We did end up making it to London that night, but we got there too late to do anything. It worked out though cause we got a good night’s sleep and were ready to tear up London the next day.
Everything in London is exciting. Part of it is just because it’s a big city, but it’s mostly because of the double decker buses, the accents, the history, and the voice on the Underground that says “Mind the Gap” 23 times a minute.
Our first day, we, like 500 other tourists, decided to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Luckily, we got there early, so we got the best view right in front of the gate. Sounds fun right? Yeah, not always. Tourists are pushy people. I was being shoved up against the gate from all directions. I could not move my arms. An Italian woman shoved her camera in front of my view of the guards. The Guard was fun to watch though. They have some great choreography and they stop every once in awhile while one of the Guards yells something. The Guard band played a wide selection of songs from ABBA to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I’m not kidding. This experience was accompanied by “Dancing Queen” and “You’re Just Too Good to be True”. We couldn’t make it through the whole experience though. A) We are now used to the warm Mediterranean weather and the frigid London Arctic was biting at my toes. B) The crowd pushing up against me became overwhelming. I was essentially being sodomized by the Frenchman behind me. (I’m 5’3”… It’s not THAT hard to see over me.) He was pushing against my backside which rammed my front side against the gate. Not the most fun I’ve ever had. I guess it’s just one of those things where you have to close your eyes and think of England.
After having seen the Changing of the Guard, we warmed up in the Queen’s Shop where there are an assortment of porcelain sets and tea. So pretty, so British.
Since we were in London, it was of course, raining. Our next indoor pursuit was Westminster Abbey. Having travelled a lot through Europe, I’ve seen a lot of Cathedrals and Churches. As much as you don’t want to, it gets easy to become jaded about seeing another Church. Westminster still blew my mind. The painted ceiling compares to nothing I’ve ever seen before. The sides of the Church are filled with tomb after decorated, sculpted, marble, gold-gilded tomb.
Chilling with the dead makes you hungry. Kate and I went to get fish and chips. Luckily, food in London doesn’t break the bank (just the belt buckle). A plate of fish & chips and mushy peas costs £5. Pubs run a little differently. Even eating at the restaurant part, you order and pay at the bar and they bring it to you.
After hanging around the typical sites of London, I wanted to see something different. I read on a list of off-beat things to do in London about a popular burlesque theater. The show was called “Ivy Paige’s Wonderland” and the characters were based off Alice and Wonderland (even though there was no Alice). The show centered on Ivy Paige, the redheaded hostess who played the Queen of Hearts. Ivy sang songs throughout the show and walked around the audience making jokes and trying to get people involved. A big group of people had come to the show to celebrate this Russian girl’s birthday. Marina, the Russian girl, informed Ivy that it was also the day to celebrate the Russian Army (Feb 23). Ivy then made her take a shot of vodka. Three other girlies assisted Ivy during the show: the Cheshire cat, the white rabbit, and the door mouse. Fun little way to spend the evening.
Starting out the 2nd day was a rainy tour of the Tower of London. Actually, I don’t think anyone has managed to have a dry tour of the tower of London. I only had a few things I wanted to see there: the beefeaters, the site of the executions, and the jewels. The Tower of London is huge though and it is fun to get lost in that maze. I cannot take anything seriously and had fun playing with the weapons that were on display to handle. The birds that the beefeaters handle are much cooler seen on TV, because they don’t actually handle the birds during the open hours (I guess). The birds were in their cages.
After the Beefeaters informed me that most of the executions took place outside of the Tower walls so that the public could view (pardon my ignorance) I was a little disappointed by the small memorial within the walls. What is most certainly not disappointing at the Tower of London, is the view of the Crown Jewels. You get to see all of the utensils used in crowning, and let me tell you, they left nothing out. There is a gold spoon, a wine fountain, trays, rings, all sorts of anything and everything gold. The best bling of course are the crowns and scepters. You view the jewels on a moving walkway that takes you down one side and then back around on the other. During high tourist season in the summer, both move in the same direction and you can only go once, but since it was February, we could go on more than once. Kate and I treated this like our own personal merry-go-round and ogled the jewels a few times.
After the Tower, we hit a magical sweet spot in the day where the clouds cleared and the sun was shining. Perfect time to do the London Eye. The view was of course spectacular. Merry-go-round to Ferris Wheel… London is just a carnival!
London is full of literary wonders and sites to see. Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Dickens House Museum, Sherlock Holmes Home on Baker Street just to name a few. Well, our choice out of all of the famous literary sites in London was Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. They really do have it marked and a cart half in the wall. I just had to fight off a group of Asian tourists to snap a quick pic.
Anyway, it was time for some shopping. My mother recommended Marks and Sparks underwear and since it is true that you can never have enough underwear, I stocked up. Afterwards, we headed to the shopping mecca, Harrods. Really, it’s hard to describe. You have to go to the website and look at the pictures. There are separate wings of the place for everything. The perfurmerie, this designer, that designer. It’s overload. They have a whole room full of tea and chocolate. Even the fish and meats counter is beautiful. I found the best part of Harrod’s to be the Diana and Dodi Memorial. You find it at the base of a staircase that is decorated with Egyptian statues and hieroglyphics. If you were to question my decision to visit a department store while thereis some much to do in London, please be aware that Harrod’s is an experience in itself.
That night, I went to visit my friend Monica who is studying for the semester in London. We had planned to go out on the town with all of her London friends, but ended up deciding that the evening would be better spent skyping our friends back home. Being able to meet up with friends from home in all sorts of different countries makes the world feel small, but in a homey way.
We didn’t have a full day the next day because we had to be moving along to Dublin. We met up with Liz, another friend of mine studying in London. Liz had actual work to do, but she met us for coffee and talked to us about much she loves being there. We only had time for one big adventure, so we went a little outside central London to Highgate Cemetery. Highgate could be the Dracula cemetery. The graves are covered in vines and moss and there are crosses and angels that creepily loom over the muddy pathways. Of course since it’s London, it was overcast and gloomy, a perfect setting. Highgate ended up being a really good way to spend the day because we got to pass a different side of London, a side that looked like a traditional London suburb. To get to the cemetery, you have to pass through Waterlow Park, a park that resembles the one where Pongo met Perdita in 101 Dalmatians.
My trip to London was a success. I saw everything I wanted to see including my friends who are studying there. My only regret is not having more time.