Morning in Kensington
Apr 18, 2007
|Mom's last morning in England -- we just HAVE to have one last full English breakfast, right? The London Lodge Hotel is great -- you can have your pick off the menu. After our cereal and fruit, mom had an omelette and I had poached eggs on toast with a side of bacon, so it was full English minus the pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes and hash browns.
Not wanting to go too far afield, I decided to play pseudo tour guide and take mom on part of the London Walk that I had done a couple of years ago. Of course, I don't remember all the details of the places that I'm going to show her, so I told her to read this journal after the fact to find out more about the places she saw! :)
First stop was St. Mary Abbots Primary School. The school was started in 1645, after a man left two houses in High Street Kensington "for the maintenance of a free school for poor-men's children in the same town to be taught". The school building was constructed about 1709 (some sources say 1713) on the site of the Old Town Hall. There are two figures on either side of the tower, one facing towards Hammersmith, of a "charity boy" with a pen and scroll inscribed "I was naked and ye clothed me"; the other, looking towards the City of London, of a "charity girl" holding a Prayer Book.
Next to the school is St. Mary Abbots Church. Past worshippers include Isaac Newton (the scientist), William Wilberforce (the anti-slave campaigner), and others such as George Canning, Beatrix Potter and HRH Princess Louise. In 1997 it became a focus of mourners for Diana, Princess of Wales as this was her "parish church" (it being within a block of Kensington Palace). Some parts of the church are older than others, but none of the original structure remains. The oldest parts are tombs within the church that date back to the mid-1600s. One curious memorial at the front of the church is to Christopher Ironside, designer of the British decimal coinage system. Looks like they could have used someone like me to proofread the carver's work -- odd that they didn't redo the whole thing, but I imagine that would have cost a pretty penny.
When I did the London Walk through Kensington the last time I was in England (and it was my favourite walk to that point), it ended at 99 Kensington, a building just around the corner from the High Street. The guide told us about the rooftop gardens. There is a discrete sign, but no line of tourists as it is not really advertised. I didn't have time in 2005 to go up to the gardens, so this time I wasn't going to miss out. Through the revolving doors, you just have to ask the security guard for access, and sign the register. They then unlock the elevator to take you to the 6th floor.
The 1½ acres of gardens were laid out starting in 1936 and were constructed around three themes -- the Spanish Garden; the Tudor Garden and the English Woodland. The pathway goes around the perimeter of the building and is complete with a stream, ducks, flamingos and pintail ducks. We were the only tourists there, and it was amazing how quiet it was just six stories up from the busy High Street. The Babylon Restaurant is in the centre of the garden, and the menu is VERY expensive. The roof gardens are now owned by Sir Richard Branson (of Virgin fame), and is truly an urban oasis in the heart of London.
After our little respite from the maddening crowds, we took a tour of the Marks and Spencers Foodhalls, just around the corner. While it's not as fancy or expansive as Harrods Foodhalls, it is also much more affordable. Once again we were taken with the gorgeous looking veg, especially the baby-size leeks and carrots. I wish we could get these at home!
Mom's flight was scheduled to leave at 5:15pm, but I wanted to get the 2:22pm train from Reading, so we headed back to the hotel, checked out, and took the Tube to Heathrow Airport. I left mom at the coffee shop (she couldn't check in until 1:50pm), and I took the bus from the terminal to Reading. I rushed off the bus and, with one minute to spare (good thing the train was three minutes late), I was on the train to Moreton-in-Marsh.
Unfortunately, since the train was late that meant that I missed the bus from Moreton to Blockley, the timetable of which is timed almost to the minute that the train is SUPPOSED to arrive. However, that gave me time to stop in at Budgens for my last-minute purchases needed for tomorrow night's dinner that I am cooking in honour of Patricia's birthday.
A leisurely shop and then I sat in the sun at the bus stop for the 12-minute trip back to Blockley. Rupert was SO happy to see me. After all the excitement of people coming and going for the past month, this was the first time he had been alone for two days in a row. I spent the evening doing laundry, moving the sprinkler around the lawn (can't let that new sod die!), petting Rupert and relaxing back into the Blockley pace of life. Ahhhhhh!