Flashback Friday: Kensington Palace

Last week I blogged about when I lived in London. I was lucky enough that when I was there my friends visited. One day we went to Kensington Palace; here are some of my favorite pictures!

Of course I took a photo of this photo .

A treasured memory: my friends and I have a track record of just chatting to people because we are genuinely curious about people’s lives. See: one of the best moments of my life….which I think I’ve blogged? I can’t find it; basically we talked to a security guard at the stage door of Aladdin and he let us backstage.

Anyways, we’re talking to someone who works there and we ask if he’s ever seen Kate (the Cambridges part time live there). He told us on his breaks he likes to go outside and if he’s alone he sings and dances. Well he was singing something like “You Sexy Thing” and he turned around and there was Kate with George and Charlotte.

Bournemouth, England

Bournemouth is the cutest little seaside town in southern England. I was lucky enough to be placed on a client in Bournemouth for a week at the end of April. Looking to make the most of the trip, I made it a point to go for walks on the beach every evening after work.

The beach is one of the few in London that is a sand beach. There are places along the shore to eat and hang out, including an aquarium.

On a personal note, Bournemouth will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the place I first discovered the Hamilton soundtrack!

If you are thinking of visiting, a few items of note.

  • Bournemouth can be directly reached via London; a 2-2.5 hour train out of London Waterloo making it a great day or weekend get away!
  • Be sure to plot out where you’d like to go, as some spots are easier reached with a car.
  • The Green Hotel is great-beautiful rooms and right by the beach!

Curtain Up

The V&A Museum made an exhibit just for me!*

*(Ok that’s not quite true but it sure felt like it).

Currently on is ‘Curtain Up’, a focus exhibition on theatre on Broadway and in the West End. And it’s spectacular!

The exhibit spotlights costumes, props and other fab pieces from iconic stage productions. There are original signed scripts, tech rehearsal notes, and a case of the different styles of Tony and Olivier Awards. It also offers fascinating comparisons between New York and London theatre. Some of my favorites:

  • Row I is not used in theatres to avoid confusion with the number 1.
  • Broadway theatres call the first level ‘orchestra’ while in the West End it’s the ‘stalls’.
  • NYC = intermission, London = interval
  • In the West End little pots of ice cream are for sale during the interval. This is the best and Broadway needs to follow suit!

The first number of pieces are from The Phantom of the Opera including the magnificent Red Death costume from the start of act two.

Also on display are the original costume sketches by Maria Bjornson.

I loved checking off which NYC theatres I have been to (and staring intently at the floor).

It also inspired me to (try) to make a list of my 10 favorite shows! This was tough. My top three stand, for now at least, with the rest in no particular order:

  1. The Phantom of the Opera
  2. Les Miserables
  3. Miss Saigon
  4. Anything Goes
  5. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
  6. Once
  7. Sunset Boulevard
  8. Pippin
  9. Aladdin
  10. Finding Neverland

With How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in a really close race to edge in somewhere.

Costumes from The Lion King

One display case I was very intrigued by showed the US and London budgets for the original productions of Evita.

One of the breathtaking costumes of Helen Mirren from The Queen.

The exhibit was over too soon and I may or may not have gone through again the next time I visited the V&A….

‘Curtain Up’ is on through August 2016 and is a must see for any theatre fan!!

Buckingham Palace Tour

Steph and I LOVE the Royals. It therefore seemed fitting that we should include a tour of Buckingham Palace in our time in London!

The palace is open each year from the end of July through October when the Queen is not in residence. Visitors can tour the state rooms amidst large crowds and many velvet ropes blocking off areas.

But Buckingham also opens its doors for exclusive guided tours, when it is usually not open to the public. The tour offers a much more in depth look inside, including many tidbits about life at the palace and the chance to get a little bit more behind the scenes. The tour ends with a glass of champagne in the Grand Entrance and includes a guide book of the palace.

Steph had the brilliant idea to write about our tour in the book! I now have the best souvenir with notes from our experience and all the fun little things we learned.

Pictures are not allowed at any point during the tour but Steph and I got a little sneaky in the loos.

The hands down most amazing part of the tour is the end. You are escorted out the front entrance by a guard! Through the courtyard, with a glance up at THE balcony, and out the front gates. How amazing is that?!

Steph and I were just giddy after our tour. It was truly a unique and amazing experience and the perfect end to her visit.

London Transport Museum

After two days of adventures in Edinburgh Steph and I flew back to London early Sunday morning. Wanting to make the best of Steph’s last full day we rallied and hit the town. First up was a comforting lunch at one of my favorites, Bone Daddies.

The most delicious chicken to share.
The most delicious chicken to share.

Tonkotsu ramen with spring onion and chashu pork.
Tonkotsu ramen with spring onion and chashu pork.

With full tummies we headed to the London Transport Museum. Located in Covent Garden in the old Flower Market building is a fun museum that highlights the various modes of transportation in the city for the last 200 years.

The first time I visited was shortly after the museum’s refurbishment in 2005. It seemed new and fresh with tons of interesting facts. It also was fairly priced at 10 pounds back then. I was excited to return and found myself a little disappointed. Maybe it was just being tired from our flight, or the mass amount of children there. But some of the displays felt cramped and the price high at 17 pounds. The content is very fascinating and some areas are outstanding however. If you are interested in the transportation aspect of the city I would say to visit, but perhaps early enough and on a weekday if possible to avoid mass crowds.

The construction of the Tube.
The construction of the Tube.

The museum shop however is excellent for all transport-themed items. When I arrived in London in November I decorated my flat with a few posters from this shop! To me it’s a must stop when you are in Covent Garden, and you do not have to see the museum to shop.

Guest Post: Wimbledon and The Tower of London

The day of Duck & Waffle I had to head back to work, but Meg and Steph had a lovely day in London. Today I’m passing over the blog to Steph to tell you all about their adventures!


Hi! Stephanie here. Logan has been recapping our trip to visit across the pond to Jolly Ole England. We nerded out at Harry Potter Studios, caught a show on NYE, ventured to Bath and tried to visit the Queen. And after five days packed together, Logan had to go to back to work (le sigh). So, Meg and I ventured across London by ourselves. Our first stop, The All England Lawn Tennis Club aka Wimbledon.

Meg is a huge tennis fan and watches the tournament every year. I’m basically just a fan of the 2004 movie starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst (go watch it now if you haven’t; I’ll wait). However, the tour and museum were fascinating. The tour was about an hour. We saw the courts and press area.

Our tour guide was not only adorable, but quite knowledgeable about the tennis club and tournament. I was especially interested in the ticketing process. Hopefuls enter their name in a lottery months in advance. If chosen, you receive a day, court and seats for the number of tickets. They can be accepted or declined. That is your one offer. Crazy! Also, strawberries and cream is the thing during the tournament. The club goes through thousands of pounds during the week. Who knew?

It was also our first sunny day, which made for a beautiful walk around the grounds. They were spectacular. I wish I could see them when the flowers are in bloom.

Helpful Tips:

  • Tickets are £24 and can be purchased online on their website.
  • Read the directions prior to getting on the train to Wimbledon. There are three possible tube stops to get off at, all within walking distance to Gate 4 and the museum entrance. There is also a bus that picks up/drops off at the gate.
  • The Wingfield Cafe at the Gate 4 entrance had a yummy lunch. It was reasonably priced and quick.  

After lunch, we hopped back on the tube to Central London to visit The Tower of London. We arrived just in time for the last tour. Our beefeater’s name was Clive and he was hilarious.

A few days earlier we read a short essay by a beefeater as his wife in this book. Did you know they live in the Tower of London? I didn’t. This fascinates me. So naturally, I had a lot of questions for Clive after tour. In case you were wondering, they do not have a curfew despite The Tower being locked down each evening. I forgot to ask if they can have dogs. Next time!

After the tour we saw The Crown Jewels, which were gorgeous and one of my favorite things I saw in London. We were a bit rushed for time, but got to explore the White Tower. We also fit in some selfies with the Tower Bridge.

Overall, a wonderful last day for Meg before heading home.

Helpful Tips:

  • Don’t miss the guided tour. It’s informative and funny.
  • I would devote 2-3 hours for the grounds. There is a lot to see, but if pressed for time the two must-dos are the tour and seeing The Crown Jewels.
  • The gift shop was quite large and had quite a great selection of goodies. It was also packed. Be warned. It’s outside the gates, so you can stop by without going to The Tower.

Stephanie is twenty-something gal. When she’s not trying new restaurants in Chicago, she’s exploring a new city or kayaking at her lakehouse. She’s an avid reader, podcast listener and foodie. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @stephaniehermes.

Duck & Waffle

Over by Liverpool Street Station and up amongst the clouds (on the 40th floor) is Duck & Waffle, a 24/7 restaurant that has had London abuzz for years. I’ve read countless blog posts about the restaurant and heard about late night dining from my co-workers after the Christmas party this year. Naturally it was the ideal choice for dinner on Meg’s last night in London!

Cocktails to start: I ordered the Roasted Cosmo 2.0 which the website describes as: Grey Goose Le Citron vodka, orange liqueur, rosemary hydrosol, bone marrow infusion, cranberry & cacao. This was good, but forgettable. The sprig of rosemary was also a bit odd; I just laid it on the table.

We shared (obviously) and ordered tons to eat (also obviously). Overall everything was prepared wonderfully and was delicious!

Crispy pig ears served in a tear-away brown paper bag. A nice starter that felt obligatory to order but I wouldn’t get this again.

Cheesy bread; how could you go wrong with this? Yum.

Bacon wrapped dates. Another no brainer!

Baked haddock with lobster cream and Parmesan crumble.

The pork belly meatball with cranberries.

Sprouts, quite possibly my favorite dish!

Wild mushrooms with a fried duck egg and sprouts.

And of course the namesake, the duck and waffle. The sweet and salty combo is amazing!

The homemade biscuits were beautifully presented (not to mention yummy). And my after-dinner cappuccino hit the spot!

The atmosphere of Duck & Waffle is extremely unique. It’s worth a visit just to experience the lifts to the 40th floor and the views of London. The service was just fine and I think the prices are valid for a more upscale restaurant. It isn’t an every day place to go but perfect for when you need something a bit special.

Since we were on a tight schedule we made a reservation ages in advance (read: before I even left for London). Play it safe with a reservation through the website or dine at an off time. As they are open 24 hours there are no opening/closing times to worry about when planning your visit!

Windsor Castle

The bummer of trying to sight see during January is that the weather can be, quite frankly, horrible. On our last full day in London we woke to a cold rainy day. Between that and a strict ‘no photos’ rule inside Windsor Castle I didn’t take many photos!

We kicked off the day with breakfast on a boat…one of my favorites the Waterside Cafe in Little Venice!

Followed by the best almond milk cappuccino I’ve had thanks to Beany Green along the canal.

We took the train from Paddington to Windsor, about an hour journey with one train change. It was miserable outside but a fascinating tour inside this royal residence. One of my favorite parts of our tour was speaking to one of the guides about what it’s like inside the castle when it isn’t open to the public and the Royal family is in residence. It’s remarkable imagining the Queen walking around the same rooms you are standing in; of course she wouldn’t be restricted by a rope barrier!

We had our Sunday roast across the street from the castle at the Duchess of Cambridge Pub. The inside is decorated with Union Jack bunting, inspired by the Royal Wedding, and is just adorable! I confirmed with our waitress that Duchess Kate has not been in to visit (yet).

I’m so glad to have visited Windsor during my time living in London! Back when I studied here in 2007 my friends came to see the castle on a weekend I was visiting a friend in Vienna and it’s been on my to-see list ever since.

Windsor is located in the county of Berkshire and easily accessible via train from Central London.

Bath

Meg and Steph’s visit was top to bottom fantastic. That being said, if I had to pick a favorite day I think it would be our visit to Bath.

Bath is located in Southeast England and is about a two hour train ride from London. Between the time and the price of the journey (30 pounds when we visited) I wouldn’t say it makes the cut of your average one week trip to London…..but perhaps it should! Bath is home to the famed Roman Baths built around a natural hot spring, very recently recognized as a national monument, though there are loads of other things in town which make your visit worth the trek!

We started off our day at the Bath Fashion Museum. I LOVED this place!

The museum is currently featuring a ‘Behind the Scenes’ exhibit which showcases the fashion from the 1800’s through to the mid-1900’s. I loved observing how the fashions changed and picking my favorites amongst all the dresses!

The museum also features more current fashion pieces. I fell in love with this Alexander McQueen…..

…this glamorous piece by Peter Russell…

…but I loved this cocktail dress from Hardy Amies most of all!

Another highlight of the museum was the ‘Dressing Up’ exhibit with replica Victorian attire to try on! First, a corset and crinoline!

I think I would have fit right in!

For lunch we went to The Raven Pub which specializes in pies!

The raven ale pie with beef, onion, carrot, raven ale and raven ale/red onion gravy. Chips on the side.

The heidi pie with goat’s cheese, sweet potato, spinach, red onion and roasted garlic and red wine/thyme gravy. Mustard mash on the side.

The fungi chicken pie with chicken, chestnut and field mushrooms and sage/onion gravy. Chips on the side.

The chicken pie was hands down my favorite but they were all delicious! I recommend trying to dine at an off time; we managed to beat the crowds by sheer luck but this place can get very busy!

With full tummies we set off for the Roman Baths. Visitors are provided a self guided audio tour. There is a generic tour, a children’s tour and one from Bill Bryson. Each offer great insight. I personally felt a little overwhelmed with the amount of audio so I picked and chose when to listen and when to just observe.

One of the most fascinating things about the Roman Baths are, despite being so old, they were only discovered in 1978!

Despite multiple signs advising not to, of course I touched the water. Just had to make sure it was actually warm : )

You can also sample the water. It’s….interesting. Not bad but not something I’d want a huge glass of to drink!

Overlooking the Roman Baths hot springs is The Pump Room Restaurant. We stopped in for afternoon tea before our train back to London!

The tea was enjoyable. I loved the scones and the sandwiches were unique (including a poached salmon ‘shot’ to have over little bread crisps!). The desserts were forgettable in my opinion.

Visitors can enjoy live music being played in the dining room which really adds to the fancy afternoon tea vibe!

Bath Abbey looked absolutely lovely all lit up at night (actually this was probably around 5pm; seriously I don’t miss those short days of sunlight!)

I would absolutely return to Bath one day, preferably in the warmer months to enjoy walking around and visiting the Royal Victoria Park.

Trains run fairly frequently between London Paddington station and Bath Spa. The city centre is about a 15 minute walk from the station, and the Fashion Museum another 10 minutes away. Plan for a full day as we did, or make it a weekend!

Kensington Palace

The first day of 2016 was spent visiting Kensington Palace, the residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century. Once home to Princess Diana and now residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry!

There is so much history to explore at the palace. A highlight for me was the ‘Fashion Rules’ section that showcases the fashion of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. Not to mention all the great photo ops along the way!

One of my favorite moments was stopping to listen to one of the royal staff talk about the British monarchy.  There is A LOT to say when discussing centuries of history but our guide was so fascinating! Not to mention he had an amazing tale about bumping into Duchess Catherine and Prince George!

We enjoyed afternoon tea at The Orangery, located just next door from the palace. The interior is light and airy and I love the place settings at the table!

Afterwards we walked around Notting Hill, stopping in the shops and enjoying all of the painted houses. It was just amazing to be in London with three of my best friends!

For dinner we headed to the Churchill Arms which serves amazing Thai food. I would absolutely recommend a visit if you are in town!