Going to London for me is not just hitting the tourist attractions. I am fascinated by this city! I’ve been attracted to England for as long as I can remember, it probably started with the knowledge that most of my family, on both sides, immigrated from there. To me it is the homeland, even though the last generation to live there was my father’s great grand parents. They came over to America in 1852, still I feel a kinship to this beautiful, history filled place. Having said that, my family wasn’t originally from London. The branch that I most closely relate to, reason being that I have been able to find more on them in my genealogy research, hailed from Sussex.
If you know me at all, you know that I am not that fond of big cities. Indeed, I grew up in a small suburb of San Diego and rarely ventured downtown. Although I lived there for the first thirty eight years of my life, I still get lost whenever I visit if I leave the neighborhood that I grew up in, or the one I raised my children in. But London, it’s magic to me. On my first visit there with my mother in-law, Jean, she said to me that she didn’t really need to go out and see the sites. It was just being there, breathing in the air that she wanted. I didn’t understand that on my first trip, but it’s so clear to me now.
One of the things we did on this visit and all previous visits, was walk around the village of Upper Norwood, into the cheese shop or the bakery. Up to the pub for dinner. It’s all part of the experience and something that I enjoy for the shear fact that the shops look so foreign to where I live, and I like that. It’s learning another culture, seeing how these people live everyday compared to where we come from. It’s talking to the shop owners and asking lots of questions, trying the local fare, the farmer’s markets, the fresh made goods. I will take these experiences any day over stuff.
One of the things that you do there is walk, a lot. It’s nice because I tend to want to try all of the delicacies, so I eat more than I would usually. Yet I end up losing weight because of all of the walking we do.
There is a show that I found on streaming called “Britain’s Best Bakeries”, and on that show I was introduced to the wonder of Ms.Cupcake. Located in Brixton, it’s a vegan bakery. They have the most luscious cupcakes and cookies, and when I say that, I’m not talking about what they look like. They taste amazing and the four of us made a point to search out this small bakery on a little side street in Brixton. We spent a whopping £40 on cupcakes, had a nice chat with the folks that work there and were given some delicious gluten free cookies. Well worth the money for the experience and the cupcakes were unique and dare I say, heavenly!
If you remember from previous blogs, I had always wanted to visit the Garden Museum and on our last visit, my husband and I got to go. Shortly after our visit, it was closed to remodel and add to it. So I was very excited to be able to go and see the new and improved exhibits. Last time it was £3, the price is now up to £10, and I have to admit that I was a little disappointed! On our first visit, it was small but interesting. The cafe was in an old part of the stone church, beautiful and quaint, leading out to a lovely garden with plants having identifying tags on them. The historic churchyard had beautiful old markers and grave stones. The only thing left was Captain Bligh’s tomb. All gone in exchange for a big fancy and modern coffee shop, reminding you more of Starbucks than anything else. Having said that, the food and service were fine. But, when you visit a museum of gardening, you kind of expect some sort of garden. They removed this for a lot of cement and glass doors. The only thing recognizable was the famous tomb. The display upstairs of garden tools and lovely art was much the same with a few additions. I enjoyed the garden shed with videos of conversations with gardeners. Looks like another addition in a corner downstairs, very artistically presented, though it may not have been finished. Other than that, there was a huge open cavernous space of nothing. One couldn’t help but wonder why the obvious addition of something like a Gertrude Jekyll or Vita Sackville-West display are not in the works. Even large panels with photographs of these famous designs would be welcome. All and all, I probably won’t return again unless it’s included on the London pass. Having said all of that, I found this lovely sign with one of my family names that I’ve been researching. That was a nice surprise!
On one of the days that I was laid up and everyone else went to the British Museum, I got to experience Cost Co, London style. It was interesting in that it was all familiar, the layout, etc. But the items were a bit different. For instance, there was an entire aisle of prawns! Raw, breaded, curried, etc. I was very impressed with the variety of shrimp you could buy.
My friends went to a street near the British Museum where it is blocked off from cars. It’s called Museum Street and they found a great store with vintage style clothes called “Thomas Farthing”. You can see why from the photo below that I insisted we go back the next day when I felt better. The displays were gorgeous and the the quality was apparent in every item that was out for sale. Across the street was an authentic (the staff barely spoke English) Italian restaurant where we had some of the best pizza I have ever tasted!
On the way back to catch our bus I snapped this photo of a vintage clock. I’m only sorry that we weren’t there on the hour to see this glorious clock chime. It’s attached to the side of building where there is an entrance to a courtyard of shops. I plan to explore this area more on our next visit.
Of course it wouldn’t be a proper visit without a family dinner to catch up with all of the assorted Haigh’s. Sue did herself proud with such a succulent meal, good wine and conversation with friends that long ago became my extended family. I think about them often, appreciate their generosity over the years, care about them each and every one and look forward to every contact with them.