Sunday, 13 February 2011

A Saturday jaunt to the Capital

My wife and I, and our two kids, spent the day in London on Saturday. Nothing remarkable about that, except that as a family, we only get up from Tunbridge Wells about twice a year. Since leaving London in 2007 we haven't really missed the place, but as the children are getting a bit older its nice to make the odd excursion. 

On this occasion we went to the museums in South Kensington, the Science Museum and The Natural History Museum. For those of you not that familiar with London, most major museums offer free entry these days, and have done so since about 2001. Major exhibitions are different; one still pays to see these. There is actually a lot of free stuff to see and do in London, which makes it a great place to visit, and also with children. For those of you who have been to any of the museums in South Kensington, you will have probably found out for yourself that they are exceptionally busy, particularly the Natural History Museum. It was manic this weekend, with literally hundreds of kiddies running riot, including ours. Anyone with young children will know that little minds do not have great attention spans, so we only spent about an hour in each of the two museums. My older daughter Hannah enjoyed looking at the aeroplanes at the Science Museum. They have one of the engines from a Boeing 747 on display and it is a frighteningly massive piece of equipment, close up. Both children loved the Natural History Museum, which has a great (if busy) dinosaur display and lots of the to-be-expected stuffed wild animals, like a lion, tiger, gorilla, etc. Particularly impressive is the skeleton and also life-size model of a blue whale, which takes up the better part of the roof space of a huge exhibition hall. Imagine meeting one of those in real life!

Of course, London being London, and me being me, crazy perfume fanatic that I am, no visit would be complete without a brief excursion to a couple of perfume places. I popped into Les Senteurs in Belgravia (more about that in another post) and Harrods in Knightsbridge. As Valentines Day is on Monday, Harrods was awash with zombie men trying to find a last-minute perfume for their partners and of course, sales assistants waving perfume bottles in one's face. I have learned to bump them off, mostly politely, but I do find Harrods daunting at times, particularly around Christmas and Valentines Day. I did smell the two newish Guerlains on paper, Arsene Lupin Dandy and Voyou. I must say that neither made a huge impression on me, but I clearly would need to test them on skin to form a proper and fair opinion. Of the two I think I preferred Dandy, but both disappeared very quickly on paper, lasting not much more than a couple of hours. I also tried Fleurs de Sel by Miller Harris, which I've never seen before. It was interesting. Slightly weird, but worth a revisit at some point. My final spray was Secret Oud, by Caron. The sales lady said that Harrods have the exclusive right to sell this in London, but a hour later I saw it at Les Senteurs as well, so I am not convinced she was correct. In any event, it smells rather interesting, although the oud had more of a vetiver vibe on paper than the oud smell I was expecting. This is seriously expensive at about £137 for a 50ml bottle (not sure what this is in US dollars). Actually, the Guerlains are bloody expensive too, not much cheaper than the Caron, and with less staying power, on paper at least.

After the perfume detour, we popped into a pub in Victoria for a quick pint of Doom Bar beer, then it was off to a Chinese Buffet place that we always used to eat at when we lived in London. It is cheap and cheerful, and doesn't feel awfully clean, if I'm being honest, but the crispy duck and pancakes are yum, as is the crispy seaweed. My two girls loved it, having not eaten Chinese before. We eventually got home at about 9pm that night and the poor mites were utterly exhausted. Actually, we felt a bit guilty keeping them out so long, but they did have a good time and we don't do this often.

So, all in all a good day, but I must admit that one day in London at a time is more than enough for me. It can be a crazy busy place and it's always good to return to a more mundane and sedate pace of life all being told!

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