London, Part I: His-n-Hers Day

On our first day in London, hubby and I did something a little unusual for us: we planned a his-n-hers day.  Oh, we didn’t split up for the day.  But you see, usually when we travel we like to spend our time doing activities that we both really enjoy.  Wandering around the city, checking out cultural activities and landmarks, eating great food and tasting wines, or hiking if we’re in a rural area – those are things that rev both of our engines.  But on our first day in London, we each wanted to do something the other wasn’t terribly keen on.  Hubby was dying to go to the Natural History Museum and see the dinosaurs.  I couldn’t have cared less about the dinosaurs.  Yes, I know that London’s Natural History Museum is fabulous and well worth the time.  But, the thing is, I don’t care about dinosaurs.  They’re all dead, no matter which way you slice it.  I can see dino skeletons at the Smithsonian back home in D.C., or at the Natural History Museum in New York if I want to be extravagant and actually go somewhere.  So I really didn’t care if we went to the Natural History Museum at all.

Meanwhile, I was itching to go to the Victoria & Albert Museum.  We didn’t make it there on our last whirlwind trip to London and I wanted to see it.  I’m a sucker for anything Queen Victoria-related, I love decorative arts, and I’d heard that there were amazing china displays in those hallowed halls.  And oh, how I love china.  (Sometime I’ll tell you about the time I went to the White House and the Secret Service quizzed me on Presidential China.  Describing the china patterns of obscure, forgotten Presidents of the United States is something of a party trick I’ve cultivated.  I foresee a post coming up.)  But, well… so you know how ambivalent I said I was about dinosaurs?  That’s about as ambivalent as hubby is about decorative arts.  (He does actually kind of like china.  Dude actually picked out our wedding china.  No lie.  He’s now mad at me for telling The Internet that.)

This is a dinosaur.  I think it’s a T-rex, but it could be an Allosaurus.  I always forget.

So, from the above you can probably tell that I went to see the dinos.  I may be ambivalent about large extinct lizards, but I’m decidedly not ambivalent about hubby and seeing dinosaurs makes him SO deliriously happy that I willingly tag along.  These aren’t the first dino skeletons I’ve dawdled around, and they won’t be the last.  (And since we were overseas, I didn’t have a working cell phone with me, so I couldn’t even play Angry Birds.  I actually read the placards and took pictures.  That’s how much I love my husband.)

Seeing the blue whale was my only request at the Natural History Museum.  I have a thing for whales – in fact, as his very first gift to me, for my birthday about a month and a half after we started dating in 2001, hubby adopted me a whale.  (A humpback whale calf named Ember.  So cute.)  So my reward for dragging my sorry behind through the dinosaur exhibits at these museums is always a quick motor through the room that is invariably dedicated to mammals of the deep.

Now, I’ve been talking myself up a lot in this post.  But I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m more accommodating to hubby’s interests than he is to mine, because that would be terribly wrong.  No, after our morning of dinosaurs, we headed off for an afternoon of china, furniture and period clothing at the V&A.  Hubby accompanied me just as willingly and uncomplainingly as I did for him.  And… oh, my gosh.  The china exhibit at the V&A was pretty great… but then… they open up their “storage” floor and it’s just room after room, row upon row, of glass cases, 20 feet high, crammed with china and porcelain and enamelware and you-name-it from every country and every time period since the Stone Age.  Unfortunately, I have no pictures.  I was “woman-ing” the camera that day and I’m not sure I stopped to hand it off to hubby before I zoomed off in a blur on a mission to try to see every single dish in the museum.  But friends… what an afternoon I had.  In fact, to this day when I get stressed, hubby rubs my shoulders and says three words: “V&A China Hall.”  And instantly I go to a place of bliss.

So after our his-n-hers day, as you can imagine, we were pretty hungry.  We headed off for one of my London musts: afternoon tea at the Orangery.  (P.S. After these recaps finally wrap up in a few weeks, look for a post on the afternoon tea experience.  It’s always one of the highlights of any trip across the Pond for me.)

Now, the Orangery is not the fanciest place you could have afternoon tea in London.  It’s not the Savoy, by any stretch of the imagination.  But to me, there’s nothing better, because the Orangery is, essentially, the former greenhouse of Kensington Palace.  For those not in the know, Kensington Palace was the residence of Queen Victoria… and Princess Diana… and is currently the London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Kate!  Call me!) and a slew of junior royals.  It’s steps away from a (flattering) statute of Queen Victoria and the Sunken Garden, which I think is the most beautiful garden in London.  They have miniature orange trees on all of the tables, delectable meringues, and incredible orange scones.  So you can keep your Savoy and your Ritz.  Anytime I’m in London, the Orangery is my choice.  It’s literally tea at a Palace.

That ^ is the three-tiered afternoon tea.  Not even the fanciest option.  Go ahead and wipe the drool off your keyboard.  I’ll wait.

Dear Orangery, I love you so much.  I will always, always visit whenever I am in London.  And tell all of my friends about your gracious hospitality.

After fortifying ourselves with tea, sandwiches and scones (and, okay, the pastries too, although they’re always my least favorite part – give me crustless cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, and scones with clotted cream and jam any day), we meandered over to the Sunken Garden, another London must-visit for me.  I love to gaze wistfully in – it’s roped off – and dream of how, if I was Duchess Kate, one way I’d exercise my royal prerogatives would be to talk my way into an afternoon of lounging inside the garden with a book and a pot of tea.

I love that there are flowers – bright, thriving, happy flowers – even in the chill of October in this garden.  It’s really as if it’s a magic garden, set apart from the rest of London and not having to follow our rules.  Maybe that’s why we humans can’t go in – it might break the spell.

And lastly, here’s a view of Kensington Palace.  (With my beloved Sunken Garden in the foreground.)  Isn’t it just magical?  If I was a British royal, this is certainly where I would want to live.

So there you have it – our first day in London.  A little fun for him, a little fun for her, and tea for two…

Come back next Friday for more London adventures.  In fact, we’re going to be here for a little while, so you may as well settle in and get comfortable.


12 thoughts on “London, Part I: His-n-Hers Day

  1. For your next trip (inevitable) you may wish to go up to Hampton Court, whose gardens are at even nicer than Kensington’s. If you’re a nut for tradition (admit it) you might take Henry VIII’s preferred transport–royal barge upstream on the Thames. Henry built the joint for his friend Cardinal Wolsey, but took it back when they stopped being BFFs. There’s a large clock on the exterior wall that displays the Thames tides, so the entourage knew when to load up the barge for the return trip.

  2. Wow! Loved this post – and loved the concept of ‘His-n-hers day’. 🙂 Oh, and I LOVED that tea!! You know, one of my bucket list items is to have English tea in London. 🙂 As you already know, I am crazy about all things English!

    Adopted you a baby humpback whale?! Awwww, that’s so very cute!

    LOL @ rubbing your shoulders and whispering the three magic words. 😛

    • You would love the Orangery! It’s so beautiful and peaceful… and the scones… delicious.

      Yes, it was so sweet that hubby adopted me a whale! Less sweet – the conversation I had with my mother about it. Went like this:

      Mom: Happy Birthday! Me: Thank you! Mom: What did your boyfriend get you? Me: He adopted me a whale! Mom: Oh, that’s great! Because your goldfish died.

  3. Pingback: London, Part VII: Portobello Road and Tea at Harrods « Covered In Flour

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