I’m going to say gross to this story.
Early this morning we went through a list of sights we still haven’t seen in London. The list was long. We asked ourselves, “Out of the places we still have yet to see, what would be our biggest regret if we didn’t see it?” From there we prioritize our goals. Not making the list of places to see was: Covent Garden, Picadilly Circus, and The National Gallery.
We made our choices and set out for the day.
We took the Tube to the Tottenham Court Road station. Shopping, as well as sightseeing, was on the agenda today. Though prices in the UK were high – to the currency conversion – we couldn’t leave London without a few souvenirs. When we popped out of the station, it was near a clothing store Farrah wanted to visit. We made our way in to look around for a bit before going to the museum.
We made our way down the street toward the British Museum. We luckily found a Starbucks, as we were in need of a little pick-me-up. We ducked on in, ordered drinks, and sat down to do some further game planning. We figured we could see most of the tourist spots we wished to see in the morning – finishing around noon time. Then we would head back to the flat for some lunch. After lunch, Farrah would go shopping while I’d stay behind to do some photo stuff on the laptop. Then in the late afternoon or early evening, we’d hit one more tourist attraction.
We finished our coffee then headed down the street to the British Museum. We were only interested in seeing one exhibit – The Rosetta Stone.
When entering the British Museum, you are greeting with a big entrance way which is topped by an intricate glass ceiling, as you can see in the photo above. The photo doesn’t do the setting justice. We spent several minutes taking it in and taking photographs. I wish I had a super wide lens to capture it all. It is beautifully massive. Awe inspiring. Breathtaking. I can only imagine how it would look during a clear starry night. I’m sure one day I will see it.
We found the information desk and a map of the museum. We thumbed through the pamphlet. There is so much to see here, but we were focused on our single goal: The Rosetta Stone. The curators must be aware that this is the main attraction, as they put The Rosetta Stone on the first floor and in the first exhibit room you could enter.
We walked in.
The Rosetta Stone is not uniquely large like the stones from Stonehenge or Avebury. But then it’s not the size of the stone but what is written on it that is most important in this case. We spent a good fifteen minutes looking at the stone, also reading the historical notes accompanying the exhibit. We then had a quick look-see at the gift shop across from the exhibition entrance, then we headed on out to our next destination.
Our next stop was the British Library. I know what you are asking, “Why a library?” Well, this is a pretty amazing library. This particular library has some amazing works on display. The one I found most interesting were copies of the Magda Carta. Also, there were:
- Hand written lyrics by the Beatles
- Two Guttenberg Bibles
- Notebooks by da Vinci and Darwin
- Manuscripts by Bach and Mozart
- A letter from Queen Elizabeth I
- A history of Britain written by Jane Austen
- And many other amazing written works
All of these works were only display in a huge room. You can even find some of those items online on the British Library’s web site.
For lunch, we bought sandwiches at the shop in the courtyard called ‘The Last Word”. We ate in the courtyard and discussed all the amazing exhibits we saw in the three hours we were out.
Shopping on Oxford Street
We headed back to the flat from the British Library. Farrah did some shopping at the stores on Oxford Street while I hung out at the flat blogging and fixing some photos. The only other plans we had were going to the London Eye, then eating fish and chips as our last dinner in London.
Farrah was tired after walking the stores. She took a long nap. I bought a ticket to the London Eye for her online, choosing the last time possible which was 8:00 pm. Luckily I bought it at the time because we got a late start to the London Eye.
We had seen the London Eye from a distance when we went to Westminster Abbey. It looks ever more impressive as we approached it in the setting sun. Again, it’s difficult to appreciate its size unless you walk up to it.
We rushed into the ticket kiosk to retrieve the ticket and then Farrah rushed into line and on board her pod. Yes, she was making this trip alone. I wasn’t going to take a chance, especially after the Eurostar debacle. The round trip on the Eye is about 30 minutes. So as Farrah was going around the wheel, I made my way back up to the street to take some photos.
Farrah can only tell you how the London Eye was. I could see on her face she was afraid at first but happy she went on the London Eye. I do think she wishes I was on there with her.
After leaving the London Eye, we took a slow walk back to the Underground Station to head back to our Bond Street stop. We stopped to take more photos of the London Eye and Big Ben in the setting sun.
We wanted to eat our last London dinner at the Golden Hind, a fish and chips place close the flat. We ate takeaway from there our first night in London but decided to eat in the restaurant that evening. We had the Haddock, the mushy peas, and pickled onion. I was going to order the Halibut, which was more expensive, but the owner mentioned it was a frozen fish, unlike the fresh Haddock. It was very sweet of him to mention that, and so I changed my order.
The Haddock is a healthy size. It is deep fried but not oily one bit. I never had mushy peas before the Golden Hind, but if they taste elsewhere as good as they tasted here, I’ll continue to order them. The mushed peas were the size of garbanzo beans! I had to try the pickled onion. It wasn’t as pickled as I hoped for but it went nicely with the Haddock.
The Golden Hind doesn’t have an alcohol license, but they do allow you to bring your own booze. Several people did as they were celebrating the win by Chelsea over Manchester United in the FA Cup which brought more liveliness into the place.
Packing & Posting
We took a slow walk back to the flat knowing what awaited us – packing for home. We gathered our clothes and few knick knacks. Farrah did most of the packing, fitting all our belongings into five pieces of luggage. We packed light, coming with only four pieces of luggage:
- My backpack for the camera and laptop
- Our big backpack – the one Farrah used her first trip abroad
- A small rolling bag
- A small LL Bean backpack
The fifth piece of luggage, a Yahoo! duffel bag was packed into the small rolling bag. We broke that one out to fit a few items in. We really didn’t buy much, just enough to partially fill the Yahoo! duffel.
While Farrah packed, I did the Underground planning on the computer. We noticed the Underground line we needed to take didn’t start running until around 7:00 am. This made getting to Heathrow possibly problematic. This is great news to find out the day before, right?
Our plane leaves at 11:00 am. The Underground, where we are at, doesn’t start running until 7:06 am. It takes us to Green Park where we need to catch the Tube to Heathrow. By our estimation we’ll be at Heathrow by 8:30 am. There isn’t really room for error such as missing the Tube. Stress time! We could take a cab, but it might cost 40 or so pounds versus the 4 or so pounds each to take the Tube. Oh well, wish us luck on the Tube.
Well, we better get our sleep. I’ll probably post this when we get back to the US.
We arrived in sunny London from Paris by mid-day. Luckily we gain an hour since France is one hour ahead. The Tube ride back to the flat got us back there around 12:30 pm. We planned to eat, rest and shower before squeezing a few more sights. I can’t believe we’ll be heading home soon.
We made our way out of the flat before 3:00 pm. Our plan: cross the Millennium Bridge, see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and visit the Tate Modern. The only time sensitive place we were visiting was The Globe, as the Tate Modern is open late on Fridays. The tour for The Globe would end at 4:00 pm.
We took the Underground to the St. Paul’s stop which is on the other side of the Tate Modern. This required us to pass St. Paul’s Cathedral and cross the Thames on the Millennium Bridge to reach the Globe and the Tate Modern. The Underground station is right next to the cathedral, but we were on a somewhat tight schedule, so we didn’t go in.
We did snap a few photos though, but then quickly headed toward the Millennium Bridge. The wind had started to pick up a bit, making Farrah a bit antsy about the bridge. We had read that in the early days of the bridge it was a bit unstable and the “swaying motion earned it the nickname the Wobbly Bridge.” This didn’t sound like a fun prospect considering all that lay below the bridge was The Thames.
We stepped on the bridge. You can feel it give way ever so slightly, but you don’t have time to notice as you continue your steps toward the other side. The crowd, like a river current, forces you to keep moving forward. Only when you are about half way across the bridge can you break away toward the edge, towards the rail, to take a photo. On one side you can see Tower Bridge, lit up by the afternoon sun. On the other side is Blackfriars Bridge. The wind was picking up slightly, so we started heading toward The Tate Modern, turning back every once in a while to view St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
We made our way past The Tate Modern, entering The Exhibition & Theatre Tours section of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. We paid our money, then walked around looking at the exhibits. Unfortunately, The Globe itself was closed for tours since a matinèewas being performed that afternoon. We did get the opportunity to see a demonstration of costume changes.
We had the chance to have a tour of the Rose, but hunger started to creep in. So we went to look for a bite to eat. We were able to have a cone of ice cream (yum) by the Thames. But the ice cream did not curb our hunger, so we found more substantial food in The Globe’s cafeteria. After buying food and visiting the gift shop, we headed back out to eat our food on a bench facing The Thames. We spent several minutes eating and enjoying the view and the sunny weather.
The Tate Modern
We entered the Tate Modern through the River Entrance which placed us on the second floor. We decided to take the elevator all the way up to the 7th floor and work our way down. The Tate Modern Restaurant on the 7th floor gives you a view of The Thames, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge. We would have bought a drink and sat down, but unfortunately, all the seats were taken. So we headed on down to the 5th floor.
Modern art can be quite different. The installations we saw, in a variety of different mediums, were thought provoking to say the least. For example, you can look at this exhibit and wonder, why? (There is some profanity in both the art subject title and the audio.) It’s nice to take a break from the well-crafted Renaissance painting or sculpture.
We were hoping to see some works by Salvador Dalí, but unfortunately, none were present. They were preparing a special exhibit in June for Dalí and appear to have taken his works down for this exhibit. A slight disappointment. I guess we’ll need to come back soon 🙂
We made our way down the floor after floor viewing exhibits we had an interest in. On our way out we stopped by the gift shop, we passed on our way in. I looked outside the window of the gift shop out toward The Thames. The sun that had greeted us at the airport was starting to dissipate as the clouds and wind rolled in. It began to look a bit nasty outside.
The Best Way Back
We figured the best way back to the flat would be to go back to the Underground at St. Paul’s. This meant crossing the bridge in the suddenly strong wind. Oh well. Unlike our time in Paris, Farrah did remember to bring her brolly with her. But we braved the light sprinkle as opening the brolly in this wind didn’t seem prudent.
The ten-minute walk to St. Paul’s was quick since the bridge was no longer crowded. We made it back to our Bond Street stop. We had dinner at Wagamama’s tonight since we don’t have one back home. Plus it seemed like a good night for ramen. It was a late dinner – about 9:00 pm. We tried to go earlier, but our first attempt to get seating was met with a huge crowd which went all the way outside.
I have two phobias I am keenly aware of – a fear of heights and of enclosed places.
Fear sucks. When the Irrational fear becomes debilitating, it sucks even more. An irrational debilitating fear hit hard this morning when we tried to get on the Eurostar to Paris.
When we were first planning our trip to Europe, we were going to fly to Rome then London. As we planned further, it made more sense to only visit England and Paris. We then narrowed it down to Bath, London and a quick day trip to Paris. Flying was one option to go to Paris. But a cheaper and (to some) easier way is to use Eurostar which places you near the city center.
If you don’t know what the Eurostar is it is a fast train to Pairs. Part of the train trip is going through a tunnel created under the English Channel (or Chunnel). Yes, that’s right, under the English Channel. When I found out about this, I first said I’d rather fly. But then reading about Eurostar further (it’s only 20 minutes under) I felt I could do it. We booked the tickets.
We arrived at Waterloo station early since our Eurostar train left early. I took my two Dramamine once we got to station, but something was still lingering in the back of my mind. We went through the security checkpoint then waited to board the train.
Nothing really conscious was going through my mind, nothing I could put my finger on, but I was getting anxious. I was getting nervous. Then there was an announced delay in boarding. This allowed my mind more time to wander.
I could feel my breathing getting heavier, my legs feeling like cement, and my head becoming light. Then came the boarding call. I coughed several times as if I was going to vomit, but I knew I wasn’t. Farrah kept asking me if I was ok. I kept saying yes, hoping I could get past this.
Another boarding call.
More coughing. I couldn’t stand up. I looked at Farrah and told her I don’t think I can do this. I honestly don’t know why I can’t as I’m not really thinking about it. She looks at me, smiles and says everything is all right. She touches my face, kisses me on the cheek and says, “Let’s book a flight instead. We’ll get to Paris.”
My beautiful understanding wife is strong for me in this moment of irrational fear. We walk out of the station and head back to the flat.
Unfortunately, the two Dramamine hit me hard when we are back at the flat. Farrah lets me sleep it off until the afternoon. We then get online to book the tickets through British Airways and then book a room since we decide to spend the night in Paris.
So, we’re set to be in Paris late Thursday morning and will be staying at the Francais Hotel. I apologize throughout the evening for ruining this day. Farrah just smiles and says it’s all right. I can be apologetic until midnight, then no more talking about it.
I love my wife.
We made today a light day since we are heading to Paris tomorrow. In Paris, we need to cram in as much in one day, and I know we’ll be tired. This morning we did a dry run to the Eurostar station where we are catching the train to Paris.
We started the day off late since the day’s activities are light. We picked up our tickets then ate lunch bought at the local Marks & Spencer. We tried to see the London Eye from the Waterloo station where we were eating, but couldn’t get our bearings straight. But the London Eye wasn’t really on the schedule for the day, so we went back on the Tube to our destinations.
The Palace isn’t open to visitors during most of the year. It is only open when the royal family is away on vacation. But this fact doesn’t stop people from visiting and taking photos in front of Buckingham Palace. There were plenty of tour buses and roaming tourists, but we managed to get the requisite photo in front.
Our plan afterward was to walk to the two adjacent parks, St. James Park and Green Park. We first walked through St. James Park. A light rain started coming down as we entered the park. This didn’t stop people from eating their lunches or feeding the birds in the park. As we made our way halfway through the park, Farrah noticed it ended near the Churchill War Room. We were planning on seeing it earlier in our trip, but it dropped from our must see list.
But then Farrah reminded me that Number 10 Downing Street is close. So we wandered off our course to see the home of the Prime Minister. If you haven’t been following the news lately, the current Prime Minister is stepping down shortly, so it ‘d be good to see this location. Unfortunately, it is very well guarded. Oh well.
We continued our walk past a horse guard, then walked up to Trafalgar Square which leads to the National Museum. Trafalgar Square is beautiful with huge statues to look at all day – or at least during a lunch hour. We saw many people milling around even though a slight drizzle was present.
We didn’t realize we walked so far from Green Park, so we caught the Tube near Trafalgar Square and walked through Green Park. The lunchtime crowd that occupied at St. James Park across the street seemed to be non-existent in Green Park. We then headed back to the flat because we were going to see a play tonight.
Sunday evening we were able to purchase tickets online for tonight’s showing of The Sound of Music. It has received many positive reviews. We didn’t realize the theater was relatively close to the flat – one Tube stop away. We rested for a couple of hours then headed to the show.
We had somewhat nosebleed seats in the upper balcony. From our theater sets, we lose partial sight to front stage right, but it didn’t affect enjoying the play. The performers were good, but it ‘s hard to live up to an iconic movie. This is only my third theater experience – the other two being The Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King. This ranks third, but it was my first London play!
We ended the night anxious to head to Paris.
We are in our rented London flat now. It is an excellent one bedroom flat in St. Christopher’s Place, which is off one of busiest shopping streets in the world – Oxford Street. Luckily, we are on a quiet branch of the busy hustle and bustle of the main shopping lane.
We arrived in London early Thursday afternoon by coach (bus) from our time in Bath. I meant to blog more often than I have and about our last two days in Bath, as well as our past two days here, but the jet lag is still hitting me. Farrah and I find ourselves up at 5:00 am, then knackered by 1:00 pm in the afternoon. We get our second wind after a quick afternoon nap. Hopefully, we’ll be on full London time by the tomorrow.
Stonehenge and Avebury via Mad Max
On Tuesday we took the Mad Max tour of Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles. Mad Max Tours received a very good review in the trip planning references we used. I thought the tour was going to be rough when we first got on the small tour bus of about 12 people. Our tour guide Nick seemed a little flustered in the beginning, but his demeanor and the tour picked up as we moved through the day.
I suppose stone circles can look like large rocks placed in unusual but possibly significant positions, but they mystic that surrounds these formations is hard to ignore. We arrived at Stonehenge after an hour ride from Bath. The drive was uneventful. We were the first tour group to arrive at Stonehenge. This afforded us the opportunity to view Stonehenge without the many people to come in the ten minutes after our arrival.
The photo above represents the first time I saw Stonehenge. I know it’s not the best photo, but it is an honest representation of what I first saw. I can honestly tell you my heart skipped a beat upon seeing Stonehenge on the horizon. To see Stonehenge in person is amazing. We were able to walk around the whole structure. I know we took too many photos, but I wasn’t sure what photos were going to turn out with the cloudy slash sunny weather we were having.
After Stonehenge, we headed to Avebury, another stone formation. Avebury is not as famous as Stonehenge, but the rock formations are just as impressive. The rocks at Avebury are more natural whereas the stones at Stonehenge were beaten smooth.
We then took a short ride to Lacock where we ate lunch at a small pub there, the George Inn. We had the fish and chips there with a pint of Guinness for me and a half pint of the local bitter for Farrah. We chatted it up with some of the other people on tour with us, finding out that two of the other single passengers were from California – one from San Diego the other from Mountain View! Small world.
Lacock has been used as a filming location from time to time since it can represent old England and it is a tiny town. It has been employed in such productions as “Pride and Prejudice” (BBC version), Harry Potter, and a new Dame Judi Dench BBC mini series.
Family in Bath
Wednesday morning we went to a hairdresser in Bath. Not just any ordinary hairdresser but Farrah’s host mom’s business in Bath. At first, Lin (Linda) wasn’t sure who she was seeing peering through her door, but after a quick smile and a “Do you recognize me?” from Farrah, memories of Farrah’s stay in Bath nine years ago came rushing back.
Farrah and Lin talked for about half an hour, which consisted of introducing me, and quickly catching up on time spent apart. Lin invited us to dinner that night, an opportunity to catch up with Brian and Louise. We spent the rest of the daylight going to the Costume Museum and other sites we wanted to see before we were to leave on Thursday morning.
At about 4:30 pm we started the slightly long uphill walk to Lin’s home. Farrah said she remembered how to get there, questioned her recollection about halfway through our walk, then assuredly guided us to the right place. The rain was steadily coming down that night.
We arrived at Lin, Brian, Louise and Barnaby’s lovely home to smiles and hugs. We spent the next four hours drinking wine, eating dinner, and talking about everything under the sun. It was a lovely evening spent with warm, genuine people who I know Farrah can honestly call her family across the pond.
Our time spent in Bath was enjoyed to the fullest. I wish we could devote more time there, but we needed to head off to the second part of our journey.
Thursday found us partaking in one last early morning walk around Bath, then a quick breakfast before catching the coach to London. The three and a half hour drive to London wore us out. Once we got off the coach, we headed to the crowded Tube station. We bought an Oyster card which seemed more economical for our 10 stay in London. Loading the card took a considerable amount of time as the blasted machine did not want to read my credit card. Imagine the frustration after the tiring coach trip!
We boarded one Tube train then another to our destination. I must stay the Tube platform looked like a movie set. Nice, clean, and unreal. I’ll need to take photos of the station sometime later. I couldn’t at that time as our hands were full with the luggage.
When we got out of the Bond Street Tube station to locate the rental office, it was pouring rain. Oxford Street was crowded with shoppers even though it was raining cats and dogs. We managed to quickly find the rental office, only about a three-minute walk from our location. We received the keys from Lizzie – our representative at Globe – then found our flat.
The flat is beautiful and roomy, having a nice small kitchen, bedroom, bath, etc. We’ve settled in pretty well, having bought the necessary groceries at the local Tesco Express. I am happy we rented a flat, allowing us to live the local experience, unlike a hotel room. Plus it almost cost the same as a decent hotel room here in pricey London!
Anyway, as I finish this up, it is coming up at 1:00 AM. I better get some rest. Farrah is already asleep.
I’ll blog more when I can.