The second day of our whirlwind family holiday in and around Europe began where it had left off – in London. The first order of business, after the usual hygiene matters, was breakfast. Accomplishing that was extremely easy requiring only a short stroll down Craven Road the street that connected Mina House Hotel, our modest but comfortable hotel, to the nearby Paddington Station. Along the way we happened upon a small and cozy eatery occupied by six London police officers. What better endorsement could there be than its obvious appeal to six of London’s finest who were abundantly familiar with the local dining options? So in we went and we were not disappointed.
Our faire was classic British, heavy and delightful. We enjoyed two eggs cooked to order and accompanied by baked beans, real bacon and toast all washed down with some combination of water, coffee and juice all delicious and all very reasonably priced. Satiated and in every way satisfied, it was time to explore at least some of London.
Our children were still asleep so my wife and I decided to take a leisurely stroll to and around the nearby Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, a giant expanse of green beauty on very gently rolling hills with Kensington Palace at one end and Buckingham Palace just off of the opposite end. The trails were alive with strollers and joggers and people on bicycles. There were even a few horseback riders to complete the scene. It was a calm and beautiful stroll but alas a text message kept us from reaching our intended destination of Kensington Palace. As we walked along my wife Nenita and I discussed our first visit to Kensington Palace many years back. We saw two young boys playing and learned that their names were William and Harry better known to the world as Prince William and Prince Harry. Today the boys are men, one of whom is preparing to marry. Ah but that text message forced us to turn back because our children, while not actual royalty, felt a need to be taken to lunch.
When we were walking we noticed a very intriguing restaurant with appeal, so we gathered up the kids and went first to that restaurant. It was 11:30 a.m. but we were told that the chef had stepped out for awhile and no, we were not allowed to take a seat and await his return while perhaps sipping some tea; we would have to come back later. So never mind that place, Kari had already located a nearby Indian restaurant and so we walked on to that restaurant and were again informed that the establishment was not yet open and would not be open for at least another 20 minutes. As we were contemplating our dilemma a pleasant young man stepped out of a small establishment with the nondescript name of Salt and Honey and announced that his establishment was indeed open and he invited us in. We cheerfully accepted, ultimately to our great delight. Between us we had duck, chicken pate, roast beef and salmon each dish uniquely delicious. I mean the roast beef for example didn’t taste so much like roast beef as much as culinary heaven, gentle to the touch and utterly pleasing to the tongue. Similar expressions of total delight were expressed all around as we each shared our pleasures with each other. Should you ever find yourself in London I recommend without reservation the Salt and Honey restaurant 28 Sussex Place, London W2, 2TH, UK.
Now it was time to go shopping in the joyfully eclectic Piccadilly Circus built in 1819 and still delighting all of those who visit today. There were also many more places we simply had to visit, places such as Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and more but those would have to wait until the final two days of this journey when we would once again return to London before returning home to Los Angeles, California USA. This day we had another pressing matter to deal with and that was getting from London, England to Brussels, Belgium via train under the English Channel.
I left train tickets for the ladies along with their bags at The Mina House hotel and then headed off to Paddington Station and took the tube [subway] from Paddington Station to St Pancras International train station there to connect with our train for Brussels. I had no idea of exactly what to expect but I soon learned that giving myself three hours was just barely enough time.
First, the initial queue just to get into and ultimately through the security check point was extremely long and took over an hour and a half to negotiate. After that hassle came the passport check which took at least another 45 minutes and by then I was becoming alarmed that my family might not make it in time. Despite giving myself three hours I boarded the train only a few minutes before it left and I was shocked and thrilled to see the ladies safely in their seats. Some very kind person at the train station had assisted them in cutting in front of the queue, allowing them to actually beat me to their seats. That was truly great news and we were in our way. But it also left an impression that had some negative consequences on our next train ride.
It was about 9:30 p.m. by the time our train pulled into the Brussels Midi train station. We quickly found a taxi and gave our driver the address of the apartment where we would spend the night. As it turned out the road was blocked a few blocks from our destination so he simply let us out and wished us well. But both Kari and Kimberly are extremely net savvy and quickly found directions to our intended location of Rue Du Finistere 1, Brussels City Centre, Brussels, Belgium. But when we got to that address what we found was a tavern, a very pleasant and warm tavern to be sure, but a tavern and not a place to sleep. We were smitten with confusion, but I figured there would be no harm in asking to I went in and asked the man at the bar if he knew anything about accommodations and he instantly and cheerfully replied in the affirmative. It seems the tavern runs a few apartment style rentals nearby and he immediately knew which one was for us.
We headed out the door and across the street where he brought us into a nondescript building and took us to the second floor where he opened the door to our apartment. It was fantastic, super huge with plenty of comfortable sleeping facilities for all five of us in two separate rooms. It had nice amenities such as a coffee maker, a stove even a washing machine. There was even a small balcony overlooking the street below, Rue des Palais. It was great and at a price that was almost unbelievably modest for the comfort and convenience provided. Should you ever find yourself heading off to Brussels, I enthusiastically recommend Chambre Studio Apartments, which we booked via agoda.com. But by then it was getting a wee late and tomorrow would be a very busy day as our two daughters would be heading off on a side trip to Amsterdam and Nenita, my granddaughter Somaya and I would be heading off to Koln, Germany but not until we had explored the best of Brussels So for now though, good night.
Photos: Ron Irwin
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