Saturday, April 23, 2011

Girls days in London, Monday

 Note: After I was finished with this post, I looked at the preview and realized how crazy long it is.  I think it's quite entertaining, so an early 'thank you' for reading it!  It's really just a lot of pictures anyway!

On Monday morning, with great excitement, Em and I packed our little overnight bags, got on the train, and headed downtown to London.  We had gotten a nice hotel on up near Paddington Station, just north of Hyde Park, The Park Grand Hotel.  We went there first and were able to check in and drop off all of our stuff.  Our reservations for tea weren't until 2:30, so we had some time to walk around.  The hotel was in a great location, and the streets around it were just beautiful - lined with white row houses, one after another.  

We walked down to the park and decided to walk along Bayswater in the park rather than on the noisy road.  It was just around lunch time, so there were tons of people out running and walking.

We made our way over to Marble Arch, at the corner of Bayswater, Oxford Street and Park Lane.  This arch was built in Rome in 1828 and originally placed on The Mall at the entrance of Buckingham Palace.  In 1855, it was moved to it's current location during the building of the east front of the palace.  

Since we hadn't really had lunch, we were both a bit hungry...but didn't want to eat too much before tea. Standing at the arch, we looked across the street and saw a Pret!  They are everywhere.  Perfect.  We went over and had a little snack and coffee.  The we headed down Park Lane towards the Dorchester, where our tea was going to be.  We found the beautiful hotel (after mistaking the service entrance and being completely underwhelmed), snapped a few photos, and realized we still had about an hour to walk around.  

We walked all around the Mayfair neighborhood, oooohing and aaaahing at the beautiful buildings.  They were just so pretty, and one after another.  Lots of offices, homes, and embassies are in this area...including the ugliest building of all, the American Embassy...see below...

I love the 2 pictures below, they show so much more of what the neighborhood looked like.  I love that you can see in this window a little, look at those bust sculptures!  Don't you know the rest of the house was just amazing...

Ok, enough walking - time for tea!  

As soon as you enter The Dorchester, you are greeted by the beautiful Promenade.  The flower arrangements were amazing.  They were enormous...

The Promenade stretches the same length as the Nelson's Column, which is the monument in the center of Trafalager Square.  

 We sat about 2/3 of the way down on the left wall.  We were greeted by a nice young waiter, dressed in tuxedo tails.  We decided on the Champagne Afternoon Tea (why not?!), and made our tea selections - we both chose the Dorchester Tea.  Everything was on china, and it had a beautiful light blue pattern.  First they brought us finger sandwiches.  They were so pretty!  With no crusts, the bread was perfectly cut into long rectangles.  There were 4 choices, and of course we each had one of each!  They were  smoked salmon on granary bread, egg salad on white bread, chicken on basil bread, cream cheese and cucumber on caraway seed bread.  Ooooh they were so good!  We took our time eating them, talking about each one!  I think my favorite was the chicken one.  We enjoyed our glass of champagne with the sandwiches.  There was a pianist playing most of the time, which was just a beautiful addition.  Then they brought our tea and warm scones.  The scones are made from the same recipe at The Dorchester than has been unchanged for over half a century.  They served them with 2 different jams, a strawberry and a mixed berry, along with clotted cream.  Some of the scones had raisins, and the others didn't.  My favorite was the plain ones with a little of the cream and the mixed berry jam.  Finally, as if we weren't full enough, they brought 5 or six little French pastries and tartlets.  They were each different and very rich, some fruit and some chocolate.  

Photograph from 
Once we felt that we were sufficiently full of delicious food and tea, we decided that it was time to head on our way.  We needed to walk a bit!  So we headed down Park Lane, up Picadilly, and through Green Park towards the palace.

It was a beautiful day, lots of people were out in the park.  The chairs below were around a large area, and were available for rent.  You could rent them for an hour, afternoon, or even for the month. 

They were really starting to set up things for the upcoming wedding.  This is the area for the press...I took this picture for Erika and Lola :)

 I loved this sign - they were posted all around the Palace for all of the tourists who visit...

Then we found our way to Fortnum and Mason and the 'very posh street' that we had discovered on Saturday.  

We walked all around the area, and stopped in a beautiful cheese shop, Paxton & Whitfield.  The store has been in the same area for over 200 years.  I bought a few jars of different confits to bring home.  The shop was beautiful and the cheeses all smelled wonderful.

After walking through Picadilly Circus and back up Picadilly, we decided it was time for a drink.  We jumped on the tube and headed up to Warren Street station and the Bloomsbury area.  We were on the hunt for Charlotte Street, the area the Andrew and I had walked around on Thursday.  We happened on the Charlotte Street Inn, which I had fawned over when we passed it on Thursday.  The outside is so quaint and charming with the blue striped awnings and lovely little bistro tables.  We decided since it was a girls night, we were stop there rather than a pub...we were in the mood for a more lady like evening than traditional pub atmospheres.  

Photograph from Charlotte Street Hotel website

The inside had a completely different look that we expected based on the outer appearance.  

Photograph from Charlotte Street Hotel website
We found a spot at the bar, and made our selves at home.  The place was packed, and probably 80% were women!  Everyone had the same idea.  We each had some wine, and started chatting with the bartenders.  We were both intrigued by their cocktails!  They were so creative, and included things like coffee beans, chilies, and even one was served with a spoon of the inside of a passion fruit.  We made friends with one bartender in particular, who should have been an actor with his incredibly outgoing personality.  

After a few glasses of wine and a bowl of each of their amazing popcorn and sugar almonds, we decided it was time to move on.  Since we were staying very close to where I stayed when I was in London for a month during college, I convinced Em to head over to the Bayswater/Queensway area in search of our 'local pub' from when we were there before.  I was quite proud that it was still there, and the outside was exactly as I remembered.  The inside looked completely different!  But, once inside, we found a table right next to the bar, put our things down, and decided to have a pint.  I walk up to the bar...and immediately am greeted by an older British gentleman, offering to buy me a beer!  Well!  What luck...and I insisted that he buy Em's, too.  The bartender is getting quite the laugh out of this whole situation...apparently it's very uncommon for a guy to buy a girl a beer at a bar, especially right as she walks in.  


The least I could do was invite him to join us for a minute.  Which turned into 45.  At least.  About 5 minutes into the conversation, the typical "are you married" question came up...and to his GREAT disappointment, we both of course answered yes.  He had to see proof, and asked to see our rings.  It was really humorous to us, but he was not as amused.  But...since we had just ordered pints, he stayed and chatted.  We learned so much from him, seeing that he's a fire marshal.  Did you know that you have 30 minutes for each fire door in a hotel to get to the exit before the fire gets to you? he finished his pint (we were nursing ours so to ensure that he left before us), he bid us farewell.  We certainly got a good laugh at his expense once he was gone, as did the bartender, who was eavesdropping for a good part of the conversation.  Who...funny enough...asked us to go clubbing with him as we were leaving.  For several reasons, we decided it was in our best interest to decline, so we headed back to our hotel.  

All tucked in around midnight, we went to sleep after plotting our shopping adventures for the following day!

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