London Diary: A Few Days of Walking, Shopping and Time with Clive’s Son

Statue of William Shakespeare in Leicester Square, London

Clive’s son, Jason, had a business trip to London and arranged to spend the first couple of days with his father and me in Felixstowe.

With Jason’s blessing, we decided to tag along to London. Our goal was to maximise the available time with Jason, meeting him for one or two evenings if he was free, and maybe taking in a West End show. Otherwise our days would be clear and we always have a list of galleries, shops and sites we’d like to see in London. Using accumulated hotel points, we booked four nights, Tuesday evening through Saturday morning, the longest we can recall staying there.

Tuesday: Evening on Piccadilly

After a wonderful time in and around Felixstowe, the three of us took the train to London on Tuesday afternoon. We arrived to a beautiful evening and, after checking in to our respective hotels, reconnected for dinner.

The streets of London were buzzing as always at peak hour, with pedestrians rushing to and from the Underground, taxis speeding by and flags promoting the West End flying overhead.

Evening on Piccadilly

Wednesday: Books, Shopping and Miles of Walking

While Jason worked all day, Clive and I enjoyed a slow start in a crowded café. A stroll to Clive’s favourite men’s shop, Charles Tyrwhitt on Jermyn street, followed; Clive wanted to buy a few replacement collar stays but the lovely young saleswoman gave him six at no charge.

Then came my favourite part of the day: a visit to Waterstones on Piccadilly, one of London’s best (and biggest) bookshops. I especially love their lower-ground floor travel and travel narrative section, with guidebooks, classic fiction, nonfiction and memoirs shelved together by location (similar to the also-wonderful Daunt books on Marylebone High Street). I could spend hours in this section alone, though we also had a look in a few other equally-enticing areas on different floors.

Jason texted Clive while we were having lunch in the Waterstones café, letting us know his work colleagues were taking him out to dinner that night.

In the afternoon, we headed out for my shopping chore, selecting new jeans at Long Tall Sally, a wonderful shop on Chiltern Street. A customer here once complimented Clive for accompanying me on my clothing search. This week, I worried it would take a while to try on endless jeans (oh, the uncommon delight for a tall woman, when they are ALL long enough!), so Clive was happy to camp out in a nearby café. I could always text him if needed.

Eventually I chose two pairs of jeans; the staff are so helpful and make the process as easy as possible. It’s always quite an experience, to have virtually all the staff and other customers my height or taller. Figuratively I’ve looked up to many women in my life; physically not many.

Purchases complete, I met Clive at the café and we walked more miles, until we were both desperate to find a bench. Thankfully, London has many lovely parks and squares and soon we plonked ourselves down in Berkeley Square.

Benches in Berkeley Square

Since Jason wasn’t available for dinner and our feet and bodies were worn out from all our walking, we treated ourselves to … a trip to M&S Food, a selection of salads, breads and cheeses and a tasty hotel room picnic.

Thursday: Fortnum & Mason, More Books and ‘An American in Paris’

Before going out this morning, we booked tickets for tonight’s performance of ‘An American in Paris’ at the Dominion Theatre, a new venue for us. Clive originally suggested this musical, after reading rave reviews about it several months ago, and of course I eagerly agreed.

Again we walked for miles, beginning at Fortnum & Mason, my favourite London department store. I love its ground-floor coffee, tea and chocolate displays; its stationery section with turquoise leather desk accessories; the store’s atmosphere, which I find classy but much less over-the-top than Harrods; the tearooms (where we split an order of scones, jam and cream); the location on Piccadilly across from the Royal Academy and the turquoise carry bags which say, ‘By appointment to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’.

A few little surprises for my son’s upcoming birthday, from Fortnum & Mason

Two steps from Fortnum & Mason (and not far from Waterstones) is Hatchards, London’s oldest bookshop, which oozes character and atmosphere and *always* warrants a visit. How heavenly it was, to have time for a lovely browse on several of its well-stocked floors. Apologies for the lack of bookshop photos – too busy with the books!

En route to pick up our tickets and suss out the exact theatre location (knowing it’s in the midst of the huge construction works around Tottenham Court Road, for the new Crossrail train and underground line), we paused for some people-watching in Leicester Square. A statue of William Shakespeare, shown at the top of this post, stands in the centre of the square.

More captivating than the street performers and jolly tourists were three little girls in pink princess dresses, though unfortunately they were feeding the pigeons – urrgh!

The mother attempted a selfie photo with the girls but the youngest pushed them all away, insisting with indignant shouts that she could figure out the selfie stick by herself. I tried to be discreet in snapping a photo of the little miss.

Girl with selfie stick at Leicester Square

On our trek up Charing Cross Road to the theatre (I can’t write that street name without saying Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road is one of my favourite books of all time), we OF COURSE had to stop for a browse at Foyles, yet another large, excellent bookshop. We found seats in the Level 5 café, downed cool drinks and Clive kindly minded my bag so I could come and go unencumbered on my expeditions throughout the store.

Finally we made our way to the theatre, picked up our tickets, made a quick turnaround at the hotel to drop off our bags and headed out again to meet Jason for an early, pre-show dinner.

Picking up our tickets at the Dominion Theatre

After catching up on Jason’s day over dinner, we walked back through Leicester Square and I snapped this father-son photo on our way to the show.

Clive and Jason at Leicester Square

As for ‘An American in Paris’, it’s a terrific musical with beautiful, clever Paris set designs and amazing ballet and dance numbers. My favourites were when the two leads, the young lovers, danced with each other. We felt a few of the dance numbers could have been shorter, but still thoroughly enjoyed and recommend this show.

Friday: Farewell at Paddington Station

After our two long days walking, shopping and theatre-going (no galleries this trip, unusual for us but the bookshops were calling), Clive and I had a slow start on Friday.

We spent the morning strolling around, ending up in Green Park where we found a bench and sat and read for quite a while.

Clive with the mapbook, planning our next move, Green Park

Jason texted that afternoon, saying he was finished with work and could meet us an hour earlier than planned. We met late afternoon at a café in Paddington Station, for this trip’s last get-together.

Saying good-bye is never easy and the older we get, the more emotional Clive and I become about it. It was difficult for this dad to say farewell to his boy. We’re already looking forward to the next visit.

Farewell at Paddington Station

Get-togethers with loved ones always pass too quickly. My strongest memory of the past week is simply the sight of Clive so happy to be with his son; a close second is the sound of their voices chatting away. Sometimes ordinary one-on-one conversations, especially with adult children, are the most extraordinary gifts. Thank you, Jason, for making the effort and taking the time to include us in your business trip to England. And thank you too, Jennifer, for holding down the fort while he was away.

I think we met our goal of spending as much time as we could with Jason and, during the days, enjoyed the rare luxury of a slower pace and time to browse, walk and enjoy London’s green spaces.

After a good-bye wave as Jason’s train left Paddington station, we opted for another hotel room picnic and a quiet night in the room. I know Clive was reflecting on their time together as we packed our backpacks and he tracked the first leg of Jason’s flight.

As at last night UK time, Jason is safely home in Australia and we are back in Felixstowe, looking forward to our next family visit, a trip to New Jersey to see my mother and son. Until then we are beside the sea, and our dear little tree, in England.

Home to our tree by the sea, Felixstowe

Cheers and thanks for reading. Whether near or far, wishing safe and happy travels to all.

6 Responses

  1. It all sounds very tempting – you made the most of the time in London and with Jason for sure! One of these days I’ll be meeting up with you in London………………….In the meantime, thanks for including the tree picture! XXOO

  2. What a whirlwind! and good tips for places we can go on our next trip to London. so nice that Clive and his son from far away could spend some time together…

    • Martha, thank you and hope you do get back to London! Take care and happy summer to you and John.

  3. Hello Carolyn and Clive , how wonderful that Jason was able to fit in a trip to Felixstowe and spend quality time with you both , and super that you could go to London (get all your book and clothes shopping in 🙂 ) and spend time with Jason , after he had finished work. All seemed to flow nicely. Happy that you all had a great time, ♥ xo

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