Day 2 began with a hearty buffet breakfast at Tavistock hotel. Fried, boiled and scrambled eggs, watery baked beans, hash browns, sausages, bacon (a little on the hard side),grilled tomatoes, toast and jams, prunes and stewed fruits, cereal, juices, coffee and tea – a good enough selection and variety to keep us going until lunch.
We had some visa problems, so we took a quick detour to the commission in the morning (boring stuff). After that we kicked off our tourist activities with a trip to Westminster Abbey. They didn’t have the fast track option for the abbey with the London Pass, so we joined the back of the queue, which snaked out the courtyard and along the street, which luckily progressed quickly.
Just a note that there are bag checks at every major attraction (I’d imagine it’s a lot stricter now) – a reflection of the times we live in. We went through that only to have the ticket machine break down on our side of the entrance. Ah, the joys of waiting – so close yet so far…
No photos were allowed inside so it was cameras down and audio guides on as we shuffled along each point on the tour path. The abbey is steeped in history and the coronation stage, throne and some of the tombs are majestic sights to behold. It was interesting to see the tomb of Mary Queens of Scots, right opposite Elizabeth I’s considering the bitter history between them. Others buried within the walls include Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton and composer George Handel, and there were memorials for other prominent figures such as Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis.
After a quick toilet break and a few snaps outside in Parliament Square (the statues include some of the British PMs as well as international figures such as Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln), we headed to the next stop on our London Pass – Kew Gardens.
We took the tube to Kew Garden station and stopped for lunch at Kew Greenhouse Cafe. Prices were a little on the expensive side, but with home-baked pastries and cakes you couldn’t go wrong.
The Pasta Boromees was a vibrant burst of colours on the plate with mixed fusilli pasta, chestnut mushrooms, olives, cherry tomatoes, chopped rocket with garlic and herb dressing and shaved parmesan. The pasta was still al dente with salty pops of olives and tangy tomatoes, the dish tasted as fresh and beautiful as it looked.
The chicken and leek pie had chunky, tender meat baked in Tarragon and cream sauce and was topped with buttery, crumbly short-crust pastry. The pie was served with salad, baked potatoes, and broccoli and corn on the side. We washed our meal down with some medicinal-tasting home made lemonade and ginger beer.
About 10 mins walk from the café was the gated entry to Kew Gardens, another of the attractions covered by the London Pass. Unfortunately our timing wasn’t the best, with half the garden closed for spraying. The gardens were quite empty. We meandered around through the Japanese gardens, stopping by the impressive pagoda on the way.
We also climbed up (or took the lift) to the treetop walkway (not one for those with a fear of heights).
The magnificent-looking Kew Palace, located at other the end of the garden, was worth a look.
The rooms were well-maintained, but the real attraction lay in the small garden out the back, the Queen’s garden.
We saw lots of pretty and unusual flowers in the gardens, and the ducks who lived there didn’t seem to mind the intrusion.
Our last stop was the Palm House – a steamy greenhouse, home to palms and other plants from all over the world. The structure itself was a marvel in itself, built from 16,000 panes of glass with a winding Victorian-esque staircase to the upper floor.
Dinner was the 3 pound meal deal from Tesco Express, which was our friend for the remainder of our stay in London. Through it, we were introduced to Tyrrells, which is in my humble opinion, the most superior chip (or crisp) of all.