Friday, February 13, 2009

London Winter wonderland or British weather nightmare...

Our first Sunday back in the UK started with us both tucking into a full English Breakfast at High Road House. For those not familiar with a British breakfast this usually consists of a few strips of bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, a little black pudding (although not for me) and some toast. I didn't realise how much I'd missed a good hearty breakfast. I love breakfast or brunch in L.A., but Charlie struggles with all the egg on the menu and neither of us are big on pancakes with all the syrup.
Snowy Jason in Hollywood logo
As well as a tasty start to the day, we'd also indulged ourselves with a revitalising shower and made the most of all the luxurious Cowshed products in our bathroom. With Grumpy Cow shower gelCowlick shampoo and Saucy Cow conditioner, these whimsically named and fragrantly scented products really do wake you up in the morning. 
Snowy Shoreditch in London
As they are not inexpensive to buy, we normally try and use as much of them as we can whenever we stay at High Road House in West London. The products blend natural plant extracts and essential oils and were originally developed in the Cowshed spa at Babington in Somerset which we love, so it always feels like an indulgent treat to use them.
Snow falling in ShoreditchAs another treat for our Sunday we were meeting up to celebrate a friend's birthday at Shoreditch House over in London's East End. As the big converted loft space (with the swimming pool on the roof) is part of the private member club, Soho House, you can't take any pictures inside (for fear of capturing all those media celebrities on camera, just like 'Jason in Hollywood' you say), but I did manage to snap a few pictures from the windows of the snow beginning to fall on the Sunday afternoon. 
Jason in snowy Shoreditch
The flurries of snow came and went all afternoon, with spells of bright sunshine in between, so we were really surprised when we left in the evening and found that the snow was beginning to settle on the streets outside (something that rarely happens in central London).
Jason in the falling snow in London - February 2009
We drove a few of our friends home after a lovely relaxing meal (and even a drunken game of Scrabble) and marveled at the falling snow.
Snow falling at night in London
However I wasn't doing the driving so it wasn't as much fun for my other half, who was driving a hire car he was unfamiliar with, trying to readjust to being on the left-hand side of the road after months driving on the right in California and trying to see in the blizzard-like conditions (but it still looked pretty).
Snowy London from our hotel window
We managed to navigate back to Chiswick after dropping our friends at their doors on the way and went to bed after another fun-filled day. 
London trees covered in snow
Imagine our surprise when we opened the shutters of our room on Monday morning to discover a dazzling winter wonderland outside on the streets of West London. 
Snowy Chiswick streets
There seemed to be a good ten inches of snowfall overnight, the streets were eerily quiet and the sky looked pregnant with another burst of snow.
Chiswick snow covered streets in February 2009
We learned on the radio and at breakfast that London had seemingly ground to a halt due to the wintery weather. Heathrow Airport flights were grounded, roads were closed, buses weren't running and the tube and trains were either cancelled or had severe delays (believe me, it doesn't take much to stop them running under normal conditions).
Snowy tree boughs
Rather selfishly, we were more concerned about how the snow and travel disruptions would hamper our own carefully mapped out itinerary whilst we were in the UK. 
Our snow covered London garden from above
Right away our meeting with the letting agents that manage our property was cancelled, but luckily we were able to drive over to our garden flat and make sure all was in order. We also got to catch up with our friendly neighbours and even pitched in and cleaned the communal areas to prove that even when you're five and a half thousand miles away you still care about maintaining your property.
Chiswick garden covered in snow
Here are some pictures of our small garden covered in snow. You can see how much it snowed by the amount on the patio table.
Snow covered garden table in London
Even though the snow was messing up our plans it was still very picturesque to look at and it really did look like a scene off a Christmas card, a veritable winter wonderland. 
Frosty the Snowman of Chiswick
People not able to go to work (I know, I bet they were gutted) and school children piled into the streets and parks and made the most of the situation with snowball fights and snowmen of all shape and sizes.
Snowmen come in all shapes and sizes
We spent the rest of the day meandering around snowbound Chiswick and marveled at the deep snow literally everywhere. 
A different kind of Snowman
We wandered into the grounds of Chiswick House (the former home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshireand enjoyed the fantastic wintery scenes (more on those at a later date). We even helped a stranded motorist who need a push to get their car started on one of the snow covered side-streets - we're such nice people.
Snowman in the grounds of Chiswick House
The evening saw the first casualty of the inclement weather. I cancelled a get together with some of my friends fearing even if we did get into Olde London Town I'd not get home, as more snow was forecast and London's transport system couldn't be trusted to get us all home safely.
Chiswick snow covered streets
Instead I joined Charlie for a delicious meal with another local friend in the roasty environs of our hotel. To keep my spirits up I enjoyed a plate of traditional fish and chips, followed by some comforting sticky toffee pudding with lashings of custard (just don't tell my personal trainer). 
Chiswick winter wonderland
As I mentioned we'd tried to make the most of our short stay in the UK, so we'd carefully planned out our days and we worried that the snow would mean we'd be stranded in our hotel and unable to drive down to our friends in the Sussex countryside or back to see my family in Wales.

With that in mind we went to sleep and hoped for a thaw...

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