I freaking love this city! It’s one of my favorite places to visit. We go together and it is my boo thang…in fact, we are MFEO (Made For Each Other). The energy, the diversity and the FABULOUS SCONES AT HIGH TEA! Oh, I am all kinds of off my low-carb diet. I don’t care that I’m gonna be looking like a brown version of Honey Boo Boo’s mama by the time I get back to Atlanta. They are just too good to deny myself! You know that scene in the movie Precious where Precious runs off with a bucket of fried chicken? Imagine me with a bucket of scones, clotted cream and red currant jelly…with a side of breakfast tea. Yeah, it just got real, y’all. Scones real. Not biscuit real.
Where do I begin? We arrive mid-day at Heathrow and take the train to Paddington Station. Travel tip I learned in 2008 — you can withdraw GBP (British pounds) from the ATMs at the train stations (look for the signs) without being charged a fee (of course, check with your own bank as they may apply a fee for foreign transactions). The ATMs usually have pretty good exchange rates. After getting some cash, we decide to get a taxi from the rail station to the hotel…and that is when it starts.
For some reason, crazy finds me wherever I go. Which meant that out of the line of taxi drivers available, we had to get Nutters the Taxi Driver. Oh God. He doesn’t look crazy at first…but it was only a matter of minutes before his “foolishment” made an appearance. So, we ask the Taxi Driver from Nutbush City London if he can take us to the Waldorf Astoria – Syon Park (a slice of heaven, y’all!). He agrees and tells us to hurry up and get in the taxi. Wait…What? Hurry up and get in? Where they do that at??? So, we struggle to get our stuff into the taxi because he ain’t going to get out and help us with the bags. That must be extra. Whatever.
We finally get everything in the taxi, and he drives up the street then says he doesn’t know where Syon Park is. Wait a doggone minute. What? You don’t know where it is? WTH? Now I know for a fact that taxi drivers in London must pass a test to know where everything is located in London to get their taxi driver license. And, it’s a park. And, you have GPS…seriously. Stop. Don’t play with me, Nutters. You may be from Nutbush London but I’ve watched What’s Love Got to do With It enough times to do a pretty good Ike Turner imitation. I gave him the directions, he said he still didn’t know so I called the hotel and told him what the receptionist told me…then he held his hand out for my phone…because clearly I can’t be trusted to relay a message. Lord help me. I can’t let him steal my joy. So, he talks to the receptionist who tells him the EXACT SAME THING I JUST TOLD HIM. Seriously?
He finally starts driving, then starts READING some papers that are in his lap! Drifting off to the side. Um, sir? Why are you multitasking? Don’t you watch those commercials about distracted driving? I ain’t tryna end up a statistic. Before we could say anything, a bicyclist came up to the side of the car and asked the cabbie to roll down his window. Nutters thinks that the cyclist is going to ask for directions because buddy has said “‘Scuse me mate, can I ask you a question?” Nutter: “Sure thing”; Cyclist: “WTF, mate? Learn how to drive! Blah, blah, cussingcakes”. Nutters’ smile dropped off his face with a quickness. Then, he starts cursing at the cyclist telling him to “Bug off, you bah-stahd!” Uh oh…ish just got real.
That ruined Nutters entire day. He talked about that for the 40 minutes we were in the cab.
Nutters: Can you believe that toe rag?
Us: No, that was uncalled for. (but thinking the cyclist was spot on)
Nutters: He was spoiling for a fight, he was! I didn’t do anything wrong. That bloke had no respect! He’s getting me ire up, that toe rag!
Us: Um, sir? What is a toe rag?
Nutters: It’s a foul term which means the rag that people clean their feet with.
We start trying to talk about something else. But, once there is a millisecond of silence, it starts again.
Nutters: That bah-stahd was spoiling for a fight, he was. I would’ve given him one but I can’t lose me license over this.
Us: Well, don’t let him ruin your day.
Nutters: It’s already ruined! Didn’t you hear him? He wanted to fight! I’d have fought him too. I wanted to spit on him…it’s what he deserved, the bugger! But, I can’t lose me license.
Us: Good God
You already know that I’ve been using “s/he was spoiling for a fight but I can’t lose my license behind this” all freaking week. So, since Nutters is on a roll, now he is mad at us for some reason. Telling us that we went out of our way and should’ve taken a taxi from the airport.
Nutters: You just wasted a couple of hours, ladies.
Us: That’s okay, it’s beautiful and we can see the sights on the way.
Nutters: You aren’t going to see anything on this drive so set your expectations now.
A few minutes later, a police motorcade drives by and we are forced to pull off to the side of the road. Now Nutters is all hyped and is like, “OH! SOMEONE FAMOUS IS COMING! SOMEONE FAMOUS IS COMING!” Next thing you know, we see a green Jaguar with the Queen of England sitting in the back! I will admit, I was starstruck. I mean, it’s the Queen! I want her job (well, her title). So cool. Anyway, you know I had to say to Nutters, “See? If we took a taxi from the airport, we wouldn’t have seen the Queen!” But, Nutters was determined to be Darryl Downer even though he was starstruck too. He proceeds to pull out about 200 autographs he’s gotten over the years. Then says that if he sees someone famous, he’ll stop the car and go ask them for an autograph regardless of if he has a fare or not. Wow.
So, we finally get to the Waldorf Astoria (after he has to pull over to get gas…and charges us for the time it takes to do it and also misses the BIG SIGN that says WALDORF ASTORIA – SYON PARK). And, guess who we see as we pull in? Ralph Lauren is driving past us in his roadster!
Okay, the Waldorf is FAB-U-LOUS! Seriously, y’all. It was one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in.
We have a spot of tea after we check in. Afterwards, we shower and change to go out to dinner in London. As we are waiting in the lobby to speak with the concierge, we meet this guy from Saudi Arabia who starts chatting us up. Apparently, there is a car show going on at the place next door. We saw a ton of high-end cars when we pulled up. I mean, those suckers were no less than $100K each. He offered to give us his pass so we could go in and look around but we passed. He was really nice though!
We end up in Piccadilly Circus looking for a recommended restaurant which we couldn’t find until the next day. So, we decide to eat at a steakhouse called “Aberdeen” which was okay…but not a place I’d try again.
We get up super early (6am) to meet up and try to get tickets to Wimbledon. After walking to the train station, getting breakfast and catching a bus to Wimbledon (they had special bus service running every 30 minutes from Victoria Station in downtown London), we finally arrive at 11am. And are promptly told (as we are looking at the mass of people) that the wait time in line is 7 hours…we can’t get in to see a match until 6pm. So, we passed on watching a match (I’m not that into tennis anyway…I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about). We ended up walking around, taking pictures and chatting with people to find out what time you need to get there to avoid a long wait in line for tickets (answer…camp out the night before, or get there no later than 7am the day of).
After taking the bus back to London, we take the Tube to Leicester Square and buy tickets to We Will Rock You which is a musical based upon songs by Queen. If you go to the Half Tkts kiosk in Leicester Square, you can buy tickets for plays and musicals at a discounted price. I had originally wanted to see Wicked but it wasn’t on sale. After buying our tickets, we went to the National Portrait Gallery.
Okay, you definitely should check out the National Portrait Gallery. First, it’s free. Second, it’s interesting. It is filled with portraits of people from different eras. I love to read history and am obsessed with the Plantagenets (House of Lancaster & Yorks) which spawned The Tudors. The War of the Roses and the drama of Henry VIII was too salacious for words!
I’ve given a pretty substantial recap of Liz, her sister Bloody Mary and her daddy Henry 8 with his 6 wives in a previous blog post. The War of the Roses was fascinating as well and preceded Henry 8 (the war actually ended with his daddy, Henry 7). The House of Plantagenet ruled from the 12th century and was actually founded by a Frenchman, Geoffrey V of Anjou. The war broke out because 2 of the branches (the Lancasters and the Yorks) couldn’t get along. This was basically a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England between the heirs of those two houses. The “war of the roses” name comes from the fact that the houses had a symbol of a red rose (Lancaster) or white rose (York). Mental instability, perceived weaknesses in ruling and coveting power kept them fighting for 30 years (1455-1485). If you ever visit the Tower of London, you will hear the story about the 2 young sons of the last York king, Richard III, who (after Richard had died), were sent to the tower by their uncle (Richard’s brother) under the guise of keeping them safe. However, it’s believed they were murdered because their bodies were never found (they were around 13 and 8 or something like that…I can’t remember the exact ages). Anyway, the war ended when Henry 7 defeated the uncle and married Richard III’s daughter to unite the houses. Then, spawned crazy Henry 8.
I always like to see pictures of what these folks looked like. I’ve seen plenty of pictures of Queen Elizabeth I and her daddy, Henry 8, but it’s cool to see original paintings. Here’s what I can tell you. Beauty is subjective. A lot of adjectives like “beautiful”, “renowned beauty” etc were used. No. Let’s just stop. She can’t behead you now. The people you are talking about are dead. Let’s just keep it real because we all have eyes. They were okay…and some. Well, let’s just say that I’d have cursed the artist out like the bicyclist did Nutters if he painted me with a light mustache and cross-eyes. Stop. I did find my absolute favorite painting. It’s of the Earl of Southampton who was a playboy extraordinaire. You didn’t even need to read his bio to know. His picture said it all. All the other pictures of men had short cropped hair. Southampton had long flowing locks to the middle of his back, a swagga to him, and a look that said, “you know you want me…don’t deny it. I want myself.” He was so debonair that while Liz 1 was beheading folks who even looked like they thought she had bad breath, this joker just got some jail time for participating in organizing her overthrow. Then he was pardoned! That’s right. Earl Rapunzel got out and was like, “take that, take that…can’t stop, won’t stop…baaaaad boooooyyyy!” Check him out: Earl of Southampton
After we leave the National Portrait Gallery, we have about 30 minutes before high tea so we walk down to Trafalgar Square where they are holding some sort of Jesus rally.
This something that apparently is going on around the city. Which is actually really cool! They had bands and were giving inspirational messages. It was packed!
We then head to the National Gallery Café for high tea. Words cannot describe how freaking AWESOME it was. I’ve had high tea in London at various places before but it’s never been this good. If you go to London, definitely check it out. Delicious!
The scones were like eating slices of heaven if heaven tasted like buttery biscuits with clotted cream and red currant jam. Sigh. I had to buy the cookbook so I can recreate them when I get home. Sooooo good! I mean, I just cannot stop thinking about them. The tea was great too. Besides the scone, there were finger sandwiches (cucumber, salmon and tuna), and sweets (tarts and pound/sponge cupcake…or as they call them here “fairy cakes”).
After we had pulled ourselves away from high tea, we walk up to the British Museum and pass another outdoor concert (this was a rap concert focused on Jesus).
By the time we arrived at the British Museum, it was closed so we head to Starbucks for another refreshment (it’s warm y’all), then over to the theater for the musical…which was awesome. I didn’t really have any expectations. It was inexpensive and when it started, Pam and I were like, “the hell is this? I’m taking a nap.” Then, all of a sudden, they changed scenes and it got awesome! This musical is hilarious! The concept is that it’s set in like 2050 and all musical instruments have been banned and we are being programmed by computers. But, there are rebel people out there that can’t fight the music and want to bring it back. It’s really good and I suggest you check it out (www.wewillrockyou.co.uk).
After the musical, we head back to the hotel around 1am.
We wake up and head out late morning to go to the British Museum and enjoy high tea again. We decide to do high tea at the British Museum to save time.
The British Museum
Is AWESOME! OMG, seriously? This place is incredible! Seeing the Rosetta Stone up close was amazing! Being able to see the relics up close from the Parthenon and Egypt was surreal. Having seen the places where they originally existed added a whole other level of excitement. You definitely need to check it out. Plus, it’s FREE! You can’t beat that! Just so amazing. I couldn’t even get thru the entire museum so I plan to go back and visit it again.
The Rosetta Stone
Greece (from the Acropolis)
After we left the British Museum, we walk around trying to decide where to eat and ended up at a decent Indian restaurant. Then, we went to hang out at the park by the London Eye since we had time to kill before our train left. Okay, why did a reporter & cameraman from ITV show up and start interviewing people on the weather? This is news because it was sunny and an unusually hot (91 degrees!). However, we notice that they interview the people next to us on the bench (who were white) and then went on to interview only white people. The reporter was Indian! Really? What took the cake was when they went to interview an interracial couple and asked the black guy to get up and stand outside of the camera shot so they could interview only his white girlfriend. I wanted to jump in front of the camera as they were talking and say “BROWN PEOPLE LIKE SUN AND HEAT TOO!” but I thought better of it. It was weird because London is such a diverse city. More diverse than most cities I’ve visited which is one of the reasons I love it so much. I just chalk this up to a 1 off experience and maybe they only interview people of color on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays?
Overall, you can never get enough or get bored in London. This is my 4th time and I feel like I’m only scratching the surface of seeing the city. I just love so much about it. It’s easy to get around, very diverse, lots of activities, scones & high tea, cultural events…you name it, London’s got it. Until next time,…you stay classy, London (for all my Anchorman lovers).