What a busy day! So many sights to take in and so little time. I suppose it will be necessary to come back to see the rest! London reminds me of New York in many ways… everyone bustling about on their own agenda. Our day started off with sunshine through the window, (despite a rainy forecast), and a mediocre breakfast of eggs, bacon/sausage, baked beans and toast provided by the hotel. It was decent, and certainly could’ve been much worse. I’m not complaining – I ate the whole thing. The bacon they serve here in England tastes just like ham! It makes me wonder what we’re eating at home!
After breakfast we climbed all 49 stairs to get back up to our room. I was compelled to count them as they seemed unending, particularly when we were carrying our heavy luggage up yesterday. The staircase is narrow and steep and I’m “knackered” by the time I get to the top. (Here is another British term I’ve learned, although I still prefer my American terms for this meaning. I think “exhausted” is appropriate, and seems to be the theme lately). The goal for today was to teach Ashley the Tube as she felt less than adequate navigating her way around. We planned a map of attack using maps on my computer and started out into the underground. With a little coaching Ashley was able to pick up the Tube and began directing us about without difficulty. (Such a good pupil)!
We rode down to Waterloo station where we got to experience The London Eye. As far as observation decks go, this was the best I’ve ever experienced. You get 30 minutes of observation at various levels and can see most parts of London, all while hovering above the Thames.
We were so lucky (note sarcasm) to get into the same capsule as this other couple who’d been driving me crazy while waiting in line. Somehow I knew it would be the outcome! This older gentleman was hanging all over a younger woman who has clearly had frequent appointments at the plastic surgeon’s office and/or has used Botox in excessive amounts. She had this weird smile plastered on her face, and I’m not sure it wasn’t stuck there due to inability to straighten her mouth. Then to add to it all, she was wearing this super furry coat with a super furry hat. So I was stuck in the capsule for 30 minutes with the second furry animal of this trip, and nearly got to watch her mate as well. (It was Valentines Day after all). I tried to concentrate on Big Ben instead.
When our 30 minute revolution was over, we gladly left the duo and went back to the Tube to make our way to The Tower of London. Now experts in underground transportation, we efficiently moved about the city to see one of the most fabulous sites I’ve ever seen. The Tower of London is a gigantic historic castle that was the residence of some very famous English royalty.
It has also served as an armoury, treasury, public records office, Royal Mint, among other things. It’s also famous as the site where Anne Boleyn was beheaded. There were several ravens on site, some caged and some walking freely in Tower Green. Ravens were considered protectors of the palace. Ashley and I observed one of them, which had found a sour gummy worm and was trying really hard to eat it. I’m not sure how they can protect a palace if they can’t tell the difference between a real worm and a sour gummy worm. Maybe that’s why all those kings and queens are dead now.
The Tower of London is also home to the Royal Crown Jewels. There were several crowns and royal coronation pieces on display. No guards were visible in the room, so I’m finding it difficult to believe the jewels were not replicas. It’s fun to assume they’re real, though. One of the crowns had a diamond in it that was 560 carats. Yikes! You don’t want to wear that around on the street! After sucking in enough midieval history, we snapped some shots of Tower Bridge – very impressive structure.
Unfortunately, once we were crossing the bridge it was difficult to obtain many nice photos due to all the traffic and people. On an unrelated note, a fire truck went by while we were crossing. There were no shoulders on the bridge. I was amazed to see all the vehicles stop right where they were, like freeze tag. The driver of the fire truck darted back and forth between the two lanes until it had successfully, and very quickly maneuvered its way across the bridge. What an efficient way to accommodate emergency vehicles! The US needs to adopt that method!
We reached the south side of the Thames and began our search of The George Inn – a pub frequented by Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare back in the day. It only made sense to consume a beverage after a difficult day of touristy activities. I, of course, ordered a Crabbies… my newfound favorite. Ashley ordered the same and we sat in the bar observing all that still appeared authentic. Our understanding from a nearby gentleman is that the majority of the inn is still authentic. He also informed us the inn is known for the balconies above – but didn’t tell us why. Nonetheless, it only seemed appropriate that we should have our picture taken in front of them… so we did.
When the beer was gone, we hurried north to the ticket line to try to find a West End show on sale. With our excellent Tube navigation skills we chose a quick route back north. We were disappointed to find the second line we needed was delayed… make that “severely” delayed, though ALL other lines were “operating in good service”. We apparently were not the only people disappointed with this development. The guy on the intercom was getting ready to announce the problem and advise us to use an alternate route, however, he had to finish a conversation with someone else. He inadvertently left the intercom on so we were able to hear the entire delightful conversation. It consisted of an explanation of which station the problem was occurring, followed by some argument with a grand finale of F*#$ off! Such friendly London public transit staff…
We finally made it to the ticket booth and decided we really wanted to see Les Miserables, and to our delight, there were tickets to be sold to us. I saw Les Miserables 12 years ago on Broadway, but I was young and didn’t appreciate the arts as much as I do now, and fell asleep during the show. I couldn’t tell you what the story-line was before, but I got it figured out this time. Ashley and I both really enjoyed it, and I feel confident saying it was one of the best vocal music displays I’ve ever witnessed, surpassing some I’ve previously enjoyed in NY. It wasn’t a bad Valentines Day date, either.
Interestingly enough, tickets were not sold at discount because of Valentines Day. What a rip-off! Sometimes I hate that my birthday is near the 14th. Under normal circumstances (i.e. those that occur back home), I can’t even go to a nice restaurant for my birthday because most of them are all reserved up for Valentines Day. Furthermore, as if being Valentineless isn’t bad enough, NOW I have to deal with paying full price for a ticket that would otherwise be 50% off. Very irritating. Talk about adding injury to insult. (This is just one of my pet peeves for the day).
The first one dates back to Tower of London… actually, the icing on the cake occurred here. I have found that I am not a fan of public restrooms here in Europe. They are entirely too small. It’s nearly impossible to close the door once inside the stall. They rarely have any type of mechanism for hanging a purse or coat. The toilet seats themselves are typically disgusting and covered with a menagerie of surprises. I usually opt for covering a public toilet seat, but in this case I chose to cover AND hover. In the US, I have a very specific way of covering the toilet seat, requiring 3 strips of toilet paper. These odd shaped European toilet seats require a completely new design of toilet paper cover. So here I am in the super tiny stall, with my purse in my mouth, trying to discover an effective method of protecting myself from the seat. THEN, I have to try to figure out how to hover over it. Public toilets in the US are designed in more of an oblong shape, thus allowing one to have appropriate foot placement for balance and hover far enough back to make sure everything goes where it’s supposed to. Oh no… not these fancy European toilets. They are either circular or square and stick out just far enough that it’s nearly impossible to hover over the seat and pee inside the toilet. So now I’m hovering over the toilet seat, trying not to touch the walls, holding my purse in my mouth, and holding my jeans so as not to pee on myself. I wish I could tell you I was successful. After about 15 minutes I finally exited the stall, exhausted. That’s all I have to say about that pet peeve.
All right… fast-forwarding back to West End… After the show we met back up with Evatt for a drink. He brought his friend Ian along and we walked into SoHo to look for a bar that would also serve food as Ian brought his appetite with him. We walked a few blocks and noted a bar across the street with some really cool, futuristic decor. We stepped inside and settled in a circular booth. I couldn’t help but notice there were a lot of attractive men in the bar. (So far I have not found many English men to be that attractive). Then I noticed there were ONLY men in the bar. Pet Peeve #3: Why is it the majority of gay men are so good-looking? Such a disappointment! At least I was able to have my drink in peace without the worry of being hit on. We hung out for a while and then Evatt and Ian showed us to the nearest Tube station where we eagerly hopped on for a quick ride back to our beds. (Hence the reason this blog entry comes so late)!
Final Pet Peeve for the day (#4): Apparently the new style for women is to wear tights instead of leggings, which are already a poor alternative to jeans in this cold winter weather. Are these chics immune to frigid temperatures? If so, how can I develop that defense mechanism because I’d like to be fashionable without acquiring hypothermia. (By the way, I may be exaggerating a little when I say “frigid” but it’s chilly nonetheless). That concludes my blog entry for the day.