Exactly 230 days ago, I managed to snag two frequent-flyer tickets to London. I even took two days off from work to extend our time over the February school vacation week. Larry and I had only been to London once before, and wanted more time to explore the city.
We landed on time, and took the Heathrow Connect to Paddington station. The Connect is considerably cheaper than the Express, and only takes 10 minutes more. Downside is that it only runs every half hour, so some bench time is inevitable. Once we dragged our bags off the train at Paddington, we headed to the entrance to the Underground. With about 100 other people, who formed a long, patient queue. The entrance was blocked, and officials would only let a small group of people on a time. I was astonished by how patiently and resignedly people were waiting--if this were New York, there would have been a riot. We waited, and waited more, drooping with fatigue and travel buzz. Finally we looked at each other, said "cab" and edged our way to the side to escape. Best 6 pounds I ever spent.
Our apartment is near Notting Hill Gate. It's spacious, funky, comfortable, and a bargain. The owners only rent it when they're traveling, but luckily they were headed to Mexico this week.
We headed out for a walk. The area is filled with blocks of white terraced houses, and the occasional ugly 20th-century interloper. We skirted Portabello Road, past a block of used clothing shops. This area will be teeming with stalls on Saturday, I can't wait. We wandered Notting Hill, past many uber-expensive boutiques, trendy cafes, and more-fashionable-than-I women in the uniform of leggings, high heeled boots, cashmere coats, huge cowl, and cellphones. At least I had a chunky cowl so I could almost pass as the country cousin.
Lunch was at the very nice bistro Cote with a well-priced lunch menu. Lentil salad followed by spinach crepes for me, salmon rilletes then steak frites for Larry. More walking, and we stopped into Ottolenghi's. I've loved his food for the use of vegetables, bright flavors, and unexpected textural contrast, and own two of his cookbooks. We got some takeout, which was gorgeous, tasty, and made Whole Foods look inexpensive.
On the way back to the apartment we ducked into Jaimie Oliver's cooking school, a fun-looking place where couples were sipping drinks while they prepped Valentine's Day meals together. Oh yeah, it's Valentine's Day! We bought a bottle of champagne and some desserts from the bakery on the corner.
We then walked in the opposite direction, down Kensington Church St toward Kensington High Road. Lots of antique shops along the road, and more of what I'd already seen several of--an old traditional pub now serving Thai food. Huh? Picked up some essentials at Whole Foods, and walked back up to the apartment.
Champagne, dinner, some discussion of plans for the week, and to bed.