Wednesday, 30 April 2014

London, day one: Regent's Park, the V&A, St Pauls, nice surprises and heavy eyelids

red phone boxes When you see the sheer size of this post, and the number of photos, I think you will understand why I have been a bit anxious about doing it! Especially the first post, as the first of anything is not easy. Getting started, at least for me, is always the hardest bit. I'm also really concerned I'm going to leave something out but then that doesn't matter too much – I can always add more in later in case I do.

And basically, those 6 days in London were the happiest I've had for the longest time. It felt absolutely amazing! And, just look at how beautiful it is!

I do want to talk about the flight, as I actually love reading about other people's travel tales – as in, the being in transit bit, as well as what happens when they get there – and almost did it as a separate post. However, I hardly took any photos and anyway, we were in with the chickens on the plane, although it was MUCH better than I had remembered. We flew with Etihad, as they came up in the flight search somewhere after the super-cheap, lengthy stop over option but still within in the affordable (as Australian-London tickets go, that is) area. And they were lovely. Comfy, lovely staff, loads of films and tv to watch, and the food was actually good. Not just better than usual terrible airplane fare, but good. It wasn't as good on the last leg home from Abu Dhabi, but still would fly again with them and do recommend. sail tower This is what we saw when we got to Abu Dhabi airport and were only 14 or so hours from London. It looked so beautiful in the rosy, dusty dawn. John and I were still feeling pretty good but were keen to stretch our legs and get the blood flowing a bit. I travelled in a fitted vintage dress – big mistake, don't do that, I won't again – but still managed to lay on the dirty airport floor and put my feet above my head and maintain some shred of dignity. A man a few seats down did a yoga headstand and that was far more impressive. I had a bit of a cold when we boarded, which turned into Niagara on the first flight, with my nose streaming, so landing was really quite painful: now I know why we are warned against travelling with colds. But what are you going to do? You are hardly going to cancel your trip! I was that unlovely sick person you don't want to sit next to on a flight (or anywhere), endlessly stuffing tissues up my nose, and it was an extremely painful 45 minutes landing, as it felt as though a football was trying to fight its way out of my right ear. I was very glad when after a few yelps and several uncontrollable hand-to-ear arm flaps it was all over. It prepared me for the second landing in London, and I took some painkillers beforehand but it was even worse – both ears! – but I didn't care a bit. We could see out of the window, and I watched the Thames start to make sense, looking like the intro to Eastenders, and then I saw Hampton Court! Or was it Ham House! A red double decker bus! And we were down. I was completely deaf in my right ear, mostly deaf in my left, and literally skipped through the airport to meet my very kind and wonderful friend Paul, who had generously offered to pick us up. I am surprised he didn't run away when he saw me approaching, waving a huge box of tissues and with my compression stockings falling down around my knees. All glamour, here.

The drive up to central London was amazing; we were blessed with a sunny day an everything was sparkly and beautiful and better than I remembered; even the traffic was lighter! My ears were gurgling and I still had involuntary ear clasps when the pains hit and I kept asking (bellowing?) "What?", because I couldn't hear much, but nothing, nothing could dampen my mood. I was overjoyed to be home. Home at long, long last!

Our hotel was in Bloomsbury, which was looking all rather lovely in the soft sun. John and I thought we'd have a quick shower and a rest and then hit the streets, but then I thought I'd just rest in the bed just for half an hour... we woke up around midnight. Oops.

london blossoms dawn So, let's look at day one proper. We woke up again at around 3am, wide eyed in the dark, and eventually got ourselves ready for the hotel breakfast that opened at 7am. Oh, now I know just how good hotel breakfasts are. I don't mean just for the food itself – that can be rubbish – but just knowing you don't have to go outside and find something first thing is just really nice. We stayed at the Royal National London and I'll do a post on it, but basically brekkie was a canteen style, line up with a tray, toast and cereal sort of thing, and within 20 minutes we were full, with happily popped and hearing ears, looking at the first buds of blossom on the cold trees outside, and bouncing in our seats ready to go and see London!

lush bloomsbury houses locked bloomsbury park (beautiful lush garden is not for the likes of me and you!)

For those of you not familiar with London, Bloomsbury is very central, and right near Regent's Park. Lots of tall gorgeous old houses, lush squares and gardens, and some big wide roads that were quiet enough to tempt us to hire bikes – although the main roads are mad, busy chaos, although with plenty of cyclists, which is encouraging. We had a huge, impossible list of things we wanted to see and do, but we started with a walk around our new home, and headed of to the famous park. And WOW it was more beautiful than I ever, ever knew. I was already so excited to feel the London air, and it was cold enough to need gloves, and perfectly murky and grey, and I loved it. misty regents park me And then the park: regents park railings We first walked through the outer bit (erm, obviously) and then got to the fancy gate. regent cut tree The plants are so, so different to Australian ones (again, obviously!) and I missed them so much. The grass is a different shade of green, in fact all the greens are different. regent green world regent bench Imagine sitting here on a warmer day? With a book and a tasty sandwich... regent lush bench regent bridge lush excellent duck We walked onto the bridge over the lake and saw this excellent duck, who posed for a photo. excellent duck flying And then flew off. regent waterfalls We could hear rushing water, and then we saw this. smile waterfall regent So I pointed at it. I am more than happy to be a tourist! radiator cafe We were desperate for coffee and wifi (the hotel had neither) so we went in to the cafe there. They served us coffee in a mug the size of a bathroom basin and it was horrible, but the wifi was good, and look: radiators! I LOVE radiators! (And you would too if you moved to a country that decided heating was no longer required since about 1970.) (Radiators, proper radiators, in Melbourne are a rare, rare thing, and any kind of heating is not the norm. It's really, really strange.) It was on, it was warm, it was glorious, and I sat next to it beaming even more than before, because it was cold outside but warm inside and this is a miracle! pink tress Warmed, wified- and sort of caffeined-up, we headed back into the cold to walk through the park to the nearest tube station, to go to the V&A. parklife Are these herons? They are very tall and lovely and none of the birds were fussed that people walked so close to them blue plantiesducklings Even the ducklings were ok with it. lake We bought Oyster cards for zones 1 and 2 (and eventually got the right ones; we first got ones for buses and trams by mistake and I couldn't work out why the machine wouldn't let me through the barrier, but the staff cheerfully pointed out our error and fixed it for us, no faff and all smiles. This was a huge, lovely surprise for us Melbournites.) And then we were off on our first tube in over 10 years! Not gonna lie, it was really exciting. It was fast! Clean! The maps are amazing! People were friendly! This is not the London I remember at all. It was a revelation. Seriously. yellow white dress We wanted to go to the V&A no matter what was on, but we (ok, moslty me) were delighted to find this fashion history exhibition was on. This is completely ridiculous: I follow the V&A and Amber on twitter, and knew it was on, but only in the way I've got used to knowing these things: they're on but completely irrelevant to me because I may as well be on another planet and will never, ever be able to see any of them. I honestly don't know how I hadn't managed to put this together in my head, as I knew the dates I'd be there, but there it is. That's what ten years away does to you, apparently. vanda fashion green It was just. so. good. Here are some dodgy pics of things behind the glass. The display itself was really well done, and there was enough room to have a good look at everything. Oh I love the V&A. suits vanda My favourite kind of tailoring. dior vanda Of course. Dior. cage skirt I have a thing for these, I just think they're really cool. vanda cafe lights After losing each other for a bit, I got a DM from John saying he'd found a lake and I'd really like it. I wasn't quite so sure, because I was hungry and just wanted to find some lunch but he insisted, and he was right. There is a big courtyard and huge lake, right in the middle of the V&A. And on the other side is the most beautiful cafe. We lined up with trays – fancy trays with prints – loaded up with wraps and salads, and sat down in the most incredible room to eat. If you can, go here for lunch. The food is really good, really cheap, and the building is knock out. Cannot believe it is so accessible. vanda cafe tate mod night time trees We then went on to the Natural History Museum – packed, we lasted 10 minutes, as we knew we couldn't waste any time – and then headed back to the hotel for a break. I was so, so chuffed to get a message from Jenny, inviting us to an event at the British Museum (again, I'd seen it was on, but hadn't computed that I would be there for it). I was so chuffed, as it feels a bit scary (silly, really, but still, it does) to ask people to make time for you when you visit the city they live in, and I was too shy to contact any of the Vintage Mafia etc, and it was so nice to get that welcome. We already had plans with Paul for the night and couldn't make it, and if I'm really honest my hair was looking horrible and I didn't have a vintage outfit that would have been good enough, and would have felt a bit awkward on the looks front if I had gone. We were meant to go for dinner at The Lamb, a pub near our hotel – John was busting for a pub meal – but when we got there the pub was packed, and we weren't due to meet Paul there until later anyway, so we decided on a sandwich at Pret A Manger instead. It was only about 7pm, and we were jet lagged and very, very tired – but it was far too early to quit and go back to the hotel again. So, we jumped on the tube to St Pauls – I cannot tell you how AMAZING it is to use the tube again, especially after trying to get around on Melbourne's sorry excuse for public transport – and walked around the icon and over the bridge, taking in the lights and their reflections on the Thames. It was magical, dream like. And bloody freezing. We trotted on to the Tate for hot drinks, and although the cafe had shut (despite us being there in opening hours, lies!) another bar section was open, so we sat and drank a good latte (John) and a hot chocolate (me) next to the big windows, looking out over the river, which helped us keep our heavy eyelids open.

We walked back over the bridge to the tube, with this in front of us. It looks fake. Ridiculous and completely mind blowingly amazingly good. London, I missed you, and it was good to be back. st pauls night time a


Georgiana said...

Oh wow, the history exhibition i Victoria and Albert´s must have been beautiful!

This is interesting with thedifferent shades of green in the world, I have never thought of that.

The Dainty Dolls House said...

So wonderful, am happy everything started to well. The plane ride sounded terrible, but you got there safe, so that's ok. I look forward to seeing more. The V.A. looked amazing :))) xx

our shabby cottage said...

Fantastic post Marianne, loved reading all about your first day back in London in such a long time. I hope you will be posting more about your trip and adventures! Lucky you going to the VandA whilst the fashion exhibit was on, well timed!!

Ellie said...

Hello, I'd know those three phone boxes anywhere -- if I'm not mistaken that's Russell Square! Oh this post makes my whole heart hurt (in a good way) -- beautiful, beautiful London! Can't wait for more x

Wild Tea Party said...

Thanks for sharing all these pics and your travel stories, I love these kinds of posts. I'm dying to go back to London again though, so this isn't helping. The V&A is just amazing!

IrishRedRose said...

What a wonderful read!! Thank you for making the effort. It was so evocative. I feel like I've vicariously had a day in London again. :-) I haven't visited since the late 80s and..I still have these occasional moments of wishing I were there! I'm not even English, it's just, well, you understand. Lucky you, catching that fashion exhibit at the V&A. (The unicorn brooch on one of the suits!) Melbourne and heat--never heard that, how odd. I have heard there's a perennial water crisis; as a Californian, I know how that feels, alas. I loved how much it rains in England! :-)

stone.feather.bone said...

Oh I loved reading this! I'm not from the UK but I lived there for a while and this post brings back so many good memories of living there and that first visit back, just once (sadly) since. Agree with you on Melbourne's shit public transport... If only they could get that sorted. Can't wait for more posts! :)

stone.feather.bone said...

Oh I loved reading this! I'm not from the UK but I lived there for a while and this post brings back so many good memories of living there and that first visit back, just once (sadly) since. Agree with you on Melbourne's shit public transport... If only they could get that sorted. Can't wait for more posts! :)

suze2000 said...

I do love London. I'm such an Anglophile, I'd live there, but I couldn't stand the weather! Looks like you had an excellent time. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your trip. :)

Valerie Brown said...

Really enjoyed your first travel post! I've never been to London, and am loving your enthusiasm since I'm sure I'd be the same!

Also, yes those are Herons. I'm surprised they are just standing in the street like that!

Gemma said...

What a lovely day!

I've been to the Lamb, years ago, I don't think I had dinner, but I remember it being a lovely pub!

Catherine Summers said...

Marianne the photos are just wonderful - you've been to all my favourite places in one fell swoop! I worked at the V&A many years ago for a short while - the walk from the staff entrance to the offices and then to the gallery (I worked on the kid's interactive programme so it was a different gallery each time) seemed to take about 10 minutes, and it was always brilliant to walk through the museum with no one around. It never fails to amaze me, even though I've been so many times.

Looking forward to seeing more photos!!

Catherine, Not Dressed As Lamb

Charlotte said...

That looks so fun! I hope I get to go to London some day.

But, really, you don't have heaters in Australia? I saw it's supposed to be in the 40s this week in Melbourne, and I imagine it gets colder than that. I just can't fathom not having any kind of heat. Do you have space heaters or anything? Fireplaces? Or just really big sweaters? Is it some sort of environmental regulations that make it difficult for people to have heaters?

Babes in Thriftland said...

I love your excitement and how it comes through in your writing (Assuming I'm interpreting chuffed correctly). I really love London and I can't wait to go back there someday. Keep the posts coming!

Lilian Pólvora said...

nice pics..i lived in london one year e now i love to go there just with tourist. Lilian

Sarah said...

Such an awesome post! I love your gorgeous photos and reading all about your trip. I'm visiting London in June and seeing this has made me even more excited to be back in my favorite city. :) xoxo

Bianca Esposito said...

This post makes me miss London even more! I was there for five months in 2012 for study abroad and I miss it everyday, my favorite city by far!

Becky Bedbug said...

It's so lovely to read a post from someone who loved London so much! I live in the London suburbs and although I absolutely love it (I genuinely think it's the best city in the world), it's so easy to take it for granted.

I loved the part where you got excited about radiators! So sweet!


Polly said...

Gorgeous pictures! It's lovely to see you looking so radiantly happy as well. The birds are indeed herons, and I have also noticed that the animals in the London parks seem remarkably tame! I adore the V&A cafe as well. It's incredible. Living history. And I always have a little paddle in the lake! Really looking forward to the next part of your trip, you tell the story of it so beautifully and it's so uplifting!

Sarah said...

I loved every second of this post! This time last year (almost exactly, as we flew on the 2nd of May) I left to see London for my first time! Seeing this post reminded me of how amazing it was and how much traveling opened my eyes. I like that you've included all the little details, it makes it feel wonderfully real. Can't wait for the rest of the posts :)

Daffny AVintageNerd said...

I read every word you wrote. I just adore, adore, adore London. I am proud to be American and I am a proud New Yorker BUT if I could love anywhere in the world I would live in England and I would have to live either in London or at least an hr away. I miss it sooo much and reading your post and seeing your photos just put a silly smile on my face the whole time!! Thank you for sharing! xox

Poppy Black said...

How wonderful! I have never been to the Northern Hemisphere and it is so lovely to share your adventures. I would take photos of Mr Duck, pretty spring flowers and smiley pointing poses too. Shame about the poor sore ears. I think planes make colds a million times worse. I'm looking forward to the next episode of The Big Holiday! xxxx

Akram Taghavi-Burris said...

I really enjoyed your post. Makes me want to visit the UK even more! Can't wait for your next edition of your fantastic travels.

Selina said...

I thought we might see pictures of the V&A exhibition on here :P

Shell KittyAndBuck said...

Oh, I feel you! I miss London so much! Amazing pictures and post - I felt like I was there again, for just a few minutes :)

Miranda said...

excellent start recap of your journey. i bet london IS really beautiful!

and wait...what? no heat whatsoever in australia? doesn't it get cold in the winter?? at least a little bit? do you have space/portable heaters you can set up in a room? at least you don't have a heating bill i suppose!

Elke said...

Great first day... your photo's make me want to travel... Someday :), but now I'll enjoy travelstories. Thanks for taking the time to write such profound posts!

Anonymous said...

This post makes me so happy! It has so many of my favourite things about London in it and you are clearly so thrilled and it just makes my heart sing. I have about a gazillion photos of that Dior dress with the insides on display-- how gorgeous is all that boning??!!! The V&A is, truly, the very best museum in the world.

So glad you had fun. I miss London so much and it's only been since July that I was there. Don't know how you've resisted going back for so long. Hopefully you will be able to get back more frequently-- it really is good for the soul. Thanks for sharing your pics!

Kate-Em said...

I really enjoyed reading this, it is so joyful and it was lovely seeing London through your eyes. I am from London but no longer live there and it was wonderful to see some of my favourite spots like the V&A and the view from the South Bank towards St Paul's.

Laura said...

ah,this makes me want to visit london! regent's park is one of my favourites and i've never been to the v&a. beautiful pictures and it sounds like you had the most amazing time! xx

esme and the laneway said...

‪Georgiana‬ : the exhibition was SO good! I wanted to get the book but it would have been heavy for flying with. And yes, different greens, I knew the UK would be lush but forgot how much more blue the grass is!

‪The Dainty Dolls House‬ : the ear stuff on the plane wasn't too fun but no harm done :) The V&A is incredible! Would love to be able to visit it more often.

‪our shabby cottage‬ : thanks very much :) Yes, lots more posts to come! And some posts on other things to, to help break them up x

‪Ellie‬ Spot on! It's amazing how something fairly generic can actually be so recognisable, isn't it! And I can't get over how gorgeous London is now – scrubbed up nicely!

‪Wild Tea Party‬ : no, thank YOU, I love doing these kinds of posts and it's really nice to know they aren't boring to everyone else but me. x

‪IrishRedRose‬ : oh cool, how did you find it in the late 80s? Yep, Melbourne doesn't have great heating options, and double glazing and insulation in houses is considered Very Fancy. And the drought was terrible a few years ago, when we just missed running out of water, but luckily that is improving. I miss the rain too, I don't see it as a glum thing, it's a life-giving thing!

‪stone.feather.bone‬ : haha imagine if Melbourne had decent public transport!!! :D It would make the place so much better. Glad you liked the post, more of London to come!

‪suze2000‬ : ah but the weather is amazing! If you like grey drizzle, of course :P I'd swap Melbourne summers for that any day! x

‪Valerie Brown‬ : aha, I thought so! Thank you! I used to see them on the Thames but from a bit of a distance, so they seemed a lot smaller. They were so casual about it all – must be so used to it! The geese actually walked up to people – demanding food, maybe?! Bold London creatures :D

‪Gemma‬ : isn't it so cozy and good! And the old features... amazing!

‪Catherine Summers‬ : oh thank you! Wow, what an awesome place to work! I know I should have remembered more, but it really blew my mind that these amazing buildings are just there, to be enjoyed by the public... absolutely incredible! Walking through there when empty would be a treat!

esme and the laneway said...

‪Charlotte‬ : oh I can't recommend London enough – especially at the moment, it's got this amazing optimistic feel, which was a nice surprise! Yes, the heating thing here is really weird. It gets down to almost 0C at night in winteer (maybe lower?) where we are, which isn't THAT cold compared to a lot of places, but still, cold enough! Old houses had fireplaces, and then I've seen lots of them replaced with electric heaters (orange bar ones), and the newer places from the 70s and 80s might have gas heaters on one or two walls in the entire house, but then they stopped! It's not unusual for somewhere to have no heating, or cooling – even with our crazy summers! Also, insulation isn't the norm, and double glazing is really expensive and I've hardly ever seen it in homes. So yes, lots of big sweaters, beanies, blankets on the couch..! I've only ever been in one home, the whole time I've been here, that was heated throughout to a London temperature. (Now when I go in heated rooms my face freaks out and goes hot and red!) I don't know why this is, there's no environmental regulations against them that I know of (and we are still allowed to burn wood in fireplaces), it's a bit of a mystery to me! x

‪Babes in Thriftland‬ : yep, you did! Chuffed is v v pleased! :D

‪Lilian Pólvora‬ : it's a great place to visit, isn't it!

‪Sarah‬ : oh awesome! SO nice to go back too :D

‪Bianca Esposito‬ : oh I believe it! I love how busy it is.

‪Becky Bedbug‬ : oh totally, so true. I remember it taking ages to get anywhere from when I lived in the burbs (Putney and Battersea) but the tube seems so much faster now – we didn't go on any overground trains though! And yes, radiators, I wanted to smuggle one home with me!

‪Polly‬ : I was so happy. John said he hadn't seen me that happy for years. I love that they're tame, it means they're used to good treatment which is nice :) You can paddle in the lake? That's awesome!

‪Sarah‬ : thanks so much :) travelling really changes perspective, doesn't it!

‪Daffny AVintageNerd‬ : thanks v much – and there were a lot of words! :D ooh NY, I love it there – I've only been once, for a week, but it was amazing! London is so special too. Glad my post made you smile – hope the next ones will, too x

‪Poppy Black‬ Haha yes, Mr Duck demanded photos! :D The sore ears was a shock, but they were fine after a day or so. Totally worth it!

‪Akram Taghavi-Burris‬ : thank you! C an't recommend UK enough. Would have loved to go to Devon, Brighton, and then up North too, next time!

‪Selina‬ : how could I not! :D

‪Shell KittyAndBuck‬ : thank you :) That's really nice to know it did that! x ( I mean, in a good way, not to make you sad!)

‪Miranda‬ : it truly is! Jaw droppingly so. Yep, it gets pretty cold in Melbourne, it's a mystery to me! THey just seemed to fall out of fashion over the past 30 or so years of building here. Air con isn't the norm, either..! Haha yes, that is true! And lots of HUGE jumpers! :D

‪Elke‬ : thank you! Gosh, was my rambling profound?! :D

‪Anonymous‬ : thanks v much. The V&A... I can't get over how good it was/is. I hope tog et back there again too – you're right, I actually feel like it uplifted me! Huge shot in the arm, in the best way.

‪Kate-Em‬ : do you miss living there? It's nice seeing somewhere familiar through different eyes, isn't it. I got so blase about all the well known spots but now they are all fresh again!

‪Laura‬: do it, do it! V&A is awesome. x

Emma Cherry said...

It's funny how you mentioned London seeming a lot happier nowadays.....because I have thought the exact same thing! 10-15 years ago, people would push past you, with no courtesy - recently (since I have grown older) London is/feels so much more cheerful!
I was visiting St Pauls last week - I was also doing the tourist thing (something I've just never done before).
Looking forward to seeing the rest of your photographs :)

Dear Thirty - Vintage Blog

La Gamine said...

Love the coat - where is it from and is it Europe warm or Austrlsia warm (I'm sure you know what I'm talking about!)

esme and the laneway said...

Emma Cherry : the difference from 10+ years ago is AMAZING! I wonder what's caused the change? And touristy things in London are awesome, I loved your post on London too x

La Gamine : thanks – it's a 1970s one from an op shop years ago, and it's only a light one, warm enough for London spring (erm, over a jumper or two) but not useful for Melbourne most of the time, as it's either Very Stupidly Hot or Cold Enough To Need A Proper Coat here for 11 months of the year.

harbourmaster said...

Your eye for capturing perfect vistas makes me want to go back there IMMEDIATELY! Gosh you must miss it! x

Vickie said...

Sounds awesome - gorgeous photos :)

tors grantham said...

I do love that you photographed the radiator, and
I completely understand: it freaked me out when I lived in NZ/Aus (especially NZ, it's fricken' cold in winter!)

Those did look like herons, such beautiful birds. There's one that lives on the river here, he's huge! Your photos are great, really brings London to life. I haven't been back in about 8 years, although I have slightly less distance to travel! I'm so glad you guys had a good time, looking forward to the next installment on my reading catch-up!

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