Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Foggy Day (in London Town)

I think my favorite historical period would be WWII, followed closely by the Tudor period, and then the whole Julius Caesar/Cleopatra/Octavius/Marc Antony saga. (I find it fascinating how the Roman republic became the Roman Empire.) Thus, one of my favorite places to visit is London. (can you tell I am thinking of greener pastures, as MI is finally covered in snow?) I have visited London twice with Brian, and I would love to go again.
Happy Hippies at Windsor Castle
Our first trip was in February of 2002. We had traveled to the Netherlands to visit with some of the extended-extended Hippie-in-law relatives. Who, inconsequently, would probably cringe to be labelled anything to do with Hippie-ness.=) We planned to spend a few days in Newcastle with some friends, and then go to London for two days. Two days isn't even enough to scratch the surface of scratching the surface, in London. We visited the Tower of London, and the British museum. We rode the underground, and walked the streets-cramming in as much as we could see. And, I got hooked on London. I really enjoyed the Tower. The jewels were amazing, the towers and museums on the grounds were chock full of history and info, and the cafe' food was horrid. On the other hand, I was not terribly impressed with the British museum. "The British Museum had lost its charm." I was pregnant, and puking my guts out. And it just is not associated with great memories for me.=) Leaving London after just two days made me desperate to go back.
Our B&B
Fast forward 7 years to 2009. Back in London, during February. Why February? Well, its because that is Brian's slow time for work. Thus a great time to get away. But, really, February is not a good place to anywhere in this hemisphere. Our trip started with a delay, as Heathrow was shut down because of the biggest snowstorm in London in 18 years. Let me tell you-biggest is relative. I think there was 3 inches of snow. But everything ground to a halt. We arrived late instead of early, on our expected arrival date. Not really a big deal. We just missed a day of sight seeing, and cancelled our plans to see the zoo. We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast. B&Bs are really popular over in London. People open their homes, for modest rates, and feed you breakfast. Win-win. We got hooked up with London Home To Home, a B&B listing service. There are all kinds of B&Bs listed in different neighborhoods around London. They have certain standards that the hosts must comply with, which makes your experience very nice. Because, while B&Bs are very popular in London, they have a pretty bad reputation. You can get a really nice one, or a really bad one. We had a really nice one, and enjoyed visiting each morning with our hosts, and with a fellow guest from Australia, and then Serbian refugees to Germany in London for a football match.
The White Tower

Tower Bridge
We purchased London Passes, which allowed us to see many of the sights of London for free, plus ride all public transport for free. It was definitely a money saving deal. Most sights are $20-$30 per adult, or more. We did  2-3 sights per day for 7 days, at the cost of about $300 total. I would definitely recommend it. All the national museums in London are free. This includes the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, and the Tates', and many others. We visited the Tate Britain. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but what we got was an art museum. There are galleries of very cool paintings, and then a lot of modern art that was just weird. There was a Matisyahu concert happening in one of the galleries. That made it loud. But, it was what it was. We also went back to the British museum. I enjoyed it much more this time than the last. The Egyptian galleries are impressive. As well as the Assyrian ones. All the artifacts make history come alive. And shed light on many Bible stories. The best museum we visited was the Churchill Museum and War Rooms. It was fairly new at that point. And it was awesome! It is very close to the Parliament buildings, and Westminster Abbey. There was all kinds of info about Churchill's life, including an interactive timeline computer table that you could go to any year, almost any month, and any day in that month, to see what was happening in his life and the world right then. I would recommend this to ANY person visiting London. It is not a big museum, but it is definitely one of the best I have ever visited! We visited the Tower again. Saw the same jewels, the same ravens, and the same towers. And we ate the same nasty food at the same cafeteria. You would think we would have learned. But, nope. All I can say is that we will never make that mistake again. It was cold and wet. It made you feel for all the people who had been imprisoned there over the years. I should clarify, that of all the well known London sights, the Tower is truly my favorite. I will go there again. And again. I just won't eat there. I love seeing the beef eaters, and wondering about the infamous mystery of the princes, and seeing the green where HenryVIII beheaded his two Howard wives. (cousins-Anne and Kitty)
We visited Windsor Castle, and Kensington Palace. Windsor is awesome! We saw where there had been a fire not many years before, and saw the completed restoration. Kensington had an exhibit of Diana's gowns. Plus there was lots of info about Queen Victoria, Queen Ann, and William and Mary. We had high tea at Kensington Gardens. That made me fall in love with scones. All the cream and jam, and goodness.
The British Museum
We did touristy things like ride the London Eye, take a boat ride down the Thames, and participate in a bicycle tour through the neighborhoods of central London. The bike tour played games with my mind, riding on the wrong side and all. But it was one of my favorite things we did. We got to see a lot of London that way. So cool. We walked the knaves and halls of Westminster Abby, seeing all those ancient, and not so ancient, crypts. We also visited the Shakespeare theatre. Harrods. We walked across the Millennium bridge (that got destroyed in Harry Potter, Deathly Hallows, Part One) and toured the Tower Bridge (often mistakenly called the London Bridge). We froze at the Botanical Gardens. Though the orchid house was unbelievable, and warm. We ate great food. Bangers and mash, fish and chips, shepherds pie, and puddings. Plus we did some other ethnic restaurants. We went to a Japanese restaurant where you are sat at long tables with strangers, and ate big bowls of noodles. Very fun. One night we ate at a famous chicken place. The chicken was terrific, but even more memorable, was the bowl of olives that we ate there. Delicious! Between our B&B and the underground station, there was a Middle Eastern restaurant with gorgeous desserts displayed in the windows, that tempted us every day as we commuted. We gave into the temptation on our last night in London and had dinner there. It was amazing food! With amazing desserts! "The age of miracles hadn't past." We drank gallons of coffee to stay warm, and my left eye developed a tick from caffeine. It was hilarious, and conspicuous.=)
When we were heading up to Scotland, after our time in London, Brian said that he thought we had covered London pretty good.
the keep at Windsor

Big Ben

Random Tourists at Kensington Palace

The London Eye

I'm pretty sure we just scratched the surface...