September 10, 2001
For my last birthday, my mother in-law gave me a copy of Alistair Sawday’s “Special Places to Stay-Garden Bed & Breakfast”. We wanted to stay in real people’s homes, not a commercial type hotel. If you want to really experience a culture you don’t book yourself into a Hilton!
I had researched Crystal Palace and found the history of the cast iron and glass building that was erected for the “Great Exhibition” of 1851. It was a marvel of the time and after the exhibition was over it was dismantled and moved to Crystal Palace where it stayed until it burned down in 1936. There is a park there now and a National Sports Centre.
There’s really no way to tell what you’re going to get if you’re not familiar with a place, especially one as far away as Europe. We’ve all seen examples of hotels that look nothing like the pictures posted or in a neighborhood that you really don’t want to be in. I felt pretty good about this because it was in a well-known travel writers book and we weren’t disappointed.
I love this house and after multiple stays here, it feels like home, but even in the first introduction I felt an instant connection. The house has a personality of its own, partly because of the people that live here but also its location and style. One room wide with a long hallway on a very deep lot. Family photos line the hallway and tell not only the history of the family but the history of England. Military campaigns, fashion, babies, cars, weddings, you name a part of life and it is captured there for you to absorb.
So, after the eye popping car ride through London we arrived at this amazing house and were met by Sue who ushered us in to her large kitchen and a hot pot of tea.
Sue and Tim, the innkeepers of this particular B&B are warm and friendly and fold you into their life from the moment you walk into their home. Marcie and I learned so much from them. They asked questions about our plans without being nosy and were such a wealth of information.
After getting us settled in our very lovely room we were invited to join Sue in the kitchen for some homemade red pepper and goat cheese soup. It was so welcome after getting ready and then traveling all night, schlepping all that luggage through customs and then the drive from the airport.
We spent the lunch chatting and getting to know each other. I discovered how much we had in common and we were instant friends. For instance, we each have 3 daughters and her youngest and my oldest which are the same age also have the same nickname!
After lunch we went upstairs and took a long awaited nap, which was the best thing to do at that point.
We asked for dinner recommendations and headed up the hill to Church Rd and then down to a street of shops where there was a Fish & Chips restaurant called “A Tale of the Sea”. It was our first authentic fish & chips and we both loved it. Not at all greasy like I expected and with the malt vinegar it was delicious, we even tried mushy peas. Sadly it’s no longer there:(
Back to the lovely accommodations and comfortable beds for a very restful and much needed night of sleep. Tomorrow would be our first full day in London and we already had the day ahead planned. First the train to Victoria Station, then we wanted to take one of the double deck bus tours where you can get on and off for a general view of the city. I highly recommend this, and I preferred the one with a docent that will point out sites and give you the interesting facts. I have tried the other one with headphones, but they never seem to sync and you’re not always sure that what you’re looking at is what’s being talked about.