Postcards from England: Day One- London

It was in the blind of a light blue head buzz of sleepiness that we swooped into London, corralled our luggage, hopped the fastimg_0057 train to Paddington Station, caught the Underground to “Swiss Cottage Station”, and finally flagged a taxi to carry our weary bones the last half mile to the Regents Park Marriott. A swift, golden sunrise was just cresting the horizon when we collapsed in our hotel room. The temptation to curl up and catch up with the sleep that had run away the whole plane ride was very strong, but then, you could just glimpse the bold spire of some quintessentially British church on the horizon, and the streets below were cobbled and velveted by falling leaves. Upstairs we trudged to breakfast.img_00411

That’s when the slow, spine-climbing, skin-tingling thrill of waking up to breathe the air of a different country finally caught up with me. The hotel breakfast room was idyllically situated on the top floor with two walls of floor to ceiling windows gazing over the jumbled roofs and tumbled chimneys of London. I sat down with my first cup of tea, fresh fruit, cheese, and a tiny seeded roll just as the dawnlight escaped the mist. Rose light glinted in every apartment window, tousled the turning leaves, crowned the tallest buildings. We ate heartily (it is very European in general to eat a good breakfast and this is highly advisable if you are planning to traverse half the countryside on foot, which I generally am when I am overseas), donned fresh clothes, buttoned our coats and headed for the Underground.

I had painstakingly researched the best Dickens house to visit in London, so we headed thereimg_0050 first. It was a nondescript row house in a nondescript street, and though the tour and such was informative, the main thing I remember was the excruciating torture of trying to stay awake during the introductory video. There is this certain irresistible, head-bobbing sleepiness that attacks at the oddest moments whenever one crosses time zones with reckless abandon. I wish I could have been one of the very prim old ladies sitting behind the three of us girls during that video- we must have resembled those spooky clown heads on springs- up and down and up and down.

img_00651As with so many of the journeys I have taken, exhaustion laid waste to well laid plans and left space for a simple, wide-eyed wandering of the London alleys and cobbles that was better than any driven itinerary I could have conjured. We gave up plans for a museum, made peace with the fact of Westminster Abbey being closed (second time that’s happened!) and were tickled to catch a bevy of parliamentarians striding across the flagstones in patent leather shoes, white wigs, purple robes, and delightful pomp. Came up from the damp of the underground station to a stunning view of Parliament, Big Ben, and the domes of Westminster glimmering under the looming black of a coming storm. Joy scurried about with the camera, and we walked the bridge over the Thames, loving the sight of those old, beautiful buildings. By the time we reached Trafalgar square, the sky was a dappled dance of storm and sun and white- we kissed the old lions on their noses and then trudged the last little bit to a recommended cafe called Paul’s- right down from Covent Garden. It was superb. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting. Country French atmosphere, crusty bread, fresh coffee, and a Flan Normand (apple custardimg_0068 tart) worth a serious fork war.

By the time we reached our hotel and trudged up for a bedtime snack of hot chocolate and toast, we had crammed our first, jet-lagged hours with enough fun and laughter and stormy skies and walks up cobbled streets and cups of tea to fill us for the whole trip. But it was really just beginning…



Filed under Travel

9 responses to “Postcards from England: Day One- London

  1. I’ve been waiting for you to post your pictures!!! Yay!

    I’m reading an interesting book just now called “Imagined London” which is somewhat of an annotated bibliography of books set in London. i think it could be better written, but, since I have a special place in my heart for London, I’m enjoying it anyway. 🙂

  2. I confess to saving the reading of this post until I had sufficient time to relax and savor the pics and narrative in a proper fashion. Today it is misty-gorgeous out of doors, with a mere dance of raindrops on my sitting-room windows. Inhaling delicious lavender-earl grey tea, I traipsed with you up and down the cobbled streets and dined most hungrily on every word (be it regarding food or otherwise).

    I shared not your weariness, as I am refreshed from a good night’s sleep, but I sympathize as I recall each and every time I have dragged a weary newly-landed body through a plethora of sights I shall very well never again see. (Videos are a definite “NO” for me on such a day.) My last visit to Norway entailed a hike to the TOP of Holmenkollen ski jump for a breathtaking panormaic view and a sure tonic to ward off drowsiness in that moment (though not breathless exhaustion).

    Your words are a fair treat every time I visit. My teakettle stands at the ready to supply ample refreshment for Day 2 . . . coming soon, I hope. : D

  3. P.S.

    I have lately passed through San Francisco with the eyes of a tourist. I invite you to come and share my joy found in a day with two of my girls and a sister-in-law, filled with much of the mirth you girls found for yourselves in Merry Old England.
    “Open Up Those Golden Gates”
    “On a Golden Afternoon”

  4. How utterly delightful. Sunshine

  5. Thank you for sharing London with us. I’ve been to Europe many times (my husband is Dutch), but never England.

    Looking forward to your next postcard!

  6. eucharisto

    I loved reading this post! It made me reminisce about England. Someday I want to experience London for real. I was captivated by this story, brought into another world for a few moments. Your writing is so vivid and descriptive!

    That photo of Joy and the lion is priceless. 🙂

  7. geektechnique

    Thank you for this postcard. Always nice to hear of your adventures!

  8. Hi, Sarah!
    I was at the Ca. Conf. This last week (the one with the crying baby) Finley:) You might remember. I’m glad I found your blog. I too am an idealist and loved hearing you speak. Thanks for sharing.
    Many blessings!!!~Bridget

  9. Sarah,

    I just wanted to thankyou for posting about the books you enjoy. I finished Jayber Crow this weekend by Mr. Berry.

    The author gave me all I could handle to read in this book. The plot, scenes, depth of character, rich heritage…wonderful book. I’ll be reading some of his other works, you can be sure.

    Now I need to quench the historian in my soul and read about the Stuart Princesses. Then I’ll return to rural Ky and Port William.

    Will we see you this weekend in Baltimore with your Mom?

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