Friday, June 15, 2012

I Heart London in the Summer...

My kid sister came to visit and brought the California sunshine with her -- thanks Annie!  The weather has been miserable the past few months with torrential downpours, gale-force wind, and below-normal temperatures. To date, this is by far my worst summer in the UK although I probably say that every summer, but seriously this summer has been unusually cold. I had to wear my leather gloves throughout most of May and started questioning if we skipped summer altogether? But, on my kid sister's  second visit to London, she enjoyed seven straight days of 80F temperatures and glorious blue skies. It was brilliant!

Besides catching up on some sleep and making herself comfortable in our beloved Clapham flat, my kid sister got the chance to visit neighbourhoods that she didn't get to see on her first trip to London. She schlepped out to Canary Wharf to have lunch with her brother-in-law at Jamie's Kitchen; met me for a picnic lunch near Paddington station before taking herself for a canal walk from Maida Vale to Camden Town. 
She perused through the funky shops at the Stable searching for quirky souvenirs for friends in California; went museum-hopping around South Kensington; checked out the hipster neighbourhood of Shoreditch; and dined alfresco along the Southbank. Keenan and I both had to work during her stay in London, but we spent evenings together over home-cooked meals, or cold beers and white wine at one of the local pubs, The Sun being my favorite for its lovely beer garden. It was great catching up with her about her busy semester as a nursing student and other exciting news from California.

One of Keenan's former co-workers also stopped through London on her way home from a business trip in Switzerland. It was somewhat a little reunion as we met up with the same co-worker in Santorini while on a family holiday last year. It was fun taking Annie and my friend around London, showing them my favorite places and restaurants. Saturday we went to check out Borough Market and had a walking lunch of bratwurst, chorizo sandwiches, paella, and a massive chicken wrap called 'The Hangover' whilst admiring London's newest skyscraper, The Shard.  Tummies happy, we were off for a walk along the River Thames to the iconic Tower Bridge. 

It was the perfect day to spend the afternoon in Royal Greenwich, the neighbourhood just south of Canary Wharf. We stocked up on some snacky items and a bottle of white wine for a picnic near the Royal Observatory from where there is an amazing view of London. Greenwich was all decked out for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee where the Royal River Pageant will start. Cutty Stark, the last surviving and fastest tea clipper of her time which reopened to the public in April, was heaving with visitors. My kid sister thought it was funny that Londoners all flock to the nearest green patch on warm summery days, donning bikinis and board shorts. I'm sorry to say, kiddo, we're not guaranteed summer here in London.  

The next morning we went up to the charming neighborhood of Notting Hill, walked around Portobello Road, which was surprisingly quiet for a Sunday. Then we took the train for a day trip to Oxford. We haven't been to Oxford in over three years; crazy how time flies! It was nice to see Oxford in another light as my last visit to Oxford was in the dead of winter. 


We snagged some patio seats at The Head of the River pub, which overlooked the canal, for a late afternoon lunch all washed down with a pitcher of Pimms. We visited several colleges, including Christ Church College, Corpus Christi College, and Queen's College, and of course stopped for the obligatory tourist photos of the Bridge of Sighs and the Radcliffe Camera. I had forgotten how lovely Oxford is; shame that it took me three years to return.

My kid sister and my friend continued another day of sightseeing around London while Keenan and I were at work, visiting old tourist haunts: Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament, and Piccadilly Circus. My friend flew back to San Francisco and we prepared for our week-long holiday in Andalucia, Spain. Plenty of sunshine guaranteed there.

Cheerios from London!

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