The temperature is dropping (rapidly) here in London and so my workweek is spent shuffling as quickly as I can through the dark from home to tube station to work and back again; my route designed entirely to minimise time spent facing the elements. There are a lot of layers – and shivering – involved and a fair bit of grumbling about Jack Frost and his evil intentions towards the good people of the UK and doesn’t he have other things to be getting on with?!
But I found my feelings about this chilly time of year completely changed this past Sunday when I awoke to bright, glorious sunshine. Suddenly I was eagerly scrambling into my hat, coat and scarf and heading out into the glow to feel the sun’s rays on my skin and the cool, crisp air on my face. It really is amazing what a bit of sunlight can do for a person in December!
Knowing my usual haunts would be filled with shoppers in search of that perfect present I headed to my favourite expanse of greenery and space in London – Kensington Gardens. With a warming drink in hand (a chai latte has just the right amount of spice and festive feeling at this time of year!) G and I hopped on a bus which dropped us, handily, just by The Queen’s Gate into the park.
We ambled along happily, following the sunlight and watching dogs and humans darting in every direction, clearly looking to blow off a bit more steam then we were interested in expending.
Passing the Palace we waved a ‘hello’ at Will Kate and the kids but decided to keep on our outdoor adventure rather than stopping in.
Round Pond was up next where a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force was keeping careful watch over the proceedings.
And then it was northeast towards the Italian Garden and Peter Pan.
^ Wearing ALL the layers.
Winding along beside the Serpentine, which divides Kensington Gardens to the west from Hyde Park to the east, we came across a rather peculiar sight!
These ring-necked parakeets normally call Africa and Asia home but they started breeding in London around 1960 and have become a special fixture in Kensington Gardens where they receive a lot of love from locals and tourists alike. You’ll find them just east of the Serpentine (and north of the road bridge that spans it) and they’re easy to spot from a distance as they have a way of attracting a crowd! Take a few pound coins with you and you’ll be able to buy some birdseed that will entice them in for a close-up.
When we were out of food and G’s arms were about ready to break we continued on our way and headed slowly back towards Kensington High Street, passing The Albert Memorial – a tribute by Queen Victoria to her husband after his tragic early passing.
With one last inhale of the clean, crisp air we exited the park feeling revived, refreshed and ready for the week ahead!
Practical Information for visiting Kensington Gardens:
For first-timers a trip to Kensington Palace is not to be missed. The current London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as Prince Harry and a host of more minor royals you never quite know who you’ll spot milling around! Tours are available if you’d like to learn more about the birthplace of Queen Victoria and the former home of Diana Princess of Wales and Princess Margaret. Special exhibits rotate throughout the year.
There are lots of great places to grab a bite. For a quick meal head to the Palace café or one of the refreshment stands near the Italian Garden, the Albert Memorial, the east end of the Serpentine or the Long Walk. For a really reasonably priced afternoon tea head for The Orangery (though you may want to book ahead to avoid disappointment – especially in the warmer months).
There are bathrooms dotted throughout the park but they’ve recently instituted a toll for use (grr) so if you’re desperate and don’t have any change on you head to the café at the Palace which doesn’t charge.
For some added culture stop in to the Serpentine Gallery which always has really interesting exhibits on the go.