Finally, right at the end of our European adventure, we made it back to the United Kingdom. Flying into London, we felt relieved by the prospect of no longer having to attempt to speak in a foreign language or use sign language to communicate. I guess you could say we were ready to re-enter the comfort zone!
In this instance, our ‘comfort zone’ was to become a small flat in Notting Hill where an energetic chocolate Labrador, Molly, awaited. Once again, the reliable, Trusted Pet-sitters website had delivered the goods and presented the opportunity to look after this pup for one week.
After having met and conversed with Molly’s owners over a laid-back stroll through Kensington Gardens, we were introduced to true English dog ownership etiquette – taking the dog to the pub! While we dined, Molly sat contentedly at our feet, continuously the subject of fellow pub-goers’ admiration.
The next afternoon, we moved into Molly’s owners’ one bedroom flat in Notting Hill with our furry flatmate who, as it turned out, was an absolute stickler for her schedule.
Over the next week, Molly promptly woke us at 6.30am for her morning walk and made noises when it was time for both her afternoon and evening outings. Being an apartment dog, her walks were also her necessary toilet breaks.
We didn’t mind adapting to Molly’s schedule though; if anything, it made our time in London incredibly active and productive. After our morning walks through the posh Kensington Gardens, Daniel and I would head into the city to explore the many attractions of London Town.
We made a trip to the Tower of London where one of Her Majesty’s official guards delighted in sharing a brief history of the site with unfaltering army-Sargent style oratory. We also wandered to the Houses of Parliament, perused Trafalgar Square and enjoyed Chai tea at the Borough Markets on South Bank.
Ogling the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London was, of course, a rather spectacular moment, yet what really stole the show for us was experiencing our first West End production. Daniel and I decided to go to an evening show of Disney’s The Lion King to celebrate his 26th birthday and, wow, what a brilliant decision it was!
The production was on at the Lyceum Theatre, one of the many theatre houses that make up London’s famous West End circuit. Having bought mid-range tickets, we were impressed to discover that we had an excellent, central view of the stage.
The Lion King proved to be a spectacular, professional performance with the production’s costuming and stage design both wondrous in themselves. We relished Rafiki’s performance and thoroughly enjoyed the character’s witty lines. Certainly, if you’re after a fun, uplifting and visually arresting show, The Lion King is for you.
West End aside, another attraction that won us over was The National Gallery. Now, to be honest, sometimes there does come a point when looking at museum-based art becomes overwhelming and, when you do not know a lot about the paintings on display, meaningless. Our guide at The National Gallery made art-indifference impossible.
Our guide (I really wish I could remember her name!), was an employee of The National Gallery, an enthusiastic Art Historian, and an absolute character! She took us on an hour and a half guided tour (which was free, by the way) to look at five different paintings from a range of historical periods.
Every painting we were shown was paired with the most fascinating stories. Our guide always managed to make her tales humorous by translating old-world thinking into modern-day terminology and by poking fun at outrageous representations within the paintings. She ignited a real sense of appreciation for every artwork we encountered.
We loved our guided tour of The National Gallery so much that we waited at the museum until our beloved guide was taking another, different tour. She did not disappoint!
At the end of each day, we would curl up on the sofa in the apartment, Molly squished between us. That bundle of chocolate fur just couldn’t resist making herself the centre of attention. When we took her out to walk, Children delighted in running up to pat her and people were always stopping to comment on how handsome ‘he’ was – Molly’s size definitely confused people with regard to her gender.
Daniel and I were beginning to see how so many Kiwis had made London their home. There was just so much to do here, and so many people to connect with! During our short stay, we met with three different couple-friends and one of Daniel’s old work colleagues. To think, we’d come this far to see people from our own little corner of the globe!
In merely a week, we’d ventured to the aforementioned sites, wined and dined in various pubs, checked out both the Camden and Portobello Road Markets, explored the British Museum, rode on multiple double-decker buses and watched the party antics of the Notting Hill Carnival unfold. And that’s not even everything!
As we drove away from Heathrow Airport in out hired Vauxhall, we reflected on our time in the Big Smoke. It had certainly been a whirlwind – a busy time filled to the brim with excitement and, well, walking. Now, we were ready for some downtime. The question was, would our next sitting-subject allow it? We were eager to meet Alfred the whippet to find out.