Monday, 22 September 2014

London - a marvellous, memorable day out

Gates at Green Park beside Buckingham Palace
There is only one thing better than having a whole day to mooch around London on your own and that is having a whole day to mooch around London with your son.  Especially with a son who lives there and knows all the best things to do and places to go.  My son had planned our day well, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and I was, as usual, excited to be visiting new places.





After a quick stroll through Green Park and an unimpeded look at Buckingham
Palace, the mobs of tourists having not yet arrived, we made our way to Mayfair to have breakfast at The Wolseley. The Wolseley describes itself on its website as "A cafĂ© in the grand European style",  a fair description, I'd say. Built in 1921, in a fabulous artdeco/orientalism style, as the glamorous showroom for Wolseley cars, today it is extremely popular as an "in" place to have breakfast, beloved by  business men and professionals for breakfast meetings, and by well heeled locals and tourists enjoying a leisurely start to the day. The service was attentive and courteous without being overbearing and the food was delicious. I had kippers, albeit gourmet, for the first time...well when in Rome etc.
www.thewolseley.com


I look very pleased with my kippers
The Wolseley




















Next was a visit to Twinings tea shop on The Strand for a tea tasting session. It was interesting to learn about the different types of tea, where it is grown and how it is picked. The Twinings shop has been on the same site, and has had members of the Twining family working there, since 1706. The shop also contains a tiny museum outlining the history of the company and displaying tea related artifacts.  www.twinings.co.uk


At Fortnum and Mason's

  Still on a food theme we dawdled around Fortnum and Mason's, grocers to the queen,  drooling at the delicious food on display in the food hall and gasping at the prices - 5000 pounds for a picnic basket, and that's without food in it, and 400 pounds for beach shorts.

 Then we were off to the last minute/half price ticket booths in Leicester Square to purchase tickets for a show that day.  This is certainly the way to buy tickets, they are good value.  We handed over just 22 pounds each for good seats at The 39 Steps,  a play that has been running for 8 years and which proved to be an excellent choice. 



My son at the National Portrait Gallery




With tickets bought and time to kill before the afternoon show we paid a visit to The National Portrait Gallery.  This is one of my favourite galleries in London and because it is around the corner and with a much less imposing entry than The National Gallery it is often overlooked by time short tourists. Our luck was in when we discovered an exhibition of the entrants and winners in the 2014 National Portrait Awards was on. The standard of entries was inspirational, to say the least.


The Criterion Restaurant (blurry, I'm sorry)



The 39 Steps was at The Criterion Theatre so, of course, there was only one thing for it but to have a pre show cocktail at the adjoining Criterion bar and restaurant.  The interior is gob smackingly beautiful if you like Art Deco, which I do.  The gold mosaic ceiling glittering in the lights, the ebony coloured bar and art deco lamps, statues and furniture all added up to a very atmospheric setting.  It was surreal to be sitting in this quiet, calm haven sipping cocktails while catching the occasional glimpse of crowds of tourists passing by outside the thick glass doors.

And finally, to the delightful underground Criterion Theatre, built in 1870 it so cute and quaint it reminded me of a Victorian children's play theatre. The 39 Steps, was a marvellous, rollicking romp with a cast of only 4 playing a total of 130 characters between them.  I loved every minute of it and couldn't think of a better way to end a wonderful, memorable day.  Special thanks to my son for planning such a great day and especially for sharing it with me.  www.love39steps.com