Ice ice baby
'My feet feel like they're going to fall off.'
'She's gone crazy.'
'This has be the longest day ever and it's only midday.'
'Come on slowcoaches, hurry up.' Taliah screeched as Lindsay and I continued to flag. This was all my mistake. I should've known bringing her to Oxford street was a massive error on my part. Even Lindsay the queen of shopping, regretted this part of our itinerary.
I had stupidly brought Taliah to Primark.
Now, if you don't know or have never been to a Primark let me fill you in. Imagine 4 floors the size of a department store, filled with every style of clothing, shoes and bags you've ever seen, all at ridiculously cheap pricing. Now add in hundreds of crazy eyed bargain hunters, children and buggies into a store pumping out the central heating. I felt like I was dying. You might think that's a little dramatic, but then I'm guessing you've never been to a Primark before.
'I can't believe you've been holding out on me. This place is insane!' Taliah said as she skipped out of the shop holding far too many shopping bags. I guess it'll be a taxi home then.
'I think it was probably best.'
Thank god Primark wasn't a big thing in America because I'd fear for Taliah's ever increasing shopaholic problem.
So far this morning we'd battled our way through all the main shops Taliah and Lindsay wanted to go to. The Toy store of dreams that is Hamleys, we ogled the fantastical Liberty's store windows and explored floor upon floor of Christmas decorations in Harrods. By now Lindsay and I were ready to drop.
Lindsay wrapped herself back up again after quickly cooling down in the chilly December air and turned to us.
'Well I don't know about you two but I'm starved.'
'Same, this jet lag has sent my body out of whack and now I'm hungry all the time. Plus these bags are so damn heavy. I wish Lucas was here to carry them for me.' Taliah said dramatically.
'Well how about we catch a cab back to the house. Drop off our stuff and then head over to Covent Garden for lunch?'
'Great idea and actually if it's still in business I know just the place we should eat at.' Lindsay said as she hailed down a taxi.
'Where?' I asked.
'Only the best place ever!'
I laughed at her sudden excitement and decided I'd play along letting her keep it as a surprise. We all piled into a cab and when I say piled, I mean it with the number of bags we had to cram in. Mine and Lindsay's were all presents but I can't say the same for Taliah. As far as she's concerned everything in those bags were Christmas presents to herself. At some point I know I'd have to do this all again as we'd face-timed Jennifer and Zara when we first got here and they both gave us a shopping list as long as my arm.
After a fairly uneventful traffic filled journey back to the house, we dropped our things off and then headed back out. When we got to the station, we only had to wait a few minutes before jumping onto the Piccadilly line to Covent Garden. This time of day wasn't so busy but as always there was a wait to get into the lift to get out.
'God why do you guys like queuing so much? Why don't we just take the stairs?' Taliah asked innocently making Lindsay and I burst out laughing.
'Sure honey, you take the stairs and we'll meet you up there.' Lindsay said sweetly before winking at me.
A woman wearing an all latex ensemble doing stretches must've been listening to our conversation because she turned to Taliah with an overly enthusiastic face.
'I'd recommend it love. This is what saves me 50 quid every month on the gym.' The woman pretending to cheers us with her water bottle and then started running up the stairs.
'Am I missing something?' Taliah asked.
'Well it's either wait here in a completely British civilised queue or hike up 193 steps.' I said twisting Taliah around by her shoulders to look at the information sign nailed into the brick wall beside the stairs.
'Unless you do want to climb 15 floors?'
Taliah gulped before turning back to look at the lift.
'The line is going down quicker than I thought so I think I'll just wait with you guys.'
'Probably wise. I did it once and thought I was going to have a heart attack when I got to the top.'
I was young and naive and never made that mistake again.
'You know when you think about it the tube is quite scary, being underground and all. What if it collapsed?' Taliah said making an already nervous looking man look at her in horror. I smiled at the man trying to look comforting but in true London fashion he gave me an odd look and turned away.
'Well..it wouldn't. It bothers me more that it's haunted.'
'Yeah with all the history and that. People sleeping down here during the Blitz, being crushed to death. If anywhere is a hot bed for paranormal activity it's here.'
'Well that's just great. Thanks for that Evie!'
Covent Garden was buzzing with activity as we exited the station. Tourists and Christmas shoppers darted off in different directions whilst street performers entertained the masses.
Covent Garden has to be one of my favourite places in London during December and the Christmas decorations this year didn't disappoint. A massive decked out tree stood in the middle of the courtyard attracting groups of people to take photos around it. In one corner an old-fashioned car was piled high with green and red presents, ivy green tree branches, pine cones wrapped delicately with warm yellow lights. On the opposite side, nutcracker soldiers stood to attention whilst a ballerina balanced on pointe.
After taking a lap outside we wandered into the piazza, looking around the packed shops and then stopping to listen to a group of carollers whose beautiful voices carried the festive songs.
After a while Lindsay pulled us away and lead us down a side street passed some west end theatres. Just as I was about to say 'are we there yet?' in a high-pitched childlike voice we stopped outside a pub. It was well passed 2 o clock but the pub still had a good stronghold of patrons milling around. It was tucked away in a corner where you probably wouldn't find it unless you stumbled across it, but I knew most of London's best kept secrets were that way.
Lindsay looked like she was buzzing with excitement as she took in the pub front.
'We couldn't come all the way here and not have a Sunday roast dinner at The Inn.'
'But it's not Sunday.' Taliah asked with confusion etched on her face.
'It doesn't technically have to be a Sunday to have a roast dinner here. We like to find any excuse to have one actually.' I said linking arms with Taliah.
'Girl you're about to be educated in pub grub.'
We walked inside The Inn and whilst Taliah and I waited by the door for a server Lindsay strode up to the bar like she owned the place. A youngish woman was working the bar and once she finished pulling a pint she turned to Lindsay.
'What'll it be love?'
'Does Freddie still own this place?' Lindsay asked in her American accent that seemed so much more prominent now we were surrounded by proper Londoners.
Without even looking up the woman banged on a staff door with some force and yelled 'FREDDIE, THERE'S SOMEONE OUT 'ERE ASKIN FOR YA.'
After what sounded like a herd of elephants a grey-haired man barrelled through the door. He took one look at Lindsay and a grin formed on his face.
'Well you wouldn't Adam and Eve it. Lyn is that you?'
'Adam and Eve?' Taliah whispered.
'Believe.' It was becoming a frequent thing where I had to translate for her.
'Bloody 'ell, I feel like I'm looking at a ghost.' Well he wanted to join the queue mate I'm experienced in that.
'Has someone conked me over the 'ead without me realising?'
'No Freddie it's really me. Now hurry up and get us a table, I've been craving one of your roast dinners for 20 years and I'm not waiting any longer.' She said making Freddie burst out laughing.
'You haven't changed a bit 'ave ya Lyn.' He shook his head but did as he was told, leading the three of us to a table away from the throng of the bar.
'Now Lyn are you going to introduce me or am I going to have to do it me-self?'
Lindsay rolled her eyes at him but turned to us anyway.
'Girls, Freddie and I have known each other since I went to college here. Evie, your mom and I used to come here all the time.'
'That makes it sounds more civilised than it was. Come 'ere and get hammered more like it.' Freddie said before bursting out laughing again.
'Now three roast dinners?'
'And three diet cokes.' Lindsay added.
'Coming right up.'
We all watched as Freddie strode away in silence, well that was until Taliah broke it.
'Oh shh you.' Lindsay said but if I wasn't mistaken, I thought I saw her cheeks slightly tinting red.
'Please don't tell me he's an ex-boyfriend?'
'God no! He's old enough to be my dad.'
When Freddie got back with our drinks, we all chatted and listened whilst anecdotes were being told. Freddie not only told stories about Lindsay but also my mother too. Stories that showed my mum had more of a wild side than I thought she did. By the time our lunch was ready I felt like I was ready to eat my own arm out of hunger.
'So, what actually is this?' Taliah asked looking down at her plate.
'It's like a thanksgiving dinner but different. You've got roast chicken, potatoes, parsnips, green veg, stuffing, pigs in blankets and a Yorkshire pudding. Then the piece de resistance is lashings of gravy.'
Taliah looked at me before prodding the food on her plate with her fork.
'Yeah it's not actually pudding. It's...well I don't really know how to describe it really but you'll like it. Dig in.'
I took a picture of all of our dinners then uploaded it onto my Instagram story. Ever since Jennifer made me an account a couple months back, I'd become a little bit obsessed with the app. We'd only been in London a few days but I'd already uploaded loads of pictures. Taliah and I wearing face masks on the plane, the three of us on the London eye, walking through oxford street. I'd storied everything since we'd been here as well, it seemed to be the best way to keep everyone back in America up to date. I'd just about put my phone down when a message pinged in.
Sophie Tomlinson has sent you a message.
Blimey I didn't even know she followed me. Sophie had been a close friend of my sisters, but I hadn't seen or spoken to her in months. I rarely spoke to anyone back home nowadays. On the odd occasion I would send a quick message to my old art friends but I seemed to have drifted apart from everyone here after I left.
I picked my phone up again and opened up the chat.
Evie! How're you?! I've just seen you're back in London which is so much fun! How long are here for? We just have to meet up! Xx
I cringed slightly at the message. As you can see Sophie's a bit much. She was always too much for my liking. To be honest I never really understood what the common ground was between Sophie and my sister. Don't get me wrong she was nice enough, I liked her far more than Nora's other friends but I think that was it.. she was just too nice. She reminded me a bit of Cary, the nice girl that when pushed would completely loose her shit.
'Who you talking too?' Lindsay asked before shoving half a Yorkshire pudding into her mouth.
'Just a girl that I used to know.' I quickly typed out a generic message back and then put my phone down.
'So, what's your verdict?'
Taliah's plate was almost demolished and she had a big grin on her face.
'The verdict is we're going to have to learn how to make these pudding thingies at home.'
I nodded in a knowing way as someone who also appreciates a good Yorkshire.
'Maybe I should introduce you to a little old lady called Aunt Bessie.'
When we finally rolled ourselves out of The Inn it was hours later and getting dark outside. People must've just started finishing work as all of a sudden, the streets we filled with suits and briefcases.
'I don't wanna go back yet. That means I'll have to answer all those work emails I've been ignoring.' Lindsay whined.
'Well I was thinking seeing as it's not too far from your house Evie, what if we stopped by Winter Wonderland?' Taliah was trying to act like she wasn't bothered either way but I could see the excitement on her face.
'Yes! Can we Evie?'
I looked at the two of them with hopeful looks on their faces. It was like I had two puppies with me.
'Come on then but if I'm taking you to Winter Wonderland, we have to go to Mr Poppins ice bar.' I linked arms with the two of them as we started walking back to the tube station.
'What's the ice bar?' Lindsay asked.
The ice bar is exactly as you would imagine it would be, only more magical. Literally everything there is carved out of ice even the drinking glasses. I swear the themes just get even more spectacular every time I've been and this year, I'd heard on the grapevine it was a game of thrones theme.
'Here's your cloak and gloves. We recommend you keep them on for the whole experience.'
A teenager not much older than Taliah and I handed us all the additional layers. He obviously loved his job as looked like he'd rather be anywhere but here right now.
'Have fun.' He said unenthusiastically before parting some black curtains unveiling Mr Poppins ice Bar.
'Dude this is insane.' Taliah said for all of us.
The bar was filled with ice sculpted to look like something out of Game of Thrones. The was a dragon, a dire wolf and of course the famous throne made of swords made of ice.
'I told you.'
I left the two of them to explore whilst I ordered some mocktails. I let the waiter decide what drinks we should have and it was safe to say I wasn't disappointed when he brought them over. The drink was a deep purple with edible silver glitter swirling inside. Clouds of smoke billowed from the top of the drink and fell to the sides. It looked like a potion out of Harry Potter.
'Enjoy.' The waiter winked at me and went to serve the man next to me.
After bringing the drinks over to the table and sitting on a block of ice (yep you heard that right) we held our drinks up to cheers.
'To an amazing trip with my two girls.' Lindsay squeezed my arm whilst beaming at Taliah and I.
With that we clinked.