Tuesday, September 6, 2016

No plans except lunch

Day 2: London
London was kind of a late addition to this trip so we didn't plan a whole lot to fill our meager three days.  Today was our freest day.   The only thing on the agenda was lunch at the Square at 230pm. We got a late start but felt no jet lag! The nespresso coffee maker in the room was one of my favorite things!

Looking at the map, we decided to visit the Wallace Collection which was in the same general area as the Square.  We tubed as close as we could and walked the rest of the way.  It was a long walk.

The Wallace Collection is free to enter.  The audio guide was 3GBP (and not worth it, IMO).  From their website:  "The Wallace Collection is a national museum in an historic London town house. In 25 galleries are unsurpassed displays of French 18th-century painting, furniture and porcelain with superb Old Master paintings and a world class armoury."

We didn't know what to expect but were delighted by this collection.  The house is spectacular in and of itself.  It's located in a lovely part of London with a pretty park across from it.  The entrance is grand.  Each room is filled with outstanding pieces.  We marveled and ooh and aahed. Very impressive! It vaulted high on the list of favorite "house" museums.  We didn't have enough time to do it justice and would certainly love to return on a subsequent trip.

Titian's Perseus and Andromeda 

But now we had to find our way to the Square.  We started walking but were running late so just hailed a black cab there.  It was our first time in a black cab and we felt all schwanky and stuff.  A few minutes and 7GBP and we were there.  Much better than walking!

We had lunch at the Square in 2011 and enjoyed it then as we enjoyed it this time.  The space is modern and comfortable.  The staff and service are efficient and unobtrusive.   The food was beautifully presented and delicious.  We each chose the 55GBP lunch option (3 courses, 2 glasses of wine, water, tea or coffee) which seemed a good deal.  The only thing I didn't like was my starter which was oyster and mackerel.  Husband ate it and said it was OK but pretty fishy.  In retrospect, I should have asked for a vegetarian option for a starter.  I'm sure they would have accommodated my pickiness!

Happy, full, and satisfied, we left the Square and wandered around its pretty neighborhood.  We decided to visit Selfridges department store which I had seen on the eponymous TV show.  We really liked this store although we bought almost nothing. The Selfridge vibe was fun, young, and relaxed.  It didn't seem to take itself as seriously as other big department stores we've visited.  I checked out all the fancy shoes and we just wandered for awhile.  We didn't like the rooftop bar--the fake flowers and carpet did not appeal--and the food halls were basic compared to Harrods.  We bought Pierre Herme macaroons.  We took a cocktail and beer break at Harry Gordon's bar.  I loved the Champagne Berry Fizz!  We were impressed by the Japanese section with its eerie quiet and calm (how did they make all the noise of the store go away? It was so peaceful in there!).  We looked at the jewelry before heading out.  Those Rolex watches, wow!

Champagne Berry Fizz--a perfect cocktail
Husband said he'd like to visit Ye Olde Mitre in the City but of course we had no internet connection, Wi-Fi, or guidebook to help us navigate.  We tubed to Temple since we knew it was somewhere around there.  We stopped in at the Temple pub, had a pint, and asked the bartender for directions to Ye Olde Mitre.  Neither he nor the other patron had heard of it but found it on google.  The Wi-Fi was good so I loaded walking directions and off we went.

Ye Olde Mitre is a bit hidden away down a tiny alley off Ely Place.  It dates back to 1542 and didn't burn in the 1666 fire.  Everyone was outside in the alley because it was hot inside.  It was packed.  And so cool.  We like this place.  We had a couple of drinks and by time we were done, it had cleared out considerably.  Not hungry yet, we decided to head toward the tube.

Since Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (rebuilt in 1667) was on our way, we stopped in there.  For some reason we hadn't liked it last year but this time we really did.  Husband liked it for its Samuel Smith beer and I liked it because it was good mix of locals and tourists.  We had a nice chat with a local aeronautical engineer and a NYU student on his semester abroad.  Unfortunately, we missed their cut-off for food and didn't get to eat in the cool cave-like dining room.

We were actually kind of surprised that they stopped serving so "early" (it was just 10pm) and by now we were pretty famished.  We decided to try the pizza place we'd eaten at last year because they had been open very late (like 11pm).  We tubed to Victoria and made it to the Maverick Pizza on Buckingham Palace Road easily but they were not serving (it was 1020!).  We then wandered back toward Victoria and thankfully the Indian restaurant, Buckingham Balti House, was still open and serving.  We had a nice meal there then tubed back to South Kensington and our hotel for the night.

1. Thanks again, London, for your free museums!
2. Splurging on a special lunch is just lovely
3. Pubs stop serving pretty early--if hungry, get your order in.
4. Most places have Wi-Fi, just ask for the password
5. Being able to easily talk to people is one of the joys of traveling in England

Next:  The Palace, the paintings, the portraits; another day in London

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