Adventures of a Wanderess – Day 22

Distance travelled: 5 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 16

Day Twenty-Two was my last full day in London and the last non-travel day of my trip so I decided last night that I would cram as much wandering into it as my energy level would allow. I was ready to face the outside world just before 10am so I headed to Paddington to catch the Circle Line to Westminster in order to catch the River Bus down to Greenwich; I visited the Royal Observatory there on my last trip, but the weather was so wet and windy that I didn’t spend much time exploring and since I travelled on the Underground, I spent quite a bit of time on the three lines to get there and back. So, I thought a trip down the Thames in the sunshine would be a nice change in mode of travel. Once I’d alighted at Greenwich Pier, I spent some time wandering through the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College/University of Greenwich, glimpsing the Royal Observatory atop its hill and knowing I wouldn’t be trekking up there again this trip.




Anticipating grabbing a quick bite at Costa, I was pleasantly surprised to come across a Bill’s just down the street so I decided that that would be where I enjoyed the last lunch of my trip (and I did). After a yummy meal, I checked in for tomorrow’s flight (*sniffle*) and then meandered through Greenwich Market to the Cutty Sark before heading back to Greenwich Pier to catch the next westbound boat. 





I had intended to to disembark at Westminster Pier and take the Tube to Sloane Square so I could visit Saint Columba’s Church on Pont Street and then walk through Hyde Park and back to Paddington, but time and waning energy meant adding Saint Columba’s to next trip’s list of things to visit. So after hopping off the boat at Westminster, I caught the Jubilee Line to Green Park, made my way to and through Hyde Park (where the bluebells were out), and grabbed a final Costa panini at Paddington Station before heading back to the flat to do some packing. 


There will be one final post for tomorrow since my journey isn’t quite over yet, but as always, my time here has flown by and I’m not ready to say farewell. But it’s been another wonderful trip.

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Adventures of a Wanderess – Day 21

Distance travelled: 6 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 16 (still…although I did have a bagel with salmon spread, so…)

My plan for Day Twenty-One was to revisit the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, a place I’ve visited on my two previous solo trips and is probably one of my favourites. I managed to get up and moving and functional early enough to be ready in time to head to Paddington by 9:30, catching the District Line to Earls Court where I changed to a Richmond-bound District Line train, finally getting off at Kew Gardens, the Tube stop only a short, scenic walk from the Victoria Gate entrance. Although I’d visited twice before, the sheer size of the gardens and their seasonal changes mean there’s always something new to see, so I made a point of wandering paths and areas that I hadn’t on previous visits. I was so very glad I did when I came across a badger sett along the southern border (although the fluffy inhabitants were napping for the day); I saw quite a few other badger setts later on in areas I’d explored before, but without seeing that first one and its sign, I’m not sure that I would have known what they were.





There’s always an interesting juxtaposition at Kew as you walk through nature, often quiet except for beautiful birdsong…while every twenty or so seconds a jet goes roaring overhead with its gear down on its approach to Heathrow. Anyway, a little while later, a flash of blue in the woodland was something I had been desperately hoping to see on my visit: bluebells. I’m just a little bit obsessed with them as that particular bluebell isn’t found in North America at all (Virginia bluebells are a different plant) and a bluebell wood in bloom is a wondrous thing to behold. My first UK trip was in April and May during the height of bluebell season while my later two trips have been about a month earlier. Last year, I missed them completely so I was crossing my fingers that they would begin to emerge before I head home to the States on Thursday. Luckily, the bluebell gods smiled on me and while there weren’t the huge swatches of purplish blue that there will be later in the month, there were quite a few of them out and about throughout the gardens.





After going ga-ga over the bluebells and wandering through the rhododendron dell – which I always leave with the opening of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca running through my brain (“The rhododendrons stood fifty feet high…”) – I made my way to the Orangery for a bite of lunch, sitting outside to enjoy the cool weather while constantly being monitored by a magpie who would hop around on the umbrella above me and then peer down over the edge (I think he was eyeing my brownie). Side note: A sign in the rhododendron dell explained that scientists have found that the poisonous nectar of the invasive plants is toxic to honeybees (Read more…).










When I’d finished, I wandered over to Kew Palace and its Queen’s Garden before continuing on around the rest of the perimeter to the Alpine House, the Princess of Wales Conservatory, and the rock garden before passing the Palm House on my way back to the Victoria Gate and the garden shop in search of any new bluebell swag.









Successful, I said goodbye to Kew and walked back along Lichfield Road to the station to make my way back to Paddington, grabbing some groceries for dinner at the station’s M&S before heading back to the flat. Tomorrow is the last full day of my trip and I’ve a bit of an idea of how I’ll spend it.

Busy Wanderings: My Big British Adventure – Day 27

The forecast promised a lovely day today and I was out the door and on my way to Paddington station by 9:30.  There, I caught a District Line train to Earls Court where I switched to a second District Line train that would take me west to Kew Gardens.  After a short walk, I entered through the Victoria Gate and wandered along a pathway to the Kew Explorer tram, which makes a circuit through the various gardens.  It’s a great little thing, with the driver giving you an interesting and informative guided tour and it makes seven stops along the way so you can hop off and on whenever and wherever you choose.  I hopped off at stop number four, which was the closest one to the vast blankets of bluebells in the northwest corner.  I absolutely love bluebells and since we don’t have them at home, I can’t seem to get enough of them while I’m here.  I happily wandered along, snapping photos like mad with a smile on my face as I looked at them carpeting the ground amongst the trees.  

 

    

Eventually, I reached the northern boundary and wandered east alongside the Thames until I got to tram stop number five, where I caught the next tram and continued with the guided tour, passing groves of rhododendrons on the right and Kew Palace on the left before reaching the Orangery.  It was completed in 1761…and it’s where I grabbed a spot of lunch.  After my smoked salmon sandwich, elderberry fizzy, and orange plum cake, I hopped on the tram again and took it back to stop number one, passing the Princess of Wales Conservatory and the Palm House on the way.  I then walked back to the Palm House, but didn’t stay for more than just a couple of minutes as the warm, humid environment really isn’t my cup of tea at all.  However, I’d seen pictures of the spiral staircases within it that lead up the gallery and I really wanted to see them.  After leaving the Palm House, I wandered back to the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which “houses ten computer-controlled micro-climatic zones, with the bulk of the greenhouse volume composed of Dry Tropics and Wet Tropics plants” (wikipedia.org).  Outside, I was greeted by golden poppies…the state flower of California and a little taste of home.  And being from California where it’s very often hot and dry (and miserable), I didn’t spend too much time wandering through, making my way back past the Palm House to the Victoria Gate and gift shop before too long.

   
 
  
After leaving Kew Gardens, I took the District Line and eventually made my way to the Chiswick Park station.  From there, I wandered down to and then along Chiswick High Road, past Turnham Green, and up Turnham Green Terrace, where I bought some frozen yogurt that I enjoyed on a bench in Chiswick Common.  Chiswick was abuzz with people out and about, enjoying their Sunday afternoon and the lovely weather.  Eventually, I caught the eastbound District Line at Turnham Green station, changed at Earls Court, and made my way back to Paddington and the flat.   

 

Busy Wanderings: My Big British Adventure – Day 3

Day three in London began much earlier than the day before as we hopped on the District Line and headed to the Tower of London first thing.  The view of the entire thing as we emerged from Tower Hill station was spectacular, with Tower Bridge and the Thames in the background.  Our London Passes got us in the gate quickly and we wandered around a bit while awaiting the beginning of the next guided tour, an amazing must-do, in this tourist’s opinion.  Our Yeoman Warder’s name was Jim and he was brilliant, filling us in on the history of the Tower, from the bits we knew to the many that we didn’t.  Our tour began in what was the moat – now filled and covered with impeccable grass – moved on to Traitors’ Gate, and then many other sites before ending in the chapel.  After, we made our way next door to the Crown Jewels, overwhelming in their beauty and quantity, and then we had a lovely lunch in the cafĂ© before exploring some more on our own.

 

We then walked up to Tower Bridge and caught a bus (our first one and, unfortunately, not a double-decker one) to Borough Market where we wandered around the stalls.  This California girl couldn’t resist buying a tiny loaf of sourdough bread (it wasn’t really sour at all by Northern California standards).  We then hopped the Jubilee Line to Covent Garden where we wandered around the Seven Dials area, a nice little happenstance for me since The Seven Dials Mystery is my favourite Agatha Christie novel.  My feet were threatening to detach themselves, so we popped into Shuh so that I could buy a pair of Toms (I didn’t bring any of the three pairs that I have at home), which will probably remain one of the best purchases of my trip.  I wore them out of the store and my feet have thanked me ever since.  A stop at Neal’s Yard Dairy got us some lovely goat cheese and then we hopped on the Piccadilly Line at Leicester Square.

  
We got off at Hyde Park Corner and wandered through the park for a very little ways (it’s a very big park and I plan to spend a day wandering all around it when I get back to London), turning around at the Serpentine and making our way back.  Along the way, I saw my first bluebells, something that’s been on my list to see while I’m here for ages since we don’t have them at home.  They were beautiful and there were white ones scattered amongst them as well.  As we wandered through them, we met two very friendly – and hopeful – squirrels.  Unfortunately, we had to disappoint them, since our sourdough bread and goat cheese were to be saved for later.  We made our way back to the Tube and then to the Blackbird, the Earls Court pub that we ate at our first night.  They did have the smoked fish pie this time around and it was very good…and very rich.  C’s friend then met us there and we visited for a bit before we said goodnight and headed back to the flat.  I’m still hoping to venture down to West Wittering tomorrow, so we’ll need an early start to catch the train from Victoria.