Okay, misleading title, I know. That's so not news. It's well documented that I like 'free'. Well, in fact, I LOVE free. And what we experienced today was fantastic AND free. What a great combination!
We headed out early this morning for a stroll through Hyde Park to catch any of the entertainment around Speakers Corner. We only passed one fellow standing up on his chair ready for a rant, but he seemed to be waiting for an appropriately sized crowd to gather. We weren't THAT interested in what he had to say to stick around.
We continued through to Oxford Street to check out some of our favourite department stores, John Lewis and Debenham's. Their websites say that on Sunday they don't open till noon. That's not entirely true. They actually opened their doors at 11:30, but once inside they make announcements that you can only BROWSE until noon. There are no cash registers open until then. So our first trip through was only to scope out potential purchases.
From there we headed over to what I must say is going to be a highlight of our time here in London. It was absolutely fabulous, and it was absolutely free. It's called the Sky Garden. It's a 36 story building very close to the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge and the Shard. On the top 2 floors they've created a guest area which is chalk full of plants and shrubs. It also has a viewing terrace and bars and restaurants. Now, don't get me wrong, the food and drink are far from free, but they aren't EXTREMELY overpriced. We were there to have a belated birthday celebration for Fay and we ordered 2 ciders, a scone with clotted cream and jam, plus a ham and cheese pastry. The bill rang in at around 17 GBP. But hey, you'd pay almost twice that for ONE person on the London Eye. And at least that much for one to go up the Shard to experience the view. Okay, so the Shard is 95 stories high...but really, what's 60 or so stories among friends?? Do you really think you're going to see any further from 95 stories than you can from 35? Trust me, I've experienced both and I totally prefer the Sky Garden.
The difficulty with the Sky Garden is getting a booking. TIme slots are released 3 weeks in advance, on Monday morning at approximately 9 am BST. Weekend time slots are picked up within hours...hell, maybe even minutes. Weekday slots last for a day or 2 before they become fully booked. If you're coming this way, and have an iota of planning sense, it's well worth the early morning rise in Atlantic Canada to secure yourself a time slot.
After that enjoyable experience, we topped the day off with some retail therapy. We retraced our steps and picked up all the things that we had 'scoped out' before noon. We each purchased a 'fascinator' at a greatly reduced price at Debenham's. You see, the day we attend the National Hunt at Killarney Racecourse is 'Mad Hatters Day', so how would we dare show up with bare heads? But I wasn't about to pay 50 GBP for a little head band with some feathers stuck to it which I will likely only ever wear the once. Although Fay assures me 'you'll be surprised how much wear you get out of it'...time will tell!! And yes, you will get to see it...but you'll have to read my blog entry for May 14th!!