Sunday, 9 March 2014

Playing tour guide

So much packed into this weekend that I had to list it all before I began writing to ensure that no unintentional gaps were left. Have had yet another ‘relaxing’ weekend, where an awful lot of energy was used in between the occasional moment of calm and quiet sitting in sunshine.

GLORIOUS weather this weekend made for very pleasant venturing conditions indeed. I spent my days playing tour guide to a Mancunian visitor, for whom I was extremely grateful as otherwise I fear I may have spent more of my weekend cooped up inside over a laptop and piles of paper, pretending the sunshine wasn’t really there. As it was, I embraced it instead, and have come out at the other end feeling so glad that I did (although I’m not entirely sure that my feet and legs would agree with me, could they speak).

On Saturday, we covered what felt like 50 miles walking between Notting Hill and Southbank, taking rather a roundabout route to say the least. Dreams of sunshine on the pretty coloured houses and strolling along quiet, idyllic streets (some maybe even cobbled) put me in the mood for Notting Hill, and it did not disappoint. Of course, somehow I do always forget the existence of Portobello Road Market (not so quiet at all), and although the initial throng of people causes me great horror, I soon fall into the slow pace of a browsing customer once antiques reach my gaze. Lunch found at the end of the market where the food stands are very cleverly placed, I was then also enticed by a stall selling mushrooms. Just mushrooms, nothing else. I never knew I was so excited by mushrooms until this moment, but of course I had to buy a selection, so I did (and cooked some up for tea in the evening, delicious if I do say so myself)!

From Notting Hill we decided (or, maybe it was the royal ‘we’) that food would be best consumed in a green space. Of course, we could all follow in the footsteps of Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts and have a whoops-a-daisy moment into a private garden, but we thought we’d be a little more common and head for a public park. So off we went to Kensington Gardens, where we were greeted by a distinct lack of deckchairs (I’m hoping they will appear in April?) and an abundance of dog walkers whose dogs were far more engaged by squirrels than the pleading calls of their owners’. Shoes off, sunshine in full force, it was a more than pleasant pit stop.  

Many times before I have been deceived by the London Tube map in terms of how close things are to each other when they appear to be so far apart (I hark back, in particular, to those days when a good friend and I used to make the tube journey (where we had to change, by the way) from Liverpool Street to Shoreditch for Spitalfields Market. I cringe.), so I tend to make more of an effort to walk between places now instead. I do wonder though, whether now I am deceived in the opposite way, where places that according to the map should be within a stone’s throw are in fact more like a marathon apart. So we walked, aimlessly, along the river from the Albert Bridge (which I never even knew existed before, but which is really rather beautiful so I’m extremely glad to have crossed it), through Battersea Park (another location I’ve wanted to pay homage to), past Battersea Power Station, alongside Westminster, all the way to the Southbank where we finally rested for a well-earned cup of tea while dusk set in.

After such a beautiful Saturday, Sunday did not get off to the best start. This morning I:
1.       Melted a hole in my favourite top (we have been here since October, this was literally the first time the iron and ironing board had been used. They will not be seeing the light of day again in a hot hurry!)
2.       Couldn’t decide what to wear for such warm weather
3.       Had unhappy hair
4.       Feared that wearing makeup when my body hasn’t seen the sunshine in such a long time made me look rather orange in contrast to my pale arms
5.       Remembered that the Jubilee Line was part-closed where we needed to be
6.       Got to the line that was open so we could use, only to discover that it was suspended until further notice
7.       Narrowly missed the bus we needed instead, resulting in a 30 minute wait for the next one
8.       Received a text to alert me of beach trips being made by my nearest and dearest at home (icing on the cake?)

Please don’t judge me for what is about to follow, I was miserable. As one might imagine, I was not in the best mood at the start of the day following on from all of these little disasters (little they may have been, but when there were so many of them, it was hard not to let them take effect)! Anyone who knows me knows that the best way to alleviate my slumps is to feed me. So feed me I did. In McDonalds. At half 11 in the morning. Sitting by the river with a pretty stunning view of The Shard made it all feel much more acceptable though (we won’t worry about the disapproving glances from passersby).

As we sat munching on happy food (not a Happy Meal, just food to make me happy... don’t even ask what I had!), I suddenly noticed that The Monument was nearby. Now, after Saturday’s mammoth walking spree, my legs were definitely screaming at me at this moment, but I chose to ignore them, and we took to the steps. The last time I was up The Monument was when I was a child, and I still have the certificate to prove it (I’m now the proud owner of two, check me out)! My memory was a little hazy of what it’s like at the top, so I was somewhat dubious about making the trek with older, less agile legs, but it was definitely worth it; I do love a view!

After our visit to The Monument, we carried on ambling along the river. I’ve seen lots of great photos of City Hall recently with Tower Bridge in the back, and I wanted to see it for myself, so that was where we headed (a much shorter distance indeed!), again taking detours here and there for me to assume my role as tour guide and point out all the tourist attractions. The day certainly turned right around from such a disastrous morning, and remarkably we even stumbled across a small section of the river where you could get down onto the sand; with closed eyes, the sound of the waves lapping the shore and the cackle of seagulls was plenty to transport us straight to the coast! Boats with gardens (like, actual fully grown trees!) at Butler’s Wharf, amusement caused by tourists assuming the position for photos by the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, a quick visit to the Design Museum shop, and food and entertainment by the London Eye. Thank you London!