I have to say right up front that I love London. It is like a comfy pair of jeans. Despite my one beef (Which is NEVER being able to navigate because I could NOT get my barrings in this twisty-streeted city), I loved every minute of London.
All of England is grand. Only in England could you have subway graffiti that includes the term â€œUnacceptableâ€.
â€œNoisy Doors Are Unacceptableâ€ was scratched by a sharp object into one of the doors of tube we took into the city. I thought it was hilarious.
We started off our London experience by going to The Tower of London.
I knew that it would be overrun with tourists, but frankly, it was on my top things to see simply due to the amount of study Iâ€™ve done on it. Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey,Sir Walter Raleigh, The Dudleyâ€™s,Queen Elizabeth, The Little Princes, Guy Fawkes, Mary Queen of Scots, you name it, there were here, even if for a short time.
There is a saying that as long as six ravens stay at the tower, it will never fall, so they clip the wings of the ravens to make damn sure they donâ€™t go anywhere. Kind of sad, really…Quite a few of the items on display belonged to Henry the VIII. I think that this armorâ€¦EHEMâ€¦Frankly says EVERYTHING you need to know about him. Freud would have a field day if this guy landed on his couch.I.laughed.my.ass.off.
The green is where extremely sensitive executions were carried out, away from the blood-thirsty crowds that gathered on Tower Hill to watch people hanged, drawn and quartered. Henry VIII’ two wives, Catherine Howard and Anne Bolyen were beheaded here, as was Lady Jane Grey, The Countess of Salisbury (Supporter of Henry’s first wife, Katherine. Said to have struggled, broke free and was chased down by the executioner and struck 11 times before dying). A handful of others were executed here and it was sobering.
So was Traitor’s Gate. Like the private green, this is the place where rather than using the main gate of the tower, they rowed in the VIP prisoners kept in the tower (Like Elizabeth I when she was imprisoned by her half-sister, Mary I “Bloody Mary”.)
Beef Eaters. They guard the tower n’ stuff. I wonder how effective they are. I wonder if the porn star mustache helps them in their duties??? Oh, well…At least when we went through to see the Crown Jewels, they had soldiers with automatic rifles instead of â€œBonnie & Clydeâ€ who â€œGuardedâ€ the Crown Jewels of Scotland.
The Bloody Tower was amazing. It was some of the prisoners quarters. It had tons and tons of old graffiti from prisoners. It was amazing. They had a LOT of time on their hands, as is apparent by the chiseled crests, elaborate script and sayings that they etched on the walls. The saddest was by a windowsillâ€¦IANE. (JANE) most likely carved by Robert Dudley, who was Lady Jane Greyâ€™s husband.
After the tower we made our way to St. Pauls Cathedral. It.is.big. I couldnâ€™t help it, I sang a few bars of â€œFeed the birdsâ€ while I was there. I had to. Dorkishness is a compulsion in me. Thankfully, it wasnâ€™t loud. (And there was a run on a national bank when we were there. I totally blame Jane and Michael and that damn bird woman!)
I was also darkish and thought about Princess Diâ€™s wedding day. Damn. What a place to be married. The walk to the front of the cathedral is quite the haul in a big, puffy dress. The whispering gallery at the base of the dome is wicked. You can hear all the way across at a whisper! Wild.
I climbed all the way to the top: All 430-something stairs! I thought I would die, but I did it. The view from the top was well worth it. The Crypt was cool, too. Lord Horatio Nelson (Who lost no ships in the battle and kicked the crap out of Napoleon,who lost 20 ships, at Trafalgar and tragically died during the battle. He was really the first national hero of Britain. Fascinating life. You should read about his tortured affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton sometime. All very “Days of Our Lives” of the early 1800′s!) was buried here along with Florence Nightingale.
From St. Paulâ€™s, we crossed the Millennium Bridge straight across to The Tate Modern.The building is wild, it used to house huge generators. What they have done with the interior is amazing. It was nice to step outside my box and look at everything. Some of it was so beautiful and startling, and frankly, some of it was crap; literally. One display was a canister of â€œArtistâ€™s Shitâ€.
After strolling around to the point of exhaustion, we decided it was time to eat. We hadnâ€™t really eaten anything since our light breakfast in the hotel. Before we left, Michelle and I decided that we wanted to eat REALLY good curry (Indian food) while in London. Londoners take their curry very seriously, and so I began to research.I came upon the restaurant, â€œHot Stuffâ€.
It is in the middle of nowhere and was pretty much hell to get to. The neighborhood is really rundown and if you blink, youâ€™ll miss it. We only found our way thanks to several helpful locals. We were greeted outside by Raj, the owner and a bunch of his cousins. There was some good-natured laughing and teasing at Raj going on and he explained that his cousin saw us and bet that we were the 6 oâ€™clock reservation. Raj said no, we looked like were going to Sainsburyâ€™s to shop. When we walked by, Raj gloated, only to eat crow when we turned back around, realizing we went too far.
Raj was a big teddy bear of a man, with thick, wild hair and dressed casually in jeans and a pullover sweatshirt. He helped us order and as â€œHot Stuff Virginsâ€ he gave us a complimentary order of Naan.This.food.rocked.my.world.I wonâ€™t go into detail because I canâ€™t remember the names, but I ate until I was bursting and sick, and then I ate some more.
His balance of spicy and sweet is so delicately handled. There was this sweet and hot lamb that had tons of layers of flavor hit you bit by bit and his saffron, mushroom rice was sooooo good.I could go on for days. It only cost 25 pounds for the both of us. In London that is dirt cheap. It was worth every bit of angst and frustration to get there. After we paid our bill, Raj directed us to the underground and we raced to make our theater performance.
I have wanted to see â€œThe Woman in Blackâ€ for about 13 years, now. It is a ghost story set in London and the deep, remote countryside. It was a great pick and fabulous production: Spooky, eerie and so well done. The theaters in London are CASUAL. I also love that they allow you to eat food in there. I had a tiny tub of chocolate ice cream at intermission.
The only drawback to the evening was that there was a huge group of school kids there and when the â€œLady in blackâ€ made her admittedly heart-stopping appearances in the second act, they WOULD NOT STOP SHRIEKING THEIR HEADS OFF. It got old. I think that that combined with maybe one or two more â€œScare momentsâ€ than were truly needed were my only complaints. I loved it.
It was raining fairly steadily when we got out and Covent Garden Station (Which is by the AMAZING opera house) was closed for return journeyâ€™s, so we hoofed it down a station and made our way back to the hotel. I was so exhausted; that I changed into my PJâ€™s and went straight to sleep, knowing that another full day a waits.
I slept pretty well, all things considered.
Our last day in London! We ate our normal hotel breakfast (Wheatabix and fruit and juice for Chelle, Coffee, toast and jam for me). Most of the hotel staff is comprised of girls from Poland. Apparently, Eastern European workers are to Great Britain what Mexican workers are to the USA. I find that interesting. Anyway, they were very kind, sweet and lovely. It made the mornings a bit nicer.
We bought Oyster Cards for the tube (Highly recommended) and so we couldnâ€™t get on at the station until 9:30. First stop was The British Library.
You would die at the letters, original hadwriting samples, journals and handwritten manuscripts of very famous, very long-ago alive people. I saw the original manuscript and libretto for The Messiah! I thought I was going to pass out. That was not all. There was Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, The Magna Carta, Beethoven, Mozart, The Beetles, Henry VI, Thomas Moore, Mary I, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Wolfe, and so.many.more.
One of the most touching was a journal from the fatal Scott expedition to the South Pole in 1912. He (Scott) discovered that he had been beaten by a month by a Russian and then he and his party all parished on the journey. They displayed his journal, flipped to the last page:
â€œMarch 1912-I donâ€™t think I can write any more.â€
â€œFinal Entry-For Godâ€™s sake, look after our people.â€
It was very, very moving and sad.
After gawking at everything for a couple of hours we went to The British Museum and zoomed through at the speed of light. It was a pity how fast we went, but it couldnâ€™t be helped if we were to see everything that we were scheduled to see that day. We werenâ€™t expecting the Library to be so cool. My legs felt like they were going to fall off, and we went through in about 1.5 hours. You could spend months in there and not see everything.
It is truly the most staggering example of preservation, and sheer greed and dominance I have ever seen. They freaking ripped whole WALLS off of ancient burial tombs.I didnâ€™t quite know what to think of it all. On one hand, I am glad of the preservation. I saw baby sandals of papyrus and leather from 1,000 BC for hellâ€™s sake! On the other hand, the sheer controversy of so many national treasures from other nations all under one roof that had pretty much just taken so much of it made me slightly nauseated.
Itâ€™s a quandary.
After our marathon sprint we were beyond tired and hungry we decided to just eat in the museum cafeteria. Chelle treated me to lunch and bought crayfish salad, sandwiches, brownies and fruit from the cafÃ© and we collapsed onto our seats.
I think I wolfed down my sandwiches in 3 seconds. We visited the gift shop and then raced to catch the tube to Westminster to see the Abby before it closed.When we stepped out of the tube station, Michelle told me to look up and I audibly gasped. I was standing RIGHT next to Big Ben. (Look, kids! Big Ben! Parliament!)
We went into Westminster Abby and separated. This was a bad idea. It was also TWENTY POUNDS, which truly is staggering and overpriced, in my opinion.Still, I wanted to see it once in my life and Iâ€™m glad I did. Queen Elizabeth, Catherine Parr, Laurence Olivier, The Bronte Sisters, William Wilburforce (Responsible for abolishing slavery in England),Mary Queen of Scots, Richard II, and so many that I canâ€™t think of right now. Poetâ€™s corner was very, very cool.I couldnâ€™t find Michelle and she couldnâ€™t find me. I was looking for her inside and she was looking for me outside. They finally let her in to find me, thankfully, because we were in a very tight race to see our last sightseeing thing of our trip: The Churchill underground cabinet rooms and bunker.
It didnâ€™t help that we were trying to find our way in the POURING rain. It just came down in buckets on us. Michelleâ€™s umbrella was broken and she was trying to make her way with the flap of it pouring water down her back. By the time we made it there we were soaked like drowned rats.
We rushed through the tour, only to realize that we were off by an hour. We were thinking that it was 6, but it was only 5, so we were able to re-see some things and take more time, which was nice. It was all surreal; to know that this was the main headquarters for World War II. The map room was our favoriteThey had two long rows of different phones lining the rows of desks. When it shut down after the war, the workers, tidied their desks, shut off the light, and never came back. It was sealed up that way. Until the 7oâ€™s! One man even had his sugar cube rations in a paper bag in his desk. It was a very cool, very significant sight.
The newer Churchill museum was such an interesting look into the life of Churchill. He was brilliant, and he is responsible for some of the more amusing quotes the world has to offer. â€œIf we are all worms, I believe I am a glow-wormâ€.
Trafalgar Square is pretty big. It is situated in front of The National Gallery, which we skipped, but there was a very cool maze-like exhibit of thousands of photographs in mosaic pattern that was very interesting to browse through.
We found our way to the theater district, grabbed a quick meal of soup and bread and ran off to see our final event of the trip.Wicked: The Musical.
I have wanted to see this for a very long time. Nothing prepared me for how grand, how visually perfect and huge everything was. I also wasnâ€™t prepared for how funny it was. The leads were very talented, the show ran like clockwork and it is the best musical experience I have had in quite some time and I would see it again at the slightest opportunity. You should, too, if at all possible.
This musical, (Along with this photo of the tiniest car, ever) was the perfect way to end a trip of a lifetime. It went so well, and was so much better than I imagined. Everyone keeps asking how Michelle and I had our friendship survive through it. We’re just fine, thanks. She is awesome to travel with. Sure, there were some glitches, but when isnâ€™t there? They were small and quickly sorted out. Neither one of us were Diva-like or demanding and any frustrations were seen for what they were: Part of travel.
I had the time of my life.
Iâ€™m so glad I was able to have this experience. Iâ€™ll never, ever forget it. So long, Great Britain. You’re a grand friend to have.