Monday, November 21, 2011

London: A Treasure for the Memories

Tuesday. My niece had invited the three of us to her place for a breakfast of pastries from a local bakery. So after a short lie-in we got ourselves up and dressed and headed off down the Bayswater Road towards Palace Court. We (sister, nephew and me) had intended to catch a bus, but it was a perfect day for walking and so off we trotted to places so far unknown.

New pajamas from Grammy!
This is a very nice part of London to live! Here you walk where 'the money is'. It inspires within me great ambivalence -- I would venture to say this is the London of dreams and privilege, of great wealth, of movie stars and royalty -- part of my world, but I am not a part of it --  just visiting for a bit of a bit. Palace Court is a lovely old street with lots of character. My niece and her family have a very comfortable 3-bedroomed flat and we had a gorgeous, if very late breakfast of bakery goodies and conversation. While we were there the postman arrived with a package from Grammy in America and it was fun to instantly upload a picture to Facebook, just in time for Grammy to see it at her breakfast table -- the time difference was 5 hours -- as I mentioned ours was a very late breakfast!

Eventually, we all left to wander through the winding streets to Notting Hill and some window shopping -- although, one of us did succumb to temptation and bought a gorgeous handbag. We stopped at a local cafe and lunch for some -- I abstained, realizing we were due soon enough for tea at the Palace! Soon we were retracing our steps and on our way we paused to pick up my great niece, complete with her scooter,  from school! It didn't take long to once again be walking down Bayswater Road and through the gate into Kensington Gardens

Beautiful autumnal day in Kensington Gardens
What a lovely place! Time for tea -- we did spend a lot of time eating! My nephew is only 23 and still of the Age of the Bottomless Pit, which we as related adults feel an obligation to try to fill! My niece led us the the entrance of the Palace, which led us to the tea room. She needed to get home to feed her children and then get ready for us to meet again for dinner (yet more food!) and the theatre!!!
Mother with her Bottomless Pit and Kensington Palace Tea Room
And so we found ourselves in this beautiful building that was once an Orangery. We were immediately confronted with a range of yummy looking cakes and pastries and the unmistakable sounds of tea being served. Very quickly we were conducted to our tables and presented with menus -- this is where confusion and ultimate embarrassment set in ...

What we wanted was tea for three with some sandwiches and cakes. But the menu described several different combinations but only for one person at getting towards 20 pounds sterling a pop -- which seemed ridiculous to me! At the bottom of the menu it said "plate of sandwiches" at 9 pounds. Plus tea. I asked the waitress if they only had menus for one person and she said yes. So we ordered 3 plates of sandwiches and three pots of tea. The waitress also asked us if we wanted cake, we declined.

Oh my goodness! The plates of sandwiches arrived! Each plate had the equivalent of four different sandwiches all cut into fingers. Even Bottomless Pit was overwhelmed. None of us could finish. The waitress returned and my sister didn't say what she was about to say before she heard the words -- we do not have boxes for left-overs!!! We did, however, have serviettes/napkins -- and a few minutes later the waitress returned with more, saying that we had a good idea! The thing that was so embarrassing, was that everyone else there seemed to know how to go about getting little plates of sandwiches and little tiered plates of cakes and tea. I just felt so stupid -- as you do ... and I soooooo did!!! I do wonder though if part of the problem was that the waitress herself was foreign and not well versed in the intricacies of afternoon tea -- it seems obvious to me that we needed some help and advice -- but perhaps I'm being unfair -- over 30 years in England I should have been able to order a presentable tea for 3, doncha think?

Our handbags stuffed with sandwiches, we left the tea room and headed back to the hotel, this time successfully negotiating the catching of a bus and getting off at the right stop, too! We made reservations for dinner -- for six at 6.00 -- at a charming Italian restaurant called L'Arco. This turned out to be an inspired choice, which my sister got from the website TripAdvisor, which we highly recommend for those not in the know. The six of us present and accounted for, food ingested (again!), we had a two minute walk to the Victoria Palace and Billy Elliot the Musical.

About the show, I can not wax lyrical enough! Recalling it now a few weeks later and there are certain scenes that bring goose bumps. It was thrilling, sad, triumphant and awe inspiring. The role of Billy is so demanding that there are four lads playing the part. (No, not 4 on the night!!) What a night to remember for all of us and a family occasion to boot. In fact, the entire day was all about the family and being together and enjoying the company. A treasure for the memory...

A Footnote: none of us ever had another of those sandwiches! Forgotten and unloved we left them in the hotel room's fridge!


  1. I haven't had my breakfast yet and I read this!?? My mouth is watering and I soooo want a truly proper English tea...sounds like you're having a wonderful time. Love reading about your exploits.

  2. Oh Broad, I so enjoyed this. What a wonderful day you had, even if you did end up with uneaten sandwiches. I haven't seen the musical but I love Billy Elliot the film. Thanks for sharing - I felt as though I'd been there.

  3. Hi, Broad! Thanks for sharing your lovely day with us! Despite the embarrassment at the tea place, it sounded like a wonderful family visit. And to cap it off with Billy Elliott! I saw the National Company of that musical here last May and thought it was fantastic! The talent of the kids -- and the adults, too -- was incredible. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I saw the movie and loved it, too. But the immediacy of the musical is something very special.

  4. Astrid: I do enjoy a good English tea with all the trimmings. Don't often do it properly at home, but then it's far more fun to have it done for you!

    Perpetua: I loved the film, too -- but the musical is something extra special! I hadn't realized until I read the program that the music was written by Elton John.

    Kathy: Yes, the talent of the kids is astonishing -- and to think they keep having to find new ones to replace Billy's that get too old for the part -- there is so much talent out there it's hard to fathom.

  5. What a lovely day it sounds, and sorry to hear about the "sandwich disaster"! Most infuriating for me would be the expense. I don't like places which won't just let you have a cup of tea, so probably won't go to the Orangery ever for tea, although I did have a great lunch there with friends this Spring. There's a tea shop the other side of Kensington Gdns called the Muffin Man which has been thereforever and offers a traditional tea. But it sounds as if the overdose of sandwiches was just a minor irritation in the nice day. I've been wondering whether to see Billy Elliot, it'll probably have finished its run before I decide but your comment makes me think it really IS about time.......

  6. That sounds a super day...the tea thing puzzles me too...probably down to the waitress.

  7. G'day Broad. Great photos. My mouth is watering reading all about the yummy food. Sounds like you had a fabulous day. Take care. Liz...


Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!