Updated: Jul 2, 2020
From the Thai heat to the British winter - packing for our new life certainly required a little strategising 😊.
It's was so good to be back in London, when we had left 11 months earlier we wondered when we would return and had not even considered that it would be this soon.
We had just a few days in this amazing city - mainly to see our daughter, Olivia, and to catch up with other family and friends. We also revisited some of our local haunts where, unsurprisingly very little had changed.
The rain cleared for most of our first day and so we went back to one of my favourite places St James' Park...
1. Westminster - currently it is mostly covered in scaffolding and plastic while they do restoration work - but we managed to find a part of it that wasn't.
2. The Mall and
3. Horse Guards Parade - with horses!
4. The daffodils, a squirrel and a swan at St James' Park
Breakfast at the Regency Caff'
The old-school Regency Cafe on Regency Street in Pimlico opened in 1946 and it is run by Marco and Claudia. The cafe has been featured as a filming location in several BBC series such as Judge John Deed and London Spy and most recently in Elton John's Rocketman.
When we lived here we walked past it many times admiring the black tiled exterior as well as the Art Deco interior viewed through the windows. Totally oblivious to its history and how special it was, we didn't check it out immediately as there was almost always a long queue to get in. We eventually devised a plan to arrive early before the queue got too long and we were so glad that we did - the food was such good value served in huge portions and the decor was pretty special (tiled walls and formica tables, chequered half curtains on the window) but it was the people that worked there that were the best thing about the Regency cafe.
The staff were so efficient and had a great system of managing customers so that no matter how long the queue, by the time you had ordered your food there was always a table available - just remember that you must always order before you sit down! The highlight of each occasion was when someone did sit down before ordering then Marco or Claudia would 'advise' them (and the rest of the cafe) in a booming voice not to sit down before ordering. Once you had ordered the service was very quick and when your order was ready to collect from the counter it was once again announced to the entire cafe - It was fabulous hearing either Marco or Claudia hollering ‘full English, beans, all the extras, twice’
It quickly became a place we would take our visitors for an authentic English breakfast and the entertainment of watching and listening to the staff.
2 Alan and Marco
3. Tea and toast to start...
4 - 6 Showing the interior of the Regency Cafe
The Tower of London
The Tower of London was a place that we never got around to seeing when we lived in London mainly because it was always so busy and there were so many other things to do.
But, when you combine Covid-19 and the English winter it meant that were not many tourists and therefore a great time to go.
The history of the tower was fascinating; we joined one of the Yeoman Warder tours that was both entertaining and a little bit cringeworthy with his intention seeming to be to scare the children on the tour with stories of treachery and torture, and his personal views on how the world had changed and not necessarily for the better.
The castle itself was impressive - the stone tower at the centre was originally built by William the Conqueror in the 1070s, as a mighty stone tower at the centre of his London fortress. Throughout history, the Tower has been adapted and developed to defend and control the nation.
Henry III (1216-72) and Edward I (1272-1307) expanded William’s fortress, adding huge defensive walls, a series of smaller towers and enlarging the moat. The moat is now beautiful green lawns. (As an aside, we were in London for the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI and the Tower put on an impressive display that filled the moat with red ceramic poppies.)
And of course there is the history of the tower as a prison - but only to the rich and famous according to our Yeoman Warder guide. During the Tudor age, the Tower became the most important state prison in the country. Anyone thought to be a threat to national security came here.
The future Elizabeth I, Lady Jane Grey, and Sir Walter Raleigh were all ‘sent to the Tower’. Even in the 20th century, German spies were brought here and shot.
We were visiting on a bleak, cold winter's afternoon and found ourselves trying to imagine what it must have been like to live there in those times.
It probably happens often, but we felt fortunate to see a Beefeater clearing the way for members of the Queen's Guard who marched past us on their way to carry out the Changing of the Guards ritual at the entrance.
1 - 2 The Tower of London from the outside showing the now grassed moat.
3 - 6 Castle buildings
7. Our Yeoman Warder guide
8. A view of Tower bridge from within the castle grounds
9 - 12 Yeoman Warder aka Beefeater
10 - 14 Queen's Guards walking to and returning from the changing of the guard.
15 - 16 Ceramic Poppies during the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1