Thursday, September 9, 2010

LONDON 2010, Part 1

Rules Restaurant--welcome to London! I booked dinner reservations at Rules Restaurant for our first night in London. It feels so veddy, veddy, British that it was really the only choice for our first night in London.

My absolute favorite dessert on earth, Sticky Toffee Pudding. What you're looking at is dense spice cake, smothered in toffee sauce, with a bit of custard and, as if needed, a scoop of clotted cream.  Hmmm, now you know why it's my favorite dessert and why I only have it once in a blue moon.

After dinner, we cabbed it to the Tower of London for the 10:00 pm Ceremony of the Keys.  Leslie (always thinking waaaay ahead,) had secured tickets months in advance. This is the traditional locking up of the Tower and has been done every night for 700 years.  Instead of, "Halt, who goes there", they actually say, "Halt, who comes here".  It is all very dramatic and the guests (us) are very quiet and almost reverent. It's all over by 10:15 (and that includes questions with the guards).  It is great fun and worth doing.

We stayed at a new hotel (new to me) in a neighborhood I wasn't that familiar with.  The Sumner Hotel in the Marble Arch area was just right for us.  It is a 5 minute walk from the Marble Arch tube station which is a convenient line to be home-based.

It was refreshing to see a more modern approach to a typical London row house--not a cabbage rose in sight.

The sitting room was filled with the usual travel guides (all current) and local magazines. Soothing sage greens and silver with a pop of red made this room sing.

This was a pretty pass-through area between the sitting room and front desk.  Love the silvers and blues.

Good sized room for London--we had plenty of space. I always request a room away from the street so our room was very quiet.

Love the Oyster card! This card provided us with unlimited tube rides for 5 days. Leslie figured this would pay for itself pretty quick and she was right.  We bought the 5 day card for around 25 pounds and probably broke even by the third day.  That even included the times (at the end of the day) when we were spent and turned our noses up at the tube and hopped in a lovely London cab.

Sometimes there are two depths of escalators to take you out of the underground.  Believe me, I try not to think too much about just how deep below the street we are.

First stop Thursday morning--Grace Kelly. The wonderful V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) has some of the most interesting exhibits.  I've been to an exhibit of tiaras, beds, and wood carvings (Grinling Gibbons), and now the Grace Kelly exhibit.  Her clothes, handbags (even the famous Hermes Kelly bag), shoes, gloves and hats were all displayed with a few news reels running on screens. My Mom would have loved it.

The only thing missing (from my point of view) was her wedding dress. Apparently that is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I may be the only person who has been to London almost a dozen times without having stepped foot into the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, but not anymore.  Leslie had hoped to have her photo taken with her favorite Bollywood actor, however, said actor had been shipped off to the Hollywood branch of Madame Tussauds.  Rotten luck (I'm guessing she will be sneaking off to LA any day now).   But, happily I had my picture taken with one of my favorite world leaders, Lady Margaret Thatcher.  Although I've met her in person I didn't have a photo taken with her so this was great fun.

The Royal Mews
 The nicest horse stables I've ever seen.  The Queen takes the care and feeding of her horses seriously.  And since she was on holiday, so were they.

The Churchill War Rooms

This is one of my favorite places to visit--formerly known as the Cabinet War Rooms, the Churchill War Rooms take you underground (there seems to be a lot of underground action in London) to view Churchill's secret headquarters during World War II.  The Cabinet War Rooms, offices, and minuscule sleeping rooms are all on view.  The war staff were provided rooms to overnight that were further below ground than the command center (reached by a narrow and steep gray metal ladder).   Those sleeping areas were shared with rats and rotten smells leaving some staff to say, "I'll take my chances with the air raids and head home for the night."  Just looking down the ladder made me think the same thing.

New for me was the Churchill Museum which included an interactive exhibit of daily news and photos from every year of Churchill's life.  This museum is top rated and should be on your list of must-sees when you cross the pond.

Continuing with the World Ward II theme, this is St. Jame's Church, one of 9 Christopher Wren churches bombed during the Blitz. Famed architect, Christopher Wren, had designed and built over 50 churches after the Great Fire of London in 1666 (including St. Paul's Cathedral). I'm looking for a good biography on Wren so if you know of one, do tell.

This, my darlings, is just two days of our time in London.  Next up: London, Part 2


  1. I ADORE that picture of you and Lady Thatcher. Just so cute, brings out your cheery personality, if I do say so myself.
    I want to go to London so bad now, but only with someone like you or Leslie, who know their way around. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Incredible photos, Kim! What a beautiful trip/

  3. I, too, love the photo of you and Meg T. You look stunning! (My fave color combo on you, too.) I'm also smitten with your London hotel.

    All the little details you include in your travelogues will be so helpful in planning my someday trip...

    P.S. Any attempts to recreate the sticky pudding?

  4. So much fun! The pictures make me miss everything!

  5. Jennifer:

    I haven't recreated the recipe but did have great success with Williams-Sonoma's boxed version. Leslie makes one that is divine. One of these days I will make her version (and, of course, bring you a sample).

  6. I've always wanted to go to Rules Restaurant - the food looks so delicious! So glad you made it to the Grace Kelly exhibition (a real favourite of mine), although I agree it was a little disappointing not to see her wedding dress.

  7. John in ConnecticutDecember 22, 2010 at 6:39 AM

    Just stumbled onto your blog when I was looking for the recipe for the Rules Restaurant sticky toffee pudding. It isn't on the web. In any event, I was fortunate to have dinner at Rules for the second time, this time for Thanksgiving. First, it was dressed up for Christmas, which made the entire experience all the better. And while Rules was offering us Americans a traditional Thanksgiving dinner if we wanted, we ordered lamb, partridge, rabbit, and duck instead. And my wife finished her meal with the sticky toffee pudding, which has since become -- like you -- her favorite dessert on earth. Thank you for taking back there. For anyone visiting London, it is truly worthwhile.

  8. John:

    I'm with you, I would have opted out of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner and tried the interesting game Rules showcases. What fun! Thanks for stopping by.