Saturday, July 9, 2011

Spring Break in London!

A light fog in St. James Park softened the vibrant color of the jonquils and daffodils and made the plane trees seem even more beautiful.

I just can't stay away! Even though I knew I wouldn't have much time, I returned to London over Spring Break because I really wanted to see London during a different season.  I'll admit it was a bit chilly some of those March days but, I still LOVE London.  

Travel is always an adventure and my adventure started right away.  I had to leave school early on Friday to make it to the airport in time for my 4:30 flight from DFW to Atlanta.  My students didn't seem to mind a bit.  Imagine that!  Once my plane arrived in Atlanta, I had just enough time to change some dollars for pounds and check in with British Airways.  I was waiting to board the plane when I spied a tall thin man sashaying down the terminal wearing a full length mink coat.  A floor length coat on a man was pretty unusual, especially in March, especially in Atlanta, but what really stopped the conversation was the extra tall Abraham Lincoln top hat he was wearing!  I have no idea who this character was or why he was dressed in such an outrageous way.  Maybe he was a musician.  Maybe he was just loony toons.  He sure loved the attention he got. 

Later, I saw a more amazing sight. It was about 9:30 and we were flying over some large city (I don't know which). Between the town and our plane was a layer of billowy, cumulus clouds. They were dark grey but lit from below. They were sort of luminescent, grey glowing with yellow. It was eery and yet ethereal and beautiful.  It reminded me that last summer I flew over some clouds that looked just like popcorn. The sun was starting to go down and the sunset tinted the clouds pink. If there was a happy marriage between popcorn and cotton candy, these pink clouds would have been their child. Gorgeous!
These aren't the clouds I saw.  Imagine these clouds more like popcorn.

Unfortunately, my airplane luck broke on this trip. That screaming, kicking two year old that everyone dreads sat right behind me. He literally screamed at the top of his lungs for hours. When he wasn't wailing, he was kicking the back of my chair. Occasionally he would stop for a few minutes and everyone around us would cautiously take out their noise canceling ear buds.  But inevitably, he would start right back up a few minutes latter, and we all, in unison, as if it were choreographed,  put the ear buds back in place.  Oh! The glamour of airplane travel.

Saturday 3/12 - The next morning.
Success! I made it through Heathrow Border Control with nary a problem. This time I got a female officer. She didn't ask me if I was single, or what family members I had at home. She didn't seem to think it strange that a woman would like to vacation in London. Ha!!!  Take that Manchester security man!

Take a look at these beautiful hellebores!
I couldn't check into my hotel until 3:00 P.M., so after dropping my rolly bag off, I set out for Hyde Park.  The jonquils and daffodils were in full bloom.  Determined not to give in to jet lag, I took a long walk and snapped a bunch of pictures of these beauties.  I also saw bright primulas and shy little crocuses and gorgeous hellebores. The magpies were putting on a show, as well.  Magpies are these funny black and white birds who are members of the jay family, the clown side of the jay family!  They were pair bonding and nesting today, so I witnessed a couple of their domestic disputes while strolling through the park.  It was quite amusing. 
Did you know that Hyde Park has it's own police station? Neither did I. Right in the heart of the park is this complex of three cottages and one manor house. It looks like a tiny Victorian village that time forgot.  It even had a blacksmith's yard.   Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson would look right at home walking out of the stable yard. 
This is one of the cottages that make up
 the Hyde Park police station!
Later on I sat down on a bench to rest and a long-haired, pony-tail-wearing Greek man tried to pick me up! What was he thinking? I hadn't had a bath in over 24 hours and I looked exactly like I just got off a ten hour red eye flight.  I think I had salad dressing stains on my shirt from the airplane meal.  He must have been desperate!  I just smiled and lied through my teeth. "Oh, my husband is back in the hotel with our kids. We"re here with a lare group of people on a tour. I just came to the park for a stroll, but it's about time for me to go back. Nice to meet you. Bye."

Finally, I got to check in to my room at the Darlington. It is a hundred times nicer than The Jesmond! They took my luggage up to my room. There was an elevator. I could turn around in the bathroom. It had a tub. It had a mini-fridge.  And best of all, I had a room with a view!  My window looked out over the roof tops of residential Hyde Park, and there in the middle of my view was the London Eye.  That night I discovered that I could hear Big Ben!   Life is good!

Magpies are cheeky little buggers and very hard to photograph!
This was a darling church on Hyde Park Crescent close to my hotel.  I passed it almost every day
on my way to the tube stop or to Hyde Park.

Delicate, shy crocuses peeking through the grass.

Pret across the street which makes it very convenient to buy a sandwich and crisps and eat in the park.

Here's a close up Zeus at the top of the central arch.

I love the detail in this arch.  I wish more of our buildings had embellishments like these.  By the way, the spikes at the top edge of the sculptures and to keep the birds from building nests. 

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