31 DAYS – a writing challenge – fourth day
My annual holiday last year was a lot shorter than usual, only six days long. One might think that’s not enough time for doing almost anything, but if you are well organized and willing to make the most of it, you can. We sure did.
We came on a Thursday morning, with an early flight. It took us around one hour and a half to get to our hotel based in Kensington, with a previously booked taxi. I must say, the famous black cabs are marvelous indeed. Makes you feel as special as a character from a classic movie.
On arriving, a fancy dressed valet greeted us and invited us in. We went up to leave the luggage in our room and came down right away, eager to explore the urban wonders. We’ve planned to visit Kensington Palace first, as it was only one mile away. While walking on Kensington Road, about half way to palace, a curtain of small rain drops stopped us for going any further, so we went to grab a bite. Not a very British one, but a pizza instead.
The day seemed to be compromised and we were wondering what we’ll do next, when a shy sunbeam took us by the hand and showed us the way thru the gardens of the palace. And there we saw a lovely lake where white swans were befriending with wild ducks, surrounded by pets playing through the grass and children running among them or after the doves and back, petting and feed them all. And us, gazing at this oasis of joy and green right in the heart of a city made of bricks, steel and glass.
Inside the palace, the visitors’ whispers echoed with great reverence in a diffuse light. You couldn’t feel less than overwhelmed with all the history around, but mostly fascinated by the love felt inside those walls. A love that inspired a prince to create beautiful jewels for his wife, the queen, and made her mourn him for the remaining forty years of her life.
Obviously, we couldn’t go without sign the guess book. My opinion? Fabulous!
The next day, after an English breakfast, we asked for a map in reception. The Madame Tussauds Museum seemed a bit far for a walk and we were advised to take a cab, but the day was really lovely and we were willing to absorb as much as we could of London, so we’ve gone walking across the parks.
Once again we passed by the palace and the lake, and after leaving them behind, we walked and walked on those endless alleys guarded by old trees, until another wonder disclosed its magic before our eyes: The Italian Fountains. Here we made another quick stop to immortalize in pictures memories and details that might be too faded to recollect over the years.
Once out of the park, we found ourselves on Oxford Street, the promised land of all shopaholics. Luckily I’m not one of them full time, or else I would have delayed for hours in those alluring shops.
Inside the wax figures museum we’ve played paparazzi quite a while, photographing all our favorite stars, though we couldn’t resist visiting but only one floor in that crowded, youthful atmosphere with the music playing too loud.
At first we thought we’d also have time for a bus tour, but after lunch and the time we stood in line for getting inside the museum, we only had time for a short shopping session at Selfridge’s, which is at a few blocks away.
A cab brought us back at the hotel for an early dinner before a very special night, which was the main reason we choose this holiday in the first place.
And so we walked for the third time down on Kensington Road, which started to seem really familiar to us. I was wearing my new cream and black embroidered lace dress, bought especially for this occasion, while getting closer to the fulfillment of a dream.
The four magnificent hours we’ve spent enchanted by Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake seemed absolutely unreal in their perfection. That night I fell asleep still hearing the music inside my head.
Saturday was chilly and windy. We had plans with our friends from Brighton who were coming to see us and spend some time together, so we met at Natural History Museum. We made a grand tour, seeing everything there was to see, from mechanical dinosaurs to big stuffed mammals. We even said hello to Darwin, who watched us wisely and quite ironically, I’d say, from the head of the stairs.
After a delicious meal together we had to say goodbye and part ways. It was lovely seeing them and chat, but the day wasn’t over yet and we still had more thrilling things our way, so we stopped another cab who led us in front of Her Majesty’s Theatre, for a spectacular musical.
Sunday looked bright and shiny early in the morning, so we left the hotel hoping to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We arrived just a few minutes earlier and while figuring out which way to go, we saw other tourists hurrying over the other side of the circular area. We followed just to see the horses’ tails swinging nonchalantly.
Afterwards we passed thru the park in front, walking along with squirrels, getting each step closer to our next objective. While approaching and passing beside Big Ben, inside of me was growing the feeling that somehow, one of the many postcards I’ve seen came alive. The scenery was so new and yet so familiar, outlining each and every thing I’ve read or dreamed about.
On Westminster Bridge we bought some caramelized hazelnuts that warmed up a little our almost frozen fingers. We watched for a while the boats sliding on Thames and then we moved on toward the giant bicycle wheel or the London Eye, as they called it. From the top the view is even more breathtaking and gives you the opportunity to experience other sides of the same beauty.
There were also a lot of attractions on each side of Thames and after enjoying many of them, we wished to go on a cruise, but the wind was much stronger near the water and I felt more like finding some kind of shelter until it calm down a bit, so we’ve gone visit the aquarium for a few hours instead. After that, warmed up again, we walk toward Trafalgar Square, where our last stop was The National Gallery.
The next day wasn’t much warmer either. We heard later on that it was the coldest spring in the last 20 years. Was good we decided to wander nearby and check Victoria and Albert Museum and Harrod’s from our list, for filling our souls with art and our bags with what I considered to be my little treasure: tiny souvenirs, chocolates, English tea with oriental flavors and biscuits with all kind of jam. We closed the day with a 3D movie night.
On the last day, after we packed our things, we’ve gone for a half day long walk, already melancholic for our departure. We picked presents for our dear ones at home and we said farewell to London with a cupcake enjoyed with a bitter sweet smile, but with our hearts full of wonderful memories.