Plucky old Pimm's

As promised, the walk down Queen’s Gate past Royal Albert Hall into Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, these fall to the west of Hyde Park. The two parks are split by the Serpentine River, which isn't a river at all but a lake, and was built in the 1700s. Queen's Gate seemed to be home to many embassies or consulates, or perhaps the terraces were just littered randomly with flags from nations all over the world. We were spoiled for all things gilded and wrought-iron, grand old facades and heavy black doors with doorknockers clenched in lion's jaws and such. It's a lovely walk.

We also tried to rent these bikes but our damn American credit cards didn't have the required microchips in them, which allows you to rent them from the electronic kiosks. It was for the best, because while I'm sure a bike ride through the grounds is wonderful, strolling giddily hand-in-hand whilst occasionally tumbling through the grass together ended up being superior! (Take THAT, Barclays!)

The Albert Memorial was raised in the late 1800s, and it's a big, Gothic doozy. The inner and outer four corners of the main statue represent Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas and agriculture, commerce, engineering and manufacturing, respectively. It's a sight to see, as is the hall directly across from it (and pictured in the first set, at right-center). I was excited to photograph it against such a blue sky, and we drove past it at night a few times during our stay, when it's a whole different kind of gorgeous.

See? Romantical tumbles in the grass. Told you. It felt like a true park in a way I don't think I've quite experienced here in the Bay Area.

Maybe the Botanical Gardens in Boston, but even in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, however deeply ensconced in it, you never quite shake the feeling of, "Here is a park that was built so that city folk can roll around in green spaces," you know? Something about Kensington Gardens feels so well-hidden from metropolitan chaos that it fools you into feeling further away than you really are.

Here we are Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial fountain. Children run giggling and screaming through it, families sit together on blankets around it, and it's ebbs and flows change the whole way around. It's pretty neat! The flowers along the walk were, needless to say, very pretty and fragrant, and there were swans everywhere. We walked all the way around and did a bit of splashing and moved on.

These are just some sundry scenic shots under and around the Serpentine Bridge. Again, everything is just incredibly tranquil and lush. The diversity of folks wandering through the park in pairs and groups was astonishing as well, and that's saying something coming from a born-and-raised Bay Area girl. It was so great to see.  I really loved that about London, actually.

You imagine anything situated right in the middle of a park like this, right on the water, is going to be heinously overpriced and lacking in quality, but the Lido Cafe Bar was neither! Delicious Pimm's Cups, a ton of sweet and savory treats to choose from, and unbeatable views just before sundown. We watched as ducks, swans and strange birds fed in the water, a group of synchronized swimmers in their dainty caps practicing a routine, and the folks who run the boat rentals chased couples in paddleboats and rowboats back to the dock.

Tomboy shenanigans. Don't slip! She found this great big tree trunk and decided she must curl up on top of it. She found these toy soldiers painted just outside the Kensington Palace. We meant to return for the Enchanted Palace malarkey, but never made it back unfortunately! She wanted to harass the swans, but they were as big as horses!

That's all for now! After 24 hours of lost puppy excitement, and having resigned ourselves to another miserably gloomy, drizzly day, we're settling in for the night to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I before it's time to meet up with my family tomorrow (seriously, there are going to be like 13 of us) to see the final movie! I've been warned I will cry.

Sunday is school supply shopping for the petite, because despite the fact that she's got a good month before the new school year starts, she is very eager to get her ducks in a row. Teenagers!

Have a dreamy weekend!