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Published: July 22nd 2009
The flat was clean, the linen was all washed and ready for the onslaught of Lara's family. As Australians in London it is almost a requirement to have family and friends staying on a permanent basis and we have been letting down the stereotype for the last few months. So Al headed to Tesco and bought out their supply of inflatable mattresses, thinking; if nothing else the house would be safer should anyone fall over. The first to arrive were Lara's Mum and Grandma; and after the compulsory tears at Heathrow and the rather amusing tube ride (it took them a little while to sort out how to get back out again) we were in for some serious sightseeing.
It is true that once you feel comfortable somewhere you stop seeing the sights and it just becomes 'home' and this encompasses the way we feel about London. We don't make much of an effort to see London, we travel to and from work on the tube and spend our weekends doing our best to get as far from the city as possible, so there are some great benefits of having guests. You are again forced to see the beautiful and
historic sights that this wonderful city has to offer and to see it through fresh eyes. We've found pubs that we didn't know existed, been to art galleries, gardens, shows and basically walked and walked and walked!
So what do you do on your first morning with Lara's Gran and Mum? Hit the markets!
Al could hardly contain his enthusiasm! We caught the bus (much more exciting then the tube - as you can sit up the top and watch the world go by) across London Bridge and up to our first stop Liverpool Street and the surrounding markets. We started with Petticoat Lane, had a quick wander through Brick Lane, the street famous for its Bangladeshi restaurants and ended with Spitalfields followed by the first of many pub lunches!
And then it was time for a change of scenery and time to see the big sights so we tubed it to Oxford Circus and walked down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus. It was raining briefly and the ladies took this as a sign that some shopping was necessary. We ended up spending quite a while looking in Zara before continuing our walk to Piccadilly Circus, past Pall
Mall and on to Nelson in Trafalgar Square. There were some Hari Krishna Celebrations happening in the Square and we managed to weave our way through the colour and noise for a view over the Square and down to the Houses of Parliament. We then walked down past the Horse Guard and were lucky enough to be walking past at exactly the right time for the Changing of the guard before continuing our walk via Number 10 Downing Street and then to Big Ben, the Thames and the House of Parliament. It was time to call it a day and after having walked more than 10 kilometres without any breaks the ladies needed to sit down and have a cup of tea!
The following few days were a whirlwind in which Lara's Mum and Gran entertained themselves during the day and had dinner with us in the evenings, before Gran headed off to Oxford to stay with her brother and his wife before their big party of the weekend. And then Aunt Jill arrived back from her UK travels to spend a few nights before heading back to the US. Jill and Viv hit the town during the day,
Hats on display
walking the Thames Path, watching the tennis and catching some Shakespeare at the Globe before yet another pub meal just down the road from our house.
It was then time to say goodbye to Jill whose holidays were over and Lara could finally take some time off (as she was previously assisting with a conference and was unable to). Lara and her Mum hit Kew Gardens on the hottest day in London for 3 years and walked for miles and miles and in and out of greenhouses. There was quite a lot of zig-zagging across the enormous park and Viv wanted to check the names of all the trees, so when they eventually got to Richmond for lunch at 3pm they were extremely thirsty, managing to polish off a huge jug of Pimms and a coke each!
The following day was Friday and we were on a mission, which was to find Liz and Pat (Lara's Great Aunt and Uncle) a 50th wedding anniversary present. We managed to combine this with a trip to Portobello Road Markets and left the markets with a crystal and silver decanter, flowers, food and fruit which we carried on the bus to
Lara's Mum, Viv and Gran, Colleen walking through the crowded markets
Covent Garden where we had a quick look around before going to the Bok Bar for some biltong
. We made a quick trip home to pack the bags for the weekend in Oxford before catching the Oxford Tube from Victoria. To Viv's amazement, a friend of Lara's was on the bus heading to Scotland via the Thornhill Park & Ride as were we.
We spent a lovely weekend in Oxford with Lara's Mum and Grandma for Liz and Pat's 50th wedding anniversary. They had a lovely party with lots of family and friends from around the UK and of course some from Australia, and it was really wonderful to see everyone together after some very long absences. It was however our third visit to Oxford and we are yet to see any of the sights so we will have to make a forth visit to Liz and Pat in the upcoming months.
We left Lara's Mum and Grandma in Oxford to spend some more time with Liz and Pat and to do some sightseeing and went back to work for a few days before the arrival of Lara's Dad, Pete on the Tuesday afternoon. Lara managed to squeeze
Outside a pub - it became a lunch time ritual to look for flowers!
in her first volunteering at the Clapham Youth Centre on the Monday night before the next few days were spent seeing more sights in London.
Pete's first outing in London was to a pub (when in Rome!) for a pub dinner and then the following day it was out to see old haunts. Pete and Viv lived in Chelsea in the 1970s and it was the first stop on their itinerary for the next few days. We saw their old flat and strolled through their old streets before stopping for yet another traditional British cuisine, the Cornish pasty. From Chelsea we walked through Sloane Square to Knightsbridge, past Lara's workplace, through Hyde Park and on to Oxford Street where we stuck our heads into Primark. We couldn't handle all the elbows, the throngs of people and the lines so we continued our walk down Oxford Street and then caught the bus home from Oxford Circus.
The following day our first priority was Westminster Abbey, which was amazing and worth the £15 entry fee. Aside from being a beautiful building, the history is extremely impressive with a large number of monarchs, poets, explorers etc all buried in the building
some as early as the 1200s. We were all interested to learn that Oliver Cromwell was originally buried in the Abbey but was dug up after two years, hanged and decapitated! We also saw the resting places of Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, numerous poets and authors and explorers such as David Livingstone. It is such an interesting place and would be on any must-see list of London sights we would draw up.
From Westminster Abbey we headed towards Leicester Square, having yet another pub lunch accompanied by cider, the Craig's British beverage of choice. And then it was on to buy tickets for one of the West End shows for that night. We settled on 'Jersey Boys', the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons which ended up being a great story and a fun night out.
We had one day left before Viv and Pete headed to Russia, and in the morning it was time for a visit to Heathrow - well it was time to see Lara's Gran off and for Pete to see Liz and Pat on his brief stop in the UK. We partook in yet another British tradition of having tea
before travelling to Pimlico for yet more cider and another pub lunch, and then to the Tate Britain for some British art including a very large selection of Turners.
It was then time for one final pub meal and one more bottle of Bulmers before Viv and Pete's jaunt in the UK came to an end and we were sad to say our goodbyes, but it was not quite the end for us! The following day saw us spending the day in Wimbledon and Clapham Junction with Louisa and Paul, friends from home who then stayed with us briefly. And it was amazing to see them as well, and again to see parts of London not known by us, and of course to drink more cider and to visit a few more pubs!
It was then that all the visits and fun in the capital came to an end and after months of constant trips and people wedged into our little one-bedroom apartment in Brixton, we contemplated how we would now fill our time. It was decided that we would do nothing; we would cook meals at home, stop visiting pubs and stop drinking cider....well at least until
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