The London Diaries Day Three: Old Stuff
We took the train back to London from Stratford. In front of us were some really funny guys that were joking around, so the trip was entertaining until they got off of the train. I took one of them up on a bet for a fiver regarding the outcome of the American election (yes, the WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING. I hope we get it right this time). Then a family got on and I started realizing just how much smarter these kids were than typical American kids. A boy about Maisie’s age was sitting in front of us DOING SUDOKU! I struggle with sudoku, so I was impressed. But in general, it seems that the educational system (as well as how the parents speak to their children) over there is a million times better than what we offer here. And in general, the kids almost act like little adults.
Speaking of which, the adults were polite, too. I guess it is true what they say about the British. They really are well-mannered and polite. Everyone was more or less super nice to us – we had random conversations with some locals.
Anyway, after returning to London, we hit the British Museum. Okay, this place is absolutely overwhelming with the amount of antiquities that they possess. There is NO WAY to see everything, but we breezed through nearly every exhibit anyway. I don’t even remember half of what we saw, but was impressed with the Rosetta Stone and the Gayer-Anderson cat. What can I say? I love Ancient Egypt! There, Rachel met a guy from Jersey who worked in the museum gift shop. I bought some postcards to frame later to go with the Westminster Abbey sketch I’d bought on our first day.
This must be one of the premiere museums in the world, by the way. Just… amazing.
We made it home that night, although I don’t recall if we did anything else or not. The days are starting to blend together in my head! *LOL* I think we searched the Bloombsbury neighborhood up and down for places to eat, ended up in Marble Arch, and then ended up back in Bayswater where we could get cheap sandwiches from this market called Marks & Spencer. And watched some t.v., which more or less consisted of American shows a lot of the time! *LOLOLOL* Or news about the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross “scandal” that seemed to have been the hot news item of the week.
Halloween in London
London doesn’t really celebrate Halloween (aka, my birthday), but there were some pubs and businesses that put up Halloween decorations so maybe it’s catching on. We got up and visited the Tower of London, which was probably my favorite part of the trip. We spent all day there. It’s not really a tower – it’s a fortress. And it’s fascinating to visit. We took a tour hosted by one of the Yeoman Warders, and he turned out to be this brawny funny (and I believe Scottish) guy. He enjoyed scaring kids with his booming voice, so that scored points with me! hehe
The Tower is just cool… I don’t know how else to describe it. I mean… it’s got a moat! *LOLOL* The shops are also cool and this is where I started spending the serious cash. I bought stuff for my brother’s girlfriend, for Will and for myself. I bought this pretty brooch that’s a Scottish thistle with a purple stone.
Also, we had pork and boar casserole for lunch at the cafe there and then I went back to have tea and scones because I wanted the British tea experience. I discovered that clotted cream is like butter but 100 times better and that scones in Britain are more like what we would call biscuits. And biscuits there are pretty much what we call cookies (although I already knew that). I’m still not much of a tea drinker, but I did the afternoon tea thing, just because.
We spent all day at the Tower and were exhausted by the end of the day. We went back to Bayswater, picked up goodies and a cake and some cider at Marks& Spencer and called it a night. Oh, and watched some British soap operas on the telly.
It was a cold and rainy day…
Saturday was horrible, weather-wise. It was cold and rainy and this is when I started first feeling the cough and sore throat and congestion coming in (DAMN YOU, DAVID TENNANT!). But we braved the weather, regardless and ended up at Harrod’s. Which was INSANE. Apparently, the day after Halloween begins the Christmas shopping season or so it seemed. EVERYONE was at Harrod’s, to the point that I was started to finally feel a little crowded in the big city. But there were things to be bought and I had to go back home with a Harrod’s tote bag with cats on it, as well as a miniature London cab for my brother and a Christmas fairy bear that’s exclusive to Harrod’s.
Then we braved the rain again and headed to the Victoria & Albert museum. This is a cool museum – it’s a museum of art and design. We checked our coats, ate in the cafe, and headed off to the exhibits and shops. They were having a Cold War Art exhibit and although we didn’t check that out, I saw something called “Commie Mints” in one of the shops and HAD to buy them as a gag item for Will (who by the way, laughed when I gave them to him). Oddly enough, I realized last night that although the company that makes the Commie merchandise is in Seattle, the mints themselves…. MADE IN CHINA! *LOLOL* Appropriately enough.
We walked through the exhibits, checked out some paintings by such artists as William Blake (one of my favorites), Rosetti, Rembrandt, etc. We saw the Bed of Ware (if you’re into Shakespeare, you’ll remember the reference to that bed in “Twelfth Night” or if you’re familiar with “Don Juan,” there’s a reference to it in that, as well). We saw some clothing of the time (very impractical stuff… heh) and I made a coat of arms at the “fun center” they had (yes, it was probably for kids, but I didn’t care *LOL*). I even emailed the coat of arms to myself so I’ll have to upload that at some point.
We spent the rest of the afternoon there and went back to the hotel to rest. I dozed for about a half hour and we watched more telly. For only getting 5 channels, we actually watched quite a bit of telly! *ROTFL*
Anyway, fortunately for us, the rain stopped in time for the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower. Seeing the Tower at night was pretty cool and the ceremony itself would’ve been better had it not been for some drunkards who kept giggling through the whole thing. And a bugler who seemed to kinda’ suck. Even the Yeoman Warder who was our escort through the Ceremony apologized for him! hehe… But it was cool to see the ceremony in such an intimate setting (only about 30 people are allowed in for it on any given night). It’s basically a 700-year-old ceremony where they lock up the tower (and the Crown Jewels) for the evening. I almost blew it off because of the weather, but I was glad we went.
Heading back to Bayswater, we saw the werewolf on the Tube. Since this was the day AFTER Halloween, that was a bit strange. Especially since the guy sitting across from us was saying that he knew he wasn’t THAT pissed…. hehe. So we all got a good laugh at the werewolf, who waved at us.
What was really funny was when this group (that included above-referenced guy) sat across from us, one of the girls was literally passing out. This guy (her boyfriend, I believe) bapped her on the forehead to wake her up. And not just a light slap. He SMACKED her! *LOL* It was funny…. hehe Yeah, they’d been drinking. But were friendly enough… and funny… and entertaining.
And of course, there was the werewolf. I wished I’d taken a photo, but I was too in the mindset of thinking I was seeing things to even think about it. And we’d walked quite far that night – we’d ended up in a residential neighborhood at one point where the tube stations were farther apart. I was not in my right mind! heh
Our Final Day
Realizing that there’s just no way to see everything in London in a week, we decided to take it easy on our poor tired feet on our final day. We got up early and saw “Quantum of Solace” because it opened in the UK before here. Good movie, by the way! And then we had lunch and I insisted on a hamburger because I was craving U.S. food at that point! *LOLOL* We went to a nearby pub and the guy behind the counter swore it would be the best burger ever! It was actually pretty good and equal to any good burger to be had in the states. We ended the meal with Sticky Toffee Pudding, which is neither sticky or toffee-like or even a pudding! *LOL* My favorite part was the custard they put over it. We’d had some at another pub over apple pie and that custard stuff is YUMMY!
Then we headed back into the city to take a cruise down the Thames. We got some of the best views of the city on the cruise. Took lots of photos and ended up all the way down in Greenwich – you know that place where time starts and stops. We got off the boat in Greenwich just long enough for me to grab a Twirl *LOL* And then it was back on the boat and we got to cruise back up the river as the sun set and saw the city lit up at night. It was gorgeous, obviously.
At that point, I realized we hadn’t even seen Buckingham Palace! *LOL* But I didn’t care, because it was pretty much at the bottom of my list of things to see anyway. And I do plan on going back. Especially now that RyanAir has just announced they’ll be flying from the UK to the US for 8 GBP!!!
After the cruise, we ended up at Piccadilly Circus. Took some photos and walked around. Ended up with Planet Hollywood t-shirts and finally called it a night. We went back to Bayswater and had our last British meal. Which was…
I had nachos and Rachel had quesadillas. Isn’t that traditionally British of us? hehe
So that’s our trip, more or less. I’ve probably left out a lot of details that I’ll remember later. Things like the Irish guys playing fiddles on the train and how David Tennant made me cry when he did the “To be or not to be” speech (I’ve never heard it done so well), among a million other memories that will always make me smile when I think of London.
And to Rachel, thank you for sharing this wild and crazy trip with me – I’m sure we’ll be talking about it for years to come. I’ve got some awesome memories of all the fun we had and you’ll probably be the only person who will laugh at me when I say “DAMN YOU, DAVID TENNANT!” hehe
For the record, the things that surprised me the most about London:
1. The people are incredibly nice. A lot of the tourists were rude, but the locals were sweethearts. Right down to saying “Bless you” when you sneeze or offering up a bench at the Tube Station where they were previously sitting.
2. For such a large city, London is CLEAN. Not sure how they do it – sometimes it’s hard to find a trash can in the city. The public bathrooms are generally also clean. And when we stopped last night to use the bathrooms at a McDonald’s, I missed that.
3. At least in the Bayswater area, shops and things close a lot earlier than you would expect. Pubs stay open until late (we were rudely awakened one night by people coming out of the pubs). And even when I found a chemist (Boots) that was open at the airport, I had problems finding the right cold meds. They really didn’t have a lot.
4. It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I honestly don’t think I miss living in the city. It’s too noisy and the air is kinda’ icky. I’d love to live NEAR there, though…. heh
5. We didn’t see a lot of overweight folks in London. Londoners are in tip-top shape. You have to be in order to live there! All that climbing up and down stairs on the Tube and in the city and everywhere else. Just whew! I’m pretty sure I lost weight this trip, which is a first!
There’s probably more, but I’ll leave with just those for now. I think I’m going back to bed because the one souvenir I brought back with me that I didn’t want to bring back was a nasty cold. I don’t care, though. I’m glad I got sick now and not earlier! 😛
So you want photos? They’re all on my Flickr account here: