I woke on Day 1, unable to believe I was actually in London. Pretty sure I squealed before I even got out of bed.
But I did get out of bed. Fast. I ate breakfast (more on that here) and then I headed off in the general direction of Hyde Park. I say general direction because I knew it was south of me and stretched a bazillion miles east and west across the city, so unless I got completely twisted around, there was no way I wouldn’t run into it.
And I did. Ran right into it. Unexpectedly, even, because I was busy checking out the “area” around each townhouse I passed. (For info on the area, I’ll post a bit about London townhouses someday. Stay tuned!)
So I crossed Bayswater Road and smelled the entrance to Hyde Park before I realized where I was. That’s right, smelled it. Hyde Park is gated all the way around with little entrances here and there. I entered at the Westbourne Gate (I think), which was a little hilly path. On either side of the path were all sorts of blooming spring bulbs: tulips, daffodils, those spike-y ones I think are called hyacinths. And at the end of that path was A little brick lodge which (now that I am home and can look it up) is called the Buckhill Gate Lodge. I completely forgot to take a picture of the flowers because I was so stunned by the fact that I was entering Hyde Park! But I did get a picture once I crossed through, and if you look carefully to the right of the lodge you can see a few of the flowers.
At that point, I pretty much stopped breathing.
I could see the Serpentine.
The Italian Gardens.
Kensington Gardens weren’t far away.
Basically, I was standing right where my characters stood. Or rode, anyway, since when Lilias in In Bed With A Spy was in Hyde Park she was on a horse both times. [I don’t ride horses, btw, because I tried that once and was bruised for weeks.]
Also, now that I’ve been to Hyde Park, I’d probably write those scenes a bit different. Ah, live and learn, no?
Looking back, it’s just a park. Grass, buildings, flowers, tourists. It shouldn’t be as exciting as I thought it was. Yet for me the excitement was twofold–I was standing in the same spot my characters would have stood 200 years ago, and I finally get to see a place I’ve read about for years. I set off that morning ready to experience–not learn, but experience. Every scent of flowers or sun-warmed earth, the breeze in my hair, the weak sunshine on my face, the crunch of gravel under my very used tennis shoes, the unleashed dogs orderly jogging beside their owners and the construction workers who saw the park as a job rather than a feast of the mind and soul–all of these and more will be imprinted on my soul.
I wandered the park for hours, breathless, taking pictures of EVERYTHING and looking exactly like a stupid tourist. I didn’t care in the least! I photoed the Italian Gardens from every angle, went into a little Grecian-looking structure (turns out it’s called Queen Anne’s Alcove), and then I sat down to journal next to a huge stone statue of a guy I knew nothing about .
April 14, 2016 9:00 am
I’m sitting in frickin’ Hyde Park. I’m at the fountains at the head of the Serpentine River. Beside me is a stone gentleman by the name of Jenner. I don’t know who he is, but the snake on a stick medical thingy is on the side of his chair.
The bench I’m sitting on says:
For the love of the Park
Dany and Phillip Bandawil
I wonder who they were. Did they sit here often? Dream here?
On the north side of these fountains is a lovely stone building with a wrought iron fence on the roof. [The Alcove] How long has it been here?
It’s peaceful, with the water running in the fountains, the sounds of the city faded away. There are ducks and tourists, locals and construction workers. And the vague scent of fishy water.
Off to explore and find the museum.
The museum, by the way, was the Victoria & Albert Museum, which has a fantastic fashion and jewelry exhibit. That was supposed to be my destination that day. I did eventually make it, two and a half hours later. (!) In between, I…
Followed the Serpentine, got super excited about trees, found a closed museum, got distracted by something shiny, realized I was completely lost, found the Princess Diana Memorial, took a sweaty selfie, crossed the road and managed not to die [I kept checking the wrong side of the road for oncoming traffic], stood on the Jubilee Steps, got lost again and walked around the same roundabout over and over until I found the museum.
Eventually I ended up back in Hyde Park again, first in a little garden spot, and later just sitting in grass. It was better, actually, than the morning trip, because by now people were out of work and taking the evening air. So I journaled again about my day.
April 14, 2016 5:07 pm Hyde Park Again, somewhere on the SW corner
I’m utterly in love with this little spot. Yellow tulips and something else that looks like yellow bells are blooming. Between them are low purple flower with cheerful yellow centers. Behind me I hear the road, but in front of me there is only birdsong.
There is an arbor here that you can walk under. I imagine by midsummer it will be full of trailing blooms.
I will be moving on soon to Park Lane, but for now, I’m going to sit in the sun a moment and imagine Hyde Park in 1810. It wouldn’t be developed, but people would have sat here just the same.
April 14, 2016 6:00 pm
Walked down Park Lane, then cut across Hyde Park. I’m bushed! Need sustenance!
But first, impressions Day 1:
London is a mix of old, new and older. It is also a melting pot of races, cultures, young, new, traditional, crazy. If you want it, it’s here.
The locals seem to walk everywhere, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of joggers! Also, dogs. And none of them are on leashes. They are all very well trained. It must be an unspoken rule!
I made the rounds today, getting lost a number of times. I started in Hyde Park, the Italian Gardens, and followed the Serpentine.
The Serpentine started at the Italian Gardens, which were lovely. I entered Hyde Park through a gate bordered on either side by blooming spring flowers. Bulbs, tulips, crocuses, larkspur. Smelled heavenly!
Hyde Park in the morning was damp, with a pretty gray light. I found a statue of Peter Pan, and took a picture of a whomping willow. Really. It looked ready to whomp.
NOTE: I didn’t journal about seeing Princess Diana’s Memorial, but I did find it. I believe it is a called an infinity fountain, and it was right on the shore of the Serpentine. It was lovely, and a little sad, too. I remember being enamored with her as a child. I even had Diana paper dolls!
I found the Serpentine Gallery but was 10 minutes early. They wouldn’t let me in! I saw in the distance a gold steeple glinting in the dull morning light, almost like the sun—it was so bright! (More later)
When I came to the other side of Hyde Park, I had intended to go left, east, but I was distracted by two things.
First, Rotten Row. I had walked right over it without realizing it. So I went back, snapped a selfie and imagined myself in a smart military style riding habit.
Second, the shiny gilt spire. I ended up at Albert’s Memorial, then found Albert’s Royal Hall.
NOTE: When Albert died, Queen Victoria mourned him by wearing black for the next 40 years. That’s both awesome and horrifically sad.
I meandered around to the left and rear of that and discovered “mansions” (self-styled and OMG, 7-8 stories!) and then QEII Julibee Steps and Statue.
Then I got lost at the Tunisian consulate, then the UAE consulate, and the Royal College of London. Eventually I made it to the V&A!
I walked back through Hyde Park, Park Lane, Brounten area. What a conglomeration of cultures. Lebanese, Mediterranean, Arabic, French shops, clothing shops, Patisseries.
Park Lane was a little disappointing. Too modernized. But there are gems such as Apsley House & Grosvenor House. I shall save those for Sunday after Spencer House. Along with the rest of Mayfair.
Hyde Park was different in the afternoon. Brighter, and more populated with locals. Joggers, dog walkers, but also people just sitting in the grass, having a picnic. If only we knew how to relax in the sun in a huge park in America!
I sat there for about 30 minutes, half-amazed I was even in London, half-amazed at the unattended dogs wandering all over the park, and half-amazed (I know, that’s three halves) at all the wonderful things I’d seen that day.
I was in flippin’ Hyde Park, y’all!
A few more random pics:
And therein lies the tale of author lost in Hyde Park. More on the museum trip and the cathedral I went to later. And more on the lovely woman I met in Hyde Park.
Next up, I get in trouble in the jewelry section of a museum and then spend an hour talking to the security guard about everything from Geiger counters to politics.
Alyssa, today i’ve been rather melancholy but reading your description of your London adventure has been an absolute joy! You painted delightful word pictures that brought me right out of my blue funk. The photos are a wonderful bonus. Thanks for sharing.
Oh, Loralee, I’m glad I couldn’t brighten up your day!
Sounds so awesome! I was there in June of 2013 (3rd time to London, but 1st in Hyde Park) and I was just as excited and amazed – Rotten Row really exists and I was there! The flowers were all in bloom at that time and your descriptions brought it all back for me. Thanks so much for sharing. 😊💐
So glad you got a chance to London! It’s simply amazing to stand where people have stood for a 1000 or more years–and for me, I got to see what I’d been writing about for ages.
I kept giggling and had to read some to Steve so he’d know what I was giggling about. I enjoy these so much!
LOL! If you want so good giggles, just wait until I tell you about crying in the airport. Jeez. I was a mess!
This is a wonderful post, Alyssa. Loved the pictures with no names. I’ve done that, too (taken pictures then couldn’t remember what they were of). I love your observations. And to stand where your characters stood had to be a great feeling. I hope you’ll write more of your trip.
I’ve been writing about London for so long, used Google maps and Wikipedia Commons and Google searches to tell me what it was like–finally going was amazing!
I remember the Diana paper dolls! Very much enjoying these blogs… I’m fairly certain I can visualize you doing all the things you write about. 🙂
Those paper dolls were at Grandma’s house–it was the only place I played with them, so you know how special they were!