It’s been sunny and warm lately – almost, dare I say it, Aussie-like! We’re gearing up for the big Europe trip and taking advantage of our last few days in London, and so today finally ventured to the ‘other end’ of the Overground line to Richmond. What a beautiful part of the world this is! I’d urge visitors in London to take a ride to this region on the river. Elegant homes, cute pubs by the water, quaint shops, the gorgeous Kew Gardens (stop prior to Richmond) and a short bus ride to the delightful Hampton Court Palace, one of Henry VIII’s favourite haunts… well it was back in the day, but perhaps he’s still ‘haunting’ there, who knows? ;-) I must say, I was looking forward to my visit to this palace, and it didn’t disappoint. Unlike The Tower of London which can be a bit creepy (although I love that too), this place is bright, magical and maintains a regal air about it. It’s easy to imagine Queens wandering around the lavish rooms, up and down the staircases, through the famous outdoor maze…
Travel tip: When we first moved to London I invested in a Royal Palaces membership card which not only provides some funds towards the upkeep of London’s lovely old properties, but allows unlimited entry into the likes of Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, The Tower of London and Hampton Court. Brilliant value for money, and offers many options for nice days out.
About Green Park and London Bridge
With only a few weekends to explore the parts of London we haven’t been to (and those we’d like to see again) we ventured out early to see how the ‘other half’ live in the wealthy Mayfair district. We researched the precinct and discovered that the majority of ‘tourist’ action and celebrity spotting occurs at the historical but chic Shepherd Market, a charming little piazza developed in the late 1730s, hidden away between Piccadilly and Curzon Street (just a few minutes walk from Green Park station; not far at all from The Ritz where Rhonda and I recently dined). The main road near the tube was buzzing and busy (as it usually is) with tourist buses stopping every few minutes to collect visitors for their trips around the city; and artists who were setting up dozens of paintings for sale along the walled entrance into Green Park itself.
We wandered down a signed old London alleyway that pointed the way towards Shepherd Market but unfortunately when we arrived there wasn’t much happening, so we stopped for a latte, meandered around the square and admired the old Victorian pubs and quaint boutiques for a while, then consulted the trusty BlackBerry for alternative Saturday exploration options.
We’re on a budget at the moment so looked up ‘free London attractions’. Of all the options, the Kensington Roof Gardens seemed like a great idea, although apparently they’re closed until mid-week (so stay tuned for that update); we decided instead to head back onto the Jubilee Line to London Bridge where I’d seen some interesting old shops and pretty cafes a few weeks earlier.
As it turns out, London Bridge is absolutely humming on Saturdays because of the famous Borough Market – a gathering that we’d even seen featured on The Travel Channel but had never been to because we rarely ventured to this side of London (until moving to the east in April). The whole area was loud and busy, with motor vehicles, train traffic, and thousands of people all out to score a delicious bargain at one of the many poultry, fish, curry, wine, cake, bread, cheese, fruit and vege stalls – a trading tradition that dates back beyond 1014!
We were in our element, sampling all manner of delights, and even found a stall that was promoting local wines – for a mere fiver we sampled six glasses (rosés, whites and reds) that are ‘home made’ in the UK, and learned about the history thanks to our lovely wine connoisseur, Dominique – a special shout-out to www.winepantry.co.uk for this experience, and FYI we did choose to purchase a lovely bottle of Biddenden Gribble Bridge Rosé (budget… out the window again this weekend!).
Just this morning I was pondering what we would do now; what would we talk about? This time a week ago we had the big, romantic wedding and street parties all around. Then the weekend was topped off by the news that Osama Bin Laden had finally been captured and killed.
Ironically enough, I stumbled across quite an amusing editorial in The Daily Telegraph by Hannah Betts which proved I wasn’t the only one thinking along these lines. It really was such an amazing event: “For a few hours we came together as a country in a way that no sporting activity, or religious celebration could muster. In a multi-media age, where the populace rarely views the same subject matter, we united on a single theme“. Am sure quite a few of you will, with a knowing smile, agree…
Have you fallen into the arms of post-wedding-day blues?
After celebrating the royal wedding our nation is left deflated, says Hannah Betts.
Look deep into your soul and ask yourself: do any of the following symptoms sound familiar? A wistful longing for romantic conviction; the feeling that one might be a tad chubby or lacking poise; an overwhelming sense of drabness; an indignant rumbling to the effect: “Where’s Monday’s bank holiday gone?”
One week on from what the nation is still rapturously referring to as “The Wedding”, a certain post-nuptial depression would appear to be afflicting the collective female psyche. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Great Wedding Wobble.
Personally, I am no ardent monarchist, without being a republican; I am not looking for Mr Right; nor do I believe in marriage. Nevertheless, my own wake o’ nuptials malaise set in last Friday at 4pm prompt.
What, no more watching royals motor about the capital? No further tittering at Beatrice’s titfer? No more fashionable nose-upturning at the former Miss Middleton, who – even former naysayers must concede – pulled an absolute blinder? How could we be expected to wean ourselves off the eye candy so quickly? Surely the couple had a responsibility to fulfil their role as reality television stars to topple Essex’s finest and commit their wedding night to the small screen?
The male commentator who described the wedding as the “World Cup for women” didn’t come close. For when has the outcome of a football match made anyone question their quality of life? The introspection – ye gods, the introspection! I may not want to get hitched, but the couple’s beatific happiness (after 10 years!) reduced me to a gibbering heap. Theirs was a radiant certainty that I have yet to feel about anyone or anything.
Happily – unhappily – I am not alone. Legions of otherwise sane women would appear to be suffering post-nuptial angst. For those enduring separation or malcontentedly single, the wretchedness is palpable.
Said one 38-year-old divorcee: “I couldn’t help but reflect on my wedding day and the confident assumption that my life was complete. And yet here I am living alone in a bedsit, with unhappy children and an incandescent ex. The pair’s tangible warmth crawled beneath the armour I had used to protect myself, causing me physical and emotional symptoms.”
Another friend, awaiting her prince just shy of 40, admits: “It’s the first time we’ve seen a royal couple so genuinely in love and, once the excitement had passed, it was so deflating – and a stark reminder of where we are not in our own lives. It was all so damn effervescent and now life’s the opposite. To be honest, I’m a little green. They’re 10 years younger and have a happy road ahead, whereas they’ve left me looking backwards.”
The image of the oh-so fragrant Duchess of Cambridge has led to some particularly self-lacerating feminine critique. As one staunchly sensible career woman bemoans: “I am (secretly) jealous of everything: her poise, having so many amazing pictures of her big day, that incredible mane of hair. I found myself in Prêt the other day thinking: ‘Well, I won’t buy the Caesar salad because Kate wouldn’t get that. Mind you, nor would Kate have that second bottle at lunchtime or go to bed with her slap on.’
“Her stellar performance has made me look at my own existence and find it wanting. Moreover, without any desire to get married, I’ve started thinking: ‘A dress with a 9ft-train really is the minimum.’”
The incredulity with which such confessions are expressed cannot be exaggerated. From our Slough of Despond we wail: “Is it only a week since Blighty thrilled to cartwheeling vergers and pirouetting plods?” For a few hours we came together as a country in a way that no sporting activity, or religious celebration could muster. In a multi-media age, where the populace rarely views the same subject matter, we united on a single theme.
A self-confessed pessimist remarks: “I had a strange sense during the wedding of losing all cynicism – and that so had much of London. There was a genuine air of camaraderie. For once we had good news – and on an epic scale.” The sense of jaundice and ennui that marks the comedown from this delirium would appear to be universal, even among those who like to be modishly countercultural.
And late 30- and 40-somethings – who prefer to imagine themselves as young – remembering Diana’s first-born crawling around in his romper suit have felt dispiritingly middle-aged. And all of us have had to face the end of that stretch of sunlit loafing born of consecutive bank holidays. “There’s simply nothing to look forward to,” comes the lament.
A nation mourns, or rather, sulks. Zara Phillips, take note.
There’s an energy in the air in London. Even people who claimed to not care too much about the impending nuptials now aren’t denying there’s electricity around…. a spring in everyone’s step… a little excitement, and a load of Facebook and Twitter updates!
Of course there are a few sad Sam’s, but everyone else can’t help but notice the thousands of media who have descended on the Capital, the special upbeat play-lists all the radio stations are pumping out, endless pub events and club line-ups that are being promoted… it’s turning out to be one big Cool Britannia party, and we’re all invited!
Evidently even the anti-monarchy sentiment in Australia has recently been at its LOWEST in decades. Yep, Kate and Wills (or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as we’ll officially call them in under 24 hours) are well-liked, and most of the world is loving the positive news story.
Even when we were in America last week the hype was high – it’s a big story, but it’s a popular story.
At work we fell into the inevitable ‘Diana’ conversation, and how we reckon she’d love Kate.
Apparently there are some hardcore Diana-ists threatening to boycott the wedding and cause dramas… a note, if you ‘support’ Diana, you’d leave her poor son alone.
He’s been through enough, but now, a happy ending? We can only hope so.
I’ve bought my merchandise, street party outfit, special t-shirt for Cooper… even got my hands on the limited edition Oyster (London travel) Card as a collectable memento for my mum back at home.
I’m super excited about the big party around this amazing city. I’m fortunate to be here for such a historical and hopefully happy event.
Cheers Kate and Wills! Good on you for being the charming couple that everyone likes. Now, off to join the thousands out in the street… see you on TV 😉
PS we ended up in town for another future Royal wedding – take a peek here!