London 2016: Day 2

Despite the 5 hour time change and jet lag, I woke up promptly at 5:15 AM (which happens about 360 days a year).  Breakfast didn’t start until 7, so I had some time to ease into the day.  After breakfast, I was out the door for a Sunday morning walk.  I meandered my way through back streets in the general direction of St. James’s Park.  Almost all of the flowers in the park were in full bloom.  I walked through the park towards Buckingham Palace.  Along the way, I found a group of large pelicans and a family of geese, perfect photographic subjects. As I was walking, I could hear a bass drum occasionally in the distance and decided to find out where it was coming from.  I discovered a whole group of what appeared to be “guards in training” going through training exercises across the street from the park.  Pretty impressive to watch!

St. James's Park
St. James’s Park

From there, I walked by Buckingham Palace and through Green Park to get the tube to my next stop: the Columbia Road Flower Market.  It took some effort to actually find the market from the nearest tube stop (about a 20 minute walk), but once I did, it was a perfect way to spend the rest of the morning.  The road was literally wall to wall people with both sides of the road lined with flower stalls.  Everything from herbs to bouquets of roses and tulips was available.  The actual market probably runs for a half mile or so.  Behind the market stalls, the shop fronts are filled with antiques, knick-knacks, and unique items such as handmade greeting cards and housewares.  It was a morning where I really felt like I was in England.  

Columbia Road Flower Market
Columbia Road Flower Market

Before moving on from the flower market, I had one last stop to make.  It was time for my first scone of the trip!  In the back of the small Vintage Heaven shop is the Cakehole Cafe, a small tea room serving up scones, tea, and assorted cakes.  How could I resist a traditional raisin scone with clotted cream and jam?  It wasn’t the best British scone I’ve had, but it certainly wasn’t bad.  I still had a couple of hours before my afternoon walking tour, so I made my way to the Old Spitalfields Market.  The market is a combination food vendor market and craft fair.  It was fun to wander around a bit before visiting the Sunday Upmarket just up the road.  This one had a lot of international foods and plenty of free samples.  

At 2 PM, I was ready to meet my London Walks tour guide for a walking tour of Little Venice.  London Walks gets consistently good reviews and I can see why.  For £10 (about $14), you just show up at the appointed tube stop and join the 2 hour guided walk.  There are literally more than a dozen walks offered each day.  The tour guide, Shaughn, was part comedian and part history buff, and was completely enjoyable.  The walk took in both the residential areas of Little Venice as well as the canals.  Many people live on the barges in the canals and pay about £10,000 per year for the moorings.  It is a beautiful area of London, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much on my own.

Little Venice
Little Venice

By the time the walk was over, I was pooped.  I took the tube back to Pimlico and walked to a pub that has a traditional Sunday Roast.  Unfortunately, the kitchen was closed until 5:30 and I was there at 4:30.  So I walked the mile or so back to the hotel.  I debated several other dinner options, but decided on the White Swan, where I ate my one dinner in London last year.  I enjoyed my first cider of the trip (I was way too tired to drink yesterday) along with a Hunter’s chicken.  If it’s possible, I’m even more tired tonight than I was last night.  Tomorrow is going to be another London Walks tour, this time to Greenwich.

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