Alright, I suppose I should elaborate a bit more on my first day in London.
My plane landed in London just a few minutes late if it’s scheduled time, and after going through customs (my first British queue!), I walked out of the departures area and there was Steph’s smiling face. She was kind and generous enough to meet me at the North terminal of Gatwick airport, with a hug and train ticket all ready for me. What a wonderful (and stress-free) way to be greeted. Steph, you could make some extra pocket money by just meeting London newbies at the airport and helping them get to their hotel.
First stop was Victoria Station, where we had a hearty, get-the-blood-flowing-again walk to a greasy spoon for a full English breakfast. Steph had done some research prior to my arrival and decided that this place was worth going to in order to complete that first London Bucket List item. The Regency Cafe was a glowing oasis of tiled floors, sturdy diner style tables and chairs and an owner (I’m assuming he was the owner) who was properly friendly, efficient, helpful and shouty all at once.
Steph ordered for the both us (because I am in an foreign country and can’t speak the language…? Nah. I was just worried about getting it wrong; “two breakfast deals, both with tom-AH-to and hash browns….Helen have you ever had black pudding?”
“You need to get out more!” said the shouty owner.
So we get two breakfasts, both with tom-AH-to, one with hash browns and one with black pudding. Tea for me. Coffee for Steph. Toast for everyone. And a cheeky smile for the Canadian who’s never had black pudding.
THIS is the meal I needed after that long flight. The bacon, the sausage, hash browns, black pudding, grilled tom-AH-to, egg and toast. Perfection! Anytime I come back to London, my first stop will have to be The Regency Cafe. Not too greasy, but so delicious and filling and satisfying. And I do not hate blood pudding. At least at The Regency Cafe. Steph said it was one of the better ones she’s had as well. The taste reminded me of liver pâté, just darker. And obviously made of blood.
Tummies full, we were in good time to make our way to Paddington Station and check in at the hotel. If I had been forced to, I could have found my convoluted way around on the tube, but I am eternally grateful to Steph for being my tour guide. She did a fabulous job of explaining to me what line we were on, why we were switching lines and how you could tell which way to go.
Checked in, rinsed off, chilled out for a bit (don’t nap, don’t nap, don’t nap!) and again headed out for the tube, this time in the direction of Richmond. I had a supper date with the one and only Emma.
It took just forty minutes to get to Richmond Station, so we got a Costa Coffee and waited for Emma. She arrived maybe 15 minutes later and my goodness…seeing all these people again is the best feeling. It’s one thing to keep in touch with long distance friends, but sometimes hard to believe you’ll actually see each other again. So I’m just trying absorb their faces into the recesses of my mind (metaphorically, of course!) and really try to enjoy this time we have together.
Miss Emma took us on her own walking tour of Richmond, pointing out familiar places from her childhood and where some celebrities had lived or do live.
The views from Richmond Hill were so…calming and peaceful. We could have just sat there for an hour, chatting and breathing in the fresh air.
We walked a bit further and found out that the Thai restaurant where we planned on having supper was closed…so last minute hungry decision led us to The Marlborough. We felt very fancy in this nice little restaurant with its vintage-looking upholstery fabrics and rust coloured plush booths. Not to mention they were promoting their Christmas menu, so we got to warm up with some complimentary mulled wine, which was really the only thing that would be acceptable to have after our long and breezy walk.
I had beef and beer pie, Steph ordered the chicken and Emma had a burger. Actually Emma had half a burger and half the chicken, Steph had the other half. Small technicality. Everything was delicious!
After catching up and laughing over the fact that Canadians call their dollar the LOONIE and what the hell is a Caribou (I mean…really though?), we headed out and made a stop at Sainsbury’s. I wanted to pick up a few breakfast items for the morning…and obviously every British cookie I had never tried (two big Hob Nobs and six little Jammie Dodgers).
We said our goodbyes to Emma (for now) and Steph helped me once again to get back to the right tube line, where I made it back safely after switching to the Central Line and riding for two more stops on my own.