I did a quick trip to my beloved London for work recently. On previous trips to the UK I have never stayed in the city itself. Always on the outskirts. Although the outskirts are gorgeous and green and lush, there is something about staying in the city. The noise, the people, the vibe. I love it.
London really does have my heart.
This time around I stayed in Kensington (Borough of Kensington and Chelsea). It is walking distance from the Olympia centre where I worked and Kensington palace (Where the current Royals live) Kensington Gardens (basically their back yard) and Hyde Park.
I made a friend at the wine show I attended (More on that later). She is actually an attorney who got involved in the wine industry. What a fascinating lady she was. She hadn’t been to London since the 80’s and was all too happy to have an exploration partner. We wrapped up work at around six and I grabbed a map and circled where we were and drew a line to Kensington Palace. We hit the road in work attire and took route through Kensington high street. It was just about dust and the lights and flowers boxes everywhere seemed extra pretty at that time of evening in the low, last bit of sunlight.
The Attorney couldn’t get enough and she took photos of EVERYTHING. She has a real soft spot for Princess Diana and really wanted to see the Palace. Unfortunately we just missed the last tour but we were still able to see the grounds . I am not sure I would pay to actually take the tour. I am not too interested in the current Royals. I find the history of queens and kings who really RULED far more interesting than what the back drop of is Williams and Kates photos. I would take Dover Castle over Kensington any day judged solely on History.
But Kensington has a charm I have never experienced in London. You almost feel unfit if you aren’t jogging or biking through the parks. EVERYONE does. Its great motivation. After exploring the gardens and pondering if the Royals ever sneak out and walk in the park we decided to walk on to Diana’s memorial fountain. Which we thought was an actual fountain. On the walk we suddenly saw a rather large gold statue/monument sticking out from behind the trees. (by this time we had been walking for about an hour) Curiosity prevailed and off we went to see what it was. As we got closer the monument grew bigger and It wasn’t until we were right in front of it that we realised we had walked all the way to the Royal Albert Hall. It was late and overcast and it was the most beautiful view of the hall I had ever seen.
After taking what felt like 1000 photos we decided to move on into the dark to find Diana’s fountain. We dodged bicycles and finally reached the fountain and it was well, interesting. Its not a fountain per se but rather a loop of water like a stream with different depths. Was it worth the 2 hour walk? Not quite. But the company was marvellous.
We attempted to rent Boris Bikes and failed dismally. We tried ALL our cards and they weren’t having any of it. So top travel tip: Get yourself an oyster card. Busses also no longer take cash. So those suckers are handy.
So since we didn’t have bikes and by this time it was pretty dark we set out, walking back. We stumbled upon the coolest installation The Serpentine Gallery. It is a donut shaped fibreglass structure balanced on large flat boulders. It has little tables and chairs inside. It looked other worldly popping up in the middle of the lush greenery.
We made our way back to Palace and turned back onto High street. By this time we were famished and craved pub food. Dinner was found at a tiny old little pub called the Prince of Wales. The Attorney wasn’t quite accustomed to beer so I convinced her to halve a half pint of ale with me. (It went down really well. Maybe it was just the super long walk)
We walked a few streets down and split up. I went on to my hotel, the Kensington Mercure. And she went on to hers.
With tired feet, a full stomach and a happy heart I was fast asleep within minutes of reaching my room.