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A week of Chelsea mornings: Nikki's trip to London

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A week of Chelsea mornings: Nikki's trip to London

Old Jun 22nd, 2018, 02:20 PM
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A week of Chelsea mornings: Nikki's trip to London

This trip sort of crept up on me. We only decided to go to London about two months ago. My husband Alan has family he wanted to see, and there seemed to be a week we could fit in a trip, so I looked at an agency from which we have rented apartments before, A Place Like Home in London. We decided to rent a flat in Chelsea, right on the Chelsea Embankment, overlooking the Thames.

I arranged the apartment, bought plane tickets, and then stopped planning until about two weeks before the trip, when I finally started reading theater reviews and checking out restaurants and getting in touch with the people we wanted to see.

In the past we had relied on a cousin of Alanís to arrange for a large gathering of the clan. But this time there seemed to be no date on which everyone would be available. I got an e-mail so complicated that I feared I would have to learn to use a spreadsheet to plan to see everyone we wanted to see. But a flurry of e-mails resulted in a jigsaw puzzle of gatherings of friends and family, and I spent two or three days reviewing recommendations and reading reviews and buying tickets and making reservations, and by the time we left we had a fairly full agenda.

We ended up seeing three compelling plays, eating at a series of increasingly wonderful restaurants, visiting with friends and family in various beautiful gardens whose proprietors insisted they were weed-choked horrors (they should only see ours), and enjoying the beautiful urban surroundings of our home for the week on the Thames. We fit in a couple of day trips and found our way to corners of London we had not explored before. And did I mention the food? And did I mention the chocolate?
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Old Jun 22nd, 2018, 02:56 PM
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A Place Like Home. Interesting choice of name to attract travellers.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2018, 03:06 PM
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We arrive Thursday morning after an uneventful flight and a ride from Heathrow airport with a driver from justairports.com The greeter at our flat is a delightful woman who tells us she was a dancer in the 1950s on the BBC with a group called the Television Toppers. Judging by her appearance, dancing must keep you young. The dancers still get together for reunions every year. But they donít do the high kicks any more.

The apartment has a wonderful view across the river to Battersea Park, where the Japanese Peace Pagoda is neatly framed by the kitchen window. The coffee table in the living room is set with all the accoutrements to hold a cocktail party here, or afternoon tea. And it would be a great place to have such a gathering. But we will be on our own here for the week.

We get settled and then fall asleep for a couple of hours before it is time to go meet Alanís cousin and her husband for dinner at Dishoom in Kensington. The restaurant is themed to represent the age of jazz in Bombay in the 1930s, with photos on the wall of musicians from that place and time. Alanís cousin grew up in Bombay and is herself a musician, and she knows the author of a book about the period from which the photos are taken, so she has been interested in coming here. There is a live jazz band. The food is good, the art deco atmosphere is attractive, but between the live music and the acoustics of the large room, it is difficult to converse.

So after dinner we adjourn to a cafť across the street for tea, pastries, and conversation. And then we call it a night.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2018, 03:38 PM
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Old Jun 22nd, 2018, 03:40 PM
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Old Jun 22nd, 2018, 05:35 PM
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Friday we have a lunch date with Fodorite sassy cat. But first I have a date with a chocolate shop. We ate at the same restaurant in Chelsea when we were last in London, and I remember a great chocolate shop, Rococo, a couple of blocks away. Last time we made the mistake of going after a large lunch and couldnít appreciate the free samples. This time I made sure to go before lunch and got a sample or two as well as buying some chocolate to bring home and some to eat back at our apartment. This turns out to be the only shopping I do on the whole trip.

We also make a stop at a bank. A taxi driver turned down the money we tried to use to pay him, saying it was obsolete. I had saved some UK currency from our last trip, and evidently there has been a changeover in the meantime. Fortunately, we are not stuck with the old coins and bills; banks will still exchange them for the new ones, and we come out of the bank with money that wonít make people think we are counterfeiters.

Lunch is at Medlar. Medlar Restaurants Home I have been looking forward to returning ever since we ate here nearly three years ago. For the quality, this is a bargain at lunch, with a prix fixe menu of £25 for one course, £30 for two courses, and £35 for three courses. I start with lamb sweetbreads and tongue with girolles, borlotti, ricotta gnocchi and salsa verde. For a second course I have roast quail with confit legs, crepes parmentier, foie gras, hazelnuts, zhoug, and a soy, maple, and lime glaze.





Nobody wants desert, but I order the cheese course for a supplement of £5.50. Everything is wonderful.




By the time we leave, we have spent three and a half hours in Medlar. The food, the company, the conversation, and the relaxed setting of the restaurant have made for a fine afternoon. As we are leaving, sassy cat says she is going to the Chelsea Physic Garden, which is just the next block from our apartment. I suggest we go together. Then we look at the time. Assuming the garden will be closing shortly, we go our separate ways. It is possible that sassy cat makes a stop at Rococo for a taste of some of that chocolate. Back at the apartment, I see an e-mail from sassy cat. She googled while riding the bus, learned the garden is open for another hour, and is at the garden now.

I walk over to the Chelsea Physic Garden and we find each other with just enough time to take a quick look through. This is a very interesting place. Each area of the garden is organized according to a theme. We find ourselves in the area dedicated to useful plants. This breaks down into smaller areas, including one for edible plants. Within this area there are small sections dedicated to plants that are a source of specific vitamins. I read later that this garden was established in 1673, was frequented by Linnaeus, and that cotton seeds collected from the South Seas for this garden were used to establish cotton in Georgia; Indiaís tea came from China; and Malayaís rubber came from South America by way of the Chelsea Physic Garden.








Last edited by Nikki; Jun 22nd, 2018 at 05:50 PM.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2018, 06:24 PM
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Friday evening we have tickets to see Notes from the Field at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloan Square. This is a very powerful one-woman show, written and performed by Anna Deavere Smith. She interviewed people all over the US and beyond on the subjects of race, education, and justice; and she takes on the character of each of them as she recounts their words.

We notice that the audience includes people of a wider age range than we customarily see at the theater in Boston or New York, where we frequently remark that everybody looks like us (meaning bald, gray, or both). This play actually was first performed at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an hour away from our home. But this is where we are now, and I am very glad to have the opportunity to see it here.

Saturday morning we go to the Borough Market. The very first place we see is the Kappacasein Dairy. When we last visited this market, nine years ago, this was a stand in the market; now it is a storefront. I have remembered my toasted cheese sandwich for the whole nine years but I am not yet hungry. Alan does take advantage of the lack of crowds and orders one, which he ends up graciously sharing with me.




We find enough great cheese, ham, bread, sausage, and fruit to supply our flat with provisions for the week.







We are less successful in our quest to find a stand selling pies that we loved nine years ago. We do find a different pie vendor, and those pies are good, but they are not the ones Iíve been craving all this time. But my feet are giving out and I am done searching.

The taxi driver who takes us back to Chelsea tells us the market has become a tourist trap. He lives in the neighborhood but the prices have become crazy and he doesnít shop there as often now. It is true that it has changed from my recollection of nine years ago. I seem to remember that there were more purveyors of uncooked food, fresh meat, fish, and so on. Now there seem to be more stands selling prepared foods and ready to eat food like cheese and charcuterie. This does work well for us, since we are not really planning to do any cooking, but it seems a shame that it doesnít work as well for the local residents as it used to.

Last edited by Nikki; Jun 22nd, 2018 at 06:31 PM.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2018, 10:51 PM
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Enjoying your TR so far and eager to read more. We're currently in London but unfortunately leaving tomorrow.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2018, 11:06 PM
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Love your photos. You must have a great camera to get such clarity and wonderful colour. We will be back in London in September after 8 years away. I wonder what differences we'll notice. Keen to hear about your other theatre experiences, this is on our must-do list.

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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 02:41 AM
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Thanks for the nice comments.

I am using an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II mirrorless camera. But I also took many photos with my iphone, including all the restaurant shots.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 03:08 AM
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Saturday afternoon we go to a matinee performance of Pressure at the Ambassadors Theatre. This is a play about the competing weather forecasts for the day of the Normandy invasion. The idea of everything hinging on the vagaries of British weather makes for a good deal of suspense even when we all know how the story will end. We are planning to visit Normandy in October, so I think of this as background research for our stay there.

The play was written by David Haig, who plays the meteorologist at the center of the drama. He does an excellent job, although I am a bit distracted wondering whether his Scottish accent is real (his bio says he is English, so I would guess it is not). There is also an Eisenhower with an accent that is not entirely convincing (weíre not in Kansas any more) but I enjoy his performance as well as that of the woman who plays his secretary and driver.

After the show we contemplate stopping at a pub before dinner. We find ourselves on a street with upscale shops and few pubs, and end up at a monument at an intersection that later research identifies as Seven Dials. Wikipedia tells me that at one time there was a pub at the apex of each of the seven streets that converge at the small circle, but we only see one and it is overflowing into the street.





We decide to head to Shoreditch, where we have dinner reservations at Merchants Tavern. Modern European Cuisine All-Day-Dining - Merchants Tavern Shoreditch We are early, so we spend some time in the bar having a drink and then find our way to our table. We are impressed right away by two dishes designated as ďnibblesĒ: an order of cod beignets and one of smoked codsí roe, crispy pork and black olive.







I continue with a starter of quail, foie gras, remoulade, and hazelnut pesto. I am not unaware that this is the second day in a row I am eating a dish consisting of quail, foie gras, and hazelnuts. Is this a trend? But I have come to this restaurant specifically because the Fodorite who recommended it, Belinda, mentioned this dish. So thanks Belinda, it is excellent.




Then I have Texel lamb thick flank from the grill with chard and wild garlic. And everything has been so outstanding that I canít pass up the dessert menu. I finish with buttermilk panna cotta with raspberries. What a feast!

And then they bring us madeleines. They do not unleash any powerful memories and I donít expect them to develop into a three thousand-page masterpiece. But that would be nice.




It is still light when we make it back to Chelsea, and we spend a few minutes next to the river enjoying the view at dusk.

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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 03:49 AM
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Really enjoying your trip report and the pics
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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 03:50 AM
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Hi Nikki - looks like you had a nice trip. The last few years I've been tacking a few days in London onto my summer trips and this year I have five days. I had thought about Chelsea Physic Garden but it kind of fell off my planning list. Thanks to your report it's now back on.


Looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 04:28 AM
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BTW - I just went on the Chelsea Physic Garden website and your photos are better than theirs!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 05:15 AM
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<<And then they bring us madeleines. They do not unleash any powerful memories and I don’t expect them to develop into a three thousand-page masterpiece. But that would be nice.>>

lol, Nikki - I'm sure that we would all enjoy reading it too, if my pleasure from reading your TR is anything to go by! I am so sorry I didn't make it to London to meet up with you and Alan, and not just for the opportunity to join you at one of those restaurants either - I'd heard of none of them before but they are on my "to eat at before I die" list now. How nice that you got to the Chelsea Physic Garden, which is another sight, like Borough Market, that you have beaten me to. In my defence they weren't really things to do to when I worked in London, but as I left over 20 years ago now, it's hardly surprising that things have changed and not necessarily in an entirely good way as your taxi driver indicated.

Lovely photos too - looking forward to reading and seeing more.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 05:31 AM
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I’m thoroughly enjoying your TR and savoring your food pics! Everything looks wonderful - the garden looks very interesting, and I love your apartment and it’s view! We are going to London in September and I’m eagerly looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 05:41 AM
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I’m enjoying reading about your trip and seeing the lovely photos. Thanks!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 08:35 AM
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Nikki, I am really enjoying reading about your recent stay in Chelsea. We were there last summer, considered Medlar for a special celebration but chose Elystan Street instead. Our meals were outstanding but will put Medlar on our list for our next visit. We loved staying in Chelsea.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 11:07 AM
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Thanks for all the kind comments.

Annhig, you did read that Linnaeus made it to the Chelsea Physic Garden, which was established in 1673. I believe that was before you worked in London. But I could be wrong.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2018, 11:09 AM
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Sunday we have plans to meet Alanís elderly uncle and aunt near their home, which requires us to take a train to Burgess Hill from Victoria Station. This turns out to be far more confusing than I have anticipated. Entering the station, it is not clear how to pass from the shopping mall that greets us to an area more closely resembling a train station. I donít remember it being this difficult when we did it before. When we do locate the actual station, we are greeted by multiple announcements of canceled trains. I donít think any of them is ours, but there appear to be three cancellations in the half hour we spend here.

We wait on a fairly long line at the ticket counter, buy our tickets, and ask the ticket agent which track our train leaves from. He tells us track 16. We make our way to the track and see a sign for a different train. We find a sign that tells us it will be track 15. We get on the train that is waiting there and two girls on the train ask us whether the train is going to Brighton. Got me. There is no indication on the train. The girls seem to be getting off.

At some point, signs on the train begin to show the stops and announcements confirm the signs. I find our stop, and we have a higher level of confidence that we are on the correct train.

We meet Alanís uncle and aunt at a pizza place near the station. Then we are joined by two of Alanís cousins who have driven down from London. One of them comes accompanied by her husband and a chihuahua, which she is carrying in a sling like a baby. Nobody in the pizza place seems to care that there is a dog. To be fair, our waitress tells us it is her first day working here. She comes from Roumania. She doesnít seem inclined to make a fuss. She just hopes she gets our orders right. And it is possible that she is the only staff member to even notice the chihuahua, who is really tiny and very quiet for most of the afternoon.

The London contingent has to leave after an hour; they have plans too elaborate for me to understand, which involve picking up and dropping off children, and eventually watching Brazil in the World Cup with friends of Alanís cousinís husband, who comes from Brazil. Iím a little disappointed I wonít get to watch the Brazilians watch the match, which sounds like more fun than watching the match itself.

We visit a bit longer and then take the train back to London. Much less confusing in this direction. The Burgess Hill station is pretty easy to negotiate.

We have dinner at Ziani, a neighborhood Italian restaurant with an emphasis on Venetian food near us in Chelsea. The restaurant is small and packed on this Sunday night, and I am glad I called for a reservation. I enjoy my starter of scallops, mushrooms, and rocket. Then I have a fritto misto of liver, kidneys, and sweetbreads. This is very filling and satisfying.
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