Actually, the term “high tea” for the posh afternoon sort of thing with tea and scones is a misnomer, but it worked better in the title than “afternoon tea,” which is the correct term. But since my favorite place for afternoon tea closed, the Basil Street Hotel near Harrod’s, I had been promising myself that I would have tea in the Orangery (left) in Kensington Palace Gardens, and so yesterday took advantage of the sunny day–how to resist a walk through Hyde Park, and a gawp at Kensington Palace, although I didn’t go in the palace proper.
The Orangery is tucked away behind Kensington Palace, and has its own beautifully landscaped gardens. What better way to while away an hour or so, drinking tea, writing, and gazing out the windows. Except the park and day beckoned, as did this little door set into what I think must be the nether regions of the palace itself. There is nothing more intriguing to the imagination than a door marked PRIVATE.
And then the park . . . I debated over which photo to include, because no photo can do justice to Hyde Park on a sunny–if cold and a bit windy–spring afternoon. I’m not sure that such a thing is meant to be recorded, but must, I think, be experienced. Babies toddling in the bright green grass; bikers biking (although I’d prefer they not be the mad ones that run you down if you’re not careful); benches to be sat upon and deck chairs to be lounged in; dogs running off lead, chasing balls and squirrels, real or imaginary. And although I’m not sure it’s allowed, there should be small boys and girls sailing wooden boats on the Round Pond.
There are daffodils and bluebells and grape hyacinths in the grass, the camelias are fading, the rhodedendrons just coming into bloom, the buds unfurling on tender trees and roses, and all the human faces are living sunflowers, turned towards the light. Glorious indeed.
I promised I’d post everyday from London, and as of Thursday I will have been here two weeks. That’s always the way it goes with these visits–never near enough time to get in all the things I need and want to do. I’ve been researching the book-in-progress (more on that later) and taking a few pictures for the illustrator of the maps in the US editions, Laura Maestro (more on that later as well.) But I’ve also been doing the very ordinary things I love most; just enjoying London, and Notting Hill in particular. The weather was absolutely foul the first few days-raining, sleeting, snowing, then raining, sleeting, and snowing some more, and I spent my first Saturday at Portobello Market, something always very much looked forward to, freezing. It was so windy and miserable that stalls were blowing down, and many of the stall-holders gave up after a gallant struggle and packed it in for the day. And no, I didn’t get any pictures of the market in sleet and snow, as I was feeling too protective of my new camera, and besides, my hands were numb.
But with the usual capriciousness of London weather, by the time I had walked from the bottom of Portobello Road back up the hill, the sun had come out, and I was able to snap this shot of a magenta door on Kensington Park Road, with yellow forsythia in bloom in the garden. The photo is deceptive, however, as it looks like a lovely spring day, but it was still ferociously cold.
By the next Saturday, spring had made a bit more progress, as you can see from this shot taken at the intersection of Portobello Road and Chepstow Villas, where Portobello Market really begins.
A false promise once again, however, because by the time I’d got half way down Portobello, it had started to rain and blow, and while not as cold as the previous Saturday, the wind turned my umbrella wrong side out and broke it–a common London hazard, and I ended the afternoon soaked, looking like a drowned rat, and desperately in search of warmth and TEA!
Still, it was Portobello, and not to be missed, weather be damned!