Monday - The Finale
Well, the last full day in London is always bittersweet. Waking up to the realization that today is the last chance to see and do things only experienced in this great city. Counterbalanced by the wealth of memories made during the previous days and nights.
On this pleasant Monday morning, I decided to spend time in a place I've had on my running list for a long time: Fortnum and Mason Department Store. First, though, I took a leisurely stroll through the edge of Green Park, watching the striped fabric of the deck chairs billowing up in the breeze. Was tempted to rent a chair, but went off the idea as soon as I remembered all the chocolate I had so recently consumed. I could just see it in the headlines: "Ugly American causes collapse of deck chair. Minor injuries to passing pigeon."
Walking through the entrance to F&M, I found myself trying to compare it with Harrods. What I learned is that each store is unique in its own way. I like them both and will probably return to both on every future trip. Being a weekday morning, F&M's floors were quiet and salesclerks outnumbered customers. The stationery department was a special treat. Full of beautifully displayed paper, leather desksets, and unique fabric bulletin boards. Although I only purchased one small item, the impeccably dressed male clerk snapped to attention as soon as I reached the counter. It's nice to see such professionalism still exists.
If you appreciate bath products, then don't miss the bath department. Wonderful selection of robes for both men and women, alongside silver tub caddies, soap dishes and the like. Also a great opportunity to peek out the sheer curtain to have a look out at Piccadilly Street.
Although the elevator is an experience at F&M, I preferred to glide slowly up and down the lavish staircases. It was like being in a palace with so much to look at! I arrived at the floor which seemed to be the setting for afternoon tea. Not quite what I had expected. There were no windows so it was rather dark and dreary. An associate directed me back downstairs for lunch. I settled into a table near the window at the Patio Restaurant. It was not very busy, and most customers were businessmen or "ladies who lunch." Service was slow but that gave me time to soak up the ambiance and write in my journal. Note to self: return for one of those ice cream sundaes!
Before heading out, I wandered through the food hall and stocked up on jasmine tea and, of course, chocolate. A 4-star "Yum" rating goes to Bendick's Chocolate Mint Crisps. Think crisp honeycomb pieces in dessert chocolate flavoured with peppermint oil. These are perfect for leaving on your pillow, just like the fancy hotels!
Around 13.00, I attended the free lunchtime concert at St. James Church, Piccadilly. My original intent was to shop at the open-air craft market, but had the wrong day. Just as well. The concert featured a young pianist whose soothing classical melodies caused many a visitor to doze off. To top off the snoring noises, a women walked in and whispered into her cell phone while rustling a grocery bag. It got so annoying that even the pianist was casting glares over her way!
Finished the afternoon off with visits to shops along Jermyn Street. Always love popping into Floris to see the old cabinets built originally for the Great Exhibition when Prince Albert was still alive. The clerk gave me a brief history lesson on the antique perfume bottle display. The company has saved a sample of each bottle since the beginning. Amazing.
Returned to the hotel to pack before heading out again for the last London Walk of this journey. Met the guide and small group at Embankment and off we went on the "Ghosts of the West End" tour. This walk was almost identical to "Apparitions, Alleyways and Ale" on Thursday nights. The only real problem with taking these ghost tours in the spring and summer is that it's still light out for most of the tour. Somewhat difficult to get spooked when the sun's still shining!
Back at the hotel, exhausted but happy. And very relieved that I had finished up packing earlier so I could drift off to sleep.
Tuesday - Returning Home
Another London adventure draws to a close as I step onto the Heathrow Express. Waiting for the doors to shut, I enviously watch arriving passengers roll their luggage down the platform, their journey only beginning. I know that amongst this crowd will be someone coming to London for the very first time. Someone who will be sitting in this very spot in a week's time or so. Another person vowing to return to this beautiful city.
As the plane ascends, I close my eyes and think of Wordsworth:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open to the fields, and to the sky.