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European travel journal – Day 5: Harrods, Victoria & Albert Museum, Kensington, and afternoon tea

Wellington arch

I was crammed up against an Indian man in a business suit and trying not to bump my nose on the hardback novel a woman next to me was reading when I came up with a piece of advice none of the guidebooks mentioned: Do NOT ride the tube at 9:15 in the morning if you can help it.

After my fellow sardines and I arrived at Hyde Park Station, I took a look at the Wellington Arch and Aspley House and then walked towards Harrods. The perfumes, clothes and jewelry were of no interest to me. Instead, I headed straight for the food hall aka the Dionysian feast of abundance

Harrods

They have practically anything and everything you could ever want to eat and never knew you wanted to, like ostrich eggs.

Ostrich egg

I got some mint chocolate gelato, and then had to vacate the premises to eat it. I’m not sure if this is because Harrods didn’t want me getting their floors sticky, or if it’s because in Britain they charge you a smidge more if you dine in rather than carry out. They gave me a teeny-tiny plastic spoon, which you could use to feed a guinea pig. I thought it was comical at first, but then found it be practical for making me eat slower. I found some chairs outside a Mexican restaurant and finished most of it before the owner came out and heavily implied I should leave. I went across the street to a Pret a Manger which is a popular chain selling fresh, ready-made meals. There appears to be a Pret a Manger on every street corner, and while they all claim to have free wi-fi, this location’s wi-fi actually worked at a tolerable speed, so I checked up on some emails and confirmed my lunch date that evening.

I hadn’t visited any museums in London yet, unless you count the Tower of London, and most of them are free, so I checked out the Victoria & Albert Museum which I loved, loved, loved. The thought of museums does not typically tickle my willy, but the V&A displays clothing, silverware, jewelry, stained glass and more, items I find interesting to gaze at. The museum is small enough that I didn’t feel like I’d left half of it unexplored, but it’s also large enough that I didn’t see everything. The jewelry was displayed in a black room so the necklaces, rings, and bracelets sparkled brilliantly against the background. The silver wing was so shiny I felt blinded. The oddest exhibit by far was a recreation of Kylie Minogue’s dressing room.

I know you've always wanted to know what Kylie Minogue's dressing room looked like

For lunch I ate a Cornish pasty which is like a Hot Pocket except it tastes good. It fueled me for the guided walk of Kensington led by London Walks. This turned into the “places where dead writers used to live” tour. We saw the houses of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf. These are easily found because they put blue plaques on houses where famous people lived. I saw down on a wall to rest when the tour guide said, “This wall is getting it’s own blue plaque soon because Sylvia Plath and her husband used to write here.” My butt has been where Sylvia Path’s butt has been!

We headed towards Kensington Palace when our guide got serious for a moment. “Do NOT point your cameras at the Israeli embassy. You are not allowed to photograph it and the two men with automatic weapons at the front door will confiscate your camera and never give it back.” I shoved my camera deep into my purse and didn’t take it out again until we were out of sight of the embassy.

Tea! And sugar!

I feet hurt by the end of the two-hour tour, so I took the tube to Bea’s at Bloomsbury where you can get afternoon tea for only 5 or 8 pounds. Afternoon tea or high tea is a fancy pancy British name for the occasion of stuffing your face with pastries in the afternoon and washing them down with tea. My treats were served on a cute double-decker cookie platter. I had meringues, brownies, scones with cream and jam, and a chocolate cupcake. I would show you a picture of this sinful platter, but my camera battery chose that moment to lose all electrical charge. This is also why I cannot show you a picture of the street sign that said “Humps.” (It means speedbumps.)

I dropped to the floor of my hostel room because my back HURT. My lower back does not approve of my new habit of carrying a bag around town all day. I lied on the floor for 15 minutes, but had to rollover and get up because I could not do a sit-up to save my life. Then I was off again, across the Millennium Bridge to Wagamama, a Japanese restaurant, where I had dinner with Kristin and her husband who are friends from Indianapolis. Oddly enough, our schedules overlapped, and it was nice to see an American who could explain to me that yes, London does not serve traditional brewed coffee. The closest you can get to that is an Americano. This makes me infer that Mr. Coffee does not do a lot of business in London since they only use Cappuccino or Espresso machines.

They walked me back over the Thames to the hostel and I commented on how narrow the Thames is. It’s a good size river and could easily kill me if I fell in it, but I lived in Louisville, Kentucky for 8 years and the Thames ain’t got nothing on the Ohio River. Compared to the Mississippi, it’s just a crick. When I reached my hostel I was ready to take my shoes off, which were binding my hot, damp feet. I crawled into bed knowing I’d seen what I’d really wanted to see. When I woke up the next morning, I thought London, you are lovely, but I think it’s time we started seeing other cities. I hear Paris looks lovely today. I’ll go check it out.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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15 Comments

victoria • May 15, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Yay! Here’s to a great Paris visit!

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Elizabeth • May 15, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Glad that you’re having a great time, I’m impressed with all that you’re doing!

ALSO, I’m from TN, and I’ve gotta say: I love that you used “crick.”

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Robby Slaughter • May 15, 2009 at 6:25 pm

You are making me relive my own Europe trip, so now I have to go dig my blog out of the archives:

All that was stored in the Crystal Palace, plus another century of collections, now resides in the V&A museums. These galleries pay tribute to craftsmanship and ingenuity, marking off millennia of creations built by human hands at any human scale. Whole galleries present furniture, pottery, or musical instruments, divided by culture and epoch. Sculptures and discarded tools here seem transplanted, in situ, from their native environments, profoundly important but utterly unknown. Even the great gallery rooms with giant Greek and Egyptian facades lifted from faraway palaces feel powerfully accessible. These are the plaster copies prepared by foreign envoys and shipped home, so the Crown’s every subject could gaze upon the weird and magnificent without the disquieting pretext of extreme wealth. If the curators hoped to make strange cultures less alien and the enormity of civilization fondly palatable, this visitor rejected their advances. My strolls through Iranian textiles and jade combs from Korea grew more laborious with each step. These were entire histories, traditions, religions and ideologies leering out like a gallery of my personal ignorance. The more one sees, the more one sees they do not know.

I miss travel! Keep it up, Jennette!

@robbyslaughter

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Joan • May 16, 2009 at 4:20 am

I sincerely hope you don’t have a willy to tickle. Gives a whole ‘nother meaning to the title “Pasta Queen”…

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Sophia • May 16, 2009 at 11:48 am

I love your blog. you’re one of the most wittiest and smart-ass (in a good way) writers I’ve ever read :-)

And I like that you headed straight for the food halls. That’s what I would have done, too. Those ostrich eggs have got my eyes boggling, and reminiscing about the recent TopChef season.

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Nina • May 16, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Paris is beautiful. You are going to love walking around there.

If you get the chance to go to Barcelona, do it. :) My family is Catalan so I can give you a list all sorts of things to see in the area.

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Merry • May 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm

@Joan – I did wonder about that, but I wasn’t going to ask. Maybe she just threw the comment out, willy nilly, to faze us.

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A Canadian Reader • May 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Paris makes my heart melt. Have a great time there.

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Jeanne • May 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I’ve never been to Europe and find reading about it from you fun and informative. Enjoy Paris!

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Kyle • May 16, 2009 at 3:42 pm

How are you finding time in between all your touring to blog about this?!?

I mean, please, don’t stop. I love it.

(That sounded sexual, I’m sorry).

I’m just amazed!!!

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Carolyn • May 16, 2009 at 10:50 pm

My husband called the Victoria and Albert Museum the “crap-seum”. He hated it but I liked looking at the old clothes and assorted chotchkies from bygone times.

What a fun trip you are having. I can’t wait until I can re-do our London/Paris trip again.

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Jane • May 17, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Beas of Bloomsbury, well done for finding that! I have to sort of pretend it does not exist because it is about 300yds from my office, and I would be at serious risk of daily cupcake intake. So I make the occasional visit when I need to buy treats to reward my team… I did not miss your visit however as I was not working on Friday!

On to Paris next you lucky girl. Enjoy!

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melman • May 18, 2009 at 10:22 am

Re: Humps

My high school (in central PA) had signs warning drivers of HUMPS. In four years, not a day went by that someone on the bus didn’t talk about the speed humps.

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Liz • May 28, 2009 at 11:18 am

I absolutely LOVED your account of your trip! Especially the British bit – I am from Liverpool. The coffee thing made me luagh – you have to ask for ‘filter’ coffee and that means properly brewed coffee – and this sentence in particular

“The thought of museums does not typically tickle my willy, but the V&A displays clothing, silverware, jewelry, stained glass and more, ”

HAHAHA Tickle My willY!! what the heck does that mean in America because it’s quite rude here! Thanks for your insight into this country!!!

love Liz x

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alesbica • July 11, 2009 at 1:37 pm

I love your style of writing. Your posts are making me want to go back to Europe. *le sigh*

I also find what you wrote interesting:

“I was crammed up against an Indian man in a business suit and trying not to bump my nose on the hardback novel a woman next to me…”

It’s interesting that you mentioned the ethnicity of the man but did not mention the ethnicity of the woman. I would assume she was Caucasian since it wasn’t mentioned. I could be wrong, however. Just an observation.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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The Making of CHOCOLATE & VICODIN
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