Category: Trafalgar Square

August 26th, 2012 — 11:47am

Last Thursday, my adventures in London continued with an eventful girls night out.

Caffe Concerto has several locations in London

After dinner at cozy Italian eatery Caffe Concerto, Rachel and I walked over to Dion’s, a bar tucked away behind St. Paul’s Cathedral. I had very fond memories of live music and a very favorable guy-girl ratio at . So I was a little disappointed when we walked in to find the bar mostly empty, especially since I’d been talking it up to my single London friends as a great spot for mingling.

We were only a few sips into our cocktails when a cute local bloke named Joe, 35, suddenly appeared.

“My friends are boring, can I join your conversation?”

A direct, wry and ever so British approach. Needless to say, Rach and I happily said yes. We were soon joined by a few of Joe’s colleagues as well.
As Rachel hit it off with one of them, I learned that Joe has a passion for motorcycles and DIY projects – and possesses the charm and candor that has made me very susceptible to British bachelors. When I commended Joe for taking the initative in a friendly way to say hello, he responded—

“We’re all lonely at the end of the day, so why not?”

Sigh. If only New York men could take a page out of this no nonsense playbook!

Eventually, the verbal flirting between Joe and me found him pulling me into a quick hug. I could happily have extended it, but Rachel reminded me the tube was about to shut down for the night. Before I raced to catch it, Joe leaned down for a kiss. Apart from him referring to himself as my “toy boy,”  a perfect night.

Speaking of perfection, that’s also how I would describe my final day in London.

All smiles in Trafalgar Square…with sunglasses!

The weather was glorious – so glorious that I took a picture in Trafalgar Square with sunglasses on for the first time in 22 years of coming to London. After drinking in the view of the square and Big Ben beyond it, I made my way over to iconic tea house Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly, where I enjoyed my final round of afternoon tea and scones with clotted cream.

Then, it was off to Sloane Square for drinks with fellow writer and Ireland-born Conor, whom I had the pleasure of meeting during my European Dating Blitz. This visit to London was a wonderful mix of new and old friends, a week-long reminder of why I love England’s capital so much.

What better way to end my trip than with my dear friend of 19 years, Steve?

BFF: Steve and me at Zaika

Over a delicious meal at upscale Indian restaurant Zaika on Kensington High Street, Steve and I fell into easy conversation like we always do. Three hours later, we’d covered a lot of ground on the topics of life, love, family and the battle to fight wrinkles.

As we said goodbye, I felt a surge of melancholy about leaving London. And then I smiled because I know it will always be a part of my life. Until next time, fair city.

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August 20th, 2012 — 8:16pm

My glorious week in London began in beautiful West Hampstead, home of my dear friend Leila. Determined to try and outsmart jetlag for once, I skipped my usual post-arrival nap, opting instead for a shower and afternoon out.

Leila and I stopped for a quick bite in patisserie Maison Blanc – complimented by a few cups of tea, of course – before doing some shopping. Among the stores we visited was Reiss, a favorite of Duchess Kate known for its sleek silhouettes and vivid colors. Not being blessed with a pencil thin figure myself, I fared better at Whistle’s, where Leila spotted a plum-hued top that was both the perfect fit and perfect price (18 pounds).

We enjoyed a quiet evening in. Much to my delight and relief, the combination of wine, an after dinner liqueur and decaffeinated tea helped reset my body clock so that sleep came easy that night. It’s only taken me 22 years of visiting London to figure out how to manage jetlag!

Piccadilly Circus featured many flags as part of London's Olympics celebration

Sunday, Leila and I made our way into Central London on one of the city’s iconic double decker red buses – which offered a great view of the many flags unfurled in celebration of the Olympics. Even on the final day of the games, London was bustling with excitement.

Leila and me in Leicester Square with the Olympics countdown clock behind us

As I took in the Olympics-related signage and multitude of friendly volunteer ambassadors, it was easy to see why England’s capital has hosted more than any other city. The level of organization was incredible and Londoners went out of their way to make visitors feel welcome.

Some of London’s many colorfully attired Olympic ambassadors

After strolling through Trafalgar and Leicester Squares, Leila and I headed over to The Dorchester in Mayfair for afternoon tea.

All smiles at The Dorchester

The iconic luxury hotel provides an elegant backdrop for its version of the popular English ritual – not to mention a selection of mouthwatering finger sandwiches and scones. We especially loved the Olympic-themed petit fours.

Sweet Treats: Olympic-themed petit fours from The Dorchester’s ‘spor-tea’

Monday, I paid my first-ever visit to the Barbican, to take in “Designing 007: 50 years of Bond Style.” The fascinating exhibit features costumes, gadgets, setpieces and other memorabilia – including an eye-popping  recreation of the titular murdered villainess in Goldfinger. Lots of interesting trivia about James Bond author Ian Fleming too.

Then, it was off to Southbank for a reunion with my dear friend of nearly 20 years Steve. The artsy neighborhood has undergone quite a revival and there was no shortage of colorful sights – from a gigantic Lego map of the world to an installation of milk cartons designed to look like an ice sculpture.

Creative recycling: The milk bottle installation at Southbank

Our favorite diversion, though, was of the more traditional variety: a pop up fair inspired by none other than Coney Island.

Aaaaah! Steve and me on London’s mini-version of The Cyclone coaster

I took one look at the Cyclone-themed mini roller coaster and knew we had to check it out. As I expected, it didn’t disappoint. Steve and I laughed (and screamed) our heads off. Summer fun simply doesn’t get any better than this!

Up next…a visit to the home of one of Britain’s most beloved authors and an unexpected encounter with an adorable London bachelor!

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October 23rd, 2008 — 1:07am

When it comes to relationships, the honeymoon period always seems to race by in a heartbeat. The same could be said of my week in London with California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky).

Our whirlwind week in England’s capital took us on quite a journey. We shared giggles in the Whispering Gallery of St. Paul’s Cathedral, tears at “Phantom of The Opera” and countless kisses in Trafalgar Square. We laughed at our mutual affinity for the 80’s film flop “Xanadu” (Sparky worked on the movie, I loved the unabashed cheesiness of it). And, as his departure approached, we shared our thoughts about the future.

I now Open The Vault and take you back once again to the spring of 1994…

London, England
Commonwealth Hall

May 3, 1994

Dear Diary,

Our final day together began with a quick bite at McDonald’s on Charing Cross. I became weepy thinking about Sparky’s departure and our obstacle-laden circumstances. It was a subject we would return to that night.

We strolled over to Leicester Square. Sparky pulled me into a passionate kiss. I was beginning to wonder if we were overdoing it on the PDA when I spotted two ladies in a café applauding us and smiling.

London’s Leicester Square: A great spot for PDA and people watching

After stopping in Chinatown for some takeout, we went back to Sparky’s hotel room for a cozy, low-key evening. I told Sparky that I didn’t want to leave him in limbo because of my inability to make a commitment.

“Five years might seem like a long time,” he said, anticipating how long it would take me to be ready to settle down, “but it’s not to me.”

He was silent then as he inscribed the following on the inside cover of the “Xanadu” soundtrack he’d bought me…

“You are the most magical woman I have ever met.
All the wonders of the world will be yours. I love you.”

We fell into each other’s arms and a beautiful dance. Somehow, dancing felt like an affirmation of our love and what we meant to each other.


* * *

With talk of a potential second encounter in London, I said goodbye to Sparky and wondered when we would be together again. It would be months before we were reunited. In the interim, the final part of my junior year abroad brought its fair share of surprises — including a few more of the male variety.

Coming up…more outrageous first dates and the conundrum of relationship make or break deadlines.

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October 17th, 2008 — 4:04pm

When you’re in the throes of new romance, simple moments tend to take on a larger-than-life quality. California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky) and I enjoyed many storybook-worthy moments during our time together in England’s capital.

As our week in London drew to a close, things between us intensified and I began to wonder if Sparky just might be my Mr. Right. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the spring of 1994.���

London, England
Commonwealth Hall

May 2nd, 1994

Dear Diary,

Sparky and I made our way to Paddington Station, the departing point for trains to Oxford. Oxford was lovely — quaint, charming and, on this particular day, bustling with university students taking part in a parade.

Sunny Day in Oxford: Sparky bought me this hat just before taking this picture
Classical Charm: Oxford’s majestic architecture, visible at every turn

At one point, as Sparky and I strolled hand in hand, we walked past a bridal boutique and mused aloud about the possibility of getting married. That conversational thread was picked up again when we stopped for ice cream in a cobblestone square. It felt like fate was smiling down on the possibility of Sparky and I ending up together for good someday….

* * *
The next morning, after a chaste night of cuddling and conversation, I woke up feeling a contentment I never had before. With his arms around me, he murmured–
“I love you.”
I knew I was falling for Sparky but I remained silent. It was too easy to say it because of his proximity. I needed to be sure.
* * *
Today, after strolling past Trafalgar Square toward the Houses of Parliament, we paused on a stoop to look at some pictures we developed at a one-hour place. I lingered for a long moment on one of the pix. There was a smile on my face I’d never seen before. I knew Sparky was the reason for that and I felt a surge of feeling toward him. The words came tumbling out.

“I love you,” I said. “I really love you.”

“I love you too,” Sparky said, and we kissed.

* * *

My final day in London with Sparky brought with it the promise of another encounter in England’s capital. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of frequent flying for both of us.

Months later, as a senior at Mount Holyoke College, I would be recognized for my romance-related travel with a dorm award — Most Likely To Fly To California On A Whim.

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September 25th, 2008 — 12:14am
It’s not very often that real-life romance kicks off in fairy tale fashion. I’ve been fortunate to experience this unusual twist a few times, most dramatically with my first love, California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky).

After meeting in the middle of an “NYPD Blue” shoot, Sparky and I were quickly in the throes of infatuation. Our initial days together were a whirlwind of intimate dinners, carriage rides in Central Park and talk of the future.

That first weekend ended with a diamond band from Sparky and a promise – that he would spend his upcoming vacation time with me.

Over the course of the next five weeks, we burned up the phone lines and Sparky made good on his word, booking a trip to London, where I was spending my junior year. During one of our conversations, I let him know my stance on sex – specifically, that I planned to wait until marriage to have it. Though he was taken aback by my revelation, Sparky didn’t waver when I asked him if he was still coming.

“Absolutely,” he said without missing a beat.

And so it was that, after a 12-hour journey from L.A., Sparky made his way to London to woo me like no other man had before. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the spring of 1994…
London, England
April 27, 1994
Dear Diary,
After our long cab ride from Heathrow, we finally arrived at the Regent’s Park Hilton. Up in Sparky’s room, I began unpacking his suitcase while he freshened up in the bathroom. When he poked his head out and saw what I was doing, he said —

“I should just propose to you right now.”

“Haven’t you already?” I replied with a smile, and he laughed, remembering that he had.

* * *

I treated Sparky and me to a show — the haunting, dazzling “Phantom of The Opera.” Toward the end, I heard a sniffling sound coming from him and sure enough, he was crying.

After the lights came up, Sparky apologized for being so sentimental. I assured him he had nothing to be sorry about. Overcome with emotion, he looked at me and said with great urgency —

“There’s so much I want to share with you.”
* * *

Hand in hand, we walked to Trafalgar Square. There, with the majestic fountains behind us, right in one of London’s most sublime spots, we kissed — over and over again. As Sparky remained standing, I sat on the edge of the fountain and rested my hands on his shoulders. Forget soap operas and novels, this was the real thing!!

London’s Trafalgar Square: The perfect spot for romance

Next, we strolled into Covent Garden for dinner at one of my favorite Italian bistros, La Quercia D’Oro. The conversation flowed effortlessly, a surprise given that Sparky and I were still very much in the getting-to-know-each-other stage.

Back in my room at Commonwealth Hall, I lit some candles. As soon as Sparky touched me, I could feel my entire body respond. All we did was kiss, but it was a thousand times more passionate than anything I had experienced before.

After we said goodnight, I knocked on my floor mate Carine’s door to get her advice about whether I should spend any nights with Sparky at his hotel.

“If you want him to respect the decision you’ve made [to not have sex], then you have to respect it too,” she said.

* * *

Though I resolved to follow Carine’s counsel, resisting temptation proved to be easier said than done….

London was only the beginning for me and Sparky. Not too long ago, he reminisced about our time together in England’s capital.

“The week we spent in London was the best time I ever shared with someone.”

Fourteen years later, I feel the same way. Even when there’s 3,000 miles of geography in the way, some loves never leave you.

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