LONDON – Wake up – I am here!
I run into the two Kiwi ladies again at the airport and they seem a bit bewildered. They are looking for the Insight guide to drive them to the hotel but that’s not how it works. Ambling over to the Hotelink counter with all our transport vouchers in hand, I put our name on the list and we wait for the shuttle bus and we have to wait 40 minutes before we leave. Dead tired but excited, Heathrow is not as exciting as Sydney airport – that’s for sure. Arrive at Kensington Hilton, on the far west outskirts of London.
I make sure the ladies are OK and settled before going to my room – 3031. It has two single beds – room is a bit grubby and there is no view except for a parking area at the back of the hotel but that doesn’t matter. Main thing is a clean bathroom and comfortable bed. Get myself organised, unpack a few clothes and I put the plan of attack into action. Objective – Hyde Park.
Being rather adventurous I decide to walk so it’s out of hotel and turn right – BIG MISTAKE! 1 hour later and walking uphill all the way I arrive at Hyde Park. Never mind, I take a positive outlook and look at it as practice for the tour to come. Get out the map and head for everything I missed last time I was in London.
My first stop (also to use it to catch my breath) are the Italian Gardens. After the obligatory photos I just sit, relax and enjoy the water features and the wonderful blooms. These gardens are incredible. Everything is wonderfully manicured to within an inch of its life and they are so clean. Not a scrap of rubbish anywhere.
It is set in Kensington Gardens, a famous park in London, mostly after “Lock-Out Time”, described by Barrie as the time at the end of the day when the park gates are closed to the public.
After this time the fairies and other magical inhabitants of the park, can move about more freely than during the daylight, when they must hide from ordinary people. It is an incredible story that was also brought to life by Walt Disney.
Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook and the infamous crocodile, at which you never smile – are just some of the unforgettable characters that inhabit Neverland, which of course everyone knows is situated on the second star to the right!
After remembering childhood memories it is time to move on to the Prince Albert Memorial.
This memorial is dedicated to Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. Last time I was here it was being restored and under wraps hidden from view. Today it is sitting in the park for all to see.
At the corners of the central area, and at the corners of the outer area, there are two allegorical sculpture programs: four groups depicting Victorian industrial arts and sciences (agriculture, commerce, engineering and manufacturing), and four more groups representing Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas at the four corners, each continent-group including several ethnographic figures and a large animal. (A camel for Africa, a bison for the Americas, an elephant for Asia and a bull for Europe.)
The grass in the park is very brown and nearly dead as it is a very hot and dry Summer, feels just like being in Australia but the day is wearing on so I must proceed to the next stop – Kensington Palace. I do not go into the Palace but decide to roam around the lovely gardens.
They are so peaceful considering they are right smack dab in the middle of London. Water features, pathways, manicured lawns are just some of the fabulous views you get as you meander around thinking ‘this is where Princess Diana lived.’
After walking around I am also thinking I’d better sit down for a while as the day is getting very hot and I need a rest.
Sitting down near the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens I watch the swans and ducks. Nothing beats relaxing near any type of water. It has a calming effect and gives you the energy to continue. Heading for the exit and I discover Diana’s Memorial Playground. This is designed with the Peter Pan stories in mind. There is an indian village, a pirate ship and is a great place for children to roam around letting their imagination run wild.
After about 5 hours of meandering around everything and taking about 2 rolls of film I decide to head for home. This time it’s all downhill. I’m feeling a bit peckish, as if I haven’t eaten enough, and think what’s for dinner? I spy a KFC and get some popcorn chicken, chips and a drink. How adventurous is that? Crawl into the hotel about 4pm. Ring Evan Evans to confirm the tour for tomorrow. Everything is set – they will pick me up from the hotel in the morning.
Decide a nice hot bath is a good idea for my tired body. Just can’t wait to see how I feel tomorrow morning – but it’s too late to turn back. Organise a wake up call for 6am and no sooner am I in the bath, I start to fall asleep – I am exhausted. Thinking it would be just my luck to drown in London I crawl out of the bath and into bed.
Highlight of the day: Peter Pan