Welcoming the New Year in London

As we have been finding out, London is a very busy place over the New Year period. Everyone gets right the festivities, even the supervisor of the breakfast restaurant at our hotel.

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Yesterday was New Year’s Eve. We had lost one of Violet’s joggers somewhere along the way so our first task was to head up to the HIgh Street in Kensington for some replacements. Fortunately, one of the sports stores had a 50% off sale.

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We had a look in a few shops and I bought some things (that I probably didn’t really need) at the Marks and Spencer store, just because we were here and they always have good quality clothing. I also know from my mail ordering, the sizes that fit me.

We walked back towards Hyde Park and showed the girls Kensington Palace. They were quite interested to see where William and Kate, and Harry and Megan live. The modern part of the palace on the eastern side has a number of apartments where various members of the Royal Family live. The western part of the palace is more Georgian in style and to my knowledge was last occupied by George III who lost the Americas in the war of Independance. (I’m alwayts grateful to him for his loss, as otherwise the British would have had no reason to find a new colony in whjich to dump their prisoners (Australia) and perhaps without that event, Australia may have been settled by the French who were actively exploring the region.

We had lunch in the cafe in the building that was once the Orangerie and it was in the grounds of the palace that Violet was thrilled to see her first squirrel.

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In the afternoon, Audrey, Cathy and I made  quick visit to the Natural Science Museum. We walked along Gloucester Road for nearly a kilometre but found the line to get in was much longer than the time that we had available. (We needed to be back at the hotel within 90 minutes to get to a Pantomime for which we had tickets in the evening).

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A bit dissapointed, we decided that instead, that we would visit the nearby Victoria and Albert Museum but around the corner, we found the side entrance to the museum and followed a few other people inside. I think that they were actually going to see a Photographic Exhibition, but we were able to find our way into the main museum. We did a similar short tour as we had done at the Louvre in Paris – picking out three main things tom see and quickly whizzing around to each.

The first was the giant Blue Whale skeleton on the main entrance hall, then the dinosaur skeletons and finally the large mammakls. On the way, we had a quick look at some of the reptiles and birds. The building is like a very elaborate hall with long hallways containing cases with various displays. Many of the stuffed animals were quite faded but as the museum explained, they were very old specimens and it was better that they be faded than to replace  them with new animals from the wild.

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I’ve never seen a blue whale but this specimen shows how enormous they really are. They are the largest animal that has ever lived on earth and are so huge that they could hold an elephant on its tongue.

In the evening, we had tickets to see Snow White – a typical English Pantomime. It starred Dawn French as the Wicked Witch and other popular actors that we didn’t know as well as the locals did. It was a very funny night with ribald humour, good dancing, great costumes, and superb effects.  I thought it very amusing near the end when the Wicked Witch was transformed into a good character and suddenly became the Vicar of Dibley! I had some trouble fitting into the small seats in the theatre but I was very grateful to the the ushers who let me stand behind the back row of the upper circle for the second half of the show.

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I am sorry to say that I didn’t see any of the New Year Fireworks. Here, one needs tickets to all the viewing areas and these were all sold out weeks before we arrived. I think Cathy stayed up to watch the fireworks on TV, but I caught up with them on the news this morning. They looked to be stunning.

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We had thought of going to Trafalgar Square today but there is a New Year’s Day Parade that goes right past it and we didn’t want to be caught up in the crowd. Instead Cathy took Audrey to the Harry Potter shop at Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. This was one of Audrey’s most wanted to see places in London. Cathy said that the display of Wands looked just like the display of coffee pods at the Nespresso Store!

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Many places were closed today but Jill and I found that the stores in Knightsbridge would be open. We caught the train along the Picadilly line and exited in front of the Harvey Nichols store. We checked out some floors as they had a sale with 60% off.  Apart from the fashions being too  young for me, I didn’t think that a sweater marked down from £1150 to just £480 was good value for me. I think that I really am a Marks and Spencer type of bloke. We each had  a coffee on the fifth floor that cost us a meer £14 (AUD $25.18).

We then moved on to Harrods but didn’t get past the perfumery and the food hall. It is certainly a beautiful shop.

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I’m a bit intrigued by the many Muslim women who buy lavish amounts of perfume and beauty products in Harrods. My understanding is that it is part of Islamic culture  that women should dress modestly and cover their hair ( a way of hiding their beauty from those who are not close family members). On the other hand they wear beautiful make up and look very attractive. To my mind, this appears to me as something of a contradiction. I don’t understand it.

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A little walk around our neighbourhood showed us row upon row of 19th Century terrace houses . Once, a single family would have lived in these , but now they have been subdivided into four, five, or even six apartments.

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The rear laneways, or Mews, are once where the stables were kept and where the horse men lived. These have interesting houses and are quite scenic. I suspect that they are each worth a number of million pounds, but I think I could very easily live in one of these little streets.

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Our day ended  with a lovely sunset and we have a reservation at the pub down the road for dinner.

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