London: A Glimpse of Autumn
Will and I had only two nights in London before heading to the countryside.
We had been to London in the spring of 2013—a time in which I had an exceptionally short haircut.
So we didn’t feel compelled to run around to visit all of the quintessentially London must-see sites.
Not having to rush, or feel compelled to see the iconic tourist destinations.
I liken it to living in DC for nearly a decade, in which Will and I have only seen the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin once. You can ascertain so much more of a city’s energy from the local neighborhoods and eateries.
I’ve come to truly appreciate this deeper dive we’ve been doing this year in places we’ve glossed over in the past.
My first impression of London was: FALL! The air was crisp and by early October, it felt like peak foliage.
Second impression was the reversal of traffic laws. Fortunately, there were constant reminders.
When we arrived to London in the early evening, we had plans to meet up with an English couple we met at our first hostel this year in Fiji.
Although we only grabbed a few beers with them at the Bamboo Backpackers Hostel, it felt meaningful since they were the first couple we really hit it off with. It was the beginning of both of our adventures. And we vowed to meet up when we made our way to London this year. We decided on The Mall Tavern, since he said they make a “bloody good burger.” Sold.
The interior was super cozy, as we squeezed into a booth.
It certainly felt like a proper British pub. Especially when we started with a Scottish egg made in-house.
We had an absolute blast catching up, and comparing stories of backpacking through Southeast Asia.
We also chatted about how nostalgic I felt for fall upon landing in London. Pumpkin everything season, the leaves, the beginning of the holidays, I just love it.
However, a couple hours later, he finally confessed he had no idea what I was talking about. He quite literally thought I was referring to falling. We finally clarified, the term I was searching for was: Autumn.
The following morning, Will and I were so ready to explore the fall feels. We stayed in the Astor Kensington Hostel, adeptly named since it’s located in Kensington.
As soon as we entered Hyde Park, we quickly realized it was our first time.
As the largest royal park in London, it was established in 1536 when the land was used by the king for hunting.
It wasn’t until 1637, that the park was open to the public.
Hyde Park is absolutely massive, covering roughly 350 acres.
Plus, the Kennington Gardens add an additional 275 acres.
We passed by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, in the southwest corner of Hyde Park.
Also by the Peter Pan statue, since J.M. Barrie's stories, including Peter Pan, were largely inspired by the Kensington Gardens.
There’s something truly majestic about London in October.
Perhaps it was because I was yearning for an American fall. And this was as close as we were going to get this year.
Will and I were careful not to repeat what we’ve previously explored in London.
We walked around Notting Hill in West London, appreciating the curated homes and charming architecture.
We staked out Buckingham Palace, watching the changing of the guards.
However, we spent most of the afternoon exploring St. James Park, to the east of Buckingham Palace.
The manicured park has a small lake with two islands. When looking east from the Blue Bridge towards Horse Guards, there’s a picturesque view of Whitehall Court.
Oddly enough, there’s a small colony of pelicans, which apparently were donated by the Russian ambassador in 1664. It was certainly a bizarre sight, prior to knowing the backstory.
Not quite acclimated to the bite in the air, we warmed up with some pots of tea and pastries at St. James’s Café.
We didn’t have set plans in the evening, so on a whim we decided to see a show.
The musical is based off of Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s book, holding the record for most Olivier Awards won by a musical. And understandably so.
The adaptation was unbelievable. The set production and the talent of these young kids was tough to comprehend. There were some dark undertones, but preformed with a certain levity.
I walked out of the show in London that evening feeling everything you should after seeing a musical: impressed, uplifted, inspired.