Monday, August 20, 2012

Our last day in London!

Roses at St. Paul's
View of Millennium Bridge from St. Paul's
We wanted a little shorter day today so we could get things packed up at the flat.  Our only visit was St. Paul's Cathedral. It was great, very beautiful.  Princess Diana was married there.  We walked the steps up to the Stone Gallery so we could see out over the city.

Garden near St Paul's

Wemock near St. Paul's

View from St. Paul's
On the way back to the Underground, we stopped by Bea's of Bloomsbury for a treat.  We also saw Jamie Oliver's restaurant and butcher shop.

Treats at Bea's of Bloomsbury
After we did some packing, we headed out to a great local pub, the Duke's Head, for our last dinner in the UK.  We had great pub food - fish & chips, beef & onion pie and a burger.

Beef & onion pie.
Marjorie's pie included veg of the day - according to the bartender, a mix of cauliflower, swede and cabbage.  We asked him what swede was, but he didn't know - he said he's not British.  Then the other bartender also didn't know.  So we asked some locals, and they decided it's kind of like a turnip. (Wikipedia says it's a rutabaga) We enjoyed chatting with them for a bit about our trip, and they said we've fit in quite a bit!  I totally agree.  It's been a great trip!


Gardens, palaces and shopping

This morning, we took the Underground to Queensway station to visit Kensington Gardens.  At first I was disappointed - I wanted to see Princess Diana playground and we weren't allowed in because we didn't have a child under age 12 with us.  We had seen some pretty whiny kids, so maybe we could have borrowed one...

But as we kept walking through the park, we came to the sunken garden, which was beautiful.

Flowers in front of Kensington Palace

Later, we came to the Peter Pan statue and the Italian Garden.  Our guidebook said that Barrie (who wrote Peter Pan) lived about 500 yards from this statue.  And that Peter Pan lived on an island nearby in the park.
The Italian Gardens were a gift to Queen Victoria.
Italian Gardens in Kensington Park
We also wanted to see Speaker's Corner.  It was raining a little, but there were at least 3 guys up on boxes declaiming.  I wonder if there are ever female speakers? They were mostly religious in nature, although one started speaking about how you could go online and find out how to  make your own drones.  We weren't sure what his point was.  There were also a number of small groups standing around arguing, so apparently, you can just go to Speakers Corner to argue quietly if you don't feel like standing on a box. 
The guy in the red robe was dressed as a Roman centurion and was a proponent of atheism.
Cowboy hat guy was Christian.

He spoke from one of those white balconies.
We also wanted to do some shopping today so we headed to HARRODS.  But on the way we got caught up in an international incident.  As we came out of the tube at Knightsbridge, we heard clapping and cheering and there was a big crowd of people and lots of cops.  Of course we had to go check it out.  We could hear a speaker, but couldn't really understand what he was saying.  And no one near us, at the back of the crowd, knew who it was.  Later we found out that Julian Assange (from Wikileaks) was holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy and was making a speech from a balcony there. (text of his speech here) There were still lots of news crews and Assange supporters and protesters waiting outside when we went back later.

ANYWAY, back to Harrods!  We treated it as a tourist attraction, not as a shopping experience.  We really liked the Egyptian escalator and the food halls the best, and we also visited several bathrooms.  And we had to have a snack in one of their TWENTY restaurants.  We picked the Godiva cafe.  Mom and I had pain au chocolate and jasmine tea, Jeff had ginger beer and Marjorie had this enormous thing.  Everything was delicious.

Ceiling in the Egyptian escalator

Egyptian escalator
In the fruit & veg hall, there were Rainier cherries. They cost 60 pounds for 1 kilo.  That's about 90 bucks for 2.2 pounds of cherries.  Jeff got me a free sample cherry, which I figure would cost at least a couple of bucks.  
In the meat and fish food hall

Next we walked over to Buckingham Palace.

It was a day full of walking!

Did I mention that it's been extra hot in London while we've been here?  It has been in the 80s, sunny and humid.  We really didn't pack for this - we packed all pants, no shorts.  I even packed some long sleeve shirts and 2 jackets!  There are no window screens anywhere, not sure about why.  And very few places have air conditioning, although our train into town yesterday was very cool.  The Underground in particular is quite steamy.

We walked by Wellington Arch on our way to Buckingham Palace

Marjorie waits by a tree in Hyde Park

Buckingham Palace

Marjorie on Victoria Monument

Walking down the Mall

This guy is definitely glaring at me.
We didn't see a Changing of the Guards but that was OK with us.  We did see the Palace and the famous Guards.  We walked down the Mall and saw some Olympic venues too.  That's where they had the marathon and some other races.  (Beach volleyball was nearby too.) We continued walking toward Trafalgar Square, found a delicious Italian restaurant on Haymarket, and headed home for the night!
A last view of Trafalgar Square

Church of St. Martin in the Fields on Trafalgar Square.
with pretty clouds.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Art Museums! And toys!

Today we headed into London after a couple of errands out in Wellington. Our first stop was the British Museum where there are many many many famous things such as the Rosetta Stone and marble friezes from the Parthenon and ancient chessmen and Ming vases and mummies and treasures from Sutton Hoo and that Japanese painting of the blue wave crashing over, which we did not actually go see because the place is huge and you had to make an appointment to see it in person.  Also they have this:

Indiana Jones brought this to the British Museum.
Although Daniel Jackson's grandfather discovered it first.
MHZ with the Dr Who aisle
Then we were tired of famous old things, so we had some refreshments and went shopping instead. Forbidden Planet is a superstore for all things sci-fi geek related.  You name a series of books or TV or a movie and they have the merch.  Shirts, lego, posters, flags, handbags, costumes, etc.  And downstairs they have comics, DVDs, books, etc.  I did not buy Knits for Nerds and I didn't let MHZ buy all the Doctor Who stuff, or let Jeff buy all the Star Wars stuff.  We kept our bill under control pretty well.

Next we headed to Borough Market, a giant covered food market.  It was also amazing.  We didn't buy much, just some snacks to eat.
This area was mostly meat.

Market Map

Green Market, I think.

Next we went to the Tate Modern.  It's in an old power plant, very cool space.

Tate plaza and Millennium Bridge from the Tate

Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern

After dinner at a pub by the Globe Theater and a walk across the Millennium Bridge, we were ready for some sleep!

Guess who ate which dinner

Walking across the Millennium Bridge

The Swan on the left, Globe Theater on the right.
We ate at the Swan.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A visit to Cambridge

in Anne's back garden

On Friday, we went to visit my friend Anne in Cambridge. We graduated from high school together.  To get there we had to catch a train at Kings Cross station, so of course, we had to stop at Platform 9 3/4.
It was a very fast train, but it took us about 45 minutes to get to Cambridge.  Anne used to make the commute into London every day for work.

In Cambridge, we walked around the town, and had lunch at a great pub.  We were intrigued to find out that MHZ could have a drink since she was having a meal with her family.  Anne suggested a shandy, which is beer and lemonade, but MHZ passed on that!

College entrance

Another college entrance gate

Plane trees on Jesus Green

We also went punting on the River Cam.  We had someone do the hard work for us so we could sit back and relax!  It was pretty hot in Cambridge, and hot weather is expected through the weekend.  Along the river, we saw more of the colleges and bridges.

Kings College Chapel

There were a ton of boats on the river.  Good thing we had a professional guide!

Back on land after our boat ride, we did some shopping and went to Kings College Chapel ... which closed 15 minutes before we got there.  Places seem to close so early here!  The last entrance to the chapel was 4:30 pm.  We were disappointed that we didn't get to visit it.

Back at Anne's we had tea and cake and made some sandwiches for the journey home. (It took about 2 hours total since we're on the south side of London.) Another very long day!