Thursday, July 27, 2017

I'm doing it!

I can't believe I'm actually navigating London on my own, for the most part. Gracie gets me started, but then I just go!
So the last blogpost, I wrote from a hotel lobby because apparently it's a thing here that people will come to work in hotel lobbies, treating them like coffee shops (if they have wifi). This hotel definitely didn't look like a hotel, super chic and modern...posh, as I'm learning to say. But they have good coffee! From there, I got myself to King's Cross Station. Yes the very one! I didn't know where exactly the Harry Potter store and Platform 9 3/4 was, so I just kept winding my way around until I found the huge line of people. But I found it! And while I did not stand in line and lay to get my picture taken in front of the platform, I did get a good picture, and of course explored the shop (which also had a line to get in).
Right next to King's Cross station is St. Pancras, which is the international railway and also the most aesthetically pleasing of all the train stations, their words, not mine, though it is very castle-like. Right next to that is my nirvana, aka The British Library. In the center of the library, encased in walls of glass, temperature controlled, is King George III's library. Patrons are actually allowed to request books out of the collection for research. In Sir John Ritbiat's Gallery are the treasures of the British Library. The have EVERYTHING 
>Ancient religious texts from all religions
>Gutenberg Bible
>Magna Carta
>Original writings of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Dylan Thomas, Oscar Wilde, etc.
>Handwritten compositions from all of the most prominent composers
>A lyric that John Lennon wrote on a napkin

See, I'm not kidding. I spent a good couple hours in there before heading on my way to Primrose Hill in Regent's Park. I have to say-Citymapper is a really great travel app, however, it takes you down some really wonky routes. But I got there! Primrose Hill offers  gorgeous (free) skyline view of the city, and I was lucky that it was a beautiful day.
After an American dinner at  Meatliquor (which actually does American food better than some American places, we walked through Soho, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden to find this lovely Speakeasy! They gave us "newspapers" aka menus then took us down and down into what they had precisely decorated as an old train car and railway. It was quite hot, nut everything was so detailed and well done, it didn't matter. My drink, Keep Marm and Carry On, came in a teacup with a cookie and was delicious. Gracie's, Turning Over a new Leaf, tasted like a garden. The music was a great mix of old-fashioned jives with retro modern. Just so cool! And I finally took a double decker bus home.

Yesterday was a bit more relaxed, slept a bit more then spent the morning into early afternoon exploring Soho again for some shopping, going back in stores that I'd noticed the night before. I found a really cute, unique souvenir shop called We Built This City. 
I made my way to Trafalgar Square, home of the National Gallery, the new, positive giant thumbs up statue, Sir Nelson's Column (an admiral in the Battle of Trafalgar), and the beautiful mews. They also have The Mud Soldier sculpture to commemorate the Battle of Passchendale, which saw the loss of 500,000 soldiers, who either died in battle or because of the horrendous rains that turned the trenches into oceans of mud, drowning horses and soldiers. 
I spent the afternoon in Spitalfield Market, which has a bunch of great booths, restaurants, and other shops. That day, Covent Tea Society was hosting a dance, so a bunch of older couples were waltzing and tango-ing to a full band, having such a lovely time. I took some videos. Then we went to the Hummingbird Cafe, Gracie's favorite for a Blackbottom Cupcake...literal heaven. So good!
Then we walked back to Fleet Street so I could get some yummy tea from the Twinings store before we went to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub, one of the oldest in the city and also where Charles Dickens frequented. My bangers and mash were amazing, or maybe I was just really hungry. Or maybe it was a combination. Then we walked around because the pub is deceptively big, mainly downstairs. Also just old and classic. You can practically envision Oliver Twist being written there. 
We topped off the night at City London Distillery so I could become an official Londoner and try my first Gin and Tonic! All the gin is made in house, and if you pay to do a tasting,they actually give you the recipe, and you can make your own gin. It was fun to people watch! 
Over the past two days, I have walked 55,000 steps, equaling 22 miles.
Can't believe it's my last day in this wonderful city!

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