Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 4: Good Morning, this is Floris, how may I direct your call?

So, I had been looking forward to Saturday because we were going to meet up with Megan my friend from Middle School who lives outside of London. Our plan was to go to the British Museum and we met at a book shop just down the street. 
We decided first to get breakfast. Megan's husband Sam had seen a Dutch Pancake house (called My Old Dutch Pancake House oddly enough) and it looked promising. The pancakes were thin and eggy and took up a huge plate. I had apple and bacon (which was actually ham). The key to the whole meal was that we ordered dutch fruit beers - for breakfast! I was excited enough about beer for breakfast but I had a beer called Floris Ninkeberry. Doesn't that sound like the name of a receptionist? They should definitely get a new Dutch receptionist on Mad Men named Floris Ninkeberry. 

Megan and me in front of the BA. It's an awful picture of me but sadly we didn't take more.

This is some very expensive, feat of engineering, took 10 years to build ceiling that they put over the courtyard at the Museum. Chris was fascinated, I was ...... Oh, look kitties!

Kitty mummys actually.

After we had seen all the treasures pilfered from Egypt and Greece (Egypt is over it, Greece not so much), we walked around Covent Garden and then settled in for a cuppa and some chitchat. 
Unfortunately, Megan and Same had to leave all to soon and Chris and I were back to walking aimlessly around town. We considered seeing a show, but all the ones we wanted to see were across town and about to start. We walked to a restaurant recommended by the guide book but the menu turned us off so we continued to wonder around and finally had dinner in a nice pub called The Wellington (maybe just Wellington but something like that) near the Theater District. We had a lovely meal and caught a big red double decker bus back to our hotel adding another one of the important public transportations to our list. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 3: Tower and Tower like things

Day 3 started another early day. At the top of my list of must see things in the Tower of London. On the walk over the went my Monument because we could. it is a big monument. 
As I have said previously, we watch The Tudors so that makes The Tower of London even more exciting because some episodes take place there. Some fun facts - the Beefeaters and staff actually live there, they have a church, a doctor and a pub which is all you need to survive. The doors are still locked at midnight and no one goes in our out. 
This is me with our tour guide. The house like area behind him is where some of them live and the area where most imprisoned VIPs (such as Anne Boleyn) were kept. The guide lives in Sir Isaac Newton's old house!

The tower is really a massive fortress. It was home to the royal mint and is currently home to the Crown Jewels. You can see them but no pictures. We actually learned that they aren't insured but there has only ever been 1 attempt to steal them.

Tower Bridge was my favorite thing just to look at. We actually didn't go up in it and that is my one regret for this trip.

After out trip to The Tower we schlepped over to Spittafields Market for a coffee and then departed from Hope and Matthew so we could make our appointed time at The London Eye. This was one of the few things Chris hadn't done when he lived in London so we were both excited. It is essentially a giant ferris wheel with a pod that holds about 12 people. You only go around once, but one revolution takes 30 minutes. Sometimes it felt like we weren't even moving. The views are incredible and it is well worth it.

A view from the London Eye

After the eye, we hoped on a Thames Clipper. My travel guide said that we should do every form of public transportation so we had been planning on taking one of the boats and the Waterloo Millennium Pier is at the London Eye.
We departed at The London Bridge Pier and walked down the Thames path for our final destination of the evening Shakespeare's Globe Theater. On our way we stopped off and had dinner in a pub near The Clink.

Our first proper English meal. Fish and chips and a pint.

At The Globe which was really awesome. We saw Anne Boleyn which while not Shakespeare it was a subject we know about. I couldn't believe that all those people in the middle stood through the whole play. Also the top of the theater is open and they got rained on a little bit.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 2: Buckingham Palace and a steak

Buckingham Palace is only open in August when the Queen makes her annual visit to Scotland and as luck would have it, it coincided with our visit. So rather join the throngs of people watching The Changing of the Guard, we got to see inside the Palace where many fancy parties are held. They also had a nice exhibit called The Queen's Year which highlighted her official duties. Like most historical sites in London, they offered excellent audio guides with your tour. This made everything very quiet which helped punctuate Matthew "what's that?" 's
Buckingham Palace does not have mildew

After the Palace, we had a nice lunch with Hope and Matthew at Wagamama. The waitress acted like I was the first person to ever actually eat the Kimchi which makes me wonder why they serve it. They went off to a Dr appt for Matthew and Chris and I continued to explore.
Our first stop was Harrod's, where we found out "I cannot has" and rode the escalators all the way to the top and back down.
Then we headed off the Westminster area.

After some photo's with Big Ben, we did a tour of Westminster Abbey which even at the "at your own pace" audio tour takes several hours. Chris and I watch the Tudors (I know, right!) and so he was engaged in this tour seeing where some of his favorite characters are buried. 

We then did a quick run through of Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. We were running on empty so we literally ran in, saw the Monet and Van Gogh and ran out.
We detoured through Piccadilly Circus on the way to get back to the hotel.

I am the only person in the world who like pigeons

For dinner, Hope and Ben took us to Gaucho's an Argentinian steak house. Chris had warned me that they don't eat a lot of steaks in England. Since I come from beef country, I am a little snobbish about my steaks. The best part of the evening came when the server asked Chris if he wanted a sauce on his steak and Chris said, "Sauce? I thought it was supposed to be a good steak."
It was a good steak but my dad cooks steaks just as good so I wouldn't write home about it. We did have excellent Argentinian Malbec, and my wine knowledge seemed to impress Chris. He is glad I took that class at UT. 

Bonus Post- London is not for the OCD or even just the really anal

So my first thought as we rode the train from the airport to the city was, "Gee, this place could use some Spackle" I like to Spackle and I like to fill in cracks so the amount of cracks already perplexed me, but London is an old city and old cities have cracks so I needed to get over that.
The first thing I noticed about our hotel room was the mold and mildew in bathroom. It happens, I think of not perfect hotels like camping. There is mold and mildew in the outdoors and people go camping all the time. I used to love camping (but then I became sane).
But as we went around the city I began to notice that pretty much everything was mildewy. Old and moldy castles aren't the only thing that smell like old and moldy castles. They say it is the dampness but there wasn't really much humidity. I lived in Miami, it's damp. You do have to fight the mildew a little harder but it can be fought. So the reason I can't live in London is that I would walk around armed with two bottles of Tilex like a wild west sheriff and spray everything. Maybe start a pressure washing business and when I didn't have any paid work, I would just go around and pressure wash things with Tilex.

Chapter 7: In which we go across the pond - Day 1: London Arrival

It's a fact that I write a mean travel blog. Unfortunately, all my other blogs are half-ass. So, we are 8 days back from our trip to England and Ireland and I am just now blogging about it, but at least I am so shut up.

Let me start by saying that sleeping on the plane is important. Get tranquilizers or something because cheap airline wine won't cut it. Chris and I arrived in London exhausted. Then we had to haul our luggage on the train. I am now 100% against trips where no one picks you up at the airport. Even in Mexico, Vacation Express sends a shuttle to haul you 1.5 hrs down to the Riviera. Well, not it London. You are expect to schlep (and I mean schlep) your goods and services across town. Of course, Chris and I wanted to maximize everyday in London so we landed at 7 am. Big mistake! The train we took into town (which even though it was called the Gatwick Express, we now know was not our best choice) took us to the busiest tube station in town at morning rush hour. Not long after we go there they announced that they were not going to let anyone else in the station until some people left because it was too crowded. Not only was it too crowded but there is clearly no ADA in London because there are 100 steps up or down to get to anything. This is good for your fitness unless you have four 50lb bags then it is good for heart attacks and hernias. So finally about 10 am we get to the hotel. We stayed at the Travelodge on City Road. It was insanely basic with the 2nd hardest bed I ever slept on but it was pretty cheap for the area. Since we were early the front desk gave us flack and said no rooms were available. When I got my bitch face on, she offered us a disabled room for a 10 pound early check in rate. We took it because our other choice was standing around 5 more hours with our 200 lbs of luggage.

We dumped our stuff and embarked on our first site seeing adventure. It lasted 10 minutes before Chris and I started screaming at each other, it turns out we hadn't eaten in 7 hours (and only had 2 hours sleep in about 12). We quickly realized this and ate at Wasabi in silence. Once the blood sugars were normalized, we were magically happy. We also discovered that with a CitiCard we could exchange currency at CitiBank which had better rates than the Bureau de Change.

We then headed off to St. Paul's for our first of many tours. - In case you don't know, it's a really big deal that the German's didn't get St. Paul's in WWII. In fact, WWII is a really big deal in all of London since it really was a center of action.

This is me, standing on the Millennium Bridge with St. Paul's Cathedral in the background.

We then had a bit of a walk before I literally ran of steam. I think I looked at Chris and said, "I think that was my last step for the day." Back to the hotel for a power nap. I slept so soundly that when my phone went off, my heart jumped out of my chest. We then headed over to The Barbican to visit Chris's sister and our nephew Matthew.

Matthew at dinner

I was pretty late night for 2 people who now had slept 4 hours of the last 34. I actually think it wasn't until the next day when I noticed how hard the beds were.