September 3, 2015 — September 8, 2015
september 3, 2015
6 AM — wake up
6:20 AM — get the fuck out of bed
7 AM — walk to the train station
7:15 AM — make it to the 7:17 AM train to Madrid
8:05 AM — walk from train platform to metro platform in Atocha; purchase metro ticket and additional airport fare
8:30 AM — get on metro; think, pleased, “well, I’m neither tired nor sweating yet!”
8:40 AM — take it back
9:30 AM — begin the long fucking walk from the metro platform to the airport gate
10:35 AM — we’re on a plane!
There are many things in my life I schedule in the morning in the hopes I’ll drag myself out of bed and make it there in time, but traveling is the only one where it actually works. I’d say I’m afraid of losing all my money, and it’s not like that’s something I want to happen, but what truly terrifies me is being stuck somewhere with all my luggage. Luggage makes me feel vulnerable, like when a spider shows up while you’re in bed in your underwear. In any other situation you’d crush the sucker, or shoo it out if it’s small and nice-looking enough, but when you’re half-naked, it’s screaming and fleeing and calling for backup every time.
Despite the early morning and the early train and the relatively early flight, I still got to my hotel exhausted somewhere around 2 PM. I got lost two out of two possible times: I went off on a tangent about this before getting to my Thistle review here. I am a talented woman.
On September 3, 2015, I was also an incredibly tired one. I took a shower, hoping it would wake me up. I changed into clean clothes and the disposable slippers from the closet because my feet were killing me. I lay down on the bed with my phone, and then it was cold and I got under the duvet, and then I fell asleep and napped for four hours.
8:30 PM, I woke up groggy and tired. I made it to a Caffé Nero in time to eat, and I thought about how pretty Trafalgar Square was when you were walking there at night, and it was quiet, and you were carrying zero devices to take pictures of it with, and you wished you could move to the area forever but alas it was too expensive and you couldn’t even afford the hotel you were spending the night at but it was a nice dream, wasn’t it? Ah, such a nice dream.
And then I went home and yawned my way through a brief Skype call with my mom, got the kettle out, drank about a fourth of my tea and fell asleep again. It was a very uneventful first day. I’m just including it for accuracy’s sake.
september 4, 2015
I’d set the alarm for 7 AM because I’d slept so many hours the day before, and I managed to drag myself out of bed at 8. I took another shower and changed into clean clothes again. I knew this would come back to bite me, and I won’t make you wait to know I had to wear the same jeans on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and it was a little painful but mostly I made it through the experience unscathed. I have issues.
I spent some sweet time with my laptop before heading down to the ground floor for breakfast. I still didn’t feel massively great, but I was a guest of the hotel, so I took my camera and my kit lens and filled up a plate with fruit salad. I like fruit in the morning.
I also like coffee, which I’d somehow forgotten I needed with all the travel. As soon as I took a sip of my latte, everything was all right with the world. I know it was the latte and not the meds I took in public because they don’t kick in that fast.
After I finished my coffee, I refilled my mug and took it and some pastries up to my room. I didn’t have a lot of time left before checkout, so I packed up my things, patted down the sheets a bit, called up my mom on Skype and took photos of the room while I chatted with her. At something like 12:05, I went down to check out, took some photos of the lobby, and sat my ass down on one of the couches to wait for Annemari to arrive.
There were some beautiful flower shots to be had. Still, I nearly ran out of battery on my laptop, and then Annemari arrived and pulled me off my feet into a big hug and it was everything, and off we went to Charing Cross station to take the tube to Earl’s Court. We had a few other options, but I hadn’t seen Charing Cross Station in a while — like, possibly since 2007 — and I missed it, and I got to show it to Annemari for the first time! It’s the little things.
We booked a hotel near Earl’s Court Station, one of those areas that stand out when you look on a deals site because it’s like a cluster of accommodation in there, like Bayswater and Victoria-Pimlico. I’d waited until the last minute to get a hotel because I was waiting on a hostel for myself, and then I decided I needed Annemari to help me take my luggage to Ciudad Real and it was the only thing we could find that would not cost an eye.
I would show you photos of the hotel, but I didn’t take any. I was going to review it, but it was so aggressively mediocre I couldn’t be bothered with it. The location was all it had going for it. It’s called the Lord Jim Hotel and I’m linking you because a) I’m a Booking.com affiliate and b) the fourth photo is our room. Like, that’s exactly the room we slept in. It looked somewhat worse in person, but the photo’s not far off.
A friend graciously agreed to bring all my luggage to my hotel, so the first thing Annemari and I did when we got there was haul all my shit up to our room. It was a tight fit, but it fit. I may have used one of my suitcases as a shelf. It was also, I think, one of two times in our entire stay we used the elevator.
For the first but absolutely not the last time in our trip, we got to the place I’d booked us a meal at an hour and a half late. The staff was like, “Oh! We thought you weren’t coming.” To be fair to me, I did give them a heads up, and we walked there to get acquainted with the area. To be fair to them, I suppose people don’t usually have afternoon tea at 5.
I’m not a normal person.
The Patisserie Valerie in Knightsbridge is deep and narrow, and we were taken to a four-person circular table in a corner at the back. Food was devoured, photos were taken, and a review will come soon. I relaxed and rested and to tell you the truth, it was one of my favorite things in the entire trip, getting to sit at a table with Annemari every day, just talking.
My feet agree 100%, though they would like to volunteer ‘sleeping’ for the title of favorite.
After we realized we were both unable to finish everything on the three-tier afternoon tea stand, we asked for the few leftover scones and pastries to be packed up, and I left the patisserie with a lovely bag hanging off my arm. I felt kind of cool. I’m easy like that.
It was also nice having a delicious chocolate cake slice to eat when I got hungry a while later, and Annemari had the scones for breakfast.
The V&A Museum opens until 10 PM on Friday, and since literally nothing else does that you don’t have to pay for (or that doesn’t involve eating, and neither Annemari nor I are great at that; we literally got by on one meal a day and breakfast drinks at Starbucks), we headed there afterwards and stayed until we had no exhibits left to look at and I’d had my fill of taking pictures of strangers sketching Rodin.
I’ve also got a post coming up on the V&A, mostly photos because I still can’t make sense of the collection. I was very taken with one of the photography exhibits, though, following four sisters through the years. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. I’m also a sucker for old fashion, even though I don’t think they’ve changed anything since I last took a good look at their displays in 2007. It was still nice to explore it all again.
And then we walked the twenty minutes back to the hotel and I changed into the Thistle slippers. And slept.
september 5, 2015
And we were left to our own devices for breakfast. There was a kettle and coffee, but there was also a Starbucks nearby, so that was our first stop of the day. I transferred photos, planned routes, and sipped on a Starbucks iced vanilla latte at the Costa up the street because there had been no seating at Starbucks and I hate Costa’s whipped cream. Annemari had Costa’s hot chocolate so our holing up there wouldn’t be that weird, and I think of all the hot chocolates she had it was her least favorite. It was weirdly cold, too; Starbucks is always warmer. Still, my hair dried — there hadn’t been a hair-dryer available when we asked at reception; we were later given one so terrible I let my hair air-dry anyway — and I got caffeine in my system and room on my memory card.
I needed the room on my memory card because our next stop was the #bloggersfestival at the Conrad St James Hotel.
I planned the trip around #bloggersfestival because it seemed like the most solid date I was going to get, and Scarlett had asked me to help her shoot it. I was awkward at first, then I picked up a cocktail and became strangely sociable. Apparently alcohol, in moderation and safe spaces, brings out the best me. Or the most annoying. Are they mutually exclusive? Probably not. I talked to a lot of people. It was great! And Annemari put up with it like a champ, bless her. At least she got some Lego pieces for her niece and a Jewellery Box surprise.
After the event, Annemari and I headed back to our hotel with our goodie bags, including this ridiculous delicious aloe vera drink with bits in it that was delicious — seriously, it changed my life, except for how it didn’t but it was very handy since I couldn’t be bothered to buy a bottle of water, and went down better when I was thirsty — and a hell of a lot of skincare products. I actually brought a lot of them back home with me, and I’m still using the shampoo. It’s great shampoo.
Our second stop for the day, and not one second too early, was dinner at Brasserie Gustave. We were late again, people excused us again, and Annemari probably started wondering if it’s just normal for Londoners to be late for everything. I don’t know. I still feel bad. I don’t do it on purpose. We walked there again, and took photos, and I was freezing in my cape somehow, and then we got to our destination, sat down and I wasn’t going to drink, but it seemed rude not to. Rude to me, because I love Chardonnay.
They lit my seabass in front of us. Annemari was delighted. Then I ate half her food because the duck was also delicious. It was very symbiotic.
We took a long time getting out of there, which was partly because we were warm and comfortable and it had this absolutely wonderful, intimate atmosphere — Annemari and I may have held hands; we are not, in fact, dating, but after that I basically just held her hand the entire time, sometimes so she wouldn’t get too far ahead of me with her ridiculous Amazon legs — and partly because it was cold outside and we were exhausted. If I could have teleported straight to bed I would have.
We took the tube instead.
september 6, 2015
We got seats at Starbucks this time, and they became our breakfast spot for the entire trip. The barista asked me if I hadn’t been there yesterday, and I said yes, and I’ll be here every morning until Wednesday. I topped up my Starbucks card, I sat down at my laptop, I got a spoon for my whipped cream, and then they started playing the song that plays at the beginning of my Comfort TV Episode™, The Rainy Day Women from The O.C..
I was home.
Unfortunately I have no footage of this moment, or any other moments at the Starbucks on Earl’s Court Road, because you don’t work while you’re home. Also because it was tiny and it was pretty hard to get a decent picture with my 50mm, and I didn’t even take my camera there every day. Sometimes I only took my need for caffeine and my best friend.
There was also a blue police box right in front of the station that I also don’t have pictures of; we meant to pose with it, but it was always cold and we were always going somewhere else, and it didn’t seem worth the effort. But it’s there if that’s of interest to anyone. PSA. You’re welcome.
After I finished my coffee, which took longer than Annemari would have liked when we had Plans, Exciting Plans (for her), we got on a bus to Marble Arch.
This wasn’t the exciting part, but we saw a ferris wheel at one point. I don’t even know, you guys.
I needed shoes, and Annemari needed to get a couple of pairs of Primark furry tights for Ashley, so we went to Primark, and I went into a number of stores that sold shoes, and eventually I bought a gorgeous pair of booties from Clarks that I was then forced to carry all day long. It was some questionable thinking on my part, but if you’ll remember, my feet were murdering me and I needed something that would be warm and hurt less.
Also, they were very pretty. Dream shoes. So pretty. So expensive. But so pretty. I made up for the expensive by buying new bras and underwear and socks for practical reasons at Primark. That was a good choice, but I had to stuff them into the shoe box at the zoo bar so I’d be able to carry it.
Oh, crap, spoilers. Well, never mind: if you know anything about Annemari, you know she was excited to go to the zoo.
I was slightly less excited because I have no love lost for giraffes and I paid for both our tickets, but it was worth every penny. (In a manner of speaking; what do they need £27 a pop for?)
I occasionally sat down while Annemari ran around taking pictures, like the seventy-year-old grandma I am inside. This, predictably, didn’t save me from:
- Taking so many pictures I ended up with 117 edited ones;
- Falling mildly in love with the lemurs because they reminded me of my cat;
- Dragging Annemari to see the snakes;
- And ending up with enough portraits of both of us to illustrate a memoir.
I wore Annemari’s Cat Walk shirt, because I planned like shit for this trip. I’m not proud of that. The budgeting was on point, at least. Gave me room to fix my packing mistakes and everything. You can’t win them all, am I right?
After the zoo shooed us out and we watched the penguins swim to follow everyone who was leaving their enclosure, we sat in Regent’s Park with our freshly purchased merchandise featuring some hurriedly taken shots of us at the entrance pasted into pictures of zoo animals, including a gorilla because the zoo people are assholes, and then followed the crowd to the bus stop as the sun went down.
It was very pretty. The weather was weird. I took no more pictures that day, except for one of Annemari on her hotel room bed, pantsless. She said I could post it when I asked, but I figure you can do without. It’s not that good of a picture. She’s adorable, though.
She turned the TV on, and I changed into my Thistle slippers (do I even need to mention that?), and then I convinced her to go to Burger King on her own to get us both food because my feet hurt. We watched X Factor, because she’s into Nick Grimshaw and I will accept no mean comments about any of it on this blog, and that was day five done.
(I’d had a cocktail masterclass booked for this day, but we ran late for Primark, which made us late for the zoo, which made us late for life. I don’t do it on purpose. I really don’t. But my cocktail masterclass wasn’t more important than Annemari having extra time at the zoo, and I owed her for making her hold my things and follow me around at #bloggersfestival. She deserves a fucking sainthood, I swear to god.)
september 7, 2015
First we Starbucksed, and then we went to lunch.
It was really interesting going to two brasseries in the time I was in London. They had some similarities — like the type of food, which I chose on purpose because I love it, and the French names on their menu — but were also very different experiences. I don’t know if the time of day had something to do with it, but where Brasserie Gustave was intimate and quiet, La Brasserie was bright and lively and opened onto the street.
The PR recommended the lobster to me, which I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t thought of before I got there, but which was delicious, and for once, Annemari tried my food! And liked it! In your face. (She’s even pickier than I am.) It was all amazing and I barely had room for dessert, but they had a delicious-sounding ice cream sorbet, so I went for that and it went down very nicely.
Seriously, restaurants were a real discovery for me on this trip. I love blogging, and I actually really like food sometimes, too!
And I always love ice cream.
Annemari and I had discussed some options at Starbucks earlier for what to do that day. I went in without very many plans other than the press meals and the event; I had a quick look at what was going on at the Royal Academy and the Tate Britain, which are my favorite museums, and I was mildly interested in a couple of free exhibits, but my feet were also killing me despite the new boots — the new socks, made for walking indoors apparently, were a terrible idea; at one point I was wearing nine plasters on each foot, and I kept stopping to adjust them.
But the Natural History Museum, much more Annemari’s speed, was right there in the area we were staying, and I wanted to see some of the animals I photographed the first time I met her in person in July of 2008, so we walked from La Brasserie to Cromwell Road.
Annemari walked around the entire first floor while I rested my feet, and then I joined for the dinosaurs and mammals and things. I got to give her a mini lesson on white balance, which was fun, mostly because she’s a better photographer than me. (I’m better at portraits and poor lighting, but only because I have a little more experience with them.)
When the museum closed, the sun was shining and it was cold at the same time, which was annoying as balls, but somehow — don’t ask me how — I think I managed to walk the entire way back to the hotel? I must have, because I have a lot of pictures of the area. They’re some of my favorites from the trip, and some of my favorite portraits as well.
The entire day, the wifi at our hotel had been spotty; we asked at reception and they said the company was working on it, but it was still shit when we got there in the afternoon. I wanted to do some photography work and I didn’t feel like being there, so I found a Starbucks that closed a little later, and we got on a tube for literally one stop. I think. Either that or we walked there. But we went to Gloucester Rd and stayed till closing.
I know this isn’t a very good photo, but I’m very fond of it. Also, there was a Waitrose right next to the station, and I was fond of that too even though I didn’t do any grocery shopping. The area reminded me of the time I went to Putney Bridge for a pre-hair seminar modeling consultation. I liked it, and walking back home at night was incredibly peaceful too.
september 8, 2015
Tuesday was our last day in London; our flight was very early on Wednesday, so Tuesday was basically to-do list day. On said list:
- Go to the Yull studio to pick up a pair of shoes;
- Buy the tights Ashley hadn’t confirmed quickly enough on Sunday;
- Donate whatever didn’t fit and I didn’t care for; also pick a place to donate it; and
- Matilda-themed afternoon tea at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Mercer Street.
Perfectly doable! I mean, so it took me forever to get up, and walking from the bus stop to the studio down a wide-ass road that was clearly not meant for being traveled by foot was torture, but that’s not the point! It was actually a pretty good day considering I was wearing my last clean top and third-day-in-a-row jeans. Tiresome, but sweet.
From the bus, which took us from Earl’s Court to Battersea, I was hoping to see a bit of Chelsea, but I just saw dreary shit. And the Thames, which was gross, but that was better than the dreary shit, honestly.
We kept running late, but I think that was added to by the incredibly lifeless gray weather. We may have been supposed to do something else before heading to the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Mercer Street, because we were only half an hour late; the reason our tea ran into other people’s dinner was the aforementioned we-are-weirdos-who-eat-late. After I got my clothes ready for donation, we took the tube from Earl’s Court Road to South Kensington, left the clothes at an Octavia Foundation shop, and got back on the tube to Leicester Square.
There were cocktails. The view was lovely. I want to go back.
Once again, we stayed longer hoping we’d be able to finish the food, but we did not and got some stuff packed up for later, which would come in handy because I couldn’t imagine getting up at 4 AM if I went to sleep, and I would inevitably get hungry if I stayed up.
Primark opens super late, so that was where we spent the last of the evening before heading back to the hotel to finish packing. Annemari got her tights, and I accidentally bought a pair of flats for the way back home because I was not up for wearing heeled boots while dragging my luggage (good choice), socks that were meant to be worn inside shoes (they looked ridiculous with the gray shoes, but they were comfortable and I made it home, so good choice too), a long-sleeve t-shirt (I’m always looking for this, so also a good choice) and a sweater (also a good choice, this trip was full of good shopping choices).
I also got to walk Charing Cross Road, which is a bit of a London staple for me. I don’t even go into the shops; I just like it. It feels right.
We ended up taking a nap around 2 AM, and I changed into a t-shirt of Annemari’s — a One Direction one this time, which I’d later sleep in in Barcelona because I didn’t think to bring sleepwear — and both our alarms went off at 4 AM. It was still dark when we checked out and walked down to Warwick Road for our bus.
The ride to Liverpool Street Station for the Stansted Express involved a stop near Canada House, which was a lovely throwback to Thursday in Trafalgar Square. It started drizzling, and we were each carrying a massive backpack and a suitcase all full of mostly my stuff, and I felt a little dirty, but I was taking all my things and my best friend home with me, so it was all right.