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Three Days in London Continued: Kensington Gardens, Shopping and Tate Modern

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(To read the first installment — my flight, hotel and first evening in London — click here.)

It was my first real day in London and I knew I had to make the most of it since I essentially only had two full days there. I didn’t wake up as early as I should have (I’ll just blame that on the time difference) but I figured it was better to be well-rested for an action-packed day.

First on my agenda was an early lunch at The Orangery at Kensington Palace with an old friend who lived in London. Orangeries doubled as greenhouses for citrus plants back in the day, and this one was also used by Queen Anne for ceremonies. We had a great time catching up in the beautiful all-white setting, with sun (yes, sun in London in November!) streaming through the windowed wall. Then we took advantage of the blue skies by walking to the Round Pond, which was full of ducks, and I continued on through Kensington Gardens to The Albert Memorial (pictured left) — a must-see monument commissioned by the prince’s wife, Queen Victoria. I also poked my head into the small Serpentine Gallery. Then I walked through Hyde Park for a little while longer and exited in Knightsbridge near Harrods.

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Although I had seen Harrods from a hop-on/hop-off bus tour the last time I was in London (nine years ago), I had never been inside. I was pretty impressed by the Egyptian Hall (pictured right) — hieroglyphics and handbags make for an interesting combination. I went upstairs to see the clothing, most of which was very high-end and way out of my price range even before the currency-conversion factor. I must not have been the only one who felt that way because those floors were surprisingly empty, even for a Friday afternoon.I went back downstairs to see the famous Food Hall, which was much busier. It was full of tempting sweets (and savories, of coure) but I was holding out for Harrods’ Ladurée concession so I could taste the famous macarons. It’s a beautiful little Art Nouveau cafe that sadly prohibits photos.

Well, I wasn’t done with my shopping — especially since I hadn’t bought anything. I decided to brave the crowds at Picadilly Circus and head to the enormous Topshop flagship. Supposedly one is coming to NYC, but it’s coming very slowly and I didn’t want to wait. The sizes at Topshop were quite confusing because while the tags listed British and US sizes, the US sizes seemed to be different than, well, US sizes. But I still managed to buy a few things and I highly recommend the store to anyone who’s visiting London and wants to find something affordable but exciting. And yes, there’s a Topman too. I browsed around some other nearby stores too, including the Spanish Hoss Intropia and the beautiful department store Liberty of London.

I had planned on the Tate Modern (pictured below) as that day’s museum, so I was in for a longish tube ride to Southwark. When I was last in London, the Tate Modern was about to open and everyone was abuzz about it. By the time I arrived it was dark so I didn’t get to benefit from the Thames views. I was impressed by the structure of the building — it definitely lived up to its modern billing. But I wasn’t in love with the museum itself. While it was free to enter the museum, you had to pay to see most of the exhibits so I contented myself with the permanent collection. The ground-floor installation, TH.2058, was free too. The purpose behind this exhibit, which will be on display until April 13th, is to imagine that we are “refugees from rain.” Thanks to the nice weather that day, I couldn’t really appreciate that sentiment. But as I trudged around the next day in the on-and-off rain, I gained a better understanding.

Next I was headed back to my hotel to change for dinner. To be continued…

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