My dear England, already 6 years has passed since the last time we saw each other. Last time was our first meeting. At the age of 19, I flew to see you for two weeks, to learn English, to discover the Bristol area and your charming neighbor, Wales. I still cherish this first meeting today. I had waited so long to meet you. I still see myself in college.
You were so close and so far away. I remember those holidays, where I looked helplessly at the sleeve, imagining you on the other side. Finally, 6 years ago, I came to visit you. I could not help but shed a tear when I saw you. It had been too long since I had dreamed that I had waited to meet you. And finally, I realized my dream.
You were everything I hoped for. You were all dressed in green, filled with the sweet folly of your inhabitants and lurking in magnificent buildings. Even your rain has pleased me at home. It is part of the scenery. It feeds your beautiful gardens and forests.
Oh London, you do not stop seducing me a little more each time I come to visit you. I stay at home each time one or two more days and I say to myself that one day I will end up not leaving. Your houses, your shops, your language, your Christmas decorations, your metro, your skyscrapers in heart of the city. You give me a little more full view each time and my wallet does not thank you because you are as expensive as you are pretty.
But hey, when we love, we do not count. It's crazy this love that I can create for this city, after having hated it so much as I was younger. I grew up. My tastes in travel and my expectations have changed. And today, I feel like at home, a place where I just want to leave my suitcases.
But I had to leave you again. And then, a few months ago, my lover tells me that her family is invited to an Indian wedding in the English countryside and she offers me to accompany her. It seemed too good to be true. Until the last minute, I was expecting a problem that would prevent us from leaving. Wait pretty London, do not worry too fast, as this article will be a declaration of love and not a practical guide.
But no, here we are in February, boarding the flight. From the boarding area, I already find your merry people drunk with beer! We live in the pretty district of Highbury, at the house of the bridegroom's mother. It is a peaceful neighborhood, with its houses and park, so British.
I discover typical London apartments, narrow stairs, windows without shutters. I feel like I'm in full Love Actually. We arrive late on night. The wedding takes place the next day in the middle of Hampshire in Jane Austen County. My friend brings me a bottle of champagne, a cup of fruit, and a small handwritten note welcoming me.
I decided to open the champagne. Two glasses later, I am totally at ease in my new environment and a gaiety perhaps not very royal but very pleasant. I crawl in my giant bed to reach the softest pillows in the world, thinking of the royal breakfast that awaits me tomorrow.
I have the pleasure of waking up with the sun. What is beautiful is the light that touches the roofs of houses and grass gardens. I cannot wait to get ready. I get ready to put a sherwani. I'm surprised by the weight, as the hundreds of pearls sewn on it make it heavy. I am a little clumsy but it does not detract from my pleasure!
Late morning, we go to the venue of the ceremony, at the Northbrook Park. This is a magnificent 18th century mansion surrounded by a huge park in the middle of the English countryside. In the morning, the wedding ceremony takes place. I let a royal smile float on my lips to tread with my footsteps the most haughty carpet of the entrance. I look super relaxed.
The young girls who greets me at the entrance is absolutely charming and asks me with a sincerely interested air if my trip went well. The bride and groom look beautiful in their traditional dress. It is difficult to understand everything that happens, and a booklet has been distributed and helps us a little. I recognize some rites that I could see here and there, but I do not prefer too much details.
After the ceremony, we meet the bride and groom to congratulate them. We then head to another part of Northbrook Park for lunch. The meal is a vegetarian Indian lunch, which delights me! In the afternoon, meanwhile, we were free. We took the opportunity to walk in the park, and admire the peacocks. It was the first time I saw a white one!
In the evening was the marriage ceremony, with a reception with buffet, music and famous dances. The evening ended late in the night, but we returned a little before midnight to wake up too late and enjoy London.
After a good night's sleep, we are here to capture London. We have a lot of walking planned. We put on our sweaters, coats and sneakers and we go face the cold of London! We leave Highbury to go to Big Ben. Highbury is really a neighborhood which I fell in love. Very close to the center of London and yet very quiet and full of greenery (definitely what is missing in Paris compared to London). This first morning is very touristy.
We had to go to Westminster so we took this combination of lines on the subway. Just leaving the stop we find the Big Ben in front. The day was somewhat dark and threatened to rain at any moment. We left the Palace of Westminster for later and we went on to take some pictures of Westminster Abbey. Along the way on the other side there were many statues dedicated to emblematic leaders, such as Winston Churchill.
We continue walking. I could not miss a photo in the famous telephone booths in London. Inside there are a lot of erotic ads. Neither the famous double-decker buses could be missing. We keep walking and cross St James Park to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The truth is that this park is quite good.
In the park there are many different birds, ducks, swans, crows, pigeons, squirrels, herons, monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans. The most amazing thing to see a black swan. We kept walking but we had lost the course. We wanted to arrive to witness the change of guard at Buckingham but we came across the Palace of Whitehall.
Here they do the Horse Guards Parade in the afternoons, but it does not have as much relevance and expectation as the changing of the guard. We were in the morning so it did not play yet. Outside the palace was the monument to the fallen in the World War II. We left Whitehall and through the St James Park and walked more towards the famous Trafalgar square.
Along the way, we see an endless number of statues and monuments dedicated to historical and emblematic figures. We arrived at Trafalgar Square. In the center of the square is the column of Admiral Nelson on both sides the two fountains and surrounded by four huge bronze lions. On the north side of the square is the National Gallery and to the east the church of St Martin's-in-the-Fields.
The square was full of people. From there we went down to the Buckingham palace, and we found the Admiralty Arch. At the bottom of the whole is the Buckingham palace. Walking on the right we came across a statue of a white horse. I had no idea what it represented or who the work was but at that moment I was possessed by my reflex camera with the spirit of a Japanese who takes pictures right and left.
After a long walk, we arrived at the famous Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the British Royal Family in London since 1837. It is currently the residence of Queen Elizabeth II. Visits to the interior of the palace are only allowed for 8 weeks a year, between August and September. There are two different types of entry. One of the modalities allows to visit the State Halls and the other also includes the Royal Carport and the Queen's Gallery.
In addition to the visits to the interior, throughout the year the Changing of the Guard is celebrated in front of the palace, an act capable of attracting thousands of visitors. Finally we arrived, and as they told us the change of guard had already taken place.
We were very tired and we took some photos of the palace. We left there again heading to Big Ben and Thames. On the way back out of several commemorative statues, my attention is dedicated to Women of World War II. Later in Downing Street we saw a lot of people gathered, and we approached and exactly it was the official residence of the British prime minister.
After a walk we arrived at the Palace of Westminster. There was the famous Big Ben. From the Westminster Bridge we took some good pictures of the Palace and Big Ben. On the opposite side was the London eye the famous wheel owned by British Airways.
After this long walk, it is already 4 pm when we decide to go to lunch. We prefer a vegetarian buffet. I finally feel like breathing. The atmosphere is cozy, the light is subdued and the buffet is a delight. The restaurant is located in a small courtyard next to Oxford Street but sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood.
After our meal we continue on our way in that area with the intention of riding the Ferris wheel on the London Eye. We continue walking but this time I walk to the subway to take the same line and get off at the London Bridge stop. On the way to the subway we saw several pubs and places where in some one can eat the famous fish and chips.
But we did not eat anything and we went ahead and the sherlock holmes pub caught our attention. We got to the subway and got off at the London Bridge stop. At exit we were next to the London Bridge. Many often mistake this bridge and that of the Tower Bridge. The latter is much more beautiful and obviously famous. Crossing it we had good views and, far away, we could see the beautiful Tower bridge with the Thames flowing along.
Floating on the River Thames is the famous HMS Belfast battleship transformed into a museum where its operation and its warlike past are recreated. We leave the bridge to take the direction of the tower bridge and the Tower of London. On the way we saw how the English are also lovers of exercise. I thought they were just beer lovers but I was wrong.
Along the way along the Thames we now had the image of the London Bridge that we had just crossed. And after more walking we reach the Tower of London. We did not enter. The Tower of London has played an important role in the history of England. It was besieged on several occasions and having it under control was important to control the country. The tower has served as armory, treasury, menagerie, Royal Mint, public records, and House of Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.
Today, the Tower of London is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the country. We continue walking and next to it was the famous Bridge of the Tower of London. The Tower Bridge is a drawbridge that crosses the River Thames. First we cross it from within and we take some pictures. We can climb the towers but we have to pay. From the same bridge we had also very good views, so we took the opportunity to take a picture.
As we did not have a tripod or selfie stick, a boy who was passing by take some pictures of us. It has appeared in films like the Mummy, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Wolf Man and Sherlock Holmes. It has also two appearances during the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games, as the helicopter pass by that carried Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by James Bond. It was also seen during the relay of the Olympic torch on its arrival at the Olympic Park across the River Thames by an athlete and David Beckham.
From there we went back the same way but back to go to the London Bridge stop and take the subway. We get off at Green Park and take another direction to Piccadilly or Leicester Square. We planned to visit the Chinatown area and have dinner and see some shops. At the end we got off at Piccadilly Circus, and we walked straight ahead. In some nearby street we saw the representative arches of the Chinatown area.
Honestly I was not surprised at all. We took some pictures and little else. Well, we found this area dispensable because we had already been to New York and Bangkok and it's more of the same. For those who like Sushi and food of that style, you have Wasabi restaurants that are dedicated to it. In the district of Soho, which is close to Chinatown and the shopping streets of Regent street and Oxford street, there is a lot of pubs, and shops.
Within this district is the commercial area of Carnabys with alternative fashion boutiques and various designers. We return to Highbury. When we return, we are lucky enough to discover the bride and groom from the day before, who came to rest with their family before going on their honeymoon. They suggest we go for a drink with them in the neighborhood.
I cannot believe it, they went to bed in the night before at 4 am, got married the day before, and want to go to the pub today with us. The tradition of pub and beer is definitely ingrained in your culture, my dear England. Of course we accept. I prefer this kind of improvised moment in the company of locals, the ones that make me travel.
This moment is priceless. These few hours, though too short are definitely my favorite of this trip to London. We also shake a leg to various bollywood hits and end with Ishq Dance from Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
It is already our last day in London. We decide to slow down the pace slightly compared to yesterday. We got up early and had breakfast and headed towards the Notting Hill market. We took the subway. We arrived and left the subway and it turns out that there is a tremendous agglomeration at the exit of the subway. We did not know where the market was or the Notting Hill area or anything but we followed the people.
We went walking downhill looking at some stalls. There was everything from old clothes, old vinyl music. I did not like much although the parallel streets had their charm with their colorful facades. The Chelsea neighborhood would be not far from there.
Several artists along the way earning a living, but as we progressed, there were already all kinds of food stalls. In one of the parallel streets of Portobello road was the famous Notting Hill movie library starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. We are far from the excitement of the city, in a very cute and charming neighborhood. There is a small shopping street lined with authentic shops.
We returned to the road down the path of crowds of people. We had not bought anything, but the visit was proving to be pleasant at least. We were very hungry so at one of the food stalls we eat several portions of pizza. As the road to the market and stalls had ended, we went back to the subway.
We decided to go to Hyde Park and so we got off at South Kensington and then Hyde Park corner. We started to take some pictures. The truth is that the park was huge. When we saw the map we were scared because we had thought to go to the tip of the park to see the meridian point.
But suddenly when we were walking, it started to snow and we turned back because we did not carry umbrellas. It was too cold to go to see the meridian. Apart from that we had not crossed a part of the park yet. We went back to the metro running. And since we were there we decided to go to the famous Harrods department store. So we had to get off with that same line in Knightsbridge.
There was no snow and the sun came out. We left the stop. We walked forward something and there were the Harrods stores. The building is huge. We took some photos and we went in but we did not buy anything, I was offered clothes by the designers to put it on for free but I did not want to.
In that area there were many well-known clothing stores. At one point I saw an Aston Martin DBS pass and behind was the Ferrari Spider. I saw other good luxury cars.
We first make a trip to Covent Garden, one of the most popular neighborhoods in London. It is the artistic district of the city. There are many animations and the buildings are all more beautiful than the others. There are all kinds of stores from Apple to Quicksilver, Michael Kors, Skechers, Disney Store.
For lunch, we went to Camden Market. The crowd was once again very present, but I tried to abstract to enjoy the place. I let myself be tempted by Thai noodles. I see a shop of Indian trinkets and the front is overlooked by a huge colorful elephant. We advance from surprises to surprises. At the end of the district, we discover a very quiet canal that leads to Little Venice.
The place is fairly quiet and slices dramatically with the excitement of Camden Town. The walk to Little Venice is quite long. So we bifurcated halfway to Regent's park, one of London's many parks. Our last place of the day is King's Cross. I will not have done the Harry Potter studios, but out of questions that I'm letting the Platform 9 3/4, I needed at least that. And oddly, there, the crowd was very bearable. I had to be in a half-hour of queue before having my picture!
My dear England, it is already so much to say goodbye to you. We go back to Highbury one last time to get our things back and say goodbye to the mom of the groom who greeted us well. Even if this second meeting has been more mixed, my dear England, I remain deeply under your spell and I miss you already. Thank you for welcoming me to my dear England again and see you soon.