Her Ladyship’s British Season

Oh, how could I have left Europe without stopping for a few days in the land of real duchesses and princes? Downton Abbey and Earl Grey tea? Cricket and Fish&Chips? Beatlemania and One Direction? There was no way I was going to turn down my friend Lady Marianna’s offer to stay at her fabulous Georgian house just a few doors down from Charles Dickens’ own pad in central London before heading back to the States. So, there I was driving in a spacious black taxi by Buckingham Palace towards my new neighborhood for the next 6 days and thinking to myself, why did it take so long to come back?? London is such a glorious town that like Paris, Audrey Hepburn would say, “It’s always a good idea!!” I’m determined not to let another 14 years go by, that’s for sure!

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Buckingham Palace

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The British Museum

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St. Paul Cathedral

I found the familiar palaces and monuments (too many to cite them all) waiting in all their eternal splendor to be photographed, touched and walked on but also many newcomers (the London Eye, the new Tate Modern Gallery to name a few) along with some new pop cultural entries (the most obvious one being Starbucks emerging at every corner just like a pubs appear at every corner.) Franchising aside, the city offers an array of cool new design stores, galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs that are amongst the best in the world.

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The Tower Bridge and the Pinnacle

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At the Tate Modern Gallery – selfie with St. Paul in the background

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London Fashion Week – Oxford Street

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The RosenfeldPorcini Gallery on Rathbone Street

All in all, London is people-friendly, easy to travel and not intimidating at all when it comes to public transportation; the ‘tube’ system is so straightforward, I find it impossible to get confused or lost (unlike New York.) Busses are also very organized with rides available every three minutes! Hello, Los Angeles?!!?!!

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The Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the Golden Eye

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Westminster Abbey

In terms of people, I find the Brits to be very polite, reserved and disciplined in general. Also, how can one not melt at the sophistication of their accent? Or perhaps, I should say..how could I not feel embarrassed every time I opened my mouth? I totally sounded like I just finished competing in a rodeo compared to them! LOL…And regarding the tourists, this is possibly the city with the highest amount of them, from all over the world and in large groups, like herds of Italians, Spaniards and Japanese to name a few. Amazing!

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Piccadilly Circus

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Blue Rooster at Trafalgar Square

And the weather didn’t disappoint…it was pretty cold and rainy during my stay, but that’s okay because it was so refreshing and different from the always sunny California that I actually enjoyed it! When it rains, it’s mostly a sprinkle that stops and starts several times during the day, so you learn how to go with it and always carry a portable umbrella just in case.

I walked for miles and miles in awe staring at all the beauty, history and architecture and I left so enriched and more in love than ever with Europe and its majestic wonders.

Downton Abbey – LA Style

My favorite TV show, Downton Abbey, takes place in the English countryside at the beginning of the 1910s and evolves around the lives of an aristocratic family and their servants in the magnificent setting of the Highclere castle. The abundance of characters belonging to these two opposite classes, offers juicy story lines and intrigues that are just irresistible. The costumes, the mannerism and the events throughout the episodes are so grand and fascinating that one develops a real dependency to the show. With the second season over in February and the third one not beginning until the Fall, the wait is almost unbearable!! What’s going to happen next?* Will Lady Mary and Matthew finally wed? Will Lady Edith find love and fulfillment? What about Lady Sybil? Will she ever come back? Will Mr Bates finally enjoy some peace? Will Thomas change and become a nicer human being? LOL….Although I have affection for most of the characters, my favorite one is the witty Dowager Countess Grantham played by the amazing Maggie Smith.

There are a few places here in LA that remind me of the magic of Downton Abbey but probably the one that best captures the spirit and esthetics of this period drama is the Huntington Library and Gardens. The Huntington has that dreamy quality that transports back in time and makes you feel you’re either in Italy or France, it is hard to believe this place is only a few miles east of Los Angeles, in the elegant city of San Marino.
Henry Huntington, a railroad and transportation magnate, purchased the land in 1903 with the intention of using it as a ranch. When he retired, he decided to devote his time to his book and art collections and the landscaping of the ranch. The property covers 207 acres, of which approximately 120 are landscaped. More than 14,000 different varieties of plants are showcased in more than a dozen principal garden areas (my favorite are the Rose, the Cactus, the Japanese and Chinese gardens.)
The Huntington Art Collections reside in two buildings on the Huntington estate: The Huntington Art Gallery, and the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. The Huntington Art Gallery is housed inside Huntington’s original mansion and includes the most distinguished collections of 18th- and 19th-century British paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts outside London, including Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy and Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie (Sarah Barrett Moulton.) There is also a collection of 18th-century French sculpture, tapestries, porcelain, and furniture. Every time I walk in there I’m breathless!! This place is certainly fit for a duchess! ;)

To complete the Downton Abbey experience, you need to have a tea party at the Rose Garden Tea Room; it’s so delicious!!! There are all sorts of scones, pastries, little cucumber and egg sandwiches and a vast assortment of teas. It’s the perfect place to raise your pinkie and be sassy Lady Grantham style!

*Spoiler alert!! If you haven’t watched DA, yet, but you’re planning to, don’t read any further.