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On the Road – London: Mele e Pere (the best meal I had in town)

On the Road – London: Mele e Pere (the best meal I had in town)

The best meal I had in London was at Mele e Pere (a London trattoria in SOHO), courtesy of my savvy U.K.-based friend and business partner. He’s Italian by birth, and much of his family still lives in Italy. His restaurant choice proves he knows the sustenance of his people. It was really special, all around.

Amazing food aside, they had homemade vermouth. I had never partaken, but had a glass with our starters and it was delicious. Amazing food and homemade vermouth aside, the space was sharp. You enter upstairs are are greeted with a wall of colorful glass apples (mele) and pears (pere) and a few hightop tables. When you descend the stairs (Gorgeously tiled stairs, I might add. Sad I didn’t get a photo.), you are greeted by a rustic sideboard that doubles as the cashier’s station. To the right, there’s a fully stocked bar. And just ahead, are a number of rustic table tops and industrial stools and chairs. Exactly my design taste. I wanted to make an offer to take all the furnishings and decor home with me. Considering a regular suitcase is at least $25 to check, bringing furniture from London to Portland would have been *slightly* cost prohibitive. (Never mind crazy.)

If you’re ever in town, I highly recommend a visit! You won’t be disappointed.

 

On the Road – London: Hyde Park

On the Road – London: Hyde Park

After my quick run through of Hyde Park Corner, I headed across the street to Hyde Park and took, quite possibly, the shortest stroll possible through this iconic park. I Googled a map of Hyde Park upon my return home, and viewing the map full size on my 13-inch MacBook Pro screen, I covered about a pinky’s worth of ground all told. Haha. To give you a more realistic sense of just how short my stroll was: There are 90 markers along the seven-mile Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. I saw ONE of those markers. Haha. Granted, the markers stretch through a few nearby Royal Parks, but the fact that I only saw one in Hyde Park speaks to the size of this particular park and how very little I was able to explore. Just another reason to keep London on our future vacations list, right? 🙂

Still, despite my quick tour, I was able to see how lovely Hyde Park is and why it is so celebrated and enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

A few pictures from my brief walk:

 

On the Road – London: Iced Tea

On the Road – London: Iced Tea

Before traveling to London, I asked Kenny for some tips since he heads to the UK fairly often for work. One of the things he told me was that ‘iced tea’ isn’t a thing, and that ice in drinks, generally, wasn’t hugely popular.

So I said, “If I order a water, they bring me water in the glass, no ice?” He said, “Right.” “How about a soda?” (I don’t know why I cared about this since I rarely drink soda, I guess I just wanted to prove the theory out.) He said, “Right, they just bring you a soda in the glass without ice.” I said, “What if I want ice?” He said, “Ask and see what happens.” Haha. I guess he didn’t find this as curious as I did.

Anyway, by the time I got to London, I was so excited just to be there that I forgot some of his drink tips. When I arrived at a lunch meeting on my first ‘office’ day in town, I was excited when I saw a pitcher of what seemed to be iced tea, albeit iced tea that appeared to be on the weaker side of things. I hadn’t had a morning coffee, and was needing some caffeine.

So I grabbed a few things to eat from the display, poured myself a glass of ‘iced tea’, sat down and took a giant swig. Hmmmm. Not quite the crisp, unsweetened refreshment of iced tea. It was cloying, but familiar. Yet, I couldn’t quite place it, so I took another sip. It was: APPLE JUICE! Hahahahahaha. Oh my gosh – who would have guessed?! I mean, really – I haven’t been in a meeting where apple juice was served in a pitcher as a lunch time beverage since I worked in day care during college and I didn’t realize apple juice was a popular enough beverage amongst adults to serve at business meetings on the lunch buffet.

Funny, right?

So, fellow iced tea lovers who travel to London – be warned: if you see something that looks like iced tea, it’s probably just wishful thinking in the form of apple juice. (On the positive side, you’ll be transported right back to childhood if you grab a glass. 😉 )

On the Road – London: A Run-Through (Literally) of Hyde Park Corner

On the Road – London: A Run-Through (Literally) of Hyde Park Corner

After visiting the WWII Royal Airforce Bomber Commander memorial, I crossed over to Hyde Park Corner and strolled around before heading to Hyde Park. Hyde Park Corner seems to be a home to memorials – lots of interesting sculptures to be admired. I’d definitely want to spend more time there if I am lucky enough to get back to London some day. I know I missed a lot of finer details in the sculptures during my own mini-marathon through Hyde Park Corner on my way to Hyde Park. I also rushed while taking pictures, so I likely missed some better angles. What can I say? Sunlight was dwindling, and I wanted to see as much as possible before heading into conference rooms for the next few days – haha.

The Southern Stand – New Zealand War Memorial – I didn’t venture close to these statues, however, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had. Each of the 16 cross-shaped bronze standards contains text, images and mini-sculptures to reflect the bond between New Zealand and the United Kingdom and images that reflect the relationship between the two nations. A New Zealand Defence Force newsletter commemorating the dedication of the statue beautifully explains its construction:

“Ten of the Memorial’s standards form an angled grid with a ‘leader’, which contains the dedication text and is the site for laying wreaths. Each standard is formed from two intersecting plates of bronze and, when seen from above and afar, the sculptures appear like a series of crosses hanging in the air. The other six standards are positioned to form the shape of the Southern Cross. At night their tops will be illuminated so that the crosses look like the southern cross indicating the compass direction south – pointing the way home for wandering Kiwis.”

Pretty cool.

Australian War Memorial – dedicated to to over 100,000 Australian service people who died in World War I and World War II. I found this memorial particularly beautiful and thoughtful – curved and semicircular, it wrapped around the far edge of the park like a hug. From afar, it simply looks like names of battles in which the Australians were involved, but as you approach, the true specialness of the design shows through: the names of the battles are created from the names of over 23,000 towns in which the soldiers were born. It was awesome.

Wellington Arch – built in the latter half of the 1820s, it was originally a gateway to the Palace Gardens as an acknowledgement of the Duke of Wellington’s victories over Napoleon. I was particularly interested in this arch and the accompanying Duke of Wellington statue – the street I grew up on in Philadelphia was Wellington Street. Such a strong bond / connection ;). Seriously though, when I saw the name, it immediately transported me to my childhood home and accompanying fond memories.

I also particularly liked the statue adorning the top of Wellington Arch: Peace Descending on the Chariot of War.

It was really stunning in person.

 

On the Road – London: Royal Air Force Bomber Command Memorial

On the Road – London: Royal Air Force Bomber Command Memorial

While on my mini-walking tour of the Buckingham Palace area, I walked through Green Park and happened upon the Royal Air Force Bomber Command Memorial. A newer memorial – dedicated on June 28, 2012, it is a lovely tribute to  over 55,000 British and ally aircrew.

I was taken by the fact that even today, just about 69 years after World War II ended, visitors had left flowers, prayer cards and little notes to honor service men for making the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. It reminded me of the kindness in the world. How thoughtful to bring a small token to leave in honor of these heroes! It made me think of my grandfather, a World War II veteran. And despite the fact that we was in the U.S. Navy, I pictured him standing among the sculpted airmen as I admired the statues. I thought about the courage he and so many service men around the world embodied. My heart swelled with pride, and I swallowed a lump in my throat and blinked back tears. For some reason, historical landmarks make me incredibly emotional. Always have.

 

London Calling: The Grosvenor Hotel

London Calling: The Grosvenor Hotel

While in London, I stayed at the lovely The Grosvenor Hotel. It’s situated right next door to the very busy Victoria Station (second only to Waterloo in terms of traffic). The hotel was built in the 1860s by the Victorian railway pioneers and was recently refurbished in 2012. (You can read more about the original build and restoration here if you are interested – I was 🙂 ).

The location was fantastic – it was an easy walk to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, and Hyde Park. I heard from some of my colleagues that you could hear the train calls (the station closes at 1 a.m.), but they didn’t find it too bothersome.

I didn’t have a ton of time to tour the property and take photos, but I did manage a few. To be honest, my pictures don’t do a ton of justice to the loveliness of the hotel – but I think you can see how special it was from the few shots I took.

P.S. I was especially tickled that the hotel rooms were called bedrooms. Much more inviting that way, right?