Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

London: October 2013 (Part 1)

I left Dubai on Friday, 4th October and was going to be away for almost four weeks. As I was packing I just didn’t feel like travelling – four weeks is a long time to be away from home! I was also dreading the weather. As we touched down at Heathrow, the captain announced that it was 21C outside and it was expected to stay that way for a few days. I was going to boil! I’d packed jumpers and had my coat with me.

Every time I go to London I end up coming home absolutely exhausted. I hoped this time would be different because surely four weeks is enough time to catch up with everyone? Apparently not…

I was spending the first ten days at my cousin’s place in Kensington and then moving to St John’s Wood after that. I got home at about 6pm and needed to sort out a few things including my new SIM card. My cousin had informed me she had a work thing on that evening and wouldn’t be home so I made plans of my own. I met up with a friend at his place in Park Lane and had a drink with him and another friend. They asked me what I fancied eating – I don’t know why but travelling always makes me ravenous! I told them at that point I’d settle for a pack of ham from Marks and Spencer. We walked to Pizza Express in Bruton Place, off Berkeley Square. It was just what I was in the mood for – a drink and an American Hot pizza with jalapenos. Every time I go back to London I’m shocked at how cheap alcohol is and how expensive cigarettes are!

After dinner we went to the bar at Claridge’s for dessert and a couple more drinks. We ordered three desserts but I found them disappointing. Surprisingly the best one was the ice cream! After another vodka we walked back to Park Lane and I got a cab home. I was exhausted.

The following morning I went to see my cousin in Maida Vale and her twin girls who had just turned a year old in September. I spent about an hour with them and then went to meet one of the girls for brunch at Raoul’s (the other was away for the weekend). We shared the crab and avocado salad to start with and then I had scrambled eggs and sausages. Wow – I’d missed that! I didn’t go totally overboard and have French toast for dessert because I had four Saturdays to enjoy with them…

That night a friend was having her 40th birthday at the Haymarket Hotel. She had a sit-down dinner for 60 people – we started with drinks in the Library and then moved into the Shooting Gallery for dinner. The food and service were excellent – and it was nice to see so many people in one go! After dinner there was a live band and some dancing, and then a few of us went to Morton’s in Berkeley Square for a few more drinks. It was a heavy night and I got home after 3am.

Sunday was a crazy busy day! A friend was running the Royal Parks Half Marathon and I’d told his wife I’d meet her for breakfast while he was running. For some reason my phone wasn’t working so I didn’t get any of her messages and was running very late! We met at the Sheraton Park Tower in Knightsbridge where they have a breakfast buffet. When I got back to the table she looked at my plate and then looked at me: ‘You have got to be kidding.’ Nope, no joke: sausages, salami, mortadella, Parma ham and a ham and cheese omelette. I guess I really missed pork! The breakfast is fantastic – I’d recommend it. Our waiter also told us that the table we were sitting at was his favourite. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Because George Clooney and Leonardo di Caprio sat there! Wow – I started wondering how I could walk out with one of their chairs…

Once I’d finished eating we walked back to Hyde Park hoping to catch her husband at the finish line. The weather was amazing and I wished I’d taken my camera with me. We saw him running in at 2 hours and 14 minutes – amazing! And he didn’t even look like he’d broken a sweat. When we caught up with him, and he’d caught his breath, we asked him what he wanted to do. ‘I want a pint,’ was his reply. So we crossed the road and went to The Paxton’s Head on Knightsbridge. I was feeling a bit rough from the night before and asked for a half pint – of course, nobody listened to me and I was handed a whole one. The pub was full of other people who had completed the half marathon. We had our drinks and left (I really couldn’t finish mine). We went back to their house and relaxed for a while.

At about 3pm I thought I’d leave them to nap and walk around for a while. I walked up to Selfridges and just as I was thinking about going home my cousin called suggesting we meet at Yauatcha for a late lunch. So I started walking back towards Oxford Circus. By the time we sat down to eat it was about 4pm. I didn’t think I could eat anything after my breakfast, but clearly I was wrong! The food at Yauatcha is excellent – but I thought the service was terrible. Aside from all the usual dim sum, we had a bottle of wine to go with our meal. Yes, drinking again! We’d finished by 6pm, my cousin was heading out elsewhere and I decided to walk for a while – it’s one of the things I miss about London when I’m in Dubai. The sun was setting at the other end of Oxford Street and I managed to take this photo. I took a bus to Kensington and got home at 7pm.

At this point my feet felt like they were on fire. I wasn’t used to walking, and certainly not in heels or my regular day shoes. A friend told me he’d pick me up for dinner at about 8pm and I was so relieved because I thought he’d bring his car and we’d go out for dinner. At 8pm he called me asking me to meet him at the end of the street – he’d walked and wasn’t driving! I met him and we hadn’t really decided where to go – we were just walking around trying to find somewhere. We eventually decided to walk to The Churchill Arms in Kensington Church Street. Even though it was a long walk, and I felt like I was walking on hot coals, it was a nice evening and we talked all the way there and back. I was most surprised that we didn’t even have to wait for a table. I know you’re wondering how I could have possibly eaten any more that day but we only ordered one portion of spring rolls as starters, one green curry with prawns and one pad thai – to share between us. And all the walking I did helped! I was home by 10pm and had an early night. I was exhausted!

On Monday I had a couple of check-ups I wanted to get out of the way (mammogram, etc.) and everything was fine. As I was around the corner from a friend’s place I popped in for a casual lunch – we had soup and quiche. I then walked to John Lewis to meet a friend who was browsing there – I just wanted to say a quick hello. We walked around for about 15 minutes and then I went back to Kensington. I tried to do some work but just couldn’t stay awake so I had a nap!

That evening, my cousin and I went to XO in Belsize Park for dinner with a couple of friends. I hadn’t been there in years and really enjoyed it. It wasn’t too late a night and we were back home by 10.30.

On Tuesday morning I met a friend for coffee in Starbucks in Kensington High Street. I decided I couldn’t bear to wear my slip-on shoes any longer and wore my trainers instead. I also decided I’d go to Kensington Gardens after coffee and walk around and take some photos with my camera. I got to Starbucks and my friend asks, ‘Why do you look like a complete tourist?’ ‘Because I feel like one!’ I told her that in the 20 years I lived in London, I’d never really walked around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I wanted to make the most of the weather too. Ever since I’d been in London I hadn’t needed my coat and in the evenings I’d only used a shawl – amazing for October! After coffee, I walked back towards the park and went in.

Walking around Hyde Park was almost like summertime, but without the hayfever.
Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

The Round Pond

The Round Pond

North Silver Thimble Shelter

North Silver Thimble Shelter

Autumn

Autumn

Speke Monument

Speke Monument

Two Bears Fountain

Two Bears Fountain

The Pump House in the Italian Gardens

The Pump House in the Italian Gardens

The Pump House

The Pump House

The Italian Gardens

The Italian Gardens

The Tazza Fountain

The Tazza Fountain

Peter Pan

Peter Pan

Peter Pan Statue

Peter Pan Statue

Henry Moore's 'The Arch'

Henry Moore’s ‘The Arch’

Diana Memorial Fountain

Diana Memorial Fountain

America - The Albert Memorial

America – The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

I went home after my walk in the park and had some lunch. Once again I sat down to do some work but ended up having a nap!

That evening I had dinner with the girls at Michael Nadra in Primrose Hill. I’d heard mixed things about the restaurant but I thought the food was fantastic.

Whitebait tempura

Whitebait tempura

Scottish salmon ceviche with chilli, red onions, sweet potato puree and garden radishes

Scottish salmon ceviche with chilli, red onions, sweet potato puree and garden radishes

Scotch fillet steak with shitake puree, glazed onion, triple cooked chips, baby spinach and madeira jus

Scotch fillet steak with shitake puree, glazed onion, triple cooked chips, baby spinach and madeira jus

I had the cheese platter for dessert. Amazing. Again, it wasn’t a very late night and I was home by 11pm.

I love my life.

To read more about London, click here.

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London: Part 4

Friday again! It was my last weekend in London and I intended to make the most of it.

I met up with a friend at Raoul’s – I hadn’t seen him at all during my trip so it was nice to finally see him before I left. I had the ham and cheese omelette which was so good.

That evening one of the boys took me out for drinks and dinner (and more drinks). We started off at the Soho Hotel with some cocktails. We then walked to Escortikov Novikov for dinner and drinks. I didn’t think there was as much flesh on show as the week before. Of course it could just be that we weren’t sitting in a table located as centrally as the week before. We had lots of sushi, new style salmon sashimi, some kind of mushroom dumpling, yellowtail sashimi, and rock shrimp. I think that was it… We ordered our dessert at the bar downstairs – three flavours of crème brûlée. At about midnight we thought it would be a good idea to leave Novikov and go across the road to Nobu Berkeley. Actually, it was my idea. I take full responsibility. I also thought it would be a good idea to switch from vodka to sake. As far as I remember, we had two bamboo sakes – and I don’t know what time I got home. It was one of my favourite nights in London.

The next morning, however, was not one of my favourite mornings in London. I woke up, got ready and got on the tube to meet the girls for brunch at Raoul’s. I thought about ordering the ham and cheese omelette again but then decided it would be pathetic to have the same thing. So I ordered the bacon, cheese and tomato omelette. It was probably the most disappointing thing I’ve ever eaten at Raoul’s. As it was my last brunch we ordered the French toast to share. It more than made up for the awful omelette. We went over to Baker & Spice for a little while and said our goodbyes.

The sun had come out by this time so I decided to walk home through the park again. It was warm – and the park was crowded.

2012
2012

As soon as I got home my friend said she was going to Marylebone High Street – so I joined her. We went to a few of the shops and then went to Patisserie Valerie for coffee. Before we started going to Raoul’s (whatever year that was) the girls and I used to go to Patisserie Valerie for brunch on Saturdays. I’m so glad we no longer go there because it’s quite terrible. I ordered a caffé frappé which was just disgusting. I really wasn’t having much luck that day. What I really wanted was a mocha light from Starbucks. We went home after that and decided where to go for dinner. My friends had an event to attend and I had some friends to meet at a pub so we decided we’d reconvene at 9pm.

I got ready and met my friends from New York at the Punch Bowl, a pub in Mayfair. I’d never been there but the menu looked interesting. If I was still in London I’d have eaten there by now. We spent about an hour together and I left to join my friends at Bar Boulud in Knightsbridge. Four of us shared the charcuterie board, the boudin blanc sausage, and the escargots. We each had our own main course – I ordered the steak. With truffled mashed potato. Well, it was my last weekend! For dessert I went for the cheese platter while the others wanted something chocolatey.

After dinner I’d arranged to meet my friend from the night before at the Arts Club. He was with some of his uni friends and they had a table in the club downstairs. My friends and I went up to the bar on the first floor to have a drink while we waited for them, but it was so crowded we decided to have a drink in the restaurant bar on the ground floor. When my friend showed up we went down to the club.

There was a live band downstairs – I thought they were OK until they played their last song. They played ‘Purple Rain’ which has one of the best guitar solos ever – and they completely butchered it. If you can’t play it like it should be played, just don’t. When they finished, this geeky looking DJ came on. He looked about 15 years old – but once he started he was so into what he was doing, so passionate, by the end of the evening I wanted to adopt him. I would go back just for him. I didn’t think it would be a late night but of course we stayed until the end! I got home at about 3.30.

We had an impromptu lunch at Yauatcha on Sunday. And we were there just after midday. I know you’re wondering when I slept while I was in London and the answer to that is, I didn’t. We had: prawn and chive dumplings, char siu pau, scallop shiu mai, siew long buns, sticky rice in lotus leaf, mushroom cheung fun, venison puff and turnip cake. Fantastic. Dim sum and diet Coke – perfect food after a late night.

After lunch, I looked at my shopping list and realised I hadn’t bought half the things I was supposed to have (jeans, bras, swimsuit) so I went shopping. I couldn’t find any jeans I liked, I didn’t see a swimsuit I liked, I got measured for new bras but couldn’t find many in my new size. Oh well. That’s what online shopping is for!

I went over to see a friend and his daughter and had coffee at their place that afternoon. When I left I decided to walk home through the park again – I knew it would be the last time for a while and I felt sad.

I got home, started packing and stayed in that evening. We were all exhausted.

I stayed in bed as long as I possibly could on Monday. I knew that once my day started it would fly by and before I knew it I’d be on the flight home. I went to see my tarot reader in the morning – not for a reading, but because I’d promised her daughter she could have my old Yamaha keyboard and it had been on my mind for the last two weeks. I’ve known her for 12 years and we had a coffee together while we talked. After that I went to the Fromagerie for lunch with a friend. I had the slow roast pork belly with mash. My last meal in London had to be pork!

I popped into my office after lunch to say bye to my work friends, headed home to finish packing, and then I was off to the airport.

Leaving London the second time was harder than I thought it would be. It rained all day on Monday – and just as well because if it had been sunny I would have probably stayed! I felt a bit teary in the cab on the way to the airport, driving out of London. I checked in my bags and met up with a friend who was flying to Lagos that evening. He was going to the Virgin Clubhouse so he took me in as his guest. We had a drink (diet Coke) and some food (cheese and charcuterie) and then I had to go.

I got on the plane, put my trolley bag in the overhead locker and sat down. I made a few calls but got mostly voicemail. And when I switched off my phone, I cried. I cried for many reasons and I don’t think being tired helped at all. I am grateful to the lady sitting next to me for leaving me alone and not asking me if I was OK. I was fine once we’d taken off and the drinks trolley was coming round (I had tomato juice, in case you were wondering).

So, that was my fantastic, but hectic, holiday.

High points? Being with my friends. Not having to have the ‘Dubai’ conversation over and over again (How long have you been here? Where did you move from? What do you do? Where do you live?). Walking in the park – simple pleasures.

Low points? Rain. Lack of sleep (entirely my fault). Oslo. Not spending enough time with the people I wante
d to.

Regrets? One or two, but mostly that I didn’t take my DSLR camera with me. Next time…

Read more about London here.

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