previously posted on my blog Abroad in London
as a weekly update for family and friends
Family Visits to London
It’s always a treat when I get to see family while I’ve been living in London. There’s something comforting about cousins that reminds you of home without making you entirely homesick. I’ve come to appreciate my family a whole lot more while living abroad.
It seemed almost like the day I got my job offer in London the entire family knew and within hours my cousin Mimi had put a claim on the Columbus Day weekend. I was only too happy to have her as a guest and to play tour guide for her. She arrived late on Thursday evening with her daughter, my cousin Haley, and their friends Hilary and Ally.
While I was stuck in work on Friday they took the time to explore the city – from Harrods, to Harvey Nichols, to the Victoria and Albert museum and finally topping off with a bus tour of London. (For those planning to visit London the best piece of advise I can give anyone is to take an open top bus tour of the city, it’s the best way to at least get an idea of the layout and to see everything you should see within a limited amount of time). After all of that I agreed to meet them at their hotel and then to dinner.
They stayed at a lovely little place in Mayfair that was out of the way and still very elegant. I was impressed with the hotel and for anyone looking to stay in London send me an email and I’ll recommend it! We went to dinner on Friday night in Leicester Square (my stomping ground) at a great seafood place called JSheekey. All credit for the excellent choice of restaurant goes to Hilary and her contacts!
The girls impressed me with their recounting of what they’d done of the day and with the journals they had to keep for school. As I’m sure everyone is aware of by now.. I have a thing for travel journals! I think it’s a great way to relive your experiences again and again and I’ll tell you straight – I have re-read my posts in this Journal several times to remember in detail the things I’ve done. It’ll never get old.
That night they went to see the “Sound of Music”! And on Saturday morning I met them for a quick breakfast at a local Café Nero before we started out our busy day. We wanted to start with the London Eye, which the girls were excited to go on. From Mayfair we took the Tube to Westminster and crossed the bridge by Parliament and within minutes we were on the Eye (Fast Track is the ONLY way to go for the London Eye). Hilary opted to stay on the ground and managed to get pictures of us in the Eye and I managed to grab one of her on the ground!
The London Eye – the views are stunning from the London Eye and I was able to point out several key places to the girls. Of course I failed on some of the other buildings but I’m a bit proud of locating the things that they wanted to see (like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, British Museum, etc.)
Then we hopped on a river cruise from Westminster to the Tower of London which was our next stop for the afternoon. The Tower of London was really fun and we took a tour given by one of the Tower Warders – known as Beefeaters. He was really energetic and brought to life all the little corners and crevices of the Tower. I appreciate the tour and I know that the girls did as well! Then we got to see the crown Jewels and I think that this excited the girls more than anything else about the Tower of London. And who doesn’t get excited by big beautiful diamonds and lots of them?
We stopped off for a late lunch at Wetherpsoons, a chain of pubs throughout London and the UK, before we attempted to see the Tower Bridge exhibition. That failed since we were about an hour too late for it. Instead we took a taxi up to St. Paul’s Cathedral in hopes of getting to see that spectacular place instead. Again we were too late for the tourist hours of the Cathedral but it mattered not because we’d walked in on a ‘choral evening’. The entire Cathedral was filled with such beautiful music and soft, sometimes soaring and sweeping voices that it was truly overpowering. If you’re going to see St.
Paul’s Cathedral there is no better way than that and the timing was absolutely perfect. That night we went to dinner in Covent Garden, another of Hilary’s marvelous choices, at a place called Damario’s. And following dinner we took a detour back to Leicester Square where we did a little souvenir shopping and then stopped off for a bit of ice cream. Sunday was another jam packed day and this time I met everyone at Trafalgar Square so that the girls might get their pictures taken with the famous Lions and Nelson’s Column.
From Trafalgar Square I led everyone over to St. James Palace where we hoped to catch the start of the Changing of the Guards. That’s a little known fact – everyone gathers at Buckingham Palace but the start of the ceremony takes place at St. James with a lot less people and all the same pomp and flare. Unfortunately the concierge got the date wrong and instead they decided to do the Changing on Monday (while I was at work).
We traveled by Tube again and this time all the way over to Baker Street. While they visited Madame Tussauds I chose to take a stroll in Regent’s Park and read a book – since I’d only seen Madame Tussauds a few weeks prior to their visit. I’m quite sure that the girl’s favorite part of London was Madame Tussauds! Then we walked down to Oxford street so we could make a visit to the famous TopShop there and I think that might’ve been one of the highlights for Mimi and Hilary. Afterwards we grabbed a quick lunch at a local Italian place we stumbled upon (and it was good!) before we finally made our way, with time to spare, to the Tower Bridge exhibition.
We ended the night, and my time with them, by having dinner at a great Indian restaurant in Piccadilly Circus called Veeraswamy. I’m not a big Indian food eater partially because I don’t care for all the spices but we found a few mild dishes that I simply fell in love with – one with chicken and one with lamb and it was delicious.
Overall I had a great time with my cousins and their friends. I think it must’ve been a great learning experience for the girls to see a new city and culture and I was very pleased and honoured to partake in this experience with them. I hope that they learned a lot and have made memories that they can cherish for the rest of their lives, because I know that I have.