Saturday, August 20, 2011

Afternoon Tea in London

Afternoon tea was an Englishy thing that I wanted to do so we hit that early. Mike wasn't incredibly excited about it, but he was nice enough to make a reservation at a nice looking hotel near a work meeting he had that day. I had some time to kill before our 4pm tea time, so I headed over to the Buckingham Palace area to battle the tourist hoards. I really walked all over town.

The day's travels began as they usually do, with a trip on the underground. Right off the plane I was smart enough to buy an oyster card, which is a rechargeable way to pay for train and bus fare. Not only is it convenient, but a significant discount is given over those who buy a ticket every time with cash. To top it off, the card keeps track of how many trips I take and caps the amount I spend at a certain point, making any additional rides free. I have hit that limit more than one time already.

Some tourists poking their cameras through the gates of Buckingham Palace. I just walked around the outside, as standard adult admission to this place converts to almost 30 dollars. The queen really needs to have a roller-coaster or something in there to command that sort of cash.

Victoria Memorial

The Mall is the big ceremonial road that stretches between the palace and Admiralty Arch.

Admiralty Arch

The Canada Gate

I popped in to the Burlington Arcade for just a second. The stores were way too high end for me, but one cool thing about this little place are the beadles patrolling the area. The beadle boys keep order in top hats and tails.

I wandered around in the National Gallery a little, but by this time I was pretty beat, and it was about time to go meet Mike for tea, which of course required some more undergrounding.

The place we chose was the Hotel Russel, which is located practically next door to Russel Square station. The two lifts that were available had a ton of people waiting on them. I noticed a set of stairs and figured I'd just hop on those to escape to the outside world. The stairs were winding, and going up meant that I was relegated to the thin part of the spiral staircase. While trudging along a recorded voice began speaking on the intercom and it went something like this: "There are 950 stairs on this staircase which equals about 15 stories. Use these stairs in an emergency only." I probably flubbed the numbers, but I thought it was funny to listen to over and over while I was huffing and puffing my way up the stairs. By the end I really wanted to show that discouraging voice who was boss. I didn't realize the tube was that far underground. No wonder they were used as bomb shelters.

The Hotel Russel looked really cool from the outside.

We split a tea, and it was still difficult for the two of us to finish all of the food that came with it. Here was the spread:

"High Tea £19.50
Finger Sandwiches, fine pastries, scones with clotted cream and jam
Smoked salmon, cream cheese and tomato, roast beef and horseradish, glazed ham and mustard, cucumber, prawn Marie rose, egg and mustard cress. (four fillings of your choice)"
I'm not really sure which of these sandwiches we received, but they were all really good. The number of dishes necessary for tea was impressive, and the table was soon crowded with food and drink. The pastries and sandwiches came on this tri-level tray all neatly arranged. The clotted cream is a bit difficult to describe, it's like butter but a bit creamier maybe? It's made by boiling fresh milk.

We picked this place because it looked nice but was on the cheaper side. The place to really splurge on tea in London seems to be The Ritz. It runs £40 a person, plus a jacket and tie are required for the gentlemen. Tea at the Russel was nice, but one thing we noticed was that they didn't give us a choice of teas, which is sort of standard in my understanding.

I take my tea with milk and a spoon of sugar.

A quick trip to check out Harrods filled out the day.

The place was full of really gaudy Egyptian statues and other decor. It brought to mind the Luxor in Las Vegas.

I've been all over the place lately and have hardly had any time to post anything. It's a good problem to have!

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