For a budget hotel, our flimsy shade works surprisingly well at blocking out the light during the sun rise at 4:15am. Shelby and I slept in until about 8:30am. Then we got up, got ready, and walked to a nearby coffee shop for two flat whites for breakfast. One thing that has surprised me since arriving in London is the coffee scene. There are a lot of really nice coffee shops everywhere we’ve been, and it’s easy to find cortados or flat whites. While starbucks are still present, the overly sweet drinks don’t seem to be as popular.
We then hopped on the subway/metro/tube (what do you call it?) and headed west towards Kensington Gardens. We spent the rest of the morning and a good bit of the afternoon wandering around the gardens–it was beautiful. London reminds me a bit of the east coast because everything here is so green. As we walked around Kensington Gardens, we came across landscaped lawns overlooking ponds, flower gardens, dirt paths, tall grasses providing coverage for sunbathers, beautiful trees, and Kensington Palace.
Something I was surprised to see in the garden were dogs off leash. Most of the dogs walk without a leash, and are perfectly behaved. Dogs in California, or the rest of the US, aren’t as well trained as the dogs in London. Also, there are leash laws in the US, so even if your dog is well trained, it can’t walk freely in a park. – Shelby
After walking for hours though the gardens, Shelby and I decided that we should take a break, and decided to go to a map fair that we stumbled upon right outside of the gardens. Up until now, I’ve never really understood the fascination with maps–some maps are old, things look distorted, countries have different names–what’s the big deal? I get it now. It was really interesting to look at maps from 100, 200, or even 500 years ago. It was cool to see how the map maker’s origin impacted the perspective from which the map was created. It was interesting to look at how countries have evolved over time. In short, this was a great free fair.
This was an amazing find! There were maps drawn before the Americas were fully explored, when California still belonged to Mexico, and historical political satire maps from Regan’s presidency. The maps of the Americas were in the minority with most being for Europe or world maps. They also had some historical maps for sale ranging from £20 to over £4,000. – Shelby
Right next to the map fair was the Museum of Natural History, and fortunately for us, the line that was wrapped around the block during the morning was now only about 20 people long. We hopped in line and were shortly inside the museum. The museum had some interesting exhibits, and more than anything else, I think we were grateful for the air conditioning. However, we didn’t spend too much time in this museum, as we wanted to get to Buckingham Palace.
We took the train over to Green Park, and walked through the park to get to the palace. The palace was impressive. It was very large and ornate, but I’m realizing that many buildings in London are as well. We were able to enter the Queen’s Gallery shortly before closing, but missed the Mews. On our way back to the metro, we stopped for ice cream in the park. I got berries and clotted cream and Shelby got raspberry ice cream, and both were delicious. We sat on the grass overlooking the palace and ate our ice cream. The park itself had a lot of groups of people hanging out, playing music, drinking, and dancing. It seemed like this was the place to be on Friday evening.
When we got back to our neighborhood, we were famished and exhausted from our day. A lot of people were wandering down a side street, so we followed and came across this Indian food restaurant. We decided to grab some indian food for dinner, and it was pretty tasty, but not the best that we’ve ever had. This surprised me because I’ve heard great things about London’s Indian food scene–we’ll have to try another Indian food restaurant soon.
When we got back to the hotel, it was about 9pm, but since the sun doesn’t fully set until about 9:30, it felt much earlier. It’s been a bit disorienting to have such a late sunset, but I’m happy for the long days. Now it’s time to rest before visiting the British Museum and Tower of London tomorrow!