I am not sure exactly when I fell in love with London. But many years ago it became my city. Again and again I return. And when I leave, I always wish for more time.
My favorite visit here was with my late father for his 70th birthday. We covered every inch of London and a lot out of the city during our two-week visit and being able to show it all to him was a memory that I cherish. Standing on the white cliffs at Dover that he had seen from a naval ship when he was only 18. Taking trains from tube stations that he had been in during the Blitz. Seeing Winston Churchill's burial site. And touring Buckingham Palace and my father saying, “I can’t believe they let us in!”
London is a city that has my heart.
That is why having this entire week on my own, free to do anything I wish is such a gift.
Soon after arriving today I headed for the Thames Beachcombing Tour. London Walks bills it as 10,000 years of history beneath your feet. For a history freak like myself, this is pure heaven. A chance to peak into lives that were here so many years ago!!! Sign me up. So, I met up with Fiona, an inter-tidal archaeologist who is also a leading authority on the Thames shoreline. It was worth braving today’s cold and rain take part in this fascinating tour with 10 other hearty participants.
The brochure says that you are guaranteed to find stuff, and find stuff we did. Clay pipes, pieces of beautifully decorated bowls, Roman tiles that go back 1800 years, lots of metal remnants from a boatyard. Just fascinating...
For the remainder of my first day in London, I did a quick run past Buckingham Palace. The standard is flying, the queen is in.
And a long walk through Kensington Palace Gardens and “millionaires row,” where every house (a term I use loosely) is a palace. I always visit Kensington Place with such history, some that is close to me…Christopher Wren (College of William & Mary in Virginia and my dad’s middle name) turned it into a “proper palace” for King William III and Queen Mary. It was here that Queen Victoria (does anyone else think this is fascinating?) was called from her bed in 1837 to be told that she was now queen. It was also home to Princess Diana and I always think of those beautiful gates covered in flowers following her tragic death.
My perfect day ends with dinner at the Grenadier Pub. My favorite London pub. Time stands still here. Historically, it belongs to Waterloo days. Tucked away down exclusive Wilton Mews, on the corner of Old Barrack Yard, the Grenadier is painted red, white and blue. A beautiful grapevine forms a canopy over the worn cobblestones leading to the door. A bright red sentry box indicates this is a pub with a military history.
Inside it is small, dark and cozy with fireplaces in each tiny room. The ceiling is coffee black, the walls dark panelled. Originally the officer’s mess for the Duke of Wellington guards, it still has the remaining stone of the duke’s mounting block. In later times it was frequented by King George IV. My favorite part: A portion of the of the original pewter bar remains and its believed to be the oldest of its kind. During September, the Grenadier is haunted by the ghost of an officer who was flogged to death for cheating at cards. When I was there with friends some years ago (in October) we are fairly certain that the ghost was with us for dinner!