Friday, September 29, 2023

Day 2 in London

The date was Saturday, August 26th, and before we ever left home I made reservations for two activities for this day:  A Classic Afternoon Tea on Brigit's double-decker bus and 90-minute sight-seeing tour of London, followed by a tour of Buckingham Palace.  Both were wonderful.

We had a delicious breakfast at our hotel, then took a taxi to Victoria Coach Station [the same station where we arrived in London the day before], and boarded Brigit's double-decker bus at 12:00 noon.

Orchid Breakfast Room, Park International Hotel

A refurbished 1960's London routemaster

Brigit's Bakery is located in Covent Garden

The tour route included Harrods [Knightsbridge], Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Nelson's Column [Trafalgar Square], Buckingham Palace, London's Parks [St. James's Park, Hyde Park and others], Royal Albert Hall, Marble Arch and more.

Our tea hostess gave instructions before the tour began.

The Afternoon Tea Menu included five freshly prepared savories, four homemade pastries [cakes, tarts], and a plain scone with clotted cream and jam.  Our tea selection was Earl Grey. I wish I could be more specific about the menu items, but I didn't write them down. 

Scone with jam and clotted cream.

Our tea was served in a sturdy melmac-type glass [at right in photo below] with a tight fitting pink lid which was ours to keep.  It fit securely in a cup holder on the tabletop so it wouldn't spill during the bus ride.

I bought the commemorative book as a keepsake.

After the bus tour we got a taxi to Buckingham Palace for our 3:00 p.m. self-guided audio tour of the palace.   London was bustling with tourists as you can see in the photos below.

The tour queue was a short distance from the front of the palace. Photos were allowed in this enclosed area where large photographs of the King and Queen Consort's Coronation were displayed, but no photography was permitted inside the palace.  You had to buy the tour book for pictures of the State Rooms.  As expected, there was a security check similar to airports before entering the palace.  The tour was a little over 2 hours long, depending on how quickly you moved from room to room.  It was A LOT to take in.

The first thing we saw was the Diamond Jubilee State Coach at the Palace's State Entrance.  It was used to take King Charles III and Queen Camilla to their Coronation at Westminster Abbey.  

From there we ascended the Grand Staircase into the State Rooms, which included the Throne Room, The Picture Gallery, the Green Drawing Room, the White Drawing Room and a few others. Of special significance was the Grand Ballroom where the magnificent outfits worn by King Charles III and Queen Camilla during their recent Coronation were displayed in enclosed cases.  The King's robe was worn by his grandfather, King George VI, at his coronation in 1937.  

The Bow Room was the last room of the tour which took us outside to the large 39-acre park/garden area.  Once outside we were able to take pictures.  The back of Buckingham Palace isn't photographed as much as the front because of limited public access, so I was happy to get these photos.

A pop-up cafe was set up on the walk-out deck.  I wished later we would have at least had tea and a scone there so we could have said we had tea at Buckingham Palace, but we didn't and missed our opportunity!  ;-)

~ Swimming Pool and Squash Court ~

The path below led to public restrooms and a pop-up Buckingham Palace gift shop.  I wasn't intending to purchase anything since I knew I didn't have much room in my suitcase, but it's always fun to look.

Inside I saw a beautiful teacup that was a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.  My hubby knew I always purchase a teacup as a souvenir of my travels so he bought it for me.  On one side of the teacup are the words: "May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Also inside the gift shop was a limited-edition Radley teapot purse.  It was so unique and beautiful, but the price tag said £200 [more in US funds], so I told myself to leave it for someone else to enjoy.

With storm clouds looming we decided to exit the palace grounds and look for a taxi to take us back to our hotel.  We both had our umbrellas to protect against a light rainfall, but once inside our taxi the clouds gave way to a heavy downpour.  Back at our hotel room we declared day 2 was a very good day in London.

To be continued...


Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Day 1 in London [continued]

After leaving The Muffin Man tea shop with full tummies [see Sept. 18 post], we set out on foot to Kensington Palace which was just over a mile away.  I had already toured Kensington Palace twice on previous visits as well as having tea in the Orangery, so they weren't on this trip's itinerary, but I did want to see Princess Diana's statue in Kensington Gardens that was unveiled in 2021 by her sons.  It was a beautiful day for walking.

Londoners love their parks since many of them don't have yards of their own.

In the photo below we were approaching Kensington Palace where Royal Family members still reside.  It was Queen Victoria's birthplace and childhood home.  Princess Diana also occupied an apartment in the palace with her young sons after separating from Prince Charles [now king] until the time of her death.  And the Prince and Princess of Wales and their children still have access to Apartment 1A there.

The gates of Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria's Monument in her Coronation Robes that she unveiled in June 1893.

It seemed like we walked all 275 acres of Kensington Gardens in search of Princess Diana's statue, and never did find it.  We asked directions from several people who unintentionally sent us on wild goose chases.  We did find her Memorial Fountain though, which at the bottom is a lovely wading pool for children and was being enjoyed by many.  I was hoping to go back another day to find the statue but we ran out of time.

The Princess Diana Memorial Walk covers four of London's beautiful parks:  Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James's Park - a 7-mile long walk.

Pigeons and Ducks in Kensington Gardens 

After seeing Diana's Memorial Fountain we exited Kensington Gardens thinking we'd walk back to our hotel.  We passed Prince Albert's Memorial on the southern edge of Kensington Gardens and stopped for pictures.  Queen Victoria had the memorial built in memory of her husband which took 10 years to complete.  She opened it in 1872 and Prince Albert was ceremonially "seated" in 1876.

Directly across the street is the Royal Albert Concert Hall which Queen Victoria opened in 1871.  It was renovated 1996-2004 and has a seating capacity of 5,272.

There are 13 remaining historic 'cabbie shelters' in London out of 61 built between 1875 and 1914, and we passed one of them on Kensington Road on our walk.  They were established as a safe haven for cab drivers to provide warmth, food and a hot cup of tea.   Still functional, they are off limits to non-cabbies inside, but they do serve beverages to the public via side-hatches.

With no Internet connection to access Google Maps we concluded we didn't remember how to get back to our hotel and got a taxi.   It was a fun first day in London.

Next post Day 2 in London...

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A Visit to Zeeland, MI

My hubby and I spent last Tuesday thru Thursday visiting our youngest son, Jeremy, and his family in Zeeland, MI.   They moved from Chelsea to Zeeland last June and this is the first chance we've had to visit them and see their new [to them] house.  

It was about a three hour drive and most of the journey was beautiful skies until we approached Zeeland when the sky became ominous, but it never did rain.  Ellie's 4:00 o'clock tennis match in nearby Hudsonville proceeded as planned, and she and her partner won their match.

That's Ellie at the back of the court.  Taking a photo through a fence isn't optimal!

Her team is called 'Chix' because Zeeland has the most chicken hatcheries in Michigan, and was once known as the 'Chick Capital' of the Midwest.

After her winning performance we went to Russ' Restaurant in Holland, MI, for dinner,  It's a family owned restaurant since 1934 known for their burgers, although I was the only one who enjoyed a burger.  Everyone else enjoyed other menu options. 

On Wednesday, the clouds lifted and it was a beautiful day for driving to Saugatuck, less than a half-hour drive away.  I'd always heard it was a lovely, quaint area to visit, so was glad for the opportunity to go.  The kids were in school and Jeremy was working, so Samantha drove us. It's a tourist destination with three or four streets of shops to browse.  Unfortunately no tearoom, even though the area is so condusive to one.

We went into Tuck's gift shop on Butler Street, and I have never seen so many unique nutcrackers in one place in my life.  It's a nutcracker collector's paradise.  If I thought I'd be doing an Alice in Wonderland theme tea, I would have bought one of the two nutcrackers pictured below - or maybe both because they were very reasonably priced.

We walked a block farther down and came to Kilwin's Confectionery.  An employee could be seen making their famous fudge through a large window at the side of the shop, but it was their ice cream that drew us inside.  

Jerry and Samantha got their limited-edition Apple Pie Ice Cream [and declared it delicious!] and I got Pistachio, which was also very good.

We walked along the marina and saw many beautiful boats.  A large paddlewheel boat [Star of Saugatuck] went by with passengers taking a scenic ride down the Kalamazoo River, but I didn't get my phone out in time for a good picture.  That would be a fun activity for another visit.

There were many clothing shops, but we didn't go inside any of them.  I saw the cute sign below outside one of the shops and couldn't resist taking a picture of it.

Also liked this wheelbarrow of geraniums.

Then it was time to head back home.  Landon had a 6:00 p.m. football game in nearby Comstock. 

Landon attends Holland Christian Middle School, and how refreshing to see the team in a sideline huddle praying before the game started.

Landon is the team's quarterback and is #10 [standing at the sideline].  He scored four touchdowns in the game and his school won 50 -13.  

The temperatures were perfect for having breakfast out on Jeremy and Samantha's patio, as well as a cookout on Thursday afternoon.

Jeremy's 44th birthday is this Friday, so I baked a Boston Cream cake [his favorite] to celebrate his b-day while we were.

I don't know if Zeeland has an area of newly constructed homes [the city was founded in 1847 by families from the Netherlands]. Everything I saw was older, well-maintained homes. Jeremy and Samantha's house had just undergone a complete renovation [inside and outside] prior to their buying it.  Samantha said it's a tight-knit community and they've already attended one street party since they moved in.  What a great way to meet and get to know neighbors.

On our drive across the state we noticed the trees are just beginning to turn colors but there's still more green than red and orange.  I couldn't resist taking a picture of the young maple tree in Jeremy's front yard with just one branch of color going through the center.  All nature declares His glory!  Only our Creator could cause nature to do that.

Thanks for traveling along with me to Zeeland, MI.  The next post will return to our recent trip to England.