Category Archives: London

Richmond: Hollywood-on-Thames…

This will be a walk down memory lane for me, as I recall my July trip to Richmond, a leafy suburb of London and my former home. I wax nostalgic about our first expat assignment and the friends we made there.

Richmond has earned the nickname “Hollywood-on-Thames” because of the high concentration of celebrities who have been spotted in the area. Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie called Richmond home while filming in London, as did Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Johnny Depp and many others. (

I was never lucky enough to run into any of those stars while I lived there, but I did spot Mark Ruffalo and Ricky Gervais walking along the Thames – on different days, mind you. For some reason, they don’t seem like great drinking buddies.

And one day as I walked out of the courtyard of my apartment complex, Javier Bardem & Penelope Cruz passed right by me on the way to my building. No, I did not fall all over myself when they walked by. I didn’t even gawk…much. There was a beautiful penthouse for rent in the building, so I surmised they were there to take a look at it. They did not choose the flat, which was just as well. There was no guarantee I’d be able to keep my cool the next time I ran into them.

Richmond UK Thames view
Who wouldn’t want to live here? Penelope and Javier really missed the boat. That penthouse has a fantastic view!

Richmond was also recently named the happiest place to live in London ( It’s no wonder why. With numerous top-quality restaurants and great shopping within walking distance, it has a very upscale but still quaint atmosphere. Does it sound like I miss it much?

Luckily, Hubby’s job takes us back through London occasionally, so I am able to catch up with friends and get my Turner View fix. Even Mark Ruffalo couldn’t resist tweeting a pic of this view.

Turner View Richmond UK
The view immortalized in paintings by artist William Turner and others. Mick Jagger & Jerry Hall shared a house with this view, that is until they got divorced. She got to keep the view along with a hefty divorce settlement.

My first weekend in Richmond, I met a lady named Betty and she invited me to join in with a group of ladies who met every Wednesday at a different pub in the area. She called it Wine Time Wednesday, and I could hardly contain my excitement! Another name the group went by was A.W.O.L, or American Women on the Loose in London. Let me tell you, they were a fun group! We traversed London from one side to the other, taking in shows, going on hikes and checking out any new event that came to town. My experience there would have been very different – and a lot less fun – without these gals. Given that our initial activity was meeting in pubs, I would be remiss if I did not post a few pics.

Richmond pubs
One of the many pubs in Richmond. You could go to a different one every night of the month, though you would soon need bigger clothes – and a new job..
Richmond Pubs
The pub culture is one of the most charming things about the UK. Most flats are the size of a postage stamp, so a pub is a great spot to get out and enjoy some company – and a pint or two.
Richmond Pubs
Yep, another pub. Can’t help mah-self. But, check out those flowers!

Here are a few more pics of the place we Wine Time Ladies liked to call Disneyland…

Richmond Bridge
Some very dapper folks head out for a nice row on the Thames.
Richmond Bridge
Richmond Bridge. Honestly, I have so many pictures of this bridge that it borders on the ridiculous. I even bought a painting of it. This was our favorite weekend coffee spot.
View from Richmond Bridge
View from Richmond Bridge. This spot is always a hive of activity, with musicians, boat-makers, cyclists, runners, and families out enjoying the day.
Terrace Garden Richmond UK
No green area is wasted here. This is the Terrace Garden just down the hill from Mick Jagger & Jerry Hall’s place.
Richmond UK
Flowers, flowers, everywhere!

A short walk down the Thames is the village of Twickenham, home of British Rugby. While a huge, modern rugby stadium dominates the area, there are still plenty of quaint, narrow streets filled with restaurants and, you guessed it, more pubs.

Twickenham is known for Eel Pie Island, a small island in the middle of the Thames which was the site where many Rock 'n Roll legends got their start. Now Eel Pie Island is an artist colony.  This pub is a nod to those glory days.
Besides Rugby, Twickenham is also known for Eel Pie Island, a small island in the middle of the Thames with deep Rock ‘n Roll roots. Many big names got their start at a dance hall there in the 1960’s, such as The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton. These days, Eel Pie Island is an artists’ colony. The name of this pub is a nod to those glory days.
Church Street Twickenham
Church Street in Twickenham, and more lovely flower baskets.
Twickenham Church Street The Fox Pub
Church Street is a pedestrian street filled with restaurants and pubs. The Fox Pub is no bigger than the average American bedroom, but hordes of people crowd in every weekend to hear live music.

Richmond has been a magnet for notable people for centuries, including Kings and Queens. The remnants of the former Richmond Palace are located on the Thames, just down from the bridge. While the shape and trim on these buildings hint at their royal heritage, only artists’ renderings can show how grand it once was.

Richmond Palace.
The remnants of the former Richmond Palace, built in the year 1500. Queen Elizabeth I and Henry VIII both lived and died here.  The palace was torn down around 1650 and the materials were used elsewhere.
Richmond Palace
Plaque outside Richmond Palace.

My computer is filled to overflowing with images of Richmond, as are my memories of our first expat assignment. Most of my Wine Time friends have moved back to the USA, each one going through the difficult repatriation process. As one such Wine Timer tearfully prepared to leave, her husband said, “Sorry honey, our time in Disneyland is over. The park is closing.”

Thankfully, many Wine Timers now live in Houston, so the friendships live on. As often as we can, we gather to visit and recall our many Richmond adventures. Comparing notes on celebrity sightings, recounting the many pubs we visited and the interesting people we met in them, and trading travel expertise are all good ways to relive our time in the Magic Kingdom. Now, if only I had been able to invite Penelope Cruz to tea, my experience would have been perfect!

©2015 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

London calling…

Just as I was finally settling into Luanda and getting used to the pace of life there, it was time for me to leave. Hubby has business back in London and I have come along with him.  Even though I was really enjoying the sights and sounds – but not necessarily the smells – of Luanda, it was impossible to pass up ten days of shows, shopping and no cooking!  My mama didn’t raise a fool, y’all!

The only wrinkle in my little plan is the unfathomably complicated visa process for Angola.  Because I do not have my work visa yet, I cannot go back to Luanda when our London trip is done.  I will have to go back to the states until my visa is ready – whenever that is.  After almost three months of waiting, my husband’s visa is still not back, and his has to be returned before mine can even be submitted.  Clearly, this could take awhile.  The visa office is in no hurry to let us pesky foreigners into the country and no amount of fussing and hollering will make one iota of difference.  As I have said in previous blogs, life in Luanda is all about waiting – for absolutely everything.  So, here I am in London making the best of things. Sigh.

One can never count on the weather in London, but one can always count on plenty to see and do.  Within hours of landing, Hubby headed to the office and I headed to a huge annual holiday market, the Spirit of Christmas Fair, with some friends. Don’t judge – we all have our roles!  This market is enormous – every bit as big as the Nutcracker Market in Houston, for those of you who are familiar with that behemoth.  Set in a large two-story exhibit hall, one can literally shop-till-you-drop for every conceivable gift or specialty food item.  For someone who was operating on only three hours sleep, I managed to cover the entire building and find a few treasures.  Yep, I’m pretty tough when properly motivated.

Luckily for my husband, London has so much more to offer than just shopping.  On Saturday, we were fortunate enough to catch the ‘Poppies at the Tower’ display on its crowning weekend (see This is a commemoration of the nearly 900,000 fallen British soldiers of WWI.  Each soldier is represented by a red ceramic poppy placed one-by-one in the moat of the Tower of London.  Volunteers have been placing the poppies throughout the summer and the final effect is truly breathtaking.  After a wonderful steak dinner at Hawksmoor and the thought-provoking King Charles III play on Saturday night, we wandered over to the Tower to see the poppies all lit up at night.

A view of the moat of The Tower of London, with the Shard visible in the background
Poppies at the Tower – Night view of the moat of The Tower of London, with the Shard visible in the background
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A side view of the Tower of London moat and the Tower Bridge

The next morning, Remembrance Sunday, we braved the masses again and managed to arrive just in time for a moment of silence beside the moat.  The huge, bustling crowd remained respectfully silent and still for a full two minutes.  The only sounds we heard were birds chirping as they circled overhead and a band playing faintly in the distance.  It was very moving and a lovely tribute to those brave soldiers.  I had hoped to purchase a poppy as a remembrance of the event, but all 888,246 poppies have been sold!  At 25 GBP each, this means a whopping sum raised for veterans causes.  It was a very successful event in so many ways!

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iPhones up! I dare say that at least 900,000 photos have been taken of these famous poppies!
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A view of the entrance to the tower, with ‘The Gherkin’ and The Cheese Grater’ buildings visible in the background. The Brits love to name their buildings after food items, apparently…
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Poppies at the Tower – A waterfall of poppies coming from a Tower window.
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Volunteers have been placing these poppies all summer. Quite an undertaking!
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A fitting tribute to the fallen of an often forgotten war.

Never ones to waste a sunny London day, we decided to take in a few more sights and then enjoy another great London tradition, a Sunday Roast at a busy pub.

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We wandered along both sides of the Thames, enjoying the sunshine and great people watching. The Tower Bridge is always a favorite sight.
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The Tower from across the Thames.
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Sunday Roast on St. Katherine’s Docks. Here you see the Britannia, the Queen’s Royal Barge, and a very odd companion, Hippopo Thames. Here is the story of Hippopo:

It has been wonderful taking in the buzz of this fabulous city and catching up with friends. My time here will go quickly as it always does.  Even after living here for over three years, I have yet to scratch the surface.  Better get cracking, time’s a wasting!

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved