The British Library, the Guards, and Claridge’s

FULL ENGLISH TIP:
Regency Cafe is known for their cheap, full English breakfast
You can find their menu here

Originally, we were going to start the day off with breakfast at Regency Cafe, since they open really early (7:00am) but we ended up going to King’s Cross Station to see Platform 9 3/4 before getting a quick breakfast at Aux Pains de Papy, a quaint French bakery that served fresh bread and pastries. I ordered an almond croissant and a brioche with my cappuccino and wow, the brioche was like eating a cloud! It was so soft! They serve coffees with little biscuits and fresh meringue as well. I’m not a huge fan of meringue but theirs was the right amount of crisp to lightness.

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DID YOU KNOW?
All museums in London are free: the British Library, the British Museum, Museum of London, and the National Gallery

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and is surprisingly the largest library in the world. I actually thought that the Library of Congress was the largest in the world but was beat out by roughly 6 million catalogued items. It’s a great place to spend a few hours in since it houses several temporary exhibitions as well as being a research library. There was an exhibit where one wall displayed sheets of music written by various famous composers from the Baroque and Romantic period – like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn – and another wall dedicated to the beloved The Beatles. What I found the most interesting was that you can actually gauge the composers’ personalities by how they wrote their music. There was a composer who actually saw mathematics in music and his sheets looked like geometric and algebraic drawings.

The Library also had a section of extremely rare texts, some belonging to Shakespeare, and others from ancient Arabic or Chinese scrolls. I learned about the history of printing in Asia. While most people think that Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, printing in Asia occurred centuries earlier. It was interesting seeing the scrolls that are hundreds and thousands of years old in comparison to the Gutenberg Bible, one of which is actually housed in the Library.

While we wanted to stay at the Library a bit longer, we also wanted to see the changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace so we got on the tube to head over there. The changing of the Guards is at 11:00 in the morning and lasts approximately 45 minutes. The changing of the Guards happens weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays and the schedule can be found here. It’s best to get there about 30 minutes to an hour prior to 11:00am to be able to get a good spot to see the Guards.There’s also a band that plays in front of the palace. I did make it all the way to the gates to see the band and the actual changing of the Guards but, sadly, they were all in the phone that I lost. I did manage to have a photo of the parade with the Guards marching saved:

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PARADE AFTER THE CHANGING OF THE GUARDS

Once the parade was over, we cut through St. James Park to get to Somerset House. The most amazing thing happened when we were cutting through the park (which, by the way, has loads of pelicans by the pond)! As we were crossing the bridge, I thought I recognized my colleague passing me by (she was supposed to be in London a few days earlier than me) and half-heartedly shouted her name out. But the girl didn’t react so I assumed that it wasn’t her. However, she quickly whirled her head around and it did turn out to be her! We got one of my friends to quickly take a photo of us on the bridge so that I could send it to our company’s #general Slack channel and they all thought we planned this out! Now this is what I call coincidence!

Our walk over to Somerset House was quite nice, albeit a bit long. Somerset House is a Georgian building with a courtyard and fountains and has a gallery. We also went onto their terrace which provides great balcony views of the river Thames. The Courtauld Gallery that is inside the Somerset House is best known for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. They house iconic works by Manet, Degas, Monet, van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cézanne. While entrance to the house is free, the gallery does charge an admission and special exhibitions add an extra cost. We didn’t get a chance to see the gallery since I had strict reservations for our first afternoon tea at the heralded Claridge’s but it’s definitely on my list of things to do when I come back to London.

TIP:
Courtauld Gallery: £8.00
You can book tickets online here

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WHITEHALL GARDENS
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SOMERSET HOUSE

Claridge’s is a 5-star hotel located in Mayfair, London and was established in 1812. Due to their longstanding connections with the royal family, sometimes they are called the “annexe of Buckingham Palace”. Afternoon tea in England is a culinary heritage and considering it was my first time visiting our sister country across the pond, I really wanted to make it worth it by having it at Claridge’s since they have been serving afternoon tea for 150 years. It was such an amazing experience! Our server was super attentive to us and constantly refilled our teas, and when I mentioned that I liked the cucumber sandwiches, she brought out an extra plate! The scones were really delicious as well – they had both traditional and raisin scones with Marco Polo jelly and Cornish Clotted cream. I was so addicted and gobbled up the scones so quickly. It was my first time trying Cornish Clotted cream and it was so different from the “creams” in the States. It’s much thicker and it’s almost like a paste-like substance and I really couldn’t get enough of it. We were so full that we ended up boxing up two of our desserts at the end of tea because we just could not finish it.

CLARIDGE’S:
Afternoon Tea Price: £60 (12.5% discretionary service charge)
A sample menu can be viewed here
Reservations should be made in advance and can be scheduled here

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SWEET DESSERTS FOR OUR AFTERNOON TEA AT CLARIDGE’S

OTHER TIPS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

  • British Museum:
    • Sutton Hoo find: Exhibit of all Viking objects found in England
    • Rosetta Stone
  • Harrod’s
  • Abingdon’s: Sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream (supposed to be the best in London)

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