Tuesday, June 25, 2013

churchill, notting hill and apple fritters

Last day in London. I woke up early and headed out for my final run here, heading north through Belgravia, up to Hyde Park where I took the loop up to Speaker's Corner and Marble Arch. The last couple of times I have done the run, I added in a slice of Kensington Gardens, running almost up to the Palace before heading east and going by the Royal Albert Hall (of which I still have no idea how many holes it would take to fill) on my way back towards the flat. Every run has ended at the Starbucks a couple blocks from our flat. I think they have gotten used to my daily coffee order for Keri and me, and I worry our absence may have a real impact on their bottom line.

Mid-morning, Owen and I headed out to see the Churchill War Rooms -- Imperial War Museum, one of the highlights of any trip to London. The war rooms are the underground bunker used by the British command between 1940 and 1945. The rooms have been set up to replicate what they would have looked like during the Second World War. They have done a great job in creating a physical environment that makes you appreciate how physically cramped the entire enterprise must have been. It is, of course, impossible to simulate the blitz bombings or sense of dread that must have hung in the air before the Battle of Britain. This marks my third trip to the museum, following visits in 1991 and 2000. Several years ago, they added the Churchill Museum, a biographical of museum of Winston Churchill (which seems self-evident, I realize, given the name). Owen and I spent about 30 minutes in this new section. That was more than enough time for him and nowhere near enough for me. Another thing to add to my to-do-on-next-London-trip list.

After the museum, we headed back to the flat to meet Keri and Lauren, who were busy with their umpteenth load of laundry, preparing for our departure. (Note: Lauren said she did not want to see the museum because it had the word "war" in it, and that she despised all war. I started to explain to her that no reasonable person liked war, but that some were necessary. I did not try too hard to convince her, though, because if your nine-year old daughter cannot be a pacifist, what hope is there for any of us.) I grabbed Keri and me some lunch from Pret a Manger (of which I have become a real fan -- the quality and efficiency are something to behold) and we finished up most of our packing.

The four of us then headed out to Notting Hill, a quaint area on the other side of Kensington Gardens. Notting Hill has a lot of two-story townhouses painted in different pastels, making for a distinct look. It also has the Portobello Road Market, which has a very Bohemian feel. We walked through the market, stopping for treats for the kids. Lauren opted for a stracciatella cone and Owen (pictured below) some kind of monstrosity consisting of a warm waffle, vanilla ice cream, mini oreos and chocolate sauce.

About halfway through their treats, Owen looked at Keri and said, as though he was about to say something important, "Mommy . . . ." We knew from his tone and look that meant it was time to use the bathroom. Both of our kids seem to have gone through this I-need-to-use-the-bathroom-in-the-middle-of-every-single-meal-outside-the-home phase. Lauren is out of hers, and Owen has taken her place. I, for one, don't get it. Public bathrooms are a necessary evil, not an enjoyable break in a meal, whether in Phoenix or halfway across the world.

In any event, Owen's urgent need to go was met with the absence of a toilet in the treat shop, sending us across the street to one of those public Euro-toilets that typically require some admission fee and which have a self-cleaning cycle that operates between uses. This one charged no fee. It further instructed that children below the age of ten must be accompanied by an adult. Owen read that as non-controlling, and further rationalized that he is as tall as many 10 year-olds, and therefore he would go in by himself. Miraculously, he emerged several minutes later, unscathed and with an empty bladder (for at least another 20 minutes).

We continued our walk up Portobello Road, stopping in a kids' boutique where Lauren got a small purse and Owen a stationery set. We made our way back to the tube and headed home to the flat. Before dinner, I watched the Nadal-Darcis first round match from the All England Club. We had hoped to spend the day at the Wimbledon Championships, as they are called here, but could not wrangle tickets. The next best thing, I suppose, is to watch in the comfort of one's own London flat. Nadal was clearly not himself, moving very poorly. It was odd to see a clearly hobbled Nadal, in particular given how dominant he looked just weeks ago at Roland Garros.

Our last dinner here fell to Dim T, the Asian place we had strong-armed Owen into going last week. After some coaxing, he agreed for a return. (I do hope there is a McDonald's at Kings Cross today, or I could be in trouble.) The dim sum and pad thai were good and the dessert -- fried apple fritter, vanilla ice cream, chocolate and toffee sauces -- was heavenly. Our little dessert connoisseur, Lauren, declared it the second best she had tasted in London, following the Tozi mousse, of course. I expect Lauren may find even better desserts when we get to Italy next week. We'll let you know.


  1. So glad you are posting your news each day! I feel almost with you in your adventures. Love from sunny Arizona!

  2. Owen's "monstrosity" looks just like the ones he made for Lauren and I on a weekly basis. He must have been in heaven...till it was time for the loo of course ;) Too funny.