Exploring Lancaster Gate on a Go Native Staycation

Jorge and I were invited a few weeks ago to stay in a new Go Native serviced apartment property on Sussex Gardens near Lancaster Gate and Hyde Park.

P1070331

We thought it might be fun to have a little staycation in a different neighbourhood. So we packed our overnight bags and walked from South Kensington to Exhibition Road and over to the other side of Hyde Park to check it out.

P1070307_2_2

It was still surprisingly Autumnal in the park the first weekend of December.

P1070308_2

There are berries and colourful leaves on some of the trees.

P1070320

Others were bare and still others dark green.

P1070309

Some had colourful trunks instead.

P1070310_2

We wandered up past the Peter Pan statue.

P1070315

It was always one of my favourite stories when I was younger.

P1070316_2

Then it was onward along The Long Water at the north end of the Serpentine where the birds always line up on a row of wooden posts.

P1070314_2

A little Australian boy was told off by his mother for trying to pelt them with stones.

P1070319

But overall, it was a very peaceful stroll.

P1070311

One of my favourite places in the park is the Italian Gardens, which I was happy to realise were on our route.

P1070326_2

There’s a fountain at the one end where you can stand and look back over the Serpentine.

P1070324_2

It wasn’t a very sunny day, but it was still a stunning view. Imagine with bright blue skies.

P1070323

The birds thought it was nice enough to go for a swim anyway.

P1070329_2

We reached the end of the park.

P1070357

The rest of the walk was just five minutes up through Sussex Gardens.

P1070334_2

We went to drop our bags in the lobby.

P1070392_2

Then we decided to consult the neighbourhood guide that Go Native had sent us for some ideas on what to do next.

P1070333_2

We were intrigued by the nearby Leinster Gardens Fake Houses and took a walk in that direction. We passed a small street with shops and some Christmas trees for sale on the corner.

P1070337_2

Then we turned down a pretty ordinary residential street in this area with big expensive homes just minutes walk to the edge of Hyde Park.

P1070340_2

And we found ourselves standing in front of two ordinary looking buildings that we wouldn’t have looked at twice unless we had read the guide. It said: “Take a stroll along Leinster Gardens (just off Lancaster Gate) and you’ll see that numbers 23 and 24 are eerily empty, both missing letterboxes and with their windows painted over. That’s because they’re an illusion. The original houses were demolished during the development of the London Underground and these facades mask the gap that remained.” Learn something new every day, right?

P1070343

What next? It was Sunday and we were hungry so clearly a Sunday Roast was in order. But where? After consulting that handy guide, we settled on The Grazing Goat. “Minutes away from Marble Arch is this hidden gem. A simple, elegant pub, it specialises in beer and guest ales but also has a reputation for fresh, seasonal food – specifically, their traditional Sunday lunch. Named after Lady Portman’s grazing goats that once populated the surrounding land, it doubles as the perfect reason to visit Portman Village.”

P1070341_2

So we walked back the way we came and followed the edge of the park down toward Marble Arch.

P1070345

This time, on the same route, I spotted something I love to find in big cities – a rack of international newspapers in a mishmash of languages. I can’t read any of them and I never buy any of them, but I love that they are a sign of such incredible diversity.

P1070336

We also spotted a sign on a door that said United Lodge of Theosophists. I had a relatively good idea of what that was but looked it up just to be sure. If you’re curious, theosophy is defined by “systems of esoteric philosophy concerning, or investigation seeking direct knowledge of, presumed mysteries of being and nature, particularly concerning the nature of divinity.”

P1070346_2

Moving on then. Around the corner, we came to Sheila’s Cafe, a hidden little place at the top of Lancaster Mews. With two tables for two, it’s mostly a sandwich takeaway shop and apparently popular with cab drivers and builders. The bacon sandwich got good reviews. We didn’t stop though.

P1070348_2

Across the street from Sheila’s is The Mitre, a popular pub that was listed in our guide, which reads: “Housed in a Grade II listed building, The Mitre was once populated by the Lords and Ladies of the day. Now, film buffs are more likely to recognise it from Woody Allen’s London-based movie Match Point.” Haven’t seen it. Have you? Any good?

P1070349_2

Anyway, we didn’t stop there either.

P1070356

We reached the park and kicked through the leaves near the Boris bikes.

P1070352

And wondered why there were no less than four red phone boxes back to back in a square across from them.

P1070354

Eventually we reached Portman Village, just between the madness of Edgware Road and the madness of Oxford Street. The Grazing Goat was tucked quietly away on a side street.

P1070358

But we opened the doors to a packed pub and waited at the bar for a table.

P1070362_2

It had been a while since I had a Sunday roast so it took me a minute to decide but I went with the lamb.

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 10.36.43

The food was great and it was worth a visit, but the pub was incredibly noisy and full of squirming, screaming children so we were happy to leave.

P1070378

It was time to check into our room anyway.

P1070381

This time we went through the back streets. We wanted to check out Connaught Street. According to our guide, it “boasts two worthwhile spots: Le Pain Quotidien and Coco Maya, the latter of which is on the border of Connaught Street and Porchester Place. Interestingly, this is where Tony Blair and his family live – identifiable by the armed protection squad outside.” There was indeed an armed guard in front of a mews.

P1070382

The sun was already setting so it was a pretty walk.

P1070384

So we made it back and were shown to a large suite on the ground floor with a bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen area. It was, however, quite dark and four of the lights didn’t work so we called for someone to have a look.

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 09.40.23

Apparently they didn’t have replacement bulbs because they were waiting on a shipment that hadn’t arrived so they kindly gave us a choice of two other apartments upstairs. The one we chose was lovely, with a huge wraparound balcony.

P1070450_2

Unfortunately it was too chilly to properly enjoy it, but the inside was really nice as well. It had very high ceilings, a spare room with a couch and extra set of towels, a living room and kitchen area, a bedroom and a bathroom. Definitely very spacious for London!

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 09.44.47

It was also very cool to see they had thoughtfully left a small carton of milk, sugar, tea and coffee as well as dishwasher soap, washing up liquid, and laundry detergent for the small washing machine.

P1070459_2

The kitchen was fully stocked with pots and pans and everything you need really. One thing that would have been nice that we didn’t see is oil for cooking. But we didn’t use the kitchen.

P1070395_2

Taking advantage of its proximity, we headed back into the darkness to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland where we ate German sausages, churros and sweets for dinner instead.

P1070397_2

Jorge was amused by the fake snow, which he hadn’t seen before.

P1070403

I, on the other hand, am wishing for real snow, but considering it is still about 13C / 55F in London, that’s not looking likely any time soon.

P1070406_2

We didn’t go on any of the rides.

P1070409_2

Nor did we play any of the games.

P1070412_2_2

But we did do one of my favourite activities – try on silly hats!

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 09.49.18

Jorge was going for the furry Russian look.

P1070429

I went the reindeer route.

P1070426

We were there mostly just to soak up the atmosphere.

P1070442

And then we headed back again.

P1070437_2

This time we walked through the Bathurst Mews where the Hyde Park Stables are, to see the horses that were tucked away for the night.

P1070338_2

Back in the apartment, we found a late night Christmas movie and then got up and walked the 40 minutes to work the next morning.

P1070453_2

All in all, a fun little adventure. I do like the idea of a staycation. While it wasn’t too far from where we live now, it was a nice getaway! If it were in East London and it was over a weekend, it would have felt like we’d really been on holiday!

P1070447

 Thanks Go Native!

Spring in Hyde Park

The elusive Spring may finally be on its way. I spotted some flowers along the edge of Hyde Park this weekend, while walking from home to Notting Hill. I took some photos in case they decide to disappear again so that you believe me.

IMG_6094_2

I also finally took a photo of these chimneys that I walk past on my way to work every morning that look like mini castle turrets. About 10 homes on this section of the Foulis Terrace have the same. 

IMG_6086_2

And a very touristy shot of the red phone boxes in front of the Natural History Museum where I haven’t been in ages despite walking past it almost every single day.

IMG_6089_2

When you enter Hyde Park from this side, there are sculptures of deer at the entrance way.

IMG_6092_2

And back to the flowers!

IMG_6097

IMG_6095_2

IMG_6099_2

Of course, among all of the joy that these little things bring, they don’t change everything. There’s such a mixture of beauty and sadness in life, and in a big city, it’s all jumbled so close together.

IMG_6098_2

Nearby, there’s a sculpture of a dog, ready to pounce. There’s a big sense of energy in this small piece of art.

IMG_6101_2

Next to the dog, a section of the park was blocked off with a sign: “Snob’s Crossing”. Hm.

IMG_6102

Since I was headed to Portobello Market (more photos later), I decided to walk up Kensington Palace Gardens, the quite, tree-lined street full of embassies. At the edge of the park just before the bit where you can no longer take photos, there were these royal looking Victorian style gas-lit street lamps.

IMG_6103

If you have five minutes, read about Kensington Palace Gardens. It has some interesting history and the average property price on the street is about £22 million. For example, the Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal owns three properties on the street together worth about £500 million. According to Wikipedia, “He bought  18-19 Kensington Palace Gardens—which was purchased from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone in 2004 for £57 million (US$128 million)—made it the world’s most expensive house at the time, The house is decorated with marble taken from the same quarry that supplied the Taj Mahal. The extravagant show of wealth has been referred to as the “Taj Mittal”. It has 12 bedrooms, an indoor pool, Turkish baths and parking for 20 cars.” Some indoor photos.

Yoko Ono’s Wish Trees, London

“As a child in Japan, I used to go to a temple and write out a wish on a piece of thin
paper and tie it around the branch of a tree. Trees in temple courtyards were always
filled with people’s wish knots, which looked like white flowers blossoming from afar.”
Yoko Ono: “All My Works Are A Form Of Wishing”

Yoko Ono’s wish trees outside of her exhibition “To The Light” at the Serpentine Gallery are pretty straight forward. She left behind a stack of luggage tag style papers and simple instructions: “Write your wish on a piece of paper. Hang the paper on the wish tree. Ask a friend to do the same. Keep wishing.”

The trees are not new. The same idea has been implemented in many cities around the world since the 1980s. That’s a lot of wishes.

Here’s a few from the trees in London:

Have you made a wish yet?

Summer Nights in London

Isn’t London a wonderful place to be right now? Warm evenings, a slow setting sun, pubs overflowing into the streets, everyone wearing summery dresses and sandals and smiles. Here’s a bit of iPhone fun, a shot I took in Hyde Park a few nights ago alongside a few friends and a bottle of wine.

Hyde Park on a Summer Evening

What’s your favourite way to pass a summer evening in London?

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Our first stop at the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland? Mulled Wine. It’s £4 a cup, but when you’re standing in freezing night temperatures, it’s a must to keep your hands from going numb and to warm you from the inside.

We had some good laughs trying on hats (for example, one that looked like a fish – you stick your head up into its mouth), ate some bratwurst smothered in ketchup, watched the pretty lights of the rides and bought a a couple goodies from the Christmas market. There’s also an ice skating rink if you’ve got good balance or don’t mind a few bruises.

You pay for rides and food at regular fairground prices, but entry is free and it’s a nice experience just wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere. Friends of mine went on a weekend which is apparently crowded, but we went on a Monday night after work and it was just right. The Wonderland is open till 10pm. Dress warm!!

Do You See What I See?

Talking Reindeer

Mulled Wine

Rides

Snowman and Baby

Haunted Christmas

Slide

Bratwurst

Owl

Observation Wheel

Talking Tree

Chestnuts Roasting

Christmas Market Vendor

http://www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com/