I Remember You Well in the Kensington Hotel

I told you all about the Royal Wedding and the spontaneous 12-hour side trip my sister and I took to Paris, but I didn't really tell you about the rest of my time in London, which is something I only realized yesterday when I found a batch of pictures on my camera I'd forgotten to download and thought "oh, right! That happened!" I tell you, it's regular Memento-type stuff up in here. 

Here is a rather self-consious self-portrait my sister and I took in the stairwell of the Kensington Hotel, partly because we had very few pictures of us together on this trip, and partly to marvel at---and record for posterity---the fact that we were getting away with bare legs in England in May. The weather in London was glorious, in fact, the entire time I was there, and the thing about London is that the moment it gets even the tiniest bit sunny, the whole city just becomes so wonderfully enjoyable. Not that it's not enjoyable in, say, February---it is, it's just enjoyable in a different way, like maybe less of a "gin and tonics outside in the pub garden" way and more of a "family-sized bar of Cadbury's Dairymilk with your entire body huddled, fetus-like, under the duvet" way---but there's really nothing quite like an English summer. Along with all of its attendant pleasures, of course: Pimms, the smell of freshly-cut grass, and lounging around in the park with the Sunday papers.

Side note: I had some friends over to (re)-watch the Royal Wedding a few days ago and I'm pretty sure I terrified them with the level of detail I could get into when pointing things out on the screen. Quite honestly, I terrified myself. All this knowlege in the world and I manage to retain the names---and ages---of all of Kate Middleton's bridesmaids. So much math I could have learned and instead my brain has kept an accurate record of the number of seamstresses it took to sew all that lace on her gown and why they had to wash their hands every thirty minutes. "I wonder," mused one of my friends idly at one point, "who designed the Queen's outfit." "I know that!" I chirped, my hand shooting straight up. "It was Angela Kelly!"

(And this is why: the Sunday papers. I read them cover to cover in Hyde Park.  I know so much trivia about the Royal Wedding, you could probably test me at this point. Hey, Alex Trebek, put me on Jeopardy against Winston. We'll see how well that computer can do against someone who owns not one, not two, but three Special Souvenir Issues of Hello! magazine.)

That's not all Susie and I did, of course. We managed to meet up, briefly, with our brother Luke, who flew into Heathrow from San Diego and had an hour to spare between arriving at Victoria Station and catching his train back to Bristol.

 We saw my old university friend Liz and her sweet and delicious new baby, Ada:

And we had dinner with my oldest friend in the world, Anna, during which I got to indulge in quite possibly the best British invention ever (leaving aside, I guess, Eddie Izzard, wine gums, and Gavin & Stacey):

What is that? That, my friends, is a Ploughman's. Here is an explanation, if you would like Wikipedia to explain it in thirteen paragraphs: all you need to know, in my opinion, is that it is a perfectly valid excuse to eat bread and cheese for dinner. Well, technically, it's supposed to be lunch---the full name is a Ploughman's Lunch---but the heart wants what the heart wants, am I right? And Branston pickle is right at any time of the day.

Last thing: people often ask me where they should stay in London, and since I lived there for three years while I was a student---meaning I was penniless and destitute and not in the habit of staying in hotels---I never really have any good recommendations to give them. Now, however, I have one. They are paying me absolutely no money to say this, swear to god, but if you are looking for a place to stay in London, I cannot recommend the Kensington Hotel highly enough. I can take no credit at all for finding or choosing it---I was staying there for work, which means I pretty much just showed up---but I can tell you that it's one of the best hotels I've ever stayed in, and I've stayed in a lot of hotels.

Although I kind of don't think Susie was supposed to be on that balcony, come to think of it.

Tons more pictures of London right here, if you're interested. And now I propose that we all get on a plane and head right over. Ploughman's Lunches for everyone! Who's in?

1
Alecia
May 30, 2011

It sounds like such a nice trip. How convenient that you had a work assignment there at the same time as the Royal Wedding or was your assignment to cover the wedding? Glad to have the hotel tip!

2
Mine
May 31, 2011

OK, things are definitely looking up in Blighty. As someone who has, more times than I care to divulge, been seduced by the IDEA of the Ploughman's and have been delivered some rock-hard bread roll, dessicated "cheese" and a lump of mystery meat wrapped in what I have been assured was pastry but tasted like limp cardboard, I demand to know where you got served this version! I'm pretty sure it wasn't your average pub, am I right? Huh?

3
Pretzel Thief
May 31, 2011

::raises hand::

Waaaahh, I wanna!

My bro has been in London since last May (came for my wedding in November, natch) and I miss him terribly. Blast!

The Kensington Hotel looks gorge. Do you know I didn't stay in a hotel till, I kid you not, my wedding night last year?! YUH HUH! First time ever at 26[!], and it was at Melbourne's Grand Hyatt (our suite didn't disappoint!).

(When I've travelled before, always stayed with family and friends, hence how I eluded hotels. Stayed in motels, but...yeah. Hee!)

4
Renee from GA
May 31, 2011

Have been curious about the ploughman's lunch but one thing stops me - what on earth does Branston pickle taste like? Sour? Sweet? Uniquely flavored like olives or capers? In my part of the south we take pickles very seriously (we pickle *everything*) but I just don't know how to classify Branston.

5
Sheila
May 31, 2011

I would totally be in, but for the Branston pickle. Just the look of it scares me a little. I'd be happy to order a Ploughman's Lunch and give you the pickle off my plate: could I join you then?

6
NothingButBonfires
May 31, 2011

Alecia -- I was there for the Royal Wedding!

Mine -- it was at a pub in Russell Square called the Marquis of Cornwallis. Definitely more gastropub than normal pub. (As evidenced by the fact that it has its own website?!) http://www.themarquiscornwalliswc1.co.uk/

Renee -- Branston pickle is not really like pickles at all: it's basically chopped up pickled vegetables like carrots, onions, swedes, and cauliflower. It tastes a bit vinegary and a bit sweet and completely delicious; probably akin to something like a relish or a chutney. Excellent with cheese. Definitely an acquired taste though (and I didn't acquire it until a few years ago.)

7
ScottsdaleGirl
May 31, 2011

Ahhhhh, that picture of Luke and Susie in Victoria station sent me RIGHT BACK THERE. I have walked open mouthed smiling through that station 4 times. Drank a Stella at one of the pubs, bought a curling iron and potato chips and a souvenier tshirt in the shops...God I love London

8
edj
May 31, 2011

I want to come, and I want to sit next to Sheila so that she'll give me her Branston.

My first trip to London that I actually remember was the summer I was 17 and England was having a drought so it was really sunny and hot, every day, and the dollar was strong and I was with my Mum, who'd lived in London for 10 years or so when she was younger, before she met my American dad, so she knew all the places to go. It was an incredible trip and I don't think it can be duplicated. And now I will sit here and miss her.

9
Ris
May 31, 2011

The Ploughman's Lunch sounds like my absolute favorite meal. I'm going to move to England now.

10
Cathy
May 31, 2011

The first picture of you and your sister looks VERY Royal Tenenbaums! What a fun job to be sent to cover the Royal Wedding. I'd love to go to England or really anywhere. Very jealous!!

11
Delaney
May 31, 2011

Hurrah to Pimm's! This is a recent discovery for us; just spent a long weekend on the Florida panhandle sipping Pimm's cups on our condo balcony and listening to really bad southern rock cover bands at the bar next door. Perfect summer beverage!

12
NodToStyle
May 31, 2011

that Ploughman's lunch is making my stomach growl.

13
Camels & Chocolate
May 31, 2011

Three weeks in the American West and I've STILL not had a day where I could wear bare legs. Puffy jackets and snow boots is more like it.

Also, confession: I've yet to watch the Royal Wedding. (I know, I know.)

14
jasmine
Jun 01, 2011

can i have your job. please?

15
Raz
Jun 01, 2011

I live 'up North' in England at the moment and you're making me want to go back down South!

16
Melissa Murphy
Jun 01, 2011

We stayed at the Kensington Hotel in 2006. (thank you Orbitz last min travel deal!) While it was fine...it did not look anything those brochures. Looks like they upgraded nicely!

Also, I was at a resort in Vermont last week for work. They totally had Ploughman Lunches on the menu!

17
Helen
Jun 02, 2011

I'm so with you on the excellence of both Gavin and Stacey and a ploughman's. One thing I've always pondered over with Branston pickle though (which I love: other sweet sandwich pickles just will not do), what is rutabaga and why is it only ever seen in Branston pickle?

18
Marcheline
Jun 02, 2011

I totally adore ploughman's lunches... the best part is the Branston pickle! (That's the brown stuff in the ramikin, for all you non-Brits.) I was first introduced to it in Nashville, TN at the Sherlock Holmes Pub in the 1990's. Alas, the Sherlock Holmes is no more, but they now sell Branston pickle in my grocery store here in NY! YAY!!!

19
SuzRocks
Jun 02, 2011

I'm in, I'm in, I'm in! I love bread and cheese, and often make myself that for 'dinner.' I am quite domestic after all. I can slice bread AND cheese!

20
radio streaming murah
Jun 02, 2011

I love bread and cheese

21
elz
Jun 02, 2011

Ugh, I hated Ploughman's when we lived in Britain. Looking at it now, I kind of wonder why. Maybe because I was busy eating all the fish & chips in the entire island?!

22
Katie
Jun 03, 2011

Me! I´m in. When I´m done with Spain, that is.

Seriously... What do you do for a living???

23
S.
Jun 03, 2011

Ah! This is making me crazy! Not only did I go down to Londo from Norfolk for the Royal Wedding weekend, but the day after the wedding my friends and I also went to the Marquis of Cornwallis pub. Totally randomly as we were strolling around in the neighborhood and thought it looked nice. Would've been totally crazy (for me anyway - a reader of your blog for may years now) to have just bumped into you and your lovely family.

For you, it would've likely been freaky and slightly stalkerish seeming. :)

24
rebekka seale
Jun 04, 2011

Love the Ploughmans..we always order that at a brewery we love here in Nashville. Something tells me that one is tastier, though!!!

Rebekka

25
JoyGirl
Jun 04, 2011

If it's food, then there's a good chance that I'll like it. Even more likely seeing that cheese is involved. Very nice.

26
FlyoverBelle
Jun 06, 2011

Oooh! I'll go back!! We just returned from our vacation there last...um...Tuesday. It. Was. Awesome. (And we used Holly's recommendations during the pre-planning stage. They were right on, btw.).
I had a Ploughman's in a pub in Oxford. LOVED it -bread and cheese, really, how can you go wrong? But really wondered what the stuff in the ramekin was. I think I even said to my husband that I wasn't sure what it was, but it sure tasted good, and I wasn't going to ask because I was afraid it would gross me out. ;) Good to hear that it isn't gross.
Also? We stayed at a funky little hotel called the Space Apart Hotel. It's not high-service - far from it, actually - but the studios have mini-kitchens, and it's located in a residential area close to the Circle line. It worked out perfectly for us.

27
Theresa
Jun 15, 2011

I just have to thank you for teaching me about the Ploughman's Lunch. I've never heard of it before now, but it's the first English food I've heard of that actually sounds really good. In fact, I wish I were having it for dinner tonight.

28
medical-x-ray
Jun 20, 2011

Perfect! I enjoy it!!!

29
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Jun 25, 2011

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30
Janelle
Jul 05, 2011

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Jul 24, 2011

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