Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Another Trip to the UK: London and Windsor



I'd made two trips to London so far since we moved overseas, and I hadn't planned on going back to the UK for a while, but I'd been dying to see Hamilton and last November I found out more tickets to the West End production were going on sale. They are far, far easier and cheaper to get than tickets in New York (since scalping of tickets is strictly forbidden in the UK!). Seven months ago my husband and I  anxiously hovered over our laptops the minute the tickets went on sale and we scored four seats for June! Sadly, my oldest daughter had to miss it (she had an amazing internship opportunity that she just couldn't pass up), but my mother had been planning to visit so we combined a trip to London with a Jane Austen pilgrimage.

After a very early morning flight, we wandered around Hyde Park since our hotel room wasn't ready yet. I'd never been to any of the royal residences so I walked over to Kensington Palace. There was a nice display of some of Princess Diana's dresses, and you can tour the rooms where Queen Victoria lived when she was a girl. I think my favorite part was the Sunken Garden.



The gardens at Kensington are free to the public. 
As I walked back to my hotel, I found this statue of Queen Victoria:


We had tickets the first night to The Play That Goes Wrong which is HILARIOUS (it's also playing in New York and is touring the US starting in the fall). But first we had a pre-theater meal at a wonderful Italian restaurant near Covent Garden called Cicchetti. It's all small plates, similar to Italian tapas. Everything was wonderful but the desserts (for two) were the highlight:


The next day my Mother and I went to St. Paul's Cathedral, which is truly impressive. Sadly, no photos are allowed inside the cathedral, so I had to be satisfied with shots of the outside and from the top of the dome. 


I didn't ride any red London buses this trip but I do love them. So iconic.



I've gotten pretty good at climbing stairs since I moved to a four-story house on a hill. I feel justified in eating more gelato if I've climbed 47 flights of stairs. You can just see the London Eye near the bend of the Thames. 


After St. Paul's we walked through the City to Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, a historic pub that Charles Dickens frequented. I forgot to take a photo outside, but after lunch I decided to visit the Dickens House Museum which was just a short walk away at 48 Doughty Street. 


This is the home where Dickens moved in 1837, just before Queen Victoria acceded the throne. While he lived here, he wrote The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, and one of my favorites, Oliver Twist. 


Many of the original furnishings remain, including his desk:


One of the top floor bedrooms has a display of items relating to Dickens' childhood, including some bars from the window of the Marshalsea prison and a window from his childhood home. I was struck most by this display of blacking bottles. As a child, Dickens had to leave school and work in the blacking factory, pasting labels on the bottles of blacking. He worked twelve hours a day, six days a week, when he was only twelve years old. 


The Dickens house is only a five-minute walk from Lamb's Conduit Street so I couldn't resist popping into Persephone books for a quick look round! I visited two years ago and there was scaffolding covering the front, but now you can see how pretty it is. I especially love the boxes of geraniums. I could have happily bought a stack of books but I knew I'd be moving my suitcase around a lot for the next week, so I practiced self-restraint and bought just one dove-grey book, The Godwits Fly, and one from their table of "Books We Wish We'd Published" -- The Greedy Queen: Eating with Victoria by Annie Gray.


Then it was time to go home to eat and change before Hamilton !!!!


I really wish I'd taken a photo from the front of the theater. Once you go inside, you can't leave until the performance is over and by then it was dark. The theater inside is newly refurbished and absolutely beautiful. I did get this lovely photo of the ceiling interior. 



I'm no theater critic but Hamilton is probably the best musical I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a few in the past ten years. I'm not really a fan of rap but it's so much more than that -- it's got all types of music, dancing, drama, humor -- it has everything. All the performers were brilliant, but one of the stand-by performers did the role of Aaron Burr and he was absolutely mesmerizing. I cannot say enough great things about this play and I would love to see it again someday. 


The next day my mother and I checked out of the hotel and made our way to Slough where we picked up a rental car, then drove over to Windsor for lunch and to see the castle. 



It has everything you'd expect -- turrets, towers, and a moat which is now a beautiful garden. 



We also saw the church where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were recently married. It's really beautiful but the interior is different than I expected (naturally, no photos allowed.) 


I especially liked the lion and the unicorn guarding either side of the steps out front. The unicorn is on the right and the lion on the left. 


We had a little time to walk around in Windsor before heading out towards Bath. Outside a souvenir shop I was particularly amused to see this historic marker:


Several years ago I read H. G. Wells' Kipps, the story of a young draper's apprentice who unexpectedly inherits a fortune. It was also adapted into a musical called Half a Sixpence which I saw on my trip to London in 2017. 






And finally I couldn't resist taking photos of this massive hat display in a department store -- it was a few days before the Ascot races and the hats were gorgeous

Next stop: Bath and Lyme Regis!

15 comments:

  1. Ooooo, you've been doing a lot of the things we wished we could have done! And wow, you take lovely photos. Mine barely function as memories.

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    1. Thanks! It's just my phone (though I do sometimes tweak the colors a bit in the editing mode if they're too dark). I have thought about getting a better camera for traveling but it's just one more thing to schlep around in my bag so I can't be bothered.

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  2. Just fabulous!!! Thank you for sharing your adventures and the lovely images.

    And now I want to see Hamilton, too.

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    1. Hamilton was absolutely brilliant, I can't recommend it enough. I know it's tough to get tickets but it's really worth waiting for.

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  3. I'm so happy to hear Hamilton lived up to expectations! That alone probably would have made for a great trip but it looks like you packed all sorts of other wonderful experiences in, too.

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    1. I just love London, there's so much to see and do! I've been to quite a few cities in Europe since we moved here two years ago but it's my favorite so far. I'm hoping to go back again before we move back to the U.S.

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  4. Great post! I love traveling vicariously with bloggers (easier on the feet and the wallet!).

    If I ever make it back to London, I would love to do a literary tour and see where Dickens lived and go to the Persephone shop.

    I really enjoy musicals but haven't seen Hamilton yet. It will tour for a few years now though I think, so I will catch it in LA one of these days.

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    1. There are so many literary sites in London! We also passed by Dr. Johnson's house around the corner from Ye Old Cheshire Cheese. There was also a marker for J. M. Barrie's home near the Persephone shop, I think Virginia Woolf may have lived nearby as well. I would love to do a literary walking tour!

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  5. I love people talking about their travels and London is fascinating. You've packed a lot in as well.

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    1. I never think I'm doing enough on a trip but then when I look back I realize I've done quite a lot! Of course everything takes longer than you think. If you plan a trip based on guidebooks they always pack in an unbelievable amount of stuff. Or maybe they assume people just run through museums and places just to say they've been there. I like to take a little time and appreciate what I'm seeing.

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  6. Man I love living vicariously through all your travels Karen!! I love these posts.

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    1. Thanks! I'm starting to get a little worn out from traveling, but there's only a year left so I need to do as much as I can. My to-visit list will never get shorter.

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  7. I am full of admiration of how you pack so much in Karen. Have you read Well's History of Mr Polly? That also uses his experiences from his time as a draper's assistant, and is an amusing book.

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    1. Thanks! I always think I haven't done enough! (and I do a lot of nothing when I'm at home, believe me!). I haven't read History of Mr. Polly but I do want to read it someday, and also Ann Veronica. I'm not as interested in Wells' sci-fi as his social commentary novels. I suppose I should read The Time Machine someday just for the cultural significance.

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  8. What a fabulous day! When I saw Hamilton, soon after it opened, I wished I could slow it down a bit so I could savor the fabulousness. It is opening in Boston soon but the tickets were sold out the minute they went on sale. I will try for the lottery.

    One of my favorite things from visiting London in April was visiting the Temple Church. En route, we went by Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and the line to get in went out the door! I did want to stop but despite GPS we were having a hard time finding our destination so pushed on determinedly.

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