Minding the Gap in London

Changing of the Guards

People gather for the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace.

Wanting to unload a wad of cash I made the bad decision of trading dollars for pounds at the Stansted Airport. As I rode the train for the Victoria Station, I heard the phrase “mind the gap” at each stop. It appears the conductor was warning passengers to watch their steps when getting off the train. I decided to take that advice for my entire trip after getting ripped off at the airport currency exchange.

The Nadler Hotel.

My room at the Nadler Hotel.

I prepared myself for more of the same when I arrived in the neighborhood of Westminster.
However, I was greeted with such unparalleled customer service at the Nadler Hotel that the airport experience became the exception not the rule. The desk clerk escorted us to our room and explained all the features. The room was well appointed. The sumptuous towels and shiny silverware were warmed. We sunk into our luxurious bed with plush pillows. The hotel was less than five minutes away from Buckingham Palace, restaurants and the London Tube were nearby. After pampering ourselves, we had tapas at Tozi. The food was great and the prices moderate. The server was pleasant and the restaurant setting cozy.

The following day we went to the “Changing of the Guards” at Buckingham Palace at 11:30 am. We had planned on touring the Palace the following day until we realized it was only open to the public during the summer.

Big Ben and The London Eye.

Big Ben with the London Eye in the background.

Changing of the Guards ceremony.

Changing of the Guard ceremony.

After the “Changing of the Guard” we took photos of Big Ben and the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. We did a self guided tour with the app VisitaCity.

We ended the day with brunch at Providores near Bond Street. The service wasn’t great, we had to remind the waitress to bring our water. Also, after waiting almost an hour we reordered our food. It seems our original ordered was misplaced. I wanted to leave but my daughter insisted we stay and waive the mandatory gratuity of 12%. The food was great but the terrible service took a bite out of our enthusiasm. The only great thing besides the food was the free brunch. The manager waived our bill in light of the shoddy service.

Trinity Lighthouse.

Trinity Lighthouse.

After brunch, we headed to Trinity Buoy Wharf. I wanted to see the Trinity Lighthouse. We caught the Tube and I sketched the Trinity Lighthouse. I was excited to see a Lightship nearby that I also sketched.

Next we caught a train and headed back to the hotel. Later in the evening, we grabbed a bite at Nandos and my daughter went to a Super Bowl party. I opted to enjoy the comfort of the Nadler Hotel.

On Monday, I toured the Tate Britain to see the paintings of JMW Turner. Britain’s greatest artist bequeathed over 300 of his paintings with the stipulation that they be exhibited for free.

Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey.

At 4:00 pm, we headed to Westminster Abbey for a free worship service called Evensong. We were able to sit in the choir stand and enjoy an intimate traditional worship service. A Boys Choir sang and there were readings from the Bible, recitations, and prayers. An official from Grenada read John 3 one of my favorite books of the Bible. It was an uplifting experience.

Golden Union Restaurant.

Golden Union Restaurant.

After Westminster Abbey, we visited Trafalgar Square and caught the Tube to Soho for dinner. There are lots of shops and restaurants to choose from. My daughter wanted fish and chips so we ate at Golden Union. The restaurant reminded me of the show: “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” My daughter had an entree of fried cod and chips. She ordered a small dish but the serving was generous and the food delicious. All vegetarian options were gone so I had a side order of chips.

On our final day, we went to the “Changing of the Guard” again. We arrived early enough to see the beginning of the ceremony. I was delighted when they played the theme songs on from “James Bond” and “Goldfinger.” I know it was corny but I had just seen “Specter” on my flight from the United States.

The Tower Bridge of London.

The Tower Bridge of London.

We left the “Changing of the Guards” and headed to London Bridge, the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge.

The Orangerie.

The Orangerie.

We concluded the day with a “High Tea”at the Orangerie behind Kensington Palace. The service was impeccable and the restaurant beautiful with a scenic garden view. Our “High Tea” consisted of scones, sandwiches and desserts. It was a perfect end to wonderful stay.

The next day we caught our flight and returned to Madrid. Before boarding the plane, I grabbed a fruit salad, falafel wrap and a refreshing apple juice at Pret a Manger, a quick food shop with organic coffee and natural food. I was surprised to find pomegranates, and mangos in my fruit salad. My trip to London was full of pleasant surprises!

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