Sunday, December 8, 2013
For today, Sister #2 is meeting up with us at Premier Inn and we’re planning to purchase a single day Underground fare for use within zone 1 which is around central London. It’ll allow us to check out the different districts around town; we’ll walk around and explore whatever comes up.
The Premier Inn is located in the London Borough of Islington behind a large shopping center; N1 Centre-Islington. For the holidays, they have a Giant Snow Globe in the open plaza area where anyone can climb inside for a unique festive photo experience.
Around the corner from N1, we happen upon the daily Islington street market on Chapel Market. Local vendors are selling everything from farm fresh fruit/produce to seafood, spices, fresh made Panini’s, clothing and other specialty items. They even have Xmas trees for sale with a natural tree trunk as a base.
For breakfast, we stop at the Euphorium Bakery for coffee and tea. I ordered the fruit scone comes with fresh jam and clotted cream-it’s absolutely delicious! It’s nice to sit outside and simple enjoy the lively festivities of the local market.
From Islington, we take the tube from the Angel Station to Covent Garden. Sister #2 is going off on her own to the British Museum while we prefer to stay outdoors for more sightseeing. The Covent Garden Station is one busy place; there are no escalators; only lifts and stairs. People are packed like sardines waiting in line for the lifts, so we decide to take the stairs. For me it was a wonderful way to exit the station but for some it was a struggle. You see, it’s an old Victorian spiral staircase with 193 steps; folks are huffing and puffing and stopping along the way. Parents with baby strollers were having difficulties carrying them up the long flight of stairs!
The pedestrian street leading out from the station to Covent Garden is jammed packed with people! Street performers and food hawkers occupy much of the public square.
The Central Market houses many retail shops, restaurants and cafes. The indoor open courtyard is a food court with different food options. We had a serving of freshly made paella with chicken and mussels-delicious!
Crowds of people are gathered around the Public Square enjoying the outdoor music and other street performers. Anyone can sing along with the lyrics from the famous American song “YMCA” by the Village People. “Young man, there’s no need to feel down. I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground. I said, young man ’cause you’re in a new town. There’s no need to ne unhappy. It’s fun to stay at the YMCA…….” Life is great-it’s wonderful to watch people having fun!
The Jubilee Market Hall houses vendors selling a rich diversity of antiques, jewelry and other arts and crafts items.
We leave Covent Garden and head east along the Strand; a major thoroughfare in the City of Westminster; an Inner London Borough. Here we see older narrow building squeezed in between newer ones. The Adelphi Theatre and Vaudeville Theatre are located next to each other.
This area is also the Heritage Route 15 for the historic classic red Routemaster double decker bus; the line runs from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill. The buses can be seen going up and down the Strand-very cute!
We turn around on the Strand and head west to Trafalgar Square; the largest square in London and is considered the heart of the city.
This open public square houses the National Gallery; an art museum with a massive collection of paintings. In and around the square, you’ll see Nelson’s Column, the bronze Landseer Lion, statues of King George IV and James Napier.
The Trafalgar Square Fountain is being used as a Memorial site for Nelson Mandela with many candles, flower and plant bouquets surrounding the round base. There’s also a statue of a giant blue cockerel adorning a plinth next to Nelson’s Column.
St. Martin-in-the-Fields sits at the NE corner of the square; it’s one of the most famous churches in London.
We continue walking north on St Martin’s Pl to Irving St; a pedestrianized shopping street that leads to Leicester Square.
The holiday brings a lot of joy and festivities to the city streets; Leicester Square has become a Christmas Funfair complete with a Ferris wheel, carousel, carnival games and foods! It’s a delight to see this in the middle of the city!
Sister #10 invites me for a ride on this small Ferris wheel; why not? We can see the views of the city from above-fabulous!
From Leicester Square, we make our way down Swiss Ct to Picadilly Circus; a partly pedestrianized area with large electronic billboards, a smaller version of New York’s Time Square. For the holidays, the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain with the statue of Eros has been turned into a giant snow globe!
The pagoda style gates on Dansy Pl welcomes us into Chinatown with auspicious red lanterns beautifully hung along Dean St. We stop for some Chinese dim sum at Kowloon Bakery. We each pick out our favorite snacks; a fried sesame ball and pork dumpling, a custard tart and a sponge cake-yummy!
We meander through Chinatown checking out the many different types of restaurants and shops.
We stop for another favorite snack; light and airy goldfish shaped puffed cakes-another good thing!
Another snack stop is on the way after we see fresh pork dumplings being made in the window of Dumpling King. We HAVE to order a bowl to share-good choice because the dumplings are absolutely divine! Next time, we’ll order them fried with a crispy bottom.
As we’re walking away from Chinatown, we notice a long line at the Chinese Community Center; a few questions later, we learn that there is a book signing for a newly published book on Bruce Lee followed by a movie about the famous Shaw Brothers. Sister #3 is a big fan, so we urge her to stay-we’ll be back to pick her up in 4 hours. In fact, we already scheduled to meet up with Sister #2 at the British Museum so we have to go.
The walk back to Leicester Square and Picadilly Circus is just gorgeous with holiday lights everywhere! Regent St is just as festive with ornate lights spanning across the retail buildings.
We take the tube to Russell Square and this station only has lifts and stairs, so we take the 171 steps up the spiral staircase to the exit.
Tonight’s dinner is at Bibimbab Café on Museum St. Sister #10 orders the Korean Style Beef with rice & soup. Sister 310 and I order the Dolsot Bibimbab set with soup & kimchee. It was all very reasonable priced and tasted great!
We return to Chinatown to pick up Sister #10 and ended up sitting in on a mashup movie of Chinese King-Fu moves. It was both hilarious and surreal to be watching it!
Another great day in the bag! Tomorrow, we need to be up bright and early to catch the Eurostar to Paris.