Set off with Sal at 9am to drive to Basingstoke where we caught the train to Waterloo. Feeling slightly guilty that I’d directed Sharon, Craig and Emily to arrive at Westminster after I’d heard that the Queen would be opening Parliament at roughly the same time knowing that it would be incredibly crowded. On the train I saw Sharon’s Facebook post that they had seen the Queen followed by lots of thumbs up by her Aussie friends so guilt subsided. Second cock up was my suggested meeting place as I arranged that we meet by the Dali sculpture of an elephant close to the London Eye. Turned the corner to see that the sculpture had gone …. two years ago in fact! However close by where it used to be was the unmistakable Sharon. Around the corner we were introduced to Craig and Emily and we took a stroll east along the south bank of the Thames. This was a walk that I would do quite often when I worked in London but in the grey London weather it had seemed to have lost much of its charm. The drab concrete of the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall were particularly grim but the conversation with newly met rellies brightened the day. The National Theatre’s concrete basement area was sprayed with graffiti which Emily thought was cool enough for a photo. True enough, even graffiti was an improvement on such a drab building. Past the London Television Centre and Oxo Tower building and then diverted away from the river front to avoid demolishing work of a river front building. Back to the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge and under more construction work and scaffolding for the new railway bridge across the Thames. Just beyond we stopped for lunch at the Founders Arms pub. Distinctly average food made me begin to think that I’d chosen a pretty poor route for meeting up with Sharon, Craig and Emily for the first time. However, it was nice to sit down and chat and to get to know each other a little better. On past Bankside Power Station which is now the Tate Modern Gallery where we chose to ignore a Damian Hurst exhibition and under the Millennium Bridge that featured in one of the Harry Potter films. On past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and what seemed like hundreds of European students and tossed a coin at a sand sculptor who was creating something that none of us could recognise on the Thames "beach". On past the old wharf buildings and down Clink Street which is the home of England’s oldest prison. Past The Golden Hind museum and up Cathedral Street past Southwark Cathedral where Craig and I gazed up at the newly completed Shard building. It may be the tallest building in Western Europe with a penthouse flat costing £50m but Craig and I were unimpressed with the architecture. Craig and Emily were clearly exhausted from their 16 hours long day trip to Paris so we said fond farewells as they headed off to London Bridge tube station. Sharon, Sal and I did a quick tour of Borough Market which is supposedly the site of the oldest market in London going back to Roman times. We saw and photographed The Market Porter Inn which was apparently the "Third Hand Bookshop" in one of the Harry Potter films.
Sharon had heard of an armour museum at the back of Selfridges which we decided to head off to by cab. Once we got north of the river the traffic ground to a halt as many roads had been blocked because of the Queen opening Parliament. So we jumped out of the cab at Aldwich and headed west. Dodged around hundreds of young school children queuing to get into the Lyceum Theatre to see the Lion King and into Covent Garden. Three great ice creams were purchased which we ate whilst walking along King Street, through New Row and the cut through to Wyndam’s Theatre. Across the road and into Leicester Square where we saw lots of folks waiting for the premier of Dark Shadows … or rather waiting for Johnny Depp as they were mainly teenaged girls. Past Chinatown and through to Piccadilly Circus for a quick photo of Eros then up Regent Street where Sharon and Sal were somewhat distracted by lots of handsome young lads standing around in boxer shorts. Sharon and I walk on but Sal has dashed back for a photo with them. Dirty girl! At the end of the curved façade of Radnor House we turn left into Burlington Gardens and then back down through Burlington Arcade where Sharon and Sal gazed at jewelry and fine clothes that would make a millionaires wallet melt. On Piccadilly we head towards the Ritz but the rain comes down and we dive for shelter in a Café Nero. Shower over we head north up Dover Street, Grafton Street and on to New Bond Street for more expensive shops. At Oxford Street we turn left and head towards Selfridges where we stop and I Google for directions for Woolies museum. Nothing found on the web so we head into Selfridges to ask for directions. A quick tour of the shop including a quick peek their own museum showing ladies 1950’s fashion then on to the information desk which is adjacent to a cat walk where young ladies advertise spray tans by walking around in very short shorts. I wasn’t distracted … much, and at least I didn’t dash off to have a photograph taken with them! Very friendly girl advises us it’s the Wallis Collection but they close at 5pm in 45 minutes time. Although we’re offered a map and directions Sal and I realise that our parking at Basingstoke expires at 6pm so the Wallis Collection will have to wait for another day. Back to Bond Street tube where we jump on the Jubilee line for Waterloo station. Hugs with Sharon at Westminster where we say farewell. We arrive at Waterloo with three minutes before a Basingstoke train departs and manage to squeeze ourselves into a commuter train out of London. Standing room only, steamed up windows and sweat pouring off my brow I remember why I hated commuting into London for work. At Surbiton half the passengers get out and Sal and I find ourselves a seat. Relax! Home just after 7pm, feet up and reflect on a grey damp day in London where we met three fabulous rellies. Sorry that Craig and Emily have not seen the best of London due to the weather (and my choice of meeting place) but looking forward to meeting with Sharon again in a little while.