Day 4 of our Europe trip was for exploring the rest of London (taking the Tube this time – we had enough of walking around London) before meeting Ben in Cambridge. Because we got home so late the night before, we accidentally slept in a little more than planned and didn’t bother even trying to make it to Buckingham Palace in time for the changing of the guards. Oh well.
We started out the day with a trip to the Notting Hill neighborhood of Hollywood fame. It had exactly the same atmosphere as it did in the movie – a cute, romantic high-class English neighborhood. Then again, maybe I’m biased because I’m a sucker for romances, especially if they involve Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.
Because it took us so long to get out of bed, we were pretty hungry by the time we got to the neighborhood (more like I was pretty hungry – Li is just constantly hungry so at this point I’ve started ignoring that). We wandered down Portobello road in search of food and the famous Portobello market. Apparently in London, Saturdays are the big market days, but we still managed to catch some of the Portobello market on a relaxed Friday morning. There were all kinds of stands along the street selling various knick knacks and souvenirs.
Eventually, we came upon The Duke of Wellington, a bright, fun gastropub on Portobello Road. We didn’t realize until later that the restaurant actually makes a cameo in the movie as Hugh Grant walks through Portobello Road Market. We indulged in their full English breakfast (beans, black pudding and half a roast tomato, a poached egg, toast, a mushroom, sausage, and bacon), trying to make up for the amount of calories we burned off the previous day.
Speaking of movies, since I dragged Li over to Notting Hill, we made a pitstop at Baker Street to see Sherlock Holmes’ house at 221B. We quickly grabbed a few shots before Li decided it was too touristy for his tastes and we went on our way.
The next stop was Covent Garden. I have to admit, this day was mostly me dragging Li to things because I grew up on ballet, so I couldn’t go to London without making a stop by the dance and theater areas. Sadly, they were remodeling the main entrance to the Royal Opera House, but we did happen upon the Royal Ballet School, where of course I had to take a picture (compliments from students at the school count for something, right? I’ll just pretend to live my childhood dreams through this).
On our way to Buckingham Palace from Covent Garden, we walked along the south edge of Soho and passed Chinatown right next door. Cue more excitement about theater and musicals. We basically wanted to watch all of them, but of course didn’t have the time.
We finally made it to Trafalgar Square and St. James’s Park in the early afternoon (let’s keep in mind we were supposed to get to Buckingham Palace by 11 AM – clearly that did not happen). We wandered through the park, aiming to get to Buckingham Palace. Instead, we must have made a small circle because we thought we walked far enough but we ended up at the Horse Guards Parade ground, a few feet from where we entered the park. It’s a wonder we didn’t get lost in the rest of London.
Eventually, we found our way to the palace – a beautiful palace with two lonely guards pacing the front as millions of tourists took pictures of them. Of course, at this point, we were starting to run late, so we grabbed a few photos and went to grab our luggage and head to King’s Cross, where we would take a train to Cambridge.
Ben likes to tell me that because he’s studying at Cambridge, he’s basically a wizard studying at Hogwarts. Part of this is because to get to Cambridge, you need to take the train from King’s Cross Station usually from either Platform 8, 9, or 10. I like to just roll my eyes at him, but that didn’t stop me from dragging Li into getting touristy pictures with the trolley at Platform 9 3/4. It also delayed us by a solid 30-40 minutes so plan well if you want this picture and need to catch a train.
With that, we were off to Cambridge! Because it’s Cambridge and they have a ridiculous amount of money to spend on students, each college hosts formal dinners for their students. That night happened to be the graduate student formal, which Ben brought us to as guests. This is the other reason Ben likes to say he goes to Hogwarts – they eat their formal dinner in the dimly lit dining hall with long tables (and what used to be candles but are now lamps), a set multi-course meal with paired wines for each course, and they have to wear their student capes to the meal which are basically wizarding robes. Ben was quite unhappy that I laughed at him and made him spin and model his robes for me, but hey, going to Hogwarts isn’t a bad place to be.