Let me just get it out of the way, what happened yesterday in London was tragic. I hope for everyone who knows anyone there that their friends, family and selves are alright. Everyone seems to have a I went to London once and loved it story so, I’ll leave the rest to the experts and persons who actually experienced it.
Photos from our London trip are up in the gallery. Highlights include:
The London Eye
The Tower of London
St Paul’s Cathedral
the Changing of the Guard
the British Museum
the Rosetta Stone
We’re back. And good and tired.
I had the most fun in London, though. It was hard not to shop all the time. Monsoon has the best trousers I’ve had on anywhere. They actually fit through the hips and the waist doesn’t pucker in the back when I sit and show off my underwear to the entire world. It’s so nice. Sadly, they don’t have a store here, and they don’t deliver anywhere except to the UK and Ireland. I had to limit myself to just one pair of pants, but I’m going to wear the hell out of them.
Yesterday we started with the changing of the guard. It doesn’t officially start until 11:30, but we were there early — maybe 10 o’clock, to get a good spot. It was actually cold yesterday, so we stood freezing for half an hour and then the ceremony started. There were a lot of people — they only do it every other day in the winter. As we were standing, some Brits wandered into the crowd and wondered aloud what what going on. I thought only Americans stood around with other people not quite knowing what they were waiting for. When we first arrived, we had a spot right on the fence on the left hand side. I had the bright idea to move back towards the fountain, so that we could see the whole width of the palace. If we had stayed there, he would have gotten some good video. Oops.
In the front of the palace there’s a circle fountain and a statue of Queen Victoria. There are three gates to the palace. The old guard lines up at one gate, and a pipe band comes through that gate. Then, on the other side, the new guard and a marching band march in. Then two guys stand at the center and exchange keys.
Next, the band forms a horseshoe and played several tunes — a march a burlesque-ish one and something else… then at the end, the old guard and the piped and the band all march out.
I’d say, you don’t go to London to see the changing of the guard, but when in London, it is something to see.
Then we had lunch at some pub. Any pub. They’re all the same. They have the exact same menu. The same.
The next stop, and the last stop, really, was the British Museum. The best thing there was the
Rosetta stone. So amazing.
There were a lot of very cool, very old, things. And we were allowed to take video and photos of everything. Everything (can you do that at the Smithsonian?). Things from the very start of civilization. There were so many people from all over the world there. When I thought about it, it made sense. There were relics from Egypt, Persia, Asia, Africa…Things that aren’t in their “home” countries, so people have to travel to see them.
The very, very last thing we did was to go to a bar and watch the Steelers game. Yes, that’s right. We watched the Steelers. Brendan packed his shirt and his hat and everything. We met another fan or two — some Americans and a British Pats fan. He was nice. A bit shy and a little odd, but nice.
On the plane now. Since it’s January, they switched up the movies a little. The guy in front of me is ruining my viewing experience. He keeps throwing himself backwards and pulling the seat up and just being a fidgety pain in my ass. I was a little disappointed to find out that i (heart) huckabees was showing on US to London flights and not the other way around, but there was a problem with one they were meant to be showing (Alfie) so we’re getting to watch it. (Garden State, too, but my TV doesn’t like it.) I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about huckabees, but I like it. I like it a lot. I’m watching it for a second time.
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.
Yesterday, 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,
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.
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.
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.
We took some around Parliament and Big Ben
and then we walked across the Thames to the Eye.
We 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.
I 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.
And 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.
*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.