Saturday, May 11, 2024

Friday, May 3, 2024. What's left?


We didn't have anything scheduled for Friday. We had stopped in an M&S food shop in St Pancras station the night before, so Cynthia could get a Coke for the next morning. While waiting around for her, I browsed some of their packaged cookies and decided we should go to a bigger M&S on Friday to get some gifts for friends back home. And I also wanted to try on a few of the dresses I had seen on our first, more frantic visit to M&S on Sunday evening.

 But a visit to M&S wasn't enough of a plan for the whole day. I asked if there was anything Cynthia wanted to see that we hadn't seen. No. I checked in with Gail and Charles, but they had a few things scheduled for the day, so seeing each other might be rough. It would all come down to if we were in their part of the city when they were free. 

Even though we had had great weather after our initial touch of rain when we landed, it was a dreary and drizzling now. Steve, the Stonehenge tour guide, had told us about a Tardis at the Earl's Court Tube station, so visiting that was a possibility. But I worried it would be crowded and a let down, with not much else we wanted to do in that area. I tried to remember what I knew about London from the movies I've worked on and seen. I then remembered working on Last Christmas, where the lead female character worked at a Christmas shop in the Apple Market at Covent Garden. Covent Garden looked like a cute area, so I suggested we head over there. So we did. 

 I remembered I did have one thing I needed to do, since this was our last day in town, and that was to buy stamps for the postcards I'd written. We walked from our hotel to Paddington station and took the Tube to Charring Cross Road. This let us out on The Strand. I found a post office on my map and had some trouble finding it in real life. We went into a souvenir shop that looked like it was in about the right place, in case they were the post office. They weren't a post office but they did sell decorative stamps, similar to those I had purchased at Stonehenge. But the decorative stamps were more expensive than the internet said stamps should cost, and Charles had warned us about counterfeit stamps, so I decided to find the real post office. The guy in the souvenir shop said it was three shops down.

 Three stops down turned out to be more like 7 or 8. The post office was, oddly, in the basement of a shop that had nothing to do with the post office. Weird! I bought my stamps and mailed my postcards. Chore done!

 We went back to the souvenir shop to finish up some souvenir shopping and to look at the hats they sold. Cynthia had wanted to buy a hat on this trip, and the fancy ones turned out to be outrageously expensive - like in the £600 range. Souvenir shop hats were probably more in line with what we were looking for. She found a flatcap for about £35 and I found a newsboy hat that I liked, also for £35. Cynthia bought some tea and we set off in search of Covent Garden. 

(The newsboy cap I bought.)

Part of the problem with the search for Covent Garden was that Covent Garden was a larger area than I thought. I didn't realize we were specifically looking for the Apple Market, so it took a while to figure out which way to go and what we were looking for. But we found it.



The Apple Market was cute. There were stalls with vendors selling their homemade arts and crafts in addition to some high-end shops. Cynthia was thrilled they had a Guerlain shop where she could buy her favorite perfume. We browsed around the market. We bought chocolates in a shop, Neuhaus, that had the royal warrant of Denmark, and bought some tea from Whittard of Chelsea. They had several pots brewed around the shop, so you could taste before buying and wash down the chocolate you just ate. 


Without much of a plan, we returned to the Strand and walked toward the river. We had driven over the river on the Misery Tour and Stonehenge trip, but hadn't gone to see it yet. We were enticed into an Italian restaurant for lunch, L'Ulivo. How many more times would we eat Italian food on this trip? We shared a cheese pizza and tricolore salad. I also bought some roast potatoes. I had a small pot of tea and used the toilet, which was downstairs again. Their toilets were really nice. We were the only diners in what was an unusually large restaurant for London.


(The restaurant interior.)

We walked to the river and I was surprised to see we were directly across from the London Eye. I suggested we walk west along the river for a while before heading back to the hotel. We went through Victoria's Park and another small park on the Embankment and ended up at the Palace of Westminster. We stopped at a souvenir stall on the walk and both bought flatcaps for £10! We had driven past on Monday, but now we were up close. I asked Cynthia if she wanted to go see Westminster Abby or St Paul's while we were in the area, but the Tube station (Westminster) was right there, so we got on the subway and headed back to the hotel to drop off our hats and souvenirs.

(£10 flatcap)





We took a short break at the hotel room. Cynthia caught up on her games. I started packing. I tried to check in for the flight the next day, but I got an error message that I couldn't complete the check in. Cynthia checked in and it worked for her. She got her boarding passes but I'd have to get mine at the airport.

We headed back out, heading to the M&S on Oxford Street, not far from the hotel. I bought a dress and some chocolates and cookies, a black current cordial drink and some water for the night and next morning. We had a miscommunication and I thought we would drop things off at the hotel again before heading to dinner, but Cynthia thought we were heading to dinner first, so she didn't buy heavy drinks. There weren't a lot of restaurants visible from where we were on Oxford Street - it was all shops - so we continuing to the Tube station, which was very close to where we were. We had an argument/fight, but got on the Tube. I suggested we should go to Queensway to find food, which was the stop past Lancaster Gate.

(This is a box of cookies! It is a metal tin with reflective artwork.)


(Which of these dresses did I buy???)

We went to Queensway and I told Cynthia she should pick the food. I knew she wanted to have Indian food while in London, and this was the last chance. We walked into an Indian restaurant, but it didn't smell right to her. We went to a hamburger joint, but they only had a table free for about 45 minutes, so we'd have to rush. Then we found a nearly empty restaurant and went there. My friends, let me tell you, we did manage to have Italian food one more time. I had pasta pomodoro and Cynthia had spaghetti bolognaise. I told her that spag-bol was practically a national dish, according to my media consumption, so it was an authentic English meal for our last night.

Cynthia still needed some provisions for the night and next morning, so we went in a shop on Queensway that was called something like "Wine and Cheese." Turns out, it was all Asian import food. Not wine and not cheese. We left and headed back down Bayswater to our local Waitrose at the service station and got some last-minute things. I had wanted to try Ribena while I was in London, so I bought one. I also bought some Flakes and another water.

 The sun was just going down as we got back to the hotel. The Ribena was sweet and watery with a slightly chemical flavor. Not good. I didn't finish it. The black current cordial was sweet and thick, like juice concentrate. It was good for a few sips and then became too much to take. Maybe with ice or added to lemonade or something it would have been better.

I finished packing and discovered my luggage scale wasn't working. How much did my bag weight? I couldn't tell. I decided to remove the heavier teas from the suitcase and put them in the carry-on, just to be sure I wouldn't have to pull things out of the suitcase at the airport. My suitcase barely closed, even though it was almost half empty when I got there. I bought a lot of stuff!

Our flight back wasn't until around 1 PM the next day, but we needed to be at the airport 3 hours early according to the Internet. And that didn't look like it was an exaggerated suggestion. It looked like, yes, it would take that long to get through security and make the flight without rushing and panicking. We didn't have to wake up super early the next day, but early enough that I set an alarm.

(I bought the green/blue dress.)

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