Last one for London

Trip Start May 18, 2011
1
7
14
Trip End Aug 29, 2011


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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This will be a mission! And a long one, so don't start if you don't have time to finish! Ok where to begin......

FRIDAY

After another cock up on the tube, I finally managed to meet up with Alicia and her bf Alex and we went for drinks at the Garden Restaurant just a couple of minutes down from where I'm living.  It was super lovely and met a bunch of Alex's work mates as well - it was fantastic just being able to chat about nothing over a few drinks.  Also, gifter Alicia a cutely wrapped pack of Jaffas which we shared around - one of the english guys took a real liking to them :) Alicia, Alex and I then went to an Indian restaurant even closer to my place for dinner which was also fantastic, really lovely food, wine and company and had a great time catching up with Alicia and what she's been up to - I will definitely be back in touch with her next time I'm in London, in fact I wish I had've got in touch again before I was leaving! Oh well.

SATURDAY

Next morning, Stace and I got up and started to get ready for the polo, all dressed and made up nicely! It was the most perfect weather we could have possible asked for! (I officially have my first tan of summer!)  We took the tube and bus to her friends' place, Taha & Chrissy, and proceeded to get on the Pimms and G&T's, kind of forgetting about lunch in the process.  It was lovely meeting all Stacey's friends, the hosts were awesome kiwi's and Stace's best friend Kate was wonderful to chat to. Her and Stacey are just girls my age in slightly older bodies, I'm sure of it. There were also a couple of kiwi guys there around my age too which was super and met two lovely girls, one Canadian and one Korean.  After we'd all met and chat and got suitably tipsy, we headed 2 mins down the road to the polo. 

It was different to how I'd expected, very comparable to the races in NZ.  It was, mostly, a fantastic people watching event!  Kate and I waited in line for a whole half a match to get drinks for everyone and then heard there was a 20 deposit on the jugs so decided against getting a jug of pimms so got wine instead but found out as we were leaving the drinks tent that we couldn't take glass outside the tent and so we had to pour our wine into massive plastic cups.  All class, I'm telling ya.

Anyway, eventually did watch some polo action and just in time too coz we got to see a collision where two guys fell off their horses and one didn't get up and the ambulance rushed on and everyone did a collective gasp! Excitement!  I think i got pictures.  After that we wanted to leave for a bit and come back for the second match but we weren't allowed back in once we'd been let out so that didn't work.  I stayed a bit longer with the boys while the others went home to drink champagne. It was funny watching a couple of the guys trying (and failing) to pick up girls at the bar.  Then we all went home, drunk much champagne, listened to much "cheese" (which is the english word here for pop-y sings that everyone sings and dances along to when you've had too much to drink, basically) and generally had a good time!  I got some pictures but Stacey won't let me put them on here =P

SUNDAY

Then a short taxi home and we were in bed sound asleep!  The next day I quite literally didn't leave bed or my pyjamas.  Not because I was hung over (although I was probably that also) but the weather had turned to poos so I just sat and read a book all day (Thanks Si, it was a goodie! xx) Managed to finish the whole thing and realised how much I really really miss reading!  So I'm not sure that will be the last book i read while I'm away.  So that was my Sunday.

MONDAY

Today is the day....
Jess Pollard: Ultimate Tourist.

Courtesy of my London Pass I completed the following:
Westminster Abbey
Fantastic - well worth a visit on the London pass (kind of expensive if you're not on the pass though).  The annoying thing about most of these attractions is that I can't take pictures.  And I can't really start to explain to you what everything was like.... But I would say the highlights of this trip were seeing Isaac Newtons memorial, and hearing about all the drama that went on between kings and queens and their daughters and mothers and great-grand daughters... Of course my memory for history is crappy so I can't relay any of it for you.   I think the biggest draw card for the Abbey is not so much the architecture and stuff (sadly, because in places it is absolutely stunning) its all the memorials and monuments and burial places of famous people.  People like Shakespeare and Handel and the kings and queens etc. Like for instance there is "Poet's Corner" where many of the famous writers etc are.  And it was also pretty cool to see the choir hall where the boys choir sing - I imagine it would be fantastic to see.  Also all the statues, stone carvings, etc the Abbey is like a massive gallery of them and you walk past them pretty nonchalantly but each one of them is amazing, not anything like you would see in New Zealand. I remember my favourite being of one of the princesses or something being protected by her husband from "death", literally a beautifully elaborate skeleton man in robes coming at her with a spear.  It was cool, all the facial expression were really intricate and it was quite chilling.

Was kind of disappointed by the hugely commercial and tacky tribute to Will & Kate's wedding in the middle of one of the lovely small chapel.  But oh well.  That was what most of the tourists were super excited about so bully for them!

City Cruise
I initially just went on this as a way to get from Westminster to Tower of London.  But it was one of the highlights of my day!  There was a guy commentating who had a really good sense of humour and he told us heaps of really interesting facts about the buildings and stuff just along the bit of Thames we were travelling along.  Like he pointed out the Savoy which you can pay up to 10,000 a night to stay in.  And a monument quite close to that which was a gift from Cleopatra and nearly 3,500 years old!!! And how there are 121 different species of fish in the river including Salmon, and that actually, although it is constantly brown, the Thames isn't actually that dirty, its mostly just because it is soil underneath.  Completely irrelevant to the tour - someone was telling me the other day that a massive sperm whale once found itself up the river thames in the middle of London.  They got a specialist whale team in from new zealand to save it and they were supposed to get it in a massive sling and help it float back down the river but instead they got it in the sling, lifted it up onto the boat and sat it there so that it crushed itself with its own weight and died.  Whoops.
This guy also told us about the origin of the term "box office" and how it got coined way back in Shakespeare's times.  Ask me if you wana know, I'm sure you don't really.
Anyway, really worthwhile and I would certainly use it again as an alternative method of transport around London.

Tower of London
Gosh, by the time i got here, I was already a bit pooped (it was a rainy day and I had had to wait for 45 minutes in said rain to get into Westminster Abbey).  So in hindsight, I probably should have done this one first and had more energy in me because there were so so many things to do and see here and I probably didn't do it justice, but i gave it a pretty good crack. 
We got shown round by a beefeater and a very lively one at that.  He told us all about the tower and how it is a royal home, not a prison or anything like that like some people thought.  Although it was used to lock up prisoners sometimes so yea... go figure. Anyway, he told us that torture never really happened officially, but of course unofficially it did and i went down and looked at the "unofficial instruments of torture".  See pics for more details. 
Got told a story about a man who was getting his head chopped off but it took 5 times - the first time they got his shoulder, the second time, only a bit of his neck, the third time they missed and then the 4th and 5th times were poor attempts but finally managed to get his head off. Then (i can't remember if it was the same guy or not) there was one who was having a portrait done, but they hadn't finished it before he was beheaded.  So after he was beheaded, they sewed his head back on, put a scarf on him and finished the portrait.  Then took the head back off again, stuck it on a spear and paraded it around the tower bridge just like all the other heads they took off.  Ahhhh the english.

The crown jewels were pretty awesome - especially the 530 carat diamond on display, never quite seen anything like that.  After seeing so many diamonds and so much gold tho you kind of stop believing any of it is real.  There was a big display on armour that knights used to wear as well as the weapons.  that was pretty cool, i can't imagine how they could have done anything useful with some of that armour on.  oh man and the size of the jousting poles was pretty insane, i didn't expect them to be that massive.  also took pics of pretty artisticly decorated guns which were nice.

Sat in the church where all the bodies of the beheaded people were buried.  They were buried there instead of in a graveyard so that noone could worship them/they couldn't become martyrs after they had been killed.

The Monument

This was just a wee attraction which is the monument built in the late 1600s to commemorate the Great Fire of London.  Christopher Wren designed it and it's 61 metres high with 311 steps leading to the top in a dizzying spiral stair case.  I went to the top and got real puffed, took some panoramic pictures then came down.  The lady was talking on the phone when I got to the bottom and I think you're supposed to pay for them, but I took a certificate to say that I did it.  She didn't notice.


The Old Operating Theatre

Awesome, awesome place.  Pretty much the oldest remains of a hospital in London.  Back way before anaesthetic or antiseptic and when they pretty much used to amputate any old thing while the patient was wide awake with a big old saw. Mostly will just put up the pics, coz I'm getting bored of writing this now, but this place was seriously worthwhile, I enjoyed it a lot in a sick kind of way.


The London Bridge and London Dungeons experience

This is the kind of thing that Kaitlyn would have LOVED.  It was pretty much a bunch of people dressed up and acting out characters from medieval england and kind of telling the story of the London bridge while doing it. There was one girl who was particularly funny who showed us what they would do with the bodies after they had beheaded them.  Pretty gruesome but interesting.  After the pretty short London Bridge tour we went in for the Dungeons experience.  This is the bit that Kaitlyn would have loved -  there were moving floors, strobe lights, hanging body parts, people and animals jumping out from dark corners to scare  you, a bit that you had to literally squeeze yourself through and it was pitch black with weird noises... the worst bit was the strobe lights coz there would be a person standing in the corner and they would look like a statue but because the strobes were on, one minute you would see them in the corner and then it went pitch black and then when the light came back on again they were right up in your face - Argh!! hahaha.. it was fun. 

After all this excitement, I went and had a couple of wines with Stacey and her workmates - all fantastic people, I can see why she loves where she works.  I got lots of tips of what to do when I come back to London including good night clubs etc.  We then went and had dinner at Wagamama's - a really fantastic Japanese restaurant, in 2 words "healthy" and "delicious". I'll definitely go back there.

TUESDAY

Jess Pollard: Attempted Ultimate Tourist... Ultimate Tourist fail.

St Paul's Cathedral

Ok, so don't think I'm weird but when I was in St Paul's I actually cried.  Just a few quiet tears, but this place was unbelievable.  Christopher Wren is my new idol.  I couldn't take pictures and I can't really explain, but the architecture was a piece of art.  The ceilings were so huge and if you can imagine his purpose of having it as just a wide open space for worship - no chairs or statues or anything, just what he has built - it is incredible.  The thing is older than new zealand the perfectness of the symmetry and how clever he was as a mathematician is mind blowing - there is a staircase that we got to go to on the guided tour that has no support, it is called the geometric stair case and it is all to do with how each stair is perfectly poisitioned in relation to the other two stairs to make it stay and not need to be held up by anything else.  It's fantastic.  Much like the dome - the second largest unsupported one in the world I think.  Its all very incredible, but you don't get it til you see it yourself.  But I was standing looking up at all the perfectness and then the choir starting singing in the most wonderful chilling harmonies I have ever heard and how could you not shed a tear? geez. I would go back to this place again and again and again if i could afford to.  And can't wait to see more of Christopher Wren's buildings. Hopefully next time something more out of the way that hasn't been so exploited for commercial purposes.  I went up to the top of this one (another friggin 500 or so spiral stairs - definitely sick of them) and looked at the view of london and almost got a little upset at all the sky scrapers and industrial buildings. It makes me really sad to think there is probably nothing this magnificent that could just be left untouched and unaltered as the person who created it intended it to be.    I saw where Christopher Wren was buried as well and he had such a nondescript plain memorial, it was what he wanted.  One interesting thing that I initially was annoyed about was that the people in charge of the cathedral like to keep up to date with modern art etc so they have modern pieces in the cathedral.  I dont like this idea and dont think they should be cluttering the place, but at the same time there was this one really cool sculpture which if it hadn't been in St Pauls I would've thought was fantastic.  it was by Henry Moore and called mother and child, I'll try to remember to put a pic up.  It looks like some werido modern crap but when you are told that the point of it is to walk round it anti clockwise to see first, conception of a baby, then the growing feotus, then the unborn child, then the mother holding the child it is actually INCREDIBLE.  it actually does look like each of those things from the four different angles!! I recomment googling it.

Anyway.
After this I got on the tube to go to the Royal Air Force Museum and this Indian temple which I can't remember the number of now (its long and indian) but that I was really excited to see. But i got off one stop out of my zone and so got charged and then hadn't swiped my card properly at another station and so got charged again and then, to top it all off, i left my favourite and only scarf which Simon found for me in 2nd year on the train and that was just too much.  Being a tourist was suddenly not fun anymore.  So I went home, moped a little, got over it, booked my train to Cambridge for tomorrow and got in touch with one of the musos that the jewellery lady had told me about. He said he would take me to an open mic night. He never did.  All in all a big old fail of a day! But I will never forget St Pauls Cathedral or Christopher Wren and at least I still have yummy english lollies :)

So next time you hear from me I will be in either Cambridge or Dundee.  Looking forward to getting out of London to somewhere smaller and more accomodating to the single traveller.  I have had a fantastic time in London, especially fantastic for having met and stayed with Stacey.  But I look forward to returning next time with a friend or two in tow.

Over and out!
J x
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Comments

Elle on

I have stopped reading your blog because I have a low attention span. But you seem like you're having fun. I'm glad you found a bag!

anna-wicken
anna-wicken on

Wow jess! Don't even know if I should attempt a blog next to yours lol. Mine will be like "In Paris today,it's pretty nice" haha btw cool photos, you're pretty good!

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