I can’t say enough wonderful things about England, and especially about London. I mean, I moved here for what was supposed to be a quick six-month stint, and I ended up staying for years. What an absolutely awesome place.
Before I went over there, I had so many friends tell me that London was just a terrible place: the weather is terrible, it’s insanely expensive, the food is terrible, people are boring, and the girls are ugly. I’m being serious! That’s what I heard.
I have to say, all of that turned out to be totally not true… well, it is really expensive, that IS true, but the other three, which are the most important, are ridiculous.
I especially love southwest London, like Chelsea, Fulham, and Putney. I could hang out in Bishopsgate Park all day long, walking from Putney Bridge along the river down past Fulham’s famous football stadium (that’s soccer to Americans) Craven Cottage, all the way down to Hammersmith, then crossing the river and even walking along the gravel path down to Barnes, which is the cutest town EVER. No tubes run there, which is a pain if you need to get there quickly, but if you have an afternoon to kill, just have a wander down there and have lunch at the Brown Dog pub.
Which brings me to the food. Uggggh, the British food is so good. I love pie. I mean, I LOVE pie. I used to ask for Marie Calendar’s gift certificates for birthdays and Christmas because it was the only place that had chicken pot pie when I was growing up. When I went away to college and didn’t have a parent controlling how many frozen chicken pot pies I could buy, I gained the freshman 15 in about half a minute.
So imagine my surprise when I found out that pot pies are simply called “Pies” in England, and they are EVERYWHERE! Lamb and mint, beef and mushroom in a dark sauce, chicken and mushroom in a light sauce, chicken and leek… the list goes on and on, and it usually comes with “mash” – mashed potatoes – and with gravy. I always ask and make sure it comes with a hefty amount of gravy, just because I’m greedy.
Mushy peas are a pretty cool little British side dish, too. They’re just smashed peas, but seasoned really well. If they didn’t look so horrible, I bet they’d do well in America.
Anyway, I’ve talked about pie for probably too long :-/
Another really great walk is from Putney up through Parsons Green, which is a cute little quiet and quaint, but rich, area, up through to Chelsea, and then to Sloane Square. That walk would take anywhere from one to two hours, depending on how fast you walk. Probably closer to two hours. At any point, if you get tired, just go to any bus stop with a 22 bus, and you can go all the way to Sloane Square that way. In fact, if you go past Sloane Square, you will head into the very famous Knightsbridge, and I think that has to be the most expensive, swankiest area in all of London. That’s where the mega department store Harrod’s is, with butlers at every door and the most amazing Christmas light display you’ve ever seen. It’s way too expensive to generally buy anything, but if you splurge on something tiny, you’ll get one of those famous forest green bags with “Harrod’s” written on it in cursive. It’s the European equivalent of the little blue box and bag from Tiffany & Co.
Once you’re in Knightsbridge, you’re only a ten minute walk from Hyde Park, probably. Hyde Park is heaven. There’s this gorgeous, big pond that has enormously big swans in it, and cute little areas to sit in and just watch the water. It’s funny, how you can go from the hustle and bustle of Harrod’s, to the calm of Hyde Park in just minutes. I know some people feel that same sort of magic in New York City’s Central Park, but it never really felt like an oasis to me, like Hyde Park does.
One of the coolest parts about Hyde Park, to me, is all the horses. People are riding around horses, all dolled up in their serious riding gear, and it’s just beautiful, especially by the Knightsbridge area. Just because you’re in Hyde Park doesn’t mean you’re necessarily close to where you want to get to in the park. It’s ENORMOUS! There is an art gallery inside the park, a very fancy place called the Orangerie where you can get high tea, and a really nice, subtle memorial to the late Princess Diana.
About high tea, you can spend a fortune on it, or you can get it for a really reasonable price… totally your choice. A lot of teas include champagne, which can be a plus or a minus for you, depending on if you like booze, and how much you like to pay for it. I’d say a high tea at Harrod’s or Fortnum & Mason or The Ritz or The Dorchester would cost maybe $60, and a nice tea at the Saatchi Gallery in Sloane Square would cost $20. Also, there are some great deals online to find specials, if you book and pay in advance. Pay special attention to some of the afternoon tea deals at hotels in Mayfair. Mayfair is a super-nice area that tends to be full of businessmen, and it’s close to Buckingham Palace and Green Park. Green Park actually connects Mayfair to Buckingham Palace, and it’s not at all far from Knightsbridge… it’s definitely walking distance in the afternoon.
You simply have to check out Buckingham Palace. All of that gold!!! If it’s raining – which, I’ll be honest, it sometimes does – then the guards stand under the awnings pressed against the palace, but they’re still wearing those super tall, funny hats with chin straps. There is a huge gold statue right in front, and big gates, and if you stand on the side of the statue furthest from the palace and look straight down, you’ll see that really beautiful road that Kate and William came down on the day they got married. Looking at that road, with its calm beauty, just gives me the chills.
This is such an old city, and it’s so beautiful. I don’t think that a lot of British people actually appreciate how beautiful their home is, and I know so many Americans who don’t, but I see such magic in London. It feels old, but at the same time, very fresh and clean, especially in the nice areas. It’s so easy to get around, and of course everyone speaks English – I’m American, so I’m lazy like that – and I could stand at so many places in London and just be in awe. I’m thinking about the main gate to Hyde Park at Hyde Park Corner, or Piccadilly Circus, or looking at some Banksy spraypaint in East London or North London. Or walking along the Southbank of the Thames, or in the OXO Tower, at the nice brasserie, looking down on the most beautiful city I’ve ever laid eyes on at night, with the London Eye in the background.
I know I’m gushing, but I can’t help it. London is just perfection.