London

Trip Start Mar 14, 2012
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Trip End Jun 15, 2012


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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, May 28, 2012

Faff's ramblings

Notes on Poland: McDonalds in Poland - it looked like McDonalds had similar burgers to Australia, but everything was in Polish, so it was hard to tell if they had any different burgers.

On the morning of Wednesday 2 May, we packed our luggage ready to go to the airport to go to England. We walked around the Old Town for a few minutes, and then got a cab to the airport. We had an early lunch at a cafe, and I got wedges and Dan got some salmon. I had seen a sign for a strawberry frappe, so I ordered it. But when I tasted it, it was coffee-flavoured! I told the waitress that I had asked for the strawberry frappe, and she said that it is actually an espresso frappe with strawberry essence! I am used to chocolate frappes in Australia that are just chocolate, so I expected this frappe to be strawberry. I asked for an orange juice instead, and waited for it, but then I was told that they didn't have any orange juice. So I asked if I could have a bottle of water, and they said yes. But the waitress came up to us just before we left and said we had to pay for the water! We thought that when they asked if I wanted anything else instead of the frappe that it would be free! We didn't have time to argue about it, so we just paid.

We flew to London, and it was a shorter flight than expected, so we got in a little earlier than we had expected. We went through passport security, and our bags were waiting for us off the carousel, obviously because it had taken us so long to get through security. We got the Tube from Heathrow to Westminster, swapping trains at Hammersmith at the suggestion of the woman who we bought the tickets from, who was very friendly and helpful :) We got to Westminster, and when we walked out of the station we saw Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and a little of Westminster Abbey. We walked across the Thames to get to our apartment, which is right near the river. We dropped off our luggage, and went walking back in the city. We walked along a main drag (which I later saw was Whitehall), and we bought a map from a souvenir store. We saw on the map that we had walked past some important landmarks along Whitehall, like Downing Street! :P We walked to Trafalgar Square, and around a corner to see Buckingham Palace down the end of The Mall. We went to an information centre and bought tickets for Windsor Castle and the Tower of London. We walked north and saw Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. We walked to Chinatown and I saw a cinema that was showing a "quote-along" 'Flash Gordon'! But it was showing on the Friday night at 9pm, and we already had a Jack the Ripper tour booked for that night. But it wouldn't have been the same watching it without Michelle anyway :P We walked around a little more in search of St Paul's Cathedral, and we thought we'd seen it on the map, but we actually found St Pauls Church! (I was like, "It looks small, I don't think this is it" :P). We found a place in Soho that had been recommended on Tripadvisor for dinner. It was a Mexican restaurant, and it was pumping! I got quesadillas (cut into quarters) with chorizo, grated cheese, salsa roja (finely chopped up tomatoes, chilli, onion), sour cream, and roast potatoes with mole negro sauce, and Dan got huevos rancheros (flour tortillas, black beans, sliced fillet steak, fried egg, salsa). It was all delicious! We walked back via The Strand and along the Thames a little through a nice garden, and across the Waterloo Bridge. We went to a supermarket and did quite a big shop, but when we got the groceries back to the apartment, we could hardly fit them in the fridge :P

Ultimate cultural experience of the day: wandering the streets of London and seeing so many famous landmarks :)


On the morning of Thursday 3 May, we got up at 5.30am from Dan's alarm. I had a breakfast of coconut yoghurt, kiwifruit and muesli, which was very nice. I got the idea for that type of breakfast from when we stayed with Kerry and Gwen in Italy :) I was doing research in relation to things to see and do in London, but Dan wanted to get our day started, so we left. We walked along the Thames across from the Houses of Parliament, went past Kings College campus and a pretty church and building that is now the Garden Musem, and Dan asked what the time was. I said it was 7.15am, and he was shocked because his phone hadn't come onto England time yet and was an hour ahead - he thought it was 8.15! That's why we had rushed out the door :P We saw that the Garden Museum had an exhibition on showing Elizabeth I's personal prayer book, and Charles I's (or II's) revision of some prayers, among other things, but it wasn't open yet. We were in Lambeth, so of course I had the song 'Doing the Lambeth Walk' stuck in my head :P

We walked across Lambeth Bridge and along some back streets to Westminster Abbey. It was still really early and we needed some pounds, so we went in search of an ATM. We went all the way up to The Strand (near Trafalgar Square) and got some money out, and Dan got a coffee. We walked back to Westminster Abbey past St James' Park. We were the first in line at the Abbey :P It opened just after 9.30, and we got audioguides for a tour. We started the audioguide tour standing in front of the altar, and I saw where Prince William and Kate Middleton stood when they got married (I recognised it, it wasn't mentioned in the audioguide). We went to the quire, which was very ornate. One of Dad's second cousins has done extensive genealogy for our family and has found that we are descended from King Edward I, so I went to Edward I's tomb and was thinking, "My DNA is in there", and I whispered, "Hello Great-grandfather x 23", and it was emotional! I also stood by Henry III's tomb for a little too, because he was Edward I's father and therefore my 24th great-grandfather. I continued with the guide and went into the chapel that has Elizabeth I and Mary I's tomb. There were only three other people in there at that time, but I decided to do the tour in order, so I left that chapel and went to the tombs of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and Edward VI. I then went back to try to see Elizabeth's tomb, but it was too busy with a tour group. I saw several more tombs, and tried to go to Elizabeth's tomb again, but it was still too busy. I continued to the next chapel, and saw Poet's Corner with Geoffrey Chaucer and Alfred Lord Tennyson and Charles Dickens. I saw the tombs of Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard II, and then went to College garden outside, which was once used by the monks of the Abbey to grow food and medicinal herbs. I then went into the Pyx Chapel, which is the oldest part of the Abbey. I went into the Abbey museum, and saw an effigy of Elizabeth and her famous long Tudor nose. I also saw the coronation chair of William III and Mary II, among other things. I went to the nave of the Abbey and saw the tomb of the unknown soldier and heard on the audioguide how the Queen Mother placed her wedding bouquet on it as she walked back down the aisle, and Elizabeth II put the Queen Mother's funeral wreath on it. I went back to Elizabeth I's chapel and saw her tomb with her effigy on it from her death mask, which I heard was in her likeness, so it was interesting to see what she actually looked like. I stood by Edward I and Henry III's tombs again before leaving that section. I saw the coronation chair near the exit, and got a photo outside the Abbey, near where Kate Middleton arrived for her wedding :P

We walked to Hyde Park via Buckingham Palace, and we saw part of the changing of the guards. It was hard to see it because there were a lot of people lining the fences around the Palace! We walked along the southern edge of Hyde Park, and got to Heston Blumenthal's restaurant 'Dinner' for lunch a few minutes early. We had made our reservation when we were in Santorini! We waited in the bar for a few minutes, and then we were shown to our table. We were by the window :) The menu at 'Dinner' is "inspired by historic British gastronomy", and the dishes each have a title and the year that they are from (I believe based on the year of the document that that particular recipe is taken from). We ordered entree and main and Dan ordered dessert because we were told it would take 40 minutes for that particular dessert. I got 'Rice and Flesh' (c. 1390) for entree, which was saffron rice, calf tail and red wine. It actually tasted quite cheesy, and was tasty. Dan got 'Broth of Lamb' (c. 1730), which was lamb broth, slow-cooked hen's egg, celery, radish, turnip and veal sweetbreads. I tried some of the broth and it was so flavoursome! But veal sweetbreads are glands from a calf's neck, which makes me feel a little ill thinking about it. For main, I got the 'Fillet of Aberdeen Angus' (c. 1830) with mushroom ketchup and triple cooked chips. I had heard about the triple cooked chips on 'MasterChef'. They were really good :) But there were some sort of soft things on top of the steak that reminded me of the look and consistency of scallops (but weren't seafood) and I asked one of our waiters what it was (after I had eaten it!), and he said it was bone marrow. That also makes me feel a little ill. Dan got 'Spiced Pigeon' (c. 1780) with ale and artichokes. I ordered dessert after our main, and the desserts were really nice :) Dan got 'Tipsy Cake' (c. 1810) with spit roast pineapple, and I got 'Taffety Tart' (c. 1660) with apple, rose, fennel and vanilla ice-cream. It was very tasty, and the presentation was impressive! :) We had told one of our waiters that we were on our honeymoon, and they brought out a little glass of chocolate ganache with the word "Congratulations" written on the plate in chocolate :) The service was excellent, of course :) But when we paid, the waiter brought the receipt to the table to get a signature and he put it in front of Dan, but we had used my travel card, so I had to sign :P The waiter apologised and said, "You can't assume" :P

After our awesome lunch, we walked through Hyde Park. We saw several grey squirrels, and we walked along the Serpentine Lake. I had read that it was once used for sewerage. There is a horse-riding track around the park, and there were some young guys from the army doing some riding practice and trying to bend down off the side of the horse as they were riding to spear a white target with their swords. We went back down to the Serpentine and saw a swan standing up in its nest, and we could see some eggs in the nest :) We saw the Prince Albert monument, which was very impressive, but also sad because of how young he was when he died, and how devastated Queen Victoria was.

After Hyde Park, we walked through Kensington to get to Freddie Mercury's house. I had googled the address and also seen a map of where it is in google, and done a street view, so I knew whereabouts it was, and to look for a green door (which I had seen on a Queen documentary previously). We walked for a while and knew we were getting close, but that part of Kensington was off the map that we had, and I had the map up on my iPad but it couldn't zoom in because we had no access to the internet where we were. We got a map from a hotel, and found the house. All of the graffiti that was along the stone wall and doors is gone, but there are glass screens up along the wall that people put notes behind, and there were several notes there from that day and previous days. The notes are obviously cleared away every few days. We got some photos and filmed. It was sad being there, knowing that Freddie had died in that house :( But I also thought about how he had lived there and walked those streets :)

We walked back to Hyde Park and along the road alongside the park, and saw the large area where the first Great Exhibition had been held in 1851, with the famous Crystal Palace. We walked through a park across the road from Buckingham Palace called Green Park, and along a street beyond that. We saw the back of Clarence House (Prince Charles' London residence, where Prince William left from for his wedding), and walked along Pall Mall and saw St James Palace, which I knew was once used for the royal court, but didn't know that Mary I's heart is buried there or that it is Princess Anne's residence! We went to the Portrait Gallery (see http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/explore/by-period.php), and started with portraits of the Royals (from William the Conquerer onwards, I believe). I saw some names of people in a painting that are similar to some of my ancestors (Dacre and Fiennes, see http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw07263/Mary-Nevill-Lady-Dacre-Gregory-Fiennes-10th-Baron-Dacre?LinkID=mp05217&search=sas&sText=dacre&role=sit&rNo=0). I did some research afterwards and found out that they are some sort of relatives, but we are not descended from them. We saw a famous sketch of Jane Austen drawn by her sister Cassandra, but most of the paintings were of the Royals or other aristocrats. We didn't have time to look at all of the Georgian and Regency portraits properly, or see the Victorian period onwards because it was dinner time, so we decided to come back another day. We asked one of the gallery staff where to find a pub for dinner, and we were told to go across Charing Cross Road to St Martin's Lane. We found a pub, which was an awesome lively English pub (like Daphne's pub on an episode of 'Frasier' :P). Dan got a steak-and-ale pie and I got an English roast :D Beef, with vegies, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes (yes, that's right, potatoes cooked two ways!) and best of all, Yorkshire pudding! In England!!! Similar to the Yorkshire pudding from the Pig'n'Whistle in Brisbane. It wasn't puffed up like the Yorkshire muffins that I make, it had sort of deflated, which I think is how they are usually done. But it was still awesome! After dinner, we walked back to the apartment along Whitehall.

Ultimate cultural experience of the day: visiting Westminster Abbey, eating at Dinner, wandering through Hyde Park, and seeing Freddie Mercury's house.


On the morning of Friday 4 May, we walked to Waterloo train station and got the train out to Windsor. We walked up to Windsor Castle and waited for the gates to open. We were the first in line, again :P And we already had tickets because we had gotten them on Wednesday evening in town. We entered the grounds and got audio guides. We listened to the beginning of the audio guide, which included a section by Prince Charles :) We entered the first building and went to see Queen Mary's Doll House (see http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/queenmarysdollshouse/ and explore the house through the site). It was pretty impressive! And it was amusing because the doll house had servants quarters! :P So it was really a doll mansion. And it had a garage underneath that was filled with lots of old model cars :) I suppose that is what a royal doll house has :P Next, we went to see the special exhibition of press photographs of the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee (see http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/60photos/). There were 60 photos for 60 years, but there wasn't a photo from each year of her reign, just 60 photos in total. My favourite photo was a photo of the Queen and Prince Phillip from the '60s at the Badminton horse trials (see http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/60photos/MicroObject.asp?item=7&themeid=2904&object=2943867&row=7). I also liked this one of the Queen and Margaret Thatcher (see http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/60photos/MicroObject.asp?row=7&themeid=2908&item=7). I also liked these:
  
Just a normal family photo (http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/60photos/MicroObject.asp?row=4&themeid=2906&item=4)

Having fun at the Derby (http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/60photos/MicroObject.asp?row=5&themeid=2906&item=5)

Having fun at the Braemar Gathering (http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/60photos/MicroObject.asp?row=13&themeid=2908&item=13)

Horse-riding with her grandbabies (Prince Edward's children) (http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/60photos/MicroObject.asp?row=26&themeid=2908&item=26)

Inspecting the new army officers at Sandhurst (I love Prince William's facial expression :P) (http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/60photos/MicroObject.asp?row=15&themeid=2908&item=15)

You can view all 60 photos on the website. The exhibition was awesome, and I think it's great that they have the photos online too :D The exhibition was recommended to us by a girl who we got the tickets from in London, because she had said that it was easy to walk right by it and miss it. We're glad we saw it, because it was excellent :) Next, we went into some state rooms and saw some nice furniture and paintings, including some by Rembrandt. It was interesting to see the state rooms that are still used and imagine the Queen receiving people and meeting and greeting :) We went to St George's Chapel, which is where Henry VIII and his favourite wife Jane Seymour (mother of his only legitimate son) are buried, as well as the Queen's father, mother and sister. A sad tomb was for Queen Anne's stillborn son, and also for Princess Charlotte, who would have been queen instead of her cousin Victoria, but she died during childbirth, and there is a statue of her laying on top of the tomb covered by a sheet, with her soul ascending to heaven and angels carrying her stillborn son up to heaven :(

After we left Windsor Castle, we got the train to Waterloo station and then another train to London Bridge station. We walked across London Bridge and could see the Tower Bridge further up the river. We quickly had some lunch from a place called 'Pret a Manger' (French for "ready to eat") before going to the Tower of London. We did the 2pm tour with a Beefeater guide (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beefeater). He was very amusing. We were shown the outside of the Bell Tower, which is where Elizabeth I was imprisoned, and we were told about James Scott (illegitimate son of Charles II), who required five blows of the axe to sever his head, which we were told was because he refused to pay the executioner to do a quick job. We were shown Traitor's Gate, where prisoners entered the Tower by boat from the Thames. We were shown Tower Green where "important" prisoners, such as royals, were executed in private, as opposed to up on Tower Hill in public. Two of Henry VIII's wives (Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard) were executed there, as well as Jane Grey, the "nine days' queen" who was named successor after Edward VI died, rather than his Catholic half-sister Mary (who became Mary I) or his protestant half-sister Elizabeth (Elizabeth I). Poor Jane Grey was essentially put on the throne (for nine days) by her ambitious family (who persuaded Edward VI to name her as successor), though she was never crowned, and was beheaded for treason. We went into the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where most of the people executed on Tower Hill or Tower Green are buried. Their graves were dug up at one point, and several bodies were identified, including Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Jane Grey. Anne Boleyn was identified because she had an extra finger on her right hand, Katherine Howard was identified because Henry VIII had had quicklime thrown on her body, so she was just white residue, and Jane Grey was identified because she was buried next to her husband (who was also beheaded), and that was the only time that ever happened.

We went to one of the towers and saw graffiti on the walls and doors from people who had been imprisoned there. We went to the Treasury, where the Crown Jewels are. We watched a video of the Queen's coronation on loop, and entered the room that contains the Crown Jewels. You stand on moving walkways and go past all of the Crown Jewels, but you can walk back for another look as many times as you want. The Crown Jewels are very blingy, especially under the lights. We saw other treasures like platters and chalices for baptisms. After the Treasury, we went to the White Tower, which is what I used to think was the Tower of London, but is actually only one of the towers. I saw the stairwell through a hole in the outside wall where the Princes in the Tower's bones were found (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princes_in_the_tower). Inside the tower, I saw lots of weapons and armour, including some armour of Henry VIII's, with a massive armour bulge in the crotch region (a codpiece) :P (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/zjereb/5348289798/). We went to the Bloody Tower and saw where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned (not really like a prison cell, more like a large comfortable room!) (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bloodytower_interior.jpg). We went upstairs to where the Princes in the Tower were imprisoned "for their protection", and read about the main contenders of who killed them or had them killed (either Richard III or Henry VII) and got to vote on who we thought did it. I voted Richard III because that is what we always hear, but the evidence against Henry VII was also compelling, and it was interesting to read about how Richard III was demonised by the Tudors as part of PR propaganda to make their claim to the throne more appealing. We went to do the ramparts walk, but it was getting close to closing time and we sort of rushed through some of the towers. When we went to leave, I saw some people walking up to a tower along the ramparts that we hadn't been to. Dan stayed down, but I went up to see if I could get in, and it wasn't closed yet. I saw a room and bedroom that was used by Edward I, including his own private prayer chapel jutting off the bedroom, and I saw some bowls and cutlery that I think had also been used by him, which was awesome :) I kept walking through some other towers and along ramparts while Dan was waiting for me outside :P

I met up with Dan, and we walked to Whitechapel in the East End. We couldn't find a proper restaurant or pub for dinner, so Dan got a sandwich from a cafe and I got Burger King. It was really quite a dodgy area. We finished our dinner and crossed the street to the entrance for Aldgate East tube station, for our Jack the Ripper tour :D As we were waiting, we could see police arrive at the Burger King, and people looking into the store to see what was going on. Our tour started and we crossed back over the street, but we didn't walk past the Burger King, so I'm not sure what was going on in there. We went down an alley off Whitechapel High Street and began the tour. It was quite a large group, perhaps around 20 people. I had watched a Jack the Ripper documentary a few months ago, and I think I remember seeing our tour guide Lindsay on it as one of the expert Ripperologists. She has been on quite a few documentaries and contributed to Jack the Ripper books :) During the tour, we were shown the place where the first victim lived (well, the lodging house she had been staying at anyway), a pub where all the victims drank at called the Ten Bells Pub, a church across the street called Christ Church where they would have gotten food (and drink and clothes) stamps, the place where the last victim was killed and how the view at either end of the street hasn't changed since that time (1888), the place where two clues in relation to the crimes were found, and also the place where the second-last victim was found, and a church called St Botolphs that one of the victims used to walk around (outside) searching for customers. Some of the streets involved were Gunthorpe Street, Fashion Street, Fournier Street, Hanbury Street, Dorset Street, Goulston Street, Brick Lane, Bucks Row and Petticoat Lane, and other interesting names like that :P We were shown a block of townhouses close to the Ten Bells Pub that are from the 17th Century and are now worth more than 3 million pounds!!! And we were told how one of the victims, Liz Stride, was called 'Long Liz' because she was so tall, when she was really only my height! So I would have been considered tall in the late 1800s in England. We were told about rich men who would come to the East End to "slum it", so Jack the Ripper could have been a wealthier man who wouldn't have looked out of place in the East End. We were told about how dodgy some lodging houses in the slums were, and how people would pay four pence to sleep in a bed, but the beds were actually coffins! Or, if you paid tuppence you could sleep essentially standing up and leaning over a rope across the room! Apparently the Jack the Ripper murders brought a lot of attention to the horrible conditions people lived in in the East End (life expectancy was 30 years!!!). And we were also shown a letter that was written to the police and signed 'Jack the Ripper', which is where the name came from, but it has been found that the letter was a fake and was actually written by a journalist! But nothing much has changed - the media comes up with names for things like that all the time now! We were also shown a letter that Lindsay believes was sent by the real Jack the Ripper, because it was accompanied by part of a kidney, and the kidneys of the most recent victim had been taken from her body during her murder and mutilation. During the tour, Lindsay showed us photos of what places used to look like in 1888, and also photos of places that have since been torn down. We were also shown post mortem photos of the victims, some of which I had never seen before. They were sad to see. And we were also shown a photo of one of the victims with her husband before her "fall from grace", which was also sad. The tour was really good, and it was interesting to see the places where these women lived and also, morbidly, where they were killed. After the tour, we got the tube back to Westminster and walked to the apartment from there.

Ultimate cultural experience of the day: visiting Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, and doing the Jack the Ripper tour.


Dan's perspective

- Arriving in London was a holiday from our holiday, speaking English to the English was a welcome break from Spanglish.
 London is a happening place, lots of chic 'pockets' around the city. 
- It really is a multicultural city, which makes it a great cultural experience. 
- We had some excellent food in London, not all of which cost an arm and a leg. 
- The arm and leg was worth it for our experience at 'Dinner - by Heston'. 
- Hyde Park is beautiful and I could easily spend 3 days in there exploring!
- The special photographic exhibition at Windsor Castle was outstanding.  
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