There are no rules in England, only tradition. So Lady Jolie (who truly does have the title) tells me over high tea at Harrod’s.
Jolie is a friend of mine from Kansas City. even after only a week, it’s nice to spend the day with another American. Jolie has been with her husband, a proper Englishman, for the past 9 years. She moved to London only a year ago, but has spent plenty of time here and knows the city quite well. Today we met at Victoria Station, and she led me on a whirlwind adventure around London.
Our first stop was the National portrait gallery. It was fabulous. The half hour we spent there felt like barely 5 minutes. We saw the new portrait of Kate that had been unveiled only last week. There were many portraits of the royal family and royal families past throughout the museum, amidst the stellar collection of artists. Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed inside the museum with or without flash, but I did manage to sneak this this one in. I hope you recognize those handsome faces!
Our first real first stop was to find a wallet appropriate for this crazy British money. With bills all different sizes and most smaller denominations in coins, American wallets are significantly lacking. Jolie set me up for success with Cath Kidston. It’s an adorable store filled with durable bags in the cutest, very unique prints. “Boots,” their classed up version of CVS, was also an important stop. I had spent less than a pound on my shampoo and conditioner because I’d bought it at the time when I literally had 25 to last me the week. Between the cheap soap and the hard water, the situation was not pretty. I am so very glad to finally have some of the good stuff.
As soon as we had left the gallery, I completely surrendered all hope of knowing where we were. By the time we’d gotten the necessary shopping done, I was happily lost. I was trying to take in everything, all the sights, and had no time to pay attention to direction. Jolie took me through book alleys, theatre districts, street food markets, and all the many varied and fabulous shopping districts. I scored a program for the upcoming shows at the Royal Opera House, so I can plan to see as many as possible during my stay.
We even snuck into a little shop for cappuccinos and artisan chocolate, to start the afternoon off right.
It only got better from there. The shoes are incredible, the luggage and leather is fantastic, the cosmetics are outstanding, the bags are chic, and everything is classy. Jolie showed me where to find the top, fresh from the runway designer lines. The clothes blew my mind, as did the prices. Maybe someday when I’m rich and famous. On the other end of the spectrum, even the American chain stores like Guess, H&M, Gap, Victoria’s Secret, and even Forever 21 seem to be vastly improved.
Our next stop is the one I’ve been hearing about all my life. This one is for you, Mom!
Harrod’s was glorious. The diamonds and the designers were like nothing I’d ever seen. The Egyptian elevators were unreal. There was a life size statue of Cinderella, a pet store with adorable french bulldogs… and mice, shoes and jackets and food and everything in the world. Jolie surprised me with reservations for high tea at 3:00. Well, we made it a champagne tea. It was amazing. The each finger sandwich was better than the last. The scones with clotted cream, strawberry jam and rosewater jam were better than any I’d ever had. And the sweets… to die for. And the chandeliers were everything I ever wanted.
The whole day flew by. We came out of Harrod’s swearing we would never eat again, but time flew as we walked around London. It was actually refreshing to be outdoors, since it wasn’t so cold today as it has been this week. We saw the London Eye, Big Ben, the Thames, and all the very fancy places to live and dine. I hardly got any pictures at this point, since it was already dark outside. We went to a few other fabulous Harrod-like stores, my favorite being Liberty’s. It had a designer vintage section. I thought I’d gone to heaven.
I caught a late train back to Brighton. The exciting thing about the train passes is that, having purchased it during super-off-peak hours, I got a return ticked that included all London public transportation for only £20. Thursday is the going-out night over here, so there were lots of people on the streets. It felt plenty safe to walk home, and it had been a pretty straight shot to get there. What’s the worst that could happen? An adventure. And adventures are exciting.
It had only taken me 20 minute to get to the station this morning. However, when I set out tonight I must have gone in the exact opposite direction. I new things didn’t look quite the same, but I had been in such a hurry on the way there I was willing to accept that. It had also been a very long, very exciting day. But when I came to the ocean, I knew I was in trouble. The nearest ocean to where I lived was a good 45 minute walk. I started walking along the ocean front, hoping I’d get to something I’d recognize. I walked for a pretty long time before I realized that the chances of this were very slim. I approached a man (the only person around, at that point) who seemed pretty not-dangerous. Turns out, he was on his way home from salsa dancing. He confirmed my suspicions that I was indeed very far away from my little home, and pointed me toward a busier street where I might catch a cab—which I could have done in the first place, for approximately £6. Thanks to my “adventurous” whim, it was surely going to be more than that now.
Andy (that was his name) ended up just giving me a ride. I got home safe and sound, and made another new friend in the process. Although frankly, the jury’s still out… he called me Dorothy when he heard I was from Kansas City, and I don’t take to kindly to that. I’m from Missouri.
Today was the best I’ve had here, and I can’t imagine having a better one. I just want to say again, it couldn’t have happened without Jolie. I would not have found or recognized almost any of the wonderful things I saw today, and even if I had seen it all, it wouldn’t have been half as fun without a good friend to share it with. Thank you, Jolie! You’re wonderful.
I’m so happy, and to think that was just the overview of London! When I go back, we’ll go through all the museums, the Tower, and everything else. I can’t wait.
One last thing. My Nonnie is back in the hospital for the second time this month with a bad case of pneumonia. I’d like to ask you all to keep her in your thoughts and prayers while she’s on the mend. It always helps. Thank you!