London–Day 1: Big Ben, steak pie, and a rose called Nostalgia

Big Ben at night
Big Ben at night

The Tube took us right from Heathrow (Zone 6) to the Green Park station (Zone 1). Since we were on it from its starting point, we got seats, which was good because we were toting luggage and made 16 stops on the Piccadilly Line, where Duncan was kind enough to meet us at the station so we wouldn’t get lost transferring to the Jubilee Line, which took us to north London where our friends and hosts live.

It was just a few blocks to their mews house where we dropped off luggage before venturing out into the immediate environs. We walked up Primrose Hill, which, as the highest point in London, afforded us some lovely views. Then we walked around Regent’s Park, which includes Queen Mary’s Garden, a lovely spot with several varieties’ of roses, all with wonderful names: Ingrid Bergman, Dawn Chorus, Adriana, Ice Cream, Valentine Heart, and–my personal favorite–Nostalgia.

As excited as I was to be walking around London, my loss of sleep hit me rather suddenly around one in the afternoon–not surprising since my body thought it was 5 am and I hadn’t slept in 22 hours. We hopped on a bus after a few false starts, and I plopped into bed for a nice long nap.

Rising Tide girlI awoke shortly before 5 pm, took a quick shower and headed out with Dave and Duncan to meet Ellen at Vauxhall, close to the site where famous underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor is exhibiting his piece “The Rising Tide.” I’m pretty sure that Taylor doesn’t actually sculpt while he himself is underwater, but it didn’t really clarify that point. The piece is essentially the four horsemen of the apocalypse in the form of oil rigs. It’s a  political comment on the impact of fossil fuels, strategically located within sight of the Houses of Parliament. Because it was low tide, the figures were completely exposed and firmly on land. Despite the clear request that the artwork be viewed from the walkway, everyone passed beyond the gate and was moving among the four horses taking photos–us included. I can’t say that I loved the piece, but it was certainly interesting, and the detail was impressive down to the sandals on the little girl atop one of the horses. To learn more, read this piece from the Guardian:

steak pie @ Duchess of WalesThe walk along the river and across the Westminster Bridge Street provided many opportunities to capture Big Ben from different angles. And as dusk gave way to evening, the lights imparted a beautiful glow to the Houses of Parliament and the surrounding buildings.

We had a traditional English meal in the Rudyard Kipling Dining Room that was part of a larger establishment called The Duchess of Wales. My steak pie and mashed potatoes was delicious, and the London lager on tap was perfect. The greens were an odd mixture of peas, green beans, and kale but were perfectly edible. Dave adored the vegetarian gravy that accompanied his vegetable pie and even coaxed our charming waitress wearing polka dots to bring him more.

A perfect first day in merry old England.



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