London never fails to surprise me, no matter how many times I’ve visited. I always see something new. Like these folks, out for a leisurely ride. In busy Buckingham Palace Road. And, if I’m really lucky, I get to see things that are old with new eyes.
I usually stay in club rooms in Whitehall when I’m in Town. However, that area became ground zero when we were there last and Queen Elizabeth passed away. Victoria Hinshaw and I found our street barricaded at both ends, nearby old Scotland Yard was turned into a staging area for police horses and vehicles and vehicle traffic was banned in all surrounding roads. This time, we’d be in London during the run-up to the Coronation, which would also be centered around Whitehall and Westminster. I didn’t want a repeat disruption, and so I booked us into rooms at the Oriental Club, a reciprocal club off Oxford Street.
The Duke of Wellington was the Club’s first and only president – it was thereafter presided over by committee. The Oriental Club was new to me, as was the Spread Eagle pub, just over Oxford Street from us.
The Spread Eagle may be small, but the welcome was warm and the food top shelf. And it was at the Spread Eagle that I met up with my cousin, Arlene, who flew into Town after attending the Bruce Springsteen concert in Barcelona. It was her very first time in London. Whenever first timers ask me what they should see in London, I suggest that they take the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour, on which you can see all the major landmarks of London. Next day, I followed my own advice and Arlene and I set off down Regent Street in order to catch the Bus, stopping to admire the Coronation decorations along the way.
I hadn’t been on the tour bus in years and I have to admit, it was a lot of fun to sit back and take in the sights like a tourist. Below, media stands were going up ahead of the Coronation broadcasts.
My, that building looks awfully familiar . . . . .
White’s Club was all decked out for the Coronation. Having done a full circuit on the tour bus, we left at this point and went in search of oysters, which we were both hankering after. We just missed lunch service at Wilton’s, so we carried on to 45 Jermyn Street.
Afterwards, I took Arlene around the corner to Fortnum & Mason, a must see for everyone on their first visit to London. The candy section alone is worth the trip.
After browsing the candy and tea departments, we headed downstairs to the food court and wine store. We spent some time browsing the goods and Arlene did enjoy Fortnum’s, but what she was longing to see was Harrod’s, so off we went in a cab to the iconic landmark. Anyone who has been to Harrod’s has probably gotten lost at least once whilst inside. To avoid this, and to save us from wandering the floors aimlessly for hours, I suggested that we start in ladies clothing (1st floor).
And then I made the mistake of suggesting that we stop at the MAC counter on the way out, as I needed a lipstick. And then I also bought a mascara. And then the MAC lady gave me a sample of the Serumizer, to which I’m now addicted.
By this time, several hours had passed since we’d eaten the oysters, so Arlene and I strolled by a few more landmarks before meeting up with Vicky at Smith & Wollensky, just off the Strand, for dinner.
Yes, we went to an American steakhouse while in London. Andrea Stein and I had stumbled upon the place during a previous visit and we’d had a truly wonderful lunch there. This time, I had the cheeseburger and it was delicious.
And then there was the chocolate cake we split for dessert. But the sweetest treat was being able to see London as a tourist again. To have no agenda to follow, no meetings to take and no commitments. And, for a time, everything old was new again.