When You’ve Seen the Sites, You Shop

After our time in the countryside, we came back to London well-rested and ready for our final two days. We started the day with a stroll through Kensington Gardens (for real – London puts all other cities to shame when it comes to green spaces).

We made our way to the Peter Pan Statue – because what child (or adult!) doesn’t love the story about never having to grow up. The statue was commissioned by JM Barrie himself and apparently if you scan the plaque with your smartphone, you get a call from Peter Pan. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn that odd fact until after we left – so I can’t tell you what the call is like!

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After we left the gardens we made our way to the National Gallery. This time, we paid attention to opening times and didn’t have to kill time with a second breakfast! The National Gallery is much smaller than the British Museum, so we spent probably an hour to hour-and-a-half inside.

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After spending way too much time in the religious artwork areas, we made our way to what we were actually interested in: the Impressionists. The museum has a good number of Degas paintings, including this one I hadn’t seen before:

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It ended up being one of my favorite viewings. Much more interesting than this horse that always captures everyone’s attention:

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I’d really love for someone to share the appeal with me…I’d rather see a live horse – something I’ve gotten to do a lot of since arriving in Leysin, but I’ll save that for a later post.

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Surprises Outside of London

Even though I could probably spend the rest of my life living happily in London, we left the city to spend a few days in the countryside. Our home base was Cathy’s family home near Dorset.

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We thought we’d spend our weekend relaxing in countryside gardens (which we did) – but there were a lot of surprises in store for us as well! First, did you know Dorset has its very own castle? Corfe Castle. Its seen better days, but as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I usually prefer ruins to majesty.

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It doesn’t take long to tour the grounds, we were there for maybe an hour, but Corfe Castle has some fascinating history.

978 – King Edward the Martyr was murdered by his stepmother Elfrida at the site of the Old Hall
1086 – William the Conqueror swapped a church for the land where he began to build Corfe Castle
1106 – Henry I imprisoned his brother, Robert of Normandy, in the King’s Tower
1199-1214 – King John imprisoned his French niece, Princess Eleanor of Brittany, at Corfe Castle (this is really not a great castle for families!)
1572 – Queen Elizabeth I sold the Corfe Castle to one of her favorites
1643-1646 – Under the command of Lady Mary Bankes, Corfe Castle twice held off sieges during the Civil War. It was finally captured due to treachery from within its walls

Plus, being on a hill (security reasons, of course), meant it has lovely views of the town. And Chandler, like always, found his shady respite while I roamed and explored.

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After that we bought some honey mead (so sweet!). It was nearly our one-year anniversary and it turns out that a full moon’s supply of honey mead was traditionally given to the bride and groom after their wedding. And from that we get, “honeymoon,” which I suppose this trip sort of is for us, since we had a whirlwind move to Accra after our wedding.

Next up was a stroll through the city Cathy grew up in and a stop at the beach, and since Europe was experiencing a massive heat wave, it was packed. We lunched on cheese sandwiches at the Salty Pig. As vegetarians, we always have exciting meal escapades.

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We could have called it a successful day after that, but instead, Grace and Cathy led us on a two-mile walk to a pub that very much felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. That, however, couldn’t have been further from the truth, given the packed outdoor space and the 20-minute wait to order.

I’ve learned that you can’t judge a place by how many cows and sheep you have to walk by to get there!

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George Harrison & Judith Viorst in London

Can you believe my last post only recounted the events of our first two days in London? Sometimes it still baffles me the number of things we got to experience there. Day three was no exception.

We decided to start our day early, knowing there would always be so much to do and see in London. However, we failed to take into account that things in London do not like to start their days early. So even though we arrived at the British Museum at 8:30, it didn’t open until 10:00. Luckily, we found a cafe around the corner, Chandler had a second breakfast, and we returned at 9:30 to discover that the main gates had opened. Because while the exhibitions and galleries aren’t available until 10:00, the entryway and gift shops open earlier.

We spent about four hours wandering through the museum, thoroughly enjoying the ancient Egyptian pieces, the modern Japanese works, the clocks and watches, statues, and so much more. We would have happily attended either special exhibit: “Hokusai beyond the Great Wave” and “The American Dream pop to present,” but we’d heard London could get quite expensive, so we were touring the free museums, and we also just didn’t have time!

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After the museum, I had to rush a very hungry husband to a restaurant he’s been missing since we left the US nine months ago: Chipotle. We’d thought about grabbing the food to go and picnicking in the Regent’s Park, but luckily we were too hungry to wait, because fate had other plans for us : )

After our meal we decided to take a side street to make it to the bus that would take us to Regent’s Park, and we passed a pop-up exhibition up for that weekend only to promote the re-release of George Harrison’s book I, Me, Mine. We walked inside to find the original hand-written song lyrics to “I, Me, Mine” as well as other famous songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “All Things Pass,” and “Behind That Locked Door.”

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London Calling

I can’t believe I’ve been to three countries since the last time I had a chance to blog. It’s been a whirlwind beginning to our summer, but things are finally calming down now that we’ve settled in for our month in Leysin.

Our trip began in London and I can’t believe I haven’t been to that city sooner. The ease, the food, the culture, the activities…I guess it’s easy to say I fell in love. We only spent seven days there, but I’m already itching to go back – there’s just so much more to do!

We didn’t stay in city center, but to the west in Chiswick with some friends. They helped us with the ins and outs of using the tube and buses and the app Citymapper made our lives so much easier. Our first day was spent wandering through Chiswick with them and stopping by the Tabard for a pint (mango cider, mmm).

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The next day, we hit the streets ready to tour London on our own. We wandered around and past all the touristy things, wanting to see everything we’d heard of, but not necessarily needing to go inside all of it (we only had seven days after all!). Our walk took us through (royal) Hyde Park, walking past Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Palace & Abbey. We worked up quite an appetite and made our way over to the Borough Market – where we apparently missed Prince Harry by 10 minutes…si triste.

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However, not all was lost as we wondered through the charming market, sampling cheeses, fruits, sweets, and olive oils. After nine months in Accra, it was shocking to see so much food and at such good prices. We decided to stay for lunch, Chandler opting for a mouth-watering veggie burger and me being unable to turn down pumpkin-stuffed tortellini!

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The day was already off to an incredible start and it wasn’t even noon! I was keeping a close eye on the time, because at 12:30 we had a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe before our viewing of Twelfth Night at 2:00.

Normally, I’m not one for tours, but I love (love) theaters. And this one has a fascinatingly short history – the modern reconstruction (built only 750 feet from where the original stood in 1599) didn’t open until 1997. And the theatre was founded by an American actor and director named Sam Wanamaker.

I, mistakenly, thought the shows performed here were all done traditionally, but after my initial surprise, I was thrilled with the 1970s reinterpretation involving some great music, a fabulous drag singer, and a lot of laughs. It won’t be easily forgotten or confused with other shows I’ve seen.

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