Friday, March 6, 2009

London. Finally.

OK, so had I written this the moment we had returned, I would have pages and pages to write. But I didn't. So here are the London highlights, mercifully much shorter than anticipated:

The Beer Hotel
We stayed at Fullers, a pretty hotel owned by Fuller's Brewery, perched right on top of a Fuller's pub and with two big, fat Fuller's waiting for us when we came back to the Hotel at night. And the shepherd's pie -- (say in Homer-Simpson voice) ummmmmmmmmmmmmm, shepherd's pie.
Pictured: A few blocks away from our hotel. Behind me are Parliment and Big Ben.

All the Dead People
Pictured: In the gardens of the Abby.

We were a block or so away from Westminster Abby. It was one of our first stops. And beautiful. We spent an entire morning touring the Abby. And of course, with my sitting-in-the-front-row-with-my-hand-raised personality, I had to ask questions. Want to know why so many of the statues are missing their fingers? Because, up until a few decades ago, people thought it was OK to pop them off and take them home as souvenirs. Yech.

The most emotional spot for me was the stained glass window decorated with figures of U.S airmen from WW2. The original window was blown out during the war. The new one was installed to honor the U.S. airmen who gave their lives in Europe. Touching to see our military honored in an icon of British history.

On the downside, every historical spot in England has to do with bloody, gruesome, multiple murders. After a while, I couldn't take it anymore. So our planned tour of the Tower of London consisted of walking around the outside of it and taking pictures.

Harry Potter

I'm a geek. So we stopped in a phone booth and I dialed the code to get into the Ministry of Magic. Didn't work. Sigh.

Pictured: We spotted some swans while walking around Salisbury, near Stonehenge.

Amazing Famous Stuff We Bumped Into
Pictured: In front of the Elgin Marbles.

1. Cleopatra's Needle -- just walking down the street and there is was.

2. One of the Magna Carta. We took a day trip to Stonehenge and spent the day walking around in the medieval town next to it. We went to look at the cathedral (not only the tallest building in the middle ages but also one of the few structures not blown up during WW2 because the Germans were using it for navigation). We're walking into it and around the grounds and here's a sign, "Magna Carta" with an arrow pointing into a room off the cathedral. There is it. Protected by glass and docents. We were rather impressed.

3. The graves of Shakespeare and of Edmund Haley (the latter with a bronze comet on it).

Pictured: In front of the Cathedral that holds one of the Magna Carta.

4. Scotland Yard. We walked by it everyday on our way back to the hotel.

5. A head from Easter Island, the Elgin marbles and the Roseta Stone (all residing in the British Museum, or as my husband named it "The Museum of Yoink." Absolutely EVERYTHING in there is stolen from another country. When I first saw the marbles and realized what they were, I accidentally said (much too loudly) "Oh my God, they need to give these baaaaaack." The docents shot me dirty looks.

Pictured: In the Museum of Yoink, studying a chess set. If it looks familiar, it was used as a model for Wizard's Chess. Also, it's a zillion years old.

6. A lot more I can't remember now and will add later.

Most Hoity-Toity Moment
Tea at Kinsington Palace. Bless my husband for eating cucumber sandwiches with a smile.

Pictured: Squirrel Nutkin on the grounds of Kensington Palace.

My Husband's Favorite Stop
The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, which is on the Prime Meridian. It was really cool. I was impressed. We stood on the Prime Meridian, used a camera obscura, watched a planetarium show and then MrKnotty and their planetarium director talked shop. Also, the architecture was astounding.

Most Frustrating Thing About London
There are no street signs. Just vague "this street might be this way" signs.

That, and the tube shutting down on our second day because someone left a backpack somewhere. Which meant we had to figure our way on the street. See "no street signs" above.

Thank You to Author Conan Doyle
Because of whom I went to the pub across from the British Museum (it's in one of his stories) and had the most fantastic fish and chips with mushy peas ever. And a lot of beer.

Pictured: With our beer samples in the Museum Pub.

Longest Awaited Moment
When I was living in my tiny cabin in Alaska, I got a Jamie Oliver cookbook. Somehow, out of our laughable supplies, I made Jamie's tomato and roasted red pepper soup with his artichoke salad on the side. My friends and I thought it was the best thing we had eaten in years. I wished I could taste his actual cooking to see if I had come close.

Our last night in London, my husband took me to Jamie's restaurant, 15. From before dinner drinks, to antipasti, lamb, fish, dessert and champagne, it was amazing. I was so happy I seriously could not tone down the smile that was plastered across my face. People kept asking us what the occasion was. I think I looked like I had just gotten engaged. My souvenir was Jamie's newest cookbook (which I have now used many times).

What Else?
We saw Avenue Q in the West End. It was so funny, my husband was literally crying and almost fell out of his seat.

We went to Harrod's. Tacky. Not impressive.

Stonehenge was awesome.

The train stations have little convenience stores called "The Pumpkin." They are really cute and I had a fantastic croissant with ham and Swiss there. (I know it sounds gross to eat from a convenience store but it was good -- and it was called "The Pumpkin." I mean, come on. How cute is that?)

We went to Platform 9 3/4 in King's Cross, bought Christmas Crackers for our families in a department store, had English breakfast everyday (fried eggs, bacon, baked tomoato, baked mushrooms and baked beans with toast and tea), got lost and saw some really cool buildings, and snuck into St. Paul's while it was closed, got caught and kicked out. Also, many people assumed I was British and showing Mr. Knotty around. I blame my pasty white skin.

Also, we walked. A lot. Which was great because I went to bed every night exhausted.

I had a wonderful time. Even on our flight back (yay, British Airlines! Wine, a four course dinner, fuzzy slippers and tons of movies. You had me at "allo.") was fun and relaxing. I'm fan of England.

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