I will say that I was surprised to find a relative lack of good child-friendly afternoon tea venues. Perhaps, when I retire from the practice of law and Keri and I decide to move to London we can start such a place.
We all slept in, Owen until past 11. Phew. Keri enjoyed her morning coffee and started checking on-line for all of her birthday greetings. Lauren gave Keri the card she had decorated and I gave Keri a funny/sweet card of a guy carrying a large dog up an escalator. You really cannot go wrong with any kind of large dog card. Always funny. Owen gave Keri the card he had put together, along with a popsicle he had taken from the freezer. That may not sound like much, but he is pretty fond of his popsicles, so it was a meaningful gesture.
We headed off for Covent Garden a bit past noon. Covent Garden, like just about everything else here can be traced back to Henry VIII, who first seized the lands and gave them to some loyal earl. The area was developed first for some nice homes, but eroded over time, eventually becoming London's red-light district. (Any place will see its ups and downs over the course of 500 years or so.) Apparently it took an act of parliament -- truly -- to reclaim the area and turn it into marketplace. With some further evolution over the years it is now a quaint shopping area, filled with narrow cobblestone streets, lots of cafes, coffeehouse and shops.
We enjoyed a nice stroll around the area as we helped work up our appetite for tea. Owen was very optimistic when he saw a sign for an "apple market." We found no apples, suggesting the name is historic.
We then started heading back towards in the direction of our tea location, stopping off at the local Nike store to get me a replacement running shirt. (Note: As I mentioned in one of my prior entries, I tend to run hot and when I exercise, I will soak a shirt like nobody's business. A shirt that I had worn earlier this week had finally seen enough and needed to be retired. I considered a proper English killing -- hanging, drawing and quartering -- if for no other reason, to send a message to the other shirts. As it was, I settled for sending to the rubbish bin, thereby dooming it to some local landfill.)
We were first offered a choice of beverages. Keri and I both opted for the English Breakfast Tea, Lauren the vanilla milkshake and Owen an extra large glass of apple juice. Minutes later, two large, three-tiered serving trays arrived. I knew immediately this was going to work out. The bottom tray had on it four kinds of crustless sandwiches (all without butter and ham, per the birthday girl's request). The top two trays were filled with various pastries, including scones, cream, chocolate sauce (not fondue as was advertised) with fruit and marshmallow for dipping, brownie, several kinds of cakes and cupcakes (lemon and red velvet).
As were just about done, the wait staf came out with a special blueberry cupcake and sang happy birthday to Keri. We put up a game effort -- or rather three of us did. Keri, Lauren and I stuffed our faces with three trays of goodness, enjoying everything. Lauren began giggling again -- not quite at the Tozi level, but in the ballpark. Three very happy palates, as we each ate more than our fill.
Keri opted to walk off some our handiwork on the way back, so we headed through Leicester Square and on to Regent Street. From there, it was just a matter of time until we hit Hamleys, the self-proclaimed Finest Toy Shop in the World. I have not seen enough toy shops to judge the accuracy of that claim kind, but this store is pretty good. It takes up five large floors and is filled with young people (moonlighting theatre performers, I assume) who are demonstrating a number of their better sellers on the floor. For what it's worth, both of the Eckstein children opted for items they saw being demonstrated -- Lauren for a set of magic markers and Owen for a boomerang flyer.
Most importantly, the birthday girl enjoyed herself. She thought the show was great, as she did the tea. Check and mate. 41st birthday accomplished. Anyone got any good ideas for 42?