It was here- the day on which we were leaving for England and the first time we were venturing out together with just one of the kids. We left Atlanta at 10:30 pm on a British Airways 777 and arrived into Heathrow London at 11:20 local time. We did manage to sleep some on the plane. Frank and I had opted for the mid grade bed seats and they were definitely worth it especially for him and all of his bionic parts. I also learned that by being in more of a horizontal position while flying you don’t feel the turbulence as bad, or it could have been the free champagne.
The Heathrow Express took us from the airport to Paddington Station and as much as I wanted to go look for Platform 9 3/4 I stayed on course with my other traveling companions. I do love a good train station though. There are thousands of people every day coming and going from so many different areas and walks of life- very good people watching location for sure.
On the way to the hotel, we passed another hotel that has a special place in my heart. In that it almost caused me to have a heart attack. When the girls were wee little ones, we came to England for Spring Break with Frank’s parents and his brother. The first few nights in London we stayed at the Park Grand.
We had three rooms and the girls wanted to stay with Frank’s parents. Now, what you should know is that the way the hotels in England are laid out is quite different from your typical Hampton Inn in America. They have converted several town homes and combined them in to large spaces for hotels, providing lots of charm for those who stay in them. For example, our room was right behind the reception desk at the very front of the hotel and very near the front door. Dan’s room was at least two former town homes away and up several flights and the Turners’ was up at least two floors from us and you had to wind around a hallway to get to it. All very confusing for adults but for a four year old in the middle of the night- not a problem. Frank and Dan had decided in an effort to get on London time more quickly they should head to a local pub to watch some football (and by that I mean soccer) and the rest of us had gone to bed being completely exhausted, well except for Julia. Around 10:30 pm there was a knock on my door and I assumed it must be Frank. Nope, not Frank. It was a couple and they had Julia standing in front of them!!!!!!! She, our little escape artist, had manage to leave the Turners’ room while everyone was asleep and come find us. I was completely shocked and just grabbed her and shut the door on the couple. It’s taken me this long to realize I probably should have thanked them so, putting it out there now into the universe- “Thank you, kind couple, that managed to help my then four year old daughter find her mother in the middle of the night in a strange hotel. And thank you for not snatching her. And thank you for not calling child protective services.” As horrifying as that was, the worst part was having to wake up Frank’s parents to tell them Julia had escaped. For the rest of the trip we kept a piece of furniture in front of the door in whichever room Julia slept and we still get nervous taking her to hotels.
Back to present day:
We arrived at the hotel and all freshened up to head our separate ways for the afternoon- Ivy and I off to tea and some exploring and Frank to go tour Chelsea’s Stanford Bridge Stadium. Our reservations were for the Pavilion at Kensington but a little tip: there are two of these if you look it up on Google Maps. They are not far from each other so it would be easy to get confused as we did. Thanks to Ivy, we found our way to the back entrance of Kensington Gardens that went by the PRIVATE entrance that the Duke and Duchess and the kiddies must come and go through. I didn’t actually see them, but there were multiple signs that said no photography and police with machine guns so I’m going to go with my gut on this. If you are ever near Kensington Palace and looking for a good tea spot, do make a reservation at the Pavilion at Kensington Gardens. It was very delightful and Ivy even had a full gluten free tea with gf sandwiches, scones and cakes. England really does the GF thing quite well. We sat outside over looking the Princess Diana Memorial Garden.
After tea we decided to go tour the state rooms that were open at the Palace next door. I asked if they minded if we popped in on Will and Kate but they said they were out and perhaps I should call again. Oh well. They had a great exhibit on the life of Queen Victoria and tiny Ivy was quite shocked to learned how short Vicky was. This is a picture of a dress she wore at 21. The other picture is Ivy standing on the stairway where Victoria and Albert first met. (Insert romantic sigh.) By the way, did you know that several royals live at Kensington besides the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their little brood including Princess Eugenia and her new hubby, Jack, The Duke and Duchess of Kent, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent? That seems like a lot of forced family fun to me. Of course we all know that The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are living out at Frogmore Cottage near Windsor with little Archie.
Then we decided to head over to find Peter Pan’s statue and on the way ran into a commotion like we’d never seen. Over back in a clearing among trees were hundreds of pigeons and green parrots. Seeing hundreds of birds is not the commotion because that’s not uncommon, but what was bizarre was all of the people feeding the parrots and letting the birds LAND on them.
“I want to do that,” Ivy said, so much more willing to let birds land on her than I am. It took us a while and we had to scavenge for something to feed them. I found an almost completely eaten apple on the ground-desperate times call for desperate measures. After several fly-by attempts and near misses, she finally got one to land.
We then made our way around to see our friend Peter. I begged Ivy to re-enact this picture of our little escape artist, but she would comply with my request.
We wrapped up our day by meeting up with Frank at the Lancaster Gate tube station and headed to Piccadilly Circus to grab dinner and head to see Agatha Christie’s play, The Mousetrap, at St Martin’s Theater. It was quite good, the parts I saw, as Ivy and I kept falling asleep- the day was catching up with us. At one point I actually started SNORING! (That was a tad embarrassing but the shame caused me to stay awake for the rest of the show.) Since it is the longest running show in the world, we were sworn to secrecy at the end and I really can’t tell you anymore other than, despite my snoring, it was a great performance. Learn more here:
The night ended with Frank having a Guinness in the hotel bar and Ivy and I settling in our beds for a good sleep.
Today we made our way to Chipping Campden via the Great Western Railroad (yay another trip to Paddington!) and here we are at the REAL beginning of the 100 mile hike. http://chippingcampden.co.uk/contentok.html
If you have ever read about the Cotswolds , it really is just as lovely as what you have conjured up in your head. A few shots from today before closing and heading to dinner.
Chipping Campden Market Hall:
Huxleys for Lunch
Starting point for tomorrow:
Because why have one with out the other…
Afternoon in said beer garden for blogging and beer. Not seen in picture a field full of sheep behind Frank. They are literally everywhere here.
Hitting the Way tomorrow and I am excited and somewhat mystified about this whole experience. As I finish this post, Frank is reading to us out of his guide book for the Cotswolds Way and Ivy is getting her pack ready. Signing off from Chipping Campden- Mile 0.