churches

London: New Year’s Eve and Day

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We are totally exhausted. It’s only 17:23 and both of us could certainly fall asleep right now. We’ve been walking a lot the past few days.

DSCF0172Yesterday, we started at St. Paul’s. After we saw the crypt and the church, we climbed almost 600 steps to the top of the dome. My legs still burn.

The views were worth it,

though.

I forgot my little schedule, so we missed going to the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square as I had planned. After St. Paul’s we went to Covent Garden for shopping (20-quid for a pair of fab pants at Monsoon) and wandering in Soho and the West End/Picadilly. We ate at an organic grocery store with a disorganized staff. It was crazy. No one was in any hurry. The food was good, though.

Then we made our way to Buckingham Palace. Evidently, the state rooms are only open of tours in August and September, but we did see an exhibit on King George III and Queen Charlotte at the Queen’s Gallery.

After that we did more walking in Picadilly and came across a Waterford store that was haveing a sale on the Lismore patters — so we got 8 claret glasses. Nice. At 30% off, too. Then we came back to the room and decided to try and get a head start on the crowds and head down to Trafalgar Square a little on the early side.

We got lucky and snagged a table at a small Italian Ristorante (where the staff were actually Italian). Afterwards, we went on a quest to find a bar where we could get just one dring. After a lot more walking, we found a random, same as all the others pub, where we had just one drink and then split. It was then to Trafalgar Square to stand and wait for the New Year.

All-in-all, it was completely anti-clamactic. The fireworks were actually on the Thames, but there were hundreds, dare I say thousands, of people at the square watching music videos on two massive screens. Once 11:00 or so rolled around, the coverage on the BBC started. It was no celebration. Instead, it was 40 minutes of tsunami coverage. Granted, a lot of Europeans take vacations to Asia or have family there, but 40 minutes of devastation and death and sad story after sad story was just not fun. I found myself wishing for some Ashlee/Lindsay/Brittney pop princess crap instead!

Then, when the countdown started at Big Ben, the BBC showed the countdown which was projected onto a building. At about 20 seconds, they cut away! Eventually, in the distance, bells rang and people cheered. Um, OK. There could have been some sort of countdown from 10 or something.

And then the fireworks started. The did show those on TW and some of them were visible over the buildings between the square and the waterfront. Since there were so many people there (the Tube was free), Bren and I decided to make our way out — towards any Tube station, anywhere. The coppers were everywhere and they had everyone corralled in — with maybe a few places where we could get through. there were some semi-scary moment were there was a whole lot of pushing, a lot of people, and nowhere to go. But we made it. And after a while, we found ourselves at an Underground station. We managed to be in bed at around 1:30 or 1:45.

This morning it was difficult to get up, but we managed to be out the door before 10:000. Today, we had a quick bite at the local McDonalds. Our price at the hotel didn’t include breakfast. We found that out yesterday morning. The food there was OK, nothing special, and it takes awhile; hence, McDonalds. However, they seem to have a more varied and healthy breakfast menu. I had coffee (which was actually good) and a bagel with jam and Brendan had porridge.

Our first stop was the Tate Modern. They have some good stuff. It wasn’t terribly crowded until after 12:30 as we were leaving. I know Brendan didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, though. They did have this one sort of interactive piece that consisted of a huge cabinet full of things that were found on the banks of the Thames. They were all organized by object and color. There was a drawer full of soda bottle caps, and glass bottles and what not. Everything was meticulously labelled. I wanted to take it home with me. We did end up missing the parade (oops) but weren’t too disappointed.

After the Tate, we went shopping (again) in Kensignton. I got the cutest purse. And it started raining. Today is the first day we’ve had with rain and wind. We made our way from Kensington High Street to Holland Park and onto the edge of Notting Hill to Portabello Road. It was just about closing time for the shops that were open, though. Still, there were loads of people.

After we walked the length of the street it had gotten dark (at only 4:00, 4:15 or so) and we were completely spent, so we found the closest Tube station and came back. We’ll stay close by for dinner and go to bed early. In fact, Brendan is asleep right now.

There isn’t a whole lot on the schedule for tomorrow: St. James’ Park in the morning, changing of the guard at 11:30 and the British Museum, maybe to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.

London: room and packing in sights

The room is reminescent of our first night in Zurich. The suitcase needs to be standing up if we’re both going to be walking and/or moving about. The heat in here is cranking, too. We’ve got no control — it’s either on or off. They’ve been sending someone to turn it off for 10 minutes now. That’s service. It’s a bed, a toilet, a shower and a roof. It’s all we need. What do you expect for $70 a night. We packed in a whole lot of stuff today. The plan* was a little disrupted when we got in at about 7 and we couldn’t get into the room. There was a place for us to store our bags and have a quick change. Then we were off.

DSCF0013
Took the tube all over. First to Westminster Abbey where we beat the majority of the crowds — there was just a small line, er, queue… No photos allowed inside, though.

DSCF0009We took some around Parliament and Big Ben

DSCF0020and then we walked across the Thames to the Eye.
DSCF0026We were way early for our noon reservation, so we grabbed some food and got our tickets printed… and got in line early. No big deal. Don’t imagine it would be unless there were lots of crowds.


So we went around in little pods — they don’t stop them unless there is someone with a wheelchair or something — so you board and disembark while they are very slowly moving. It takes half an hour to go all the way around. After that it was off to lunch.

DSCF0089I didn’t have us “slotted”* to start through the Tower of London until 2:00 — so we had plenty of time to have a good lunch, wait in a slow line for tickets and walk and walk and walk. We saw the jewels, and the White Tower. Good stuff.

Then, since we had loads of time, we took the Tube to Knightsbridge, headed into Zara (odd that I’ve been to the store in Montreal and London, but not in Georgetown) and got a cute dark emerald/hunter knit turtleneck.

DSCF0092And then it was across the street to Harrod’s. What a zoo. It was completely insane. couldn’t stay in there for terribly long. And now, we’re in the room until about seven when we’re going to dinner. Going to try and stay up until nine or so. I got a few hours of sleep on the plane. Bren didn’t get any… Tomorrow’s plan is for St. Paul’s, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square.

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*We don’t normally plan much of our trips. We just go with the flow and do what we feel like, when we feel like it, and take it pretty easy. But since this time we had a little time and so much we wanted to do, plus it was a holiday weekend; I had to make sure we knew what was open when, so that we could see everything.

Montreal: A movie, shopping and Old Montreal

First, the movie yesterday was Colombian, not Venezuelan. It was pretty funny. There were even parts where I didn’t need the subtitles. This morning we had to rush to breakfast. The alarm didn’t go off, but luckily, I actually woke up — at 7:25 — just five minutes before we were suppposed to be there. The movie this morning was so sad. The whole thing was so terribly sad. Even Brendan said he wanted to cry for about 3/4 of the movie.

Then we shopped a little. Last night we stopped in Bedo — I want to know if they have any shops in the states – and toda several others. Most noteably, Mexx and Zara. I’m going to have to get myself to the Zara in Georgeton. I fell completely in love with the store.

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon in vieux (old) Montreal. The metro here is very cheap, but also uncomfortable. It saved us a lot of walking, though. First we saw the Basilique Notre-Dame. I expected it to be completely beautiful, and it exceeded my expectations. We also went to the Museum of Archaeology and History and saw the first foundations of the city. And a lot more walking. We’re going to try and find a French restaurant in walking distance tonight. Tomorrow to the Olympic Park, Botanical Gardens and maybe an Expos game. May as well check them out before they come down our way to stay!

Montreal: Walking, walking and walking

Blister on the first day: never good. We did a whole lot of walking today. First it was to the Basilique Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde which was very beautiful. Then it was down St-Catherine to the cinema to but tickets for the two film festival movies that we wanted to see. [tonight it’s the VenezuelanColombian El Carro and tomorrow moring the Irish Holy Cross — something for each of us].

Next we walked to the McGill campus and then up the “mountain” to the Parc du Mont-Royal, where we got a great view of the city. It was very beautiful, but it was really tiring.

But we weren’t done. Nope. We grabbed some lunch and then went to the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal. They had a little bit of everything. Some of the more modern pieces — a chandelier that was bare, with the crystals neatly on the floor — were better than others — black canvasses. There were also some really interesting decorative arts pieces: charis, tables, vases, teapots etc.

Our room, excuse me, our suite, is so very nice. Down pillows and comforter, a little table (at which I am currently sitting), a sofa, a CD player, whirlpool tub, exposed brick, wood floor, ceramic tile in the bathroom, a kitchen to use with dishes and everything. It’s probably one of the nices places I’ve ever stayed.

Switzerland, Basel Day 3

September 12, 2001

On the way to Basel we try and find castles. They are marked on our map with a little tower. Ruins and churches are also marked. It doesn’t take us long to figure out two important things:

1.Kastell doesn’t mean castle, but fort. Schloss means castle.
2.Brown signs along the highway will take you to historically significant places, just like at home.

We can see all kinds of castles off in the distance, but can never actually find one. We drive in their general direction, me looking at the map and reading signs, Brendan turning in what he figures is the right direction. He’s got a great sense of direction. But it still doesn’t work. So we give up for the time being.

Basel is a weird city; it is old and brand new at the same time.

basel

We stumble across this church (one of many) that is open to the public and take a walk up to the top of the spire. The above picture was taken there. You can stand where the bell would be and look straight up to the tip.

There’s this canal that runs through town, and one can take a boat across. The current is so strong that they have tether lines up so the boats down drift too far. It was sort of cloudy and windy so we didn’t do any crossing.

We did stop in at a museum, the Kunstmuseum to see more Picasso (he lived in Basel for a while), Paul Klee and others.

Basel is right on the border of Germany and France. It was part of our master plan to visit as many countries as we could, just so we could say that we had; I was hoping for passport stamps (we didn’t get any). We drove across the border to France first. The guard didn’t even really stop us, he saw the “CH” (for Switzerland, Schweiz in German) sticker on the back bumper of the car as we slowed down, we started to get out our passports, but as soon as he saw we were American he just waved us through. No big deal. Getting into Canada is harder!

Again, we tried to find castles. All we found were churches, graveyards and ruins. We did see many cute villages with cream colored buildings, tiled rooves, colorful shutters and window boxes. Straight out of a movie.

village2

Then we drove to Germany. (Of course, I could totally have it backwards. We could have done Germany first and then France.) At any rate, we crossed the German/French border with no problem. There was a nice little sign that told us that the back road we were on was not for persons who were carrying goods from one country to another. Those people had to turn around and go back to the national road to cross the border so they could be inspected. Thank you very much Mr. Sign!

hayman

We saw this guy in either France or Germany. Who knows. The Herbsmarkt sounds German, but the Ranspach-Le-Haut seems more French.

This sort of thing is typical. The Swiss have four recognized languages, German (the national language), French, Italian and Romanian. We’d walk into a store and the shop keeper would say “Bonjour” then proceed to talk in German. When we would leave they’d say goodbye in French again.

Disclaimer.

Brendan joined the party on January 2, 2004. He's cool now.

Jessica has never been cool. She is OK with that.

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