And I’m frantically trying to find a Rock and Roll tour of London for Greg. All those in cabs or minivans go off on days other than Friday. Sigh. Rock and roll – I ask you! Looks like a London Walk at 2 from Tottenham Court tube station. Also looks like I’ll be dashing out before hand to Apsley House. On my own, thank goodness. One must have solitude in order to properly – HOLY GOD – the smoke alarm in our room just went off and scared the living Hell out of me . . . . be still my heart . . . . where was I? Oh, yeah, solitude in order to properly contemplate the glorious triumphs and wonderous achievements of the Duke of Wellington. . . . . Going to try once again for dinner at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, then back to the hotel to pack. Can I tell you how much I don’t want to leave? Life is oft times unfair, is it not? I mean really, if life were fair, I’d be living at Apsley House. I don’t know who else has more of a right to do so. The Wellesley family hardly qualify – they were simply born into it. I’ve earned it. I’d have my rooms overlooking the Wellington Arch. I’d sit at a table before the window every morning, watching the tour buses and black cabs go round and round as I smoked cigarettes and sipped my coffee from the official William and Kate tankard I bought in Buckingham Palace last night. Each day as I made my way downstairs I’d sneer at Napoleon’s statue and ask my man (one must have a man, no?) to arrange for tea at the Ritz. Or the Mandarin Oriental. Or some such. You’d all be invited to come and stay. It would be such fun. We could stroll Rotten Row and eat dinner in the Waterloo Chamber. And drink glasses of port round the fire. And play whist while dressed in Regency garb. We could try on Wellington’s boots and afterwards we could slip upstairs and raid the attics. Just imagine what we’d find in all those dusty trunks and boxes . . . . . Sigh. Rock and roll – I ask you!
So, I was walking from the hotel down towards the Mall in order to get to St. James’s Street. Thinking like a resident, i.e. what are these people doing here and why are they blocking my route, I then glanced to the right as a troop of mounted guards approaching – the Changing of the Guard. Yes, stupid, every day at 11:30. Oh, bother, thought I, until I realized that this would make for great video for the blog, and so I took some. Eventually I did get to St. James’s Street and Piccadilly. First stop Fortnum & Mason – bought xmas cards for next year. Then Hatchards, where I bought some re-issued, previously out of date Georgette Heyer mysteries. Then to Richoux Tea Rooms for lunch. Walked Jermyn Street, took (another) photo of the window at Whites, peeked in at Duke’s Hotel and toddled my way back to the hotel to pick up Greg and head over to the Palace. What an experice, from arrival to departure. We were truly treated like royalty. Will blog about it in detail soon – suffice to say that upon passing security, you’re offered chairs to wait in until the tour officially starts. So, I’m sitting there taking it all in (French windows, window treatments, rug, etc etc.) When I look to the right, and what is the first thing I see? Chantry’s bust of the Duke of Wellington – not kidding. Although this wasn’t planned as an Artie tour, it has certainly turned into one (yippeeee!) You’ll have to wait for further details on our visit, but it was really a treat. Even Greg was impressed/interested. Our guide, Dawn, was quite entertaining.
We got out two hours later and went for dinner. And Bacardi and Coke. Greg is emphatic that he’s done enough walking for one trip. Oh, boy, he has no idea – Victoria, Brooke and I typically do as much walking in just a single day as weve done this trip. And I spared Greg the tube experience, so we’ve been cabbing it. Truly, the man has no idea. In any case, this frees me up tomorrow so I’ll be heading to Apsley House (again) then Oxford Street and maybe I’ll sneak in a massage. What the Hell. . . . more tomorrow.
Update: Apsley House website says it both open and closed tomorrow. The chart of opening times says open, the calender of openings says closed. Tune in tomorrow – will I or won’t I visit Apsley House?
So . . . I was walking by the shop at the Royal Mews, went in to browse . . . overheard one of the ladies who work there telling a man that they are doing an unprecedented opening of Buckingham Palace today and tomorrow only. Private tours of the palace with a guide, 20 people per tour, champagne included. Reader, I booked us in for 4 p.m. today – woooo hooooo! What a coup! What an experience! What a treat!
Check in later for all the Palace scoop . . . . . . off now to Piccadilly to stroll a bit until tour time.
Up very early and off to Paddington Station to meet our London Walks guide for our tour of Oxford and the Cotswolds. We all met by the ticket office at Platform 1, boarded the train and arrived at Oxford about 90 minutes later. The entire journey was pretty much done in a white out – the ground outside of London is still covered in a blanket of white snow and the weather was incredibly foggy. You really couldn’t see much more than 20 feet from either side of the train. A coach was waiting for us and we traveled to the lovely little village of Minster Lovell – detailed post to follow. Suffice to say that the village is filled with thatched cottages, narrow lanes, stone bridges over babbling rivers, etc etc. Reader, it was to die for. Didn’t take me long to pick out which cottage I wanted. Then it was off to Burford, a much larger town, where we had lunch and browsed the shops. Final stop in Oxford, where we took a walking tour. Greg and I peeled off from the group near the end to take care of the essential Three P’s of Touring as set down by myself and Victoria. The Three Ps are – a pint, a pee and a peek at anything that’s caught your eye. In this case, it was the Grapes (pee and pint both dispatched) and Waterstone’s bookshop, where I bought books by my favorite English authors that aren’t available in the States or on B&N website – a post on this soon. We arrived back in London at 7 and went to Boisdale of Belgravia for dinner – potato and leek soup (hot and warming) and Angus beef burgers (yummy).
Fell into bed and watch the first episode of a new show called Rock and Chips – later post. So, today is a leisurely day with no time tables – going to walk down the Mall and snake my way into St. James’s Street. Will walk Piccadilly, look round Shepard’s Market, pop into Fortnums, Hatchard’s and the Burlington Arcade, toddle my way down to Charing Cross Road and perhaps see a matinee of “When We Are Married” playing at the Garrick, etc etc. Nothing more than a rambling day round London Town. . . Oh, joy!
We made it, we’re in London! Woo Hoo! No problems with the flight, arrived at our hotel around 11:30 a.m. and the room was ready. Unpacked and went to Victoria Station to get some money from the ATM, then on board the Hop On, Hop Off tour bus for a whirlwind trip round London. We crossed the Thames four times!? Wow, was Oxford Circus and Regent Street packed with people. Hamley’s was jammed. Harrod’s closed today – jinormous sale starts tomorrow. You can bet we won’t be there. We plan to do the alternate bus tour tomorrow, then the river cruise, then the Tower, then dinner at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, then the Ripper Walk with Donald Rumbleow. It’s cold here, but no worse than New Jersey.
Had dinner in the carvery here in the hotel – roast beef, Yorkshire pudd, gravy, veg and dessert – straight down the road to Gouts-ville, but who cares? Met a wonderful couple at the next table, got to talking about how I love UK telly, they love US telly, neither of us can access the other and so we’ve made a Devil’s Bargain to email each other links to our favorite shows. We’ll get around these restrictions or die trying. Speaking of which, Upstairs, Downstairs debuts here tonight, Antiques Roadshow is also on and they told me how to access the Royle Family Xmas special here (BBC Iplay, which you can’t access from the States, hence the Devils’ Pact). After dinner, Greg and I walked down the street to Buckingham Palace to see it lit up at night yes, Vicky, I did yell “Chuck!” even though I know he’s not there. One day . . .
There are gobs of William and Kate tat in the stores here already (yipppeee!) and I’m on the verge of tears every time I see a pub or currency exchange bureau. I know, crazy. Oh, btw, we were on the bus tour and I was telling Greg (or so I thought) about the In and Out Club in Piccadilly and the tour guide overheard me and asked, “How do you know about the In and Out Club/Melbourne House?” and so he turned off his mike and we started talking about the Melbournes and Palmerstons, about Artie’s having been at England’s first railroad fatality, about the Marble Arch, Lady Caro Lamb, etc etc etc . . . . . God, it’s good to be home. As you can see, the laptop is functioning fine, so I’ll be posting more about our trip tomorrow. Off to shower and watch Upstairs, Downstairs. I know I shouldn’t rub it in, but I promise to tell you all tomorrow. I can’t wait to see Rose . . . .