England! What can I say? It was GORGEOUS. I had the absolute BEST time.
Aunt Crazy and huge hat; appropriate only for English weddings and Gospel Churches :)
I arrived at Heathrow on Saturday night *insert image from Love Actually here - 3 minutes into the video on this link, anyway!*, and we headed back to Sophie and Rupert's house in Brentford for a bottle of wine. Sunday morning Rupert made us a true English Breakfast (eaten with Brown Sauce or Ketchup but NOT syrup!) Then we headed to the Victoria and Albert museum for the afternoon. To top off the cultural experience of the day, we saw the new Indiana Jones film in Rupert's old neighborhood of Fulham, and then had dinner at Sophie's favorite Italian restaurant.
Monday was a Bank Holiday, so Rupert came with us to the National Portrait Gallery to see the "80 Years of Vanity Fair" exhibition that Sophie and I were so excited about. We had lunch in the Portrait Gallery in a very "posh" restaurant on the top floor that overlooked most of the London skyline, but more specifically, Trafalgar Square.
Then Rupert went home and Sophie and I tackled the National Gallery and the Courtauld Museum in the Sommerset House. It was a smaller museum, but I DEFINITELY understand why it is Sophie's favorite. It was stunning, and they had a really cool exhibition on "La Loge", which featured only art representing box seats at the theatre and the business of the theatre as THE social scene of hte 19th Century. (Yes, I bought a book!)
I think that was about it for Monday, so we came home and ate a light dinner in front of the TV in the new "Cinema Room." Last year, Sophie and Rupert tackled a major renovation in their London rowhome that involved LIFTING THE ROOF (yes, you read that correctly) to expand their loft space into a full bedroom and bath. It was gorgeous. I love their house.
On Tuesday, we headed to the British Museum in the morning. Then we just walked the streets of London gazing at all the poor saps who had to work that day. We had lunch at "Ye Olde London" pub on Fleet street, and I had my first bitter, London Pride... served at room temperature, naturally!
Then we saw St. Paul's Cathedral and walked across the Millenium Bridge to South Bank to take a look inside the Tate Modern, a new art museum that was renovated from an old, decrepit Power Station. It was really creatively done. We passed the Globe Theatre (reconstructed on the original site of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre of old!) and picked up a couple of Gelati's.
Then the GREATEST THING happened! Sophie turned to me and said "... and right over here was the house they used as Bridget Jones' flat for the movie." WHOA! Step aside Big Ben - we're talking BRIDGET JONES here!
So then we walked back across the London Bridge to tour the Tower of London. The BLING was incredible! I thought it was really clever how they'd instituted this system of human conveyor belts to make sure that the lines keep moving. (You can go back through the line again as many times as you want, too.)
We saw all of the infamous torture equipment (including a pair of thumb screws - yikes!), the various items of all of the different kings and queens, the gate that opens from the Thames river - giving prisoners their last view of freedom before the inevitable fate that followed their incarceration in The Tower, the scribbles of the prisoners on the wall, and - of course! - the site where Ann Boleyn (and several of Henry VIII's other wives) were hung.
Tuesday night we met a friend of Sophie's at Vertigo, a restaurant on the top floor of Tower 42. 590 feet above the Thames, drinking champagne whilst gazing on 360 degree views of the London skyline ... not too shabby. Not too shabby at ALL.
Wednesday was SHOPPING SHOPPING SHOPPING! I was introduced to Selfridges, and let me tell you, I am in love. (Don't tell my iPhone, who I've been seeing since March... shhhh.)
So what could be better to top off a day of shopping than tea at the legendary Fortnum and Mason? Sophie had made a reservation for us months ago, but only after trying to get into some of London's even more prestigious teahouses. One of my favorite Sophie quotes from the week:
"I'll believe there's a CREDIT CRUNCH when I can make a reservation for tea at Claridge's with less than 6 months' notice!"
Sophie and the famous Fortnum and Mason china
After floating away on four pots of tea and dozens of finger sandwiches, we took the tube over to Covent Garden / Picadilly to see ... get this ... the London production of ....
It was actually quite good! We loved the delivery of the famous lines, the spinning skirts, and the dashing Rhett Butler.
Thursday we headed out of town. On the way out, we stopped at Hampton Court. For those of you who have been religiously following The Tudors, this is the castle that Cardinal Wolsey built then later "gave" to Henry.
It was really a great way to spend the morning. The idea that this castle perpetually held 2,000 people - at a time when the wheat to make a loaf of bread was milled by hand - is truly incredible to imagine.
After dropping by Stonehenge for approximately 3 minutes (I know, I know, but honestly - it's a bunch of 5,000 year old rocks: How long does it REALLY take to absorb that??), we headed to Somerset to spend a wonderful evening and night at Rupert's parents' house. It was fun to stay in a 180 year old house in the country. Everything you'd picture, really!
Friday morning after a glorious stint at the Book Barn (SOOOO cool), we had lunch with the bride-and-groom-to-be at a pub just behind their house in Farrington Gurney. See below. Simon seemed to enjoy his last few moments of being in charge. :)
Samantha and Simon 24 hours before matrimony
The wedding was in Chewton Mendip and the reception was in Wells, the most adorable town you've ever seen. Excuse me! It is a CITY - the smallest city in Great Britain, by the way. What distinguishes a town from a city is the presence of a cathedral, and the Wells Cathedral certainly qualifies.
The sendoff of the new couple
After an immaculate reading of Corinthians I, Rupert in the car, I enjoyed doing the Hugh Grant moves to "Jump" from the Love Actually soundtrack in the car on the way to the reception.
The lovely bride and groom take on the first dance!
Simon and Samantha are in Bali now on their honeymoon, hopefully having a wonderful time!