which brought us right outside Harrods – one of my favourite stores.

The Ice Cream Experience at Harrod’s

The Ice Cream Experience at Harrods

I needed and earned (from walking miles a day across London) my ice cream sundae fix, not just any ice cream sundae but a Morelli’s ice cream sundae – probably the best ice cream in the world (second is a place in France and third is a place in Italy). I had this ice cream sundae in Harrods once before on our first visit to London after we moved to England almost five years ago.

The Incrfedible Ice Ceam Sundae

The Incredible Ice Cream Sundae

I will try to put into words my ice cream sundae experience and describe just how incredibly delicious it was. The layers of different chocolate ice creams, whipped cream, whole hazelnuts, a floating chocolate cup filled with a special chocolate sauce, and a chocolate Flake (the chocolate stick coming out of the whipped cream) all creating a variety of textures and tastes that exploded in my mouth with every spoonful and filled my taste buds with unbelievable sensations.  This ice cream experience is one of my many food fantasies. I do save it for special occasions, however I will not leave that much time in between the next one. Is it time yet?

After pulling me away from the Morelli’s Ice Cream Shop we headed over to the housewares department to check out the new Dyson vacuum cleaner, as well as to get some kitchen and dining room ideas for our house in France (that is in the process of being built).

On our walk back, we stopped for dinner at an Italian restaurant just down the street from our hotel. As we sat waiting for our meal we noticed that there were mostly Americans in the restaurant (we could tell by their accents – ha ha) No we have not lost our Californian accent but we are used to hearing English accents. All the American accents are probably due to the fact that it is close to all of the American hotels in the Kensington area – the Marriott, Crown Plaza, Best Western and more. It was funny hearing so many American accents. We sat next to a couple that just happened to be from Southern California! We got excited and began talking with them. By the time we finished dinner we know their whole life story. As we left  we said “Have a nice day,” a very American saying.

It was another great day in London – we walked we talked we ate we shopped. It was now time to go back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep to get us ready for the last day of our wonderful weekend in London.

Being Sunday, we decided to have a well-deserved sleep-in and a late breakfast. We checked out of hotel but left our luggage there for the day. The weather was still being good to us so we took a boat ride up and down the Thames River, from Embankment to Greenwich, home of Greenwich Mean Time, the centre of the world’s time zones, created there because of the shipping industry. As the day went on the weather got cooler and the clouds began to move across the sky without raining on us and allowing the sun to shine throughout the afternoon.

The architecture and landscape along the river goes from character properties to the ultra modern.

The Architecture and Landscape Along the River Goes from Character Properties to the Ultra Modern.

The High Chaparral Cantina Cafe

The High Chaparral Mexican Cantina Cafe

We got off of the boat at Greenwich, went through to the Visitor’s Centre where we learned some interesting facts about the area. We then headed to the High Street. It was lined with nice shops, specialising in unique art, jewellery and sweets and yes, the Greenwich Market. It was different from the Borough Market in that it was smaller and had  more than just food. In addition to the fresh foods and veggies and fruits there were handmade crafts, pictures, jewellery and more. It was now lunch time so back onto the High Street in search of a restaurant. I had a taste for something different, like Mexican food. We crossed the street and amazing as it seems we ended up right in front of a little Mexican restaurant. It didn’t look like much from the outside but as it turned out they made the best Mexican food in England. It was a family-owned business. They were so friendly, the service was great and it was the best Mexican food that we had eaten since moving to England.

It was now time to take the boat back to Embankment and then the tube to the Marriott Kensington to pick up our luggage and take the tube to the train station – Kings Cross. Steve had not seen the renovations that were done to Kings Cross, which were a combination of renovation and modernization.  It was now time to board the train and Steve surprised me with a First Class train ride back to Lincoln. After they served us dinner we sat back and relaxed and reminisced about our fabulous (long) weekend in London.

Great weather, good energy, so much excitement – it was all that I wanted it to be and more. With all that we fit into these four days we still have things that we want to see and do. I am looking forward to another trip to London sometime this summer.

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I had decided that I would like to plan a trip to London for my birthday in February, just Steve and me, and that we would do the “Tourist Things” that we had not done yet. Of course I wanted to wait until the weather got warmer and drier but had not chosen a particular date. Then a concert was announced on the radio, arranged by our favourite classical radio station, Classic FM. That set the date, 25 April, for the beginning of our long weekend in London. We went online to book our tickets for the Royal Albert Hall. It is an awesome booking system that has cameras set around the venue. When you click on the camera it shows you what your view will look like from that seat. It was so much fun picking out just the right seats with just the right view. It was all part of the experience.

The Royal Albert Hall is as special a place as it sounds. The excitement of the upcoming weekend began as I researched online all of the places that we could go to. I just had to be able to fit them into four days. After going over my list with Steve, we got it down to about ten things. We knew that we would have to be flexible as everything depends on the weather in England, and you learn to go with the flow to enjoy it all. We decided to take the train from Lincoln into London, which eliminated the expense of driving and parking the car. We would use the London Underground as our main transportation, as well as walk to see the many streets, bridges, shops and cafes. We would also use a taxi to take us to dinner and the concert.

The weekend began when Steve and I boarded the train at Lincoln Central Station – it sounds impressive, but there is only one train station in Lincoln. We were on our way to London’s Kings Cross Station, where most of the trains from the north-east arrive. It was a beautiful two and a half hour train ride down to London, the sun was shining and there was no rain to be seen, so we sat back and relaxed and took in the scenery. Spring had finally arrived.

Gloucester Road Underground Station

Gloucester Road Underground Station

We arrived at Kings Cross and found our favourite café, Pret A Manger, to have a fresh salad for lunch before heading to the underground to our stop at Gloucester Road from which we had a short and picturesque walk to our hotel, the Kensington Marriott. Everything looks beautiful when the sun is shining. That is the real Southern Californian Girl in me.

The Kensington Marriott

The Kensington Marriott

Steve is a Gold Elite member of Marriott, so when we checked in they upgraded our room, gave us access to the Executive Lounge and included breakfast for the entire stay. After about five hours of travel it was nice to just settle in the room, unpack and take a little rest before getting ready for dinner and the concert.

A London Taxi

A London Taxi

We took a taxi to the Richoux French restaurant in Knightsbridge. The Manager, Kamel, heard our American accent and went out of his way to give us great service. There was a family sitting across from us that was trying to get a family picture, so I offered to take it. We then started to talk with them. They were visiting from Nice, France, with their two girls who both spoke French, Spanish and some English. The mom was originally from Argentina and her husband is from France, we told them that we have bought a house in southwest France and had visited Nice many times and loved it too.

The Richoux Restaurant

The Richoux Restaurant

I love meeting new people and I love travelling.

Arriving at The Royal Albert Hall

Arriving at the Royal Albert Hall

We are now onto our big night out at the Royal Albert Hall for the Classics FM concert. The Royal Albert Hall is beautiful and has such character. It holds about 1,000 people but feels so cosy and the acoustics were incredible. They allowed guests to take pictures before the concert started, while the excitement was building in anticipation of the concert. It was the perfect setting for our first event at the Royal Albert Hall.

The Concert is About to Begin

The Concert is About to Begin

The concert was sponsored by Laithwaites Wine. They gave everyone a program and samples of their red and white wines. That just added to the evening. Classics FM brought musicians and singers from around the world for this concert – Sir James Galway on the flute flew in from Switzerland, Milos Karadaglic on the guitar was celebrating his 30th birthday that evening, Sir Michael Collins conducted the orchestra, except when Howard Goodall conducted with a world premiere of a new piece he had written. Jennifer Pike on the violin flew in from Australia with her new husband, and this concert was incorporated into their honeymoon. Amy Dickson soloed on the saxophone, and Sir Michael Collins on the clarinet. They finished the evening with the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture and shot off fireworks within the hall to the rhythm of the music. It was a grand finale worthy of the standing ovation that we gave to the orchestra and all of the musicians. The energy was so high and the applause so exciting – it was a fabulous evening.

Maxine & Steve Enjoying the Show

Maxine & Steve Enjoying the Show

Our energy level was still so high and the weather was so mild that we decided to walk back to our hotel and see this part of London at night, as we passed by the Natural History Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and many restaurants, cafes and shops along the way. And that was just our first day in London!

The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum

We were up early for breakfast and began our day at the Jewish Museum in the Camden area of London. The museum is housed in a former piano factory and incorporated some of the original features of the building into its modern design. Care was taken to present the various elements of Jewish London history, including perspectives from the different branches of Judaism. There were many interactive displays including a Torah scroll with an electronic yad, or pointer. The yad sensed where you pointed and presented a translation from the Hebrew into English.

The Torah Scroll with an Electronic Yad

The Torah Scroll with an Electronic Yad

Camden is the home of many interesting sights and sounds, as it is a well-known favourite spot for the “younger” crowd. We knew that we would find an interesting place for lunch.

The Camden Eye

The Camden Eye

We ate at the Camden Eye – a well known pub that specializes in wood oven pizzas and salads not to mention a good variety of beers. We both agreed that it was among the best pizza we’ve had in England. The guy sitting next to us heard our American accent and assumed that we were tourists and told us of a famous pub just a tube ride away for another day – the Falcon Pub. How nice was that?

Being Friday, we then decided to take the tube to Golders Green, a Jewish neighbourhood, in search of a kosher challah (braided bread eaten on the Sabbath). Our friends have told us about the area but we had not been there yet. We got off of the tube and started walking to the High Street (Main Street). I saw a man wearing a yarmulke (skull cap) and knew he would have an opinion on the best bakery. We stopped to ask him where we could buy a challah, and he pointed us in the right direction of a few Jewish bakeries to choose from. We bought our challah and some special cookies and headed back to the tube station and back to our hotel to freshen up.

David Bowie

David Bowie

The Kensington Marriott is centrally located to many of the sights we wanted to see. The weather was cooperating beautifully so we decided to take a walk in the direction of the Victoria & Albert, known as the V&A. The V&A was hosting a special event celebrating David Bowie. We were more interested in seeing the museum but managed to get caught up in the excitement of the crowds at the event.

David Bowie

People Queuing Up for the David Bowie Event

Exploring the V&A was a wonderful experience. The variety of its collections is amazing, from delicate sculptures to parts of historic buildings.

Inside the Victoria & Albert Museum

A Traditional Room Inside the Victoria & Albert Museum

Artwork in the V&A

A Very Large Panorama in the V&A

We were able to wander through about half of the V&A before our growling stomachs got the better of us, as it was close to 8 o’clock in the evening. We walked in the direction of Harrod’s and knew that we would find a place for dinner, even though it was a Friday evening, and we hadn’t booked a table anywhere. We turned down a side street that had loads of cafes and restaurants, and came upon Maroush, a Lebanese Restaurant that looked very good.

The manager found us a table right away and we pored over the extensive menu. I ordered a meze styled dinner, a selection of several small dishes. I had aubergine salad, tahina and Lebanese pastry filled with feta cheese. Steve had a lamb dish with rice that was outstanding. But before they served our food, they brought freshly baked pita bread and a large dish filled with all kind of raw Mediterranean vegetables to nibble on while they prepared our dinner. The service was impeccable, the food was incredible and there was plenty of it. The dinner was followed by a platter of fresh fruit. We were stuffed and waddled back to our hotel.

Stay tuned – the second half of our long weekend will be in my next blog post…

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