Finally we have reached our conclusion. Olivia is safely back home in the USA and my temporary mom duties are over. I’ve taken a few days to recover from the whirlwind of it all before finally sitting down to write this so I’ve really had time to reflect on the whole experience and I have to say, overall I really enjoyed myself. I got a chance to see things I’m almost positive I wouldn’t have otherwise seen and I got a chance to revisit some of my old favorites that reminded me why I fell in love with this city in the first place.
Maybe the most famous address in London…other than 10 Downing Street?
SHERLOCK HOLMES MUSEUM
To kick off our final week of London madness we first hit up the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street. Needless to say, the week began with a whimper rather than a roar. As someone who has read the complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and seen (one? both? of the) Robert Downey Jr. movie adaptations not to mention countless BBC adaptations (including Sherlock – starring the amazing Benedict Cumberbatch) I was actually pretty excited to check this place out.
Welcome, just hang your pipe and make yourself at home.
The set up is quaint – located at the actual London address of the fictional character and set up like his home on the first two floors with life-size wax figures and memorabilia from the stories taking up the upper floor. Therefore, without much in the way of museum-type placards to explain things (downstairs at least), you should have at least a passing familiarity with the books/movies and/or appreciation for Victorian living. It is kind of the anti-museum in that you are encouraged to take as many pictures as you like and open all of the boxes and vials you can get your hands on. The downside? The line is OUTRAGEOUS. Like 2 hours outrageous, while you stand there exposed to all the main street traffic of Baker Street in a queue that may as well have had you brand the word ‘Tourist’ on your forehead.
Possibly my favorite part of the museum. A catalog of letters children have written to Sherlock over the years. This one is priceless.
So if I had to do it all over again? Truthfully I probably wouldn’t. The line was almost unbearable for the 20 minutes I spent clicking pictures inside. If you must see it however, I would say to go with a group and take turns standing in line and browsing the gift shop which, extremely inefficiently, it so happens is where you buy your tickets for the museum.
Niki’s lovely pot of rosebud tea. I think it tasted as good as it looked.
SOHO’S SECRET TEA ROOM
I have a secret that I’m going to share with you. If you go to the Coach & Horses Pub in Soho between 12-6PM and kindly ask to be let up the stairs behind the bar you can step back in time. Somewhere on the staircase you’ll experience the same effects as if you sat inside the DeLorean and programmed the flux capacitor to take you back to 1925. Once you arrive at this Secret Tea Room, you’ll have entered a time where women rolled their hair just to collect the jar of milk left on the stoop by the milkman. A waitress in a swishy dress will show you your table and a menu from which you can choose any number of afternoon tea services.
Delicious scones and cakes at Soho’s Secret Tea Room.
This slice of heaven was described as cheese and berry sponge cake. The description wasn’t that appealing but it looked so delicious I had to see for myself. Needless to say, I was right!
On this particular occasion and for her first ever afternoon tea, Olivia and I ordered Rooibos tea (my favorite) with lemon fairy cakes, plain scones, and cake (she had chocolate, I had cream cheese and berry). The music, décor, and even the china you use will make you believe you have stepped into another time. A great choice for afternoon tea in London although the staff at the bar downstairs can sometimes have a bit of an authority complex – nothing your best desperate 1920’s housewife smile can’t fix.
The stoic Royal Horse Guard was so intimidating Olivia wouldn’t even get a picture with him!
Next, Niki, Olivia and I took a quick jaunt down to the Royal Horse Guard in Westminster. I thought I might have Olivia get a photo with one of the stoic, solemn guards there but no such luck.
This sign entertained me. Although I wonder how many tourists suffered before it went up!
Niki did however inform me of the romance between Coco Chanel and the Duke of Westminster. The story is wildly romantic however merely a rumor I’m sad to say. Read all about it here.
I prefer to believe the Duke of Westminster painted his lover’s insignia all over the city as a grand gesture of love.
Downing Street: Site of many a great historical moment. And a One Direction video?
We swung by Downing Street so I could get away with calling this part of the trip educational. When asked to explain who David Cameron was, I realized I had spent too much time around my 13-year-old cousin when I blurted out, “That old guy dancing in the One Direction video.” I shook my own head at that…tsk, tsk.
Warm and delicious chicken curry from Curry Masters at the Real Food Market at Southbank. Looking forward to going back for more of this as the weather turns cooler.
REAL FOOD FESTIVAL: STREET FOOD
We finished off the trip where it began at Southbank for the Real Food Street Food Festival. Olivia and I shared a mild chicken curry from Curry Masters over white rice and I also had a cup of delicious red sangria (into which I accidentally dropped a £2 coin – oops!).
Churros from Churros Garcia were warm and crisp and delicious dunked in warm, velvety chocolate.
Brittany, warrior princess!
We topped off that meal with some yummy churros and chocolate from Churros Garcia before Olivia convinced me (obviously after the sangria) to risk my life on London Wonderground’s Starflyer ride.
I didn’t realize I was afraid of heights until we were already high in the air – too high.
It was a good time with good food although I do wish the Real Food Festival would bring back the major festival they did in 2011 at Earl’s Court at least once a year. The market is great but the amount, quality and diversity of that festival has yet to be matched let alone beaten.
I feel like I’m finally a London expert and I’ve shared some of my must-sees for any tourist but what did I forget? What are your favorite places or frequent requests from visitors?