Day 12: London Sight-Seeing 101
This morning we woke up in better spirits. I got some sleep in and the girls sound slightly better. I was also pleased that this hostel, although more run down than any place we stayed, had a contender for the best showers. It’s amazing what hot water and easy controls can do to boost morale! The skylight above the shower is a bit out of place, and I kept looking up to see if some pervert was peeking in, but doubtful they’ll see anything due to the steam and chicken wire. The skylight isn’t that out of place compared to our room, I am sleeping next to an obviously painted over door rather than a wall, so the place had some remodeling done to it. While Stacey and I waited on Stephanie outside (Josh had stayed at his friend’s house), I found a part of our street-level window that didn’t have that “frosted window” effect that prevented people from peeking in. I thought it’d be soooooooo frikin hilarious, if I looked in and had a creepy eye visible to spook Stephanie. Stacey immediately yelled “She’s changing you fruit!!!!” This made me quickly feel embarrassed and ashamed of myself. I missed her changing thankfully, but I felt very awkward for the next few minutes anyway.
Our hostel’s breakfast gave me false hopes when the aroma in the hallway smelled amazingly delicious, but all that I saw to eat was cereal and bread to toast. It turned out that a pair of Asian girls made something delicious in a pot, for themselves…they looked very happy.
After breakfast, we went to the bus station and decoded routes to find a bus that’ll take us to Westminster Abbey. Last night before bed, an itinerary was planned out to decide how to spend our next three days. Once we boarded one of London’s iconic red Double Decker buses, we obviously made a b-line to the top deck.
We began our “Wow, I’m really in London” walking tour from Stephanie’s Rick Steves guide book. Big Ben and Parliament looked really cool and to my delight, we made it just in time to hear the 10 am chime. As we passed Trafalgar Square, there was a Paralympics event happening, but I was more interested in the 2012 Olympic Games countdown clock. We made our way to Westminster Abbey passing some gypsy ladies trying to sell some sort of leaf in a piece of tin-foil, which I didn’t quite understand the significance of. At the ticket counter Stacey and I once again, used our student IDs to save a few quid (I’m going to pull this con off for a few more years; even though I look like I’m 12 in my ID.)
The admission was pretty pricey, but it included audio tour guides narrated by Jeremy Irons (aka the voice of Scar from The Lion King.) I was floored with the massive detail in the architecture and I was very pleased that Henry VIII didn’t destroy this abbey, having seen the remains of the ones in Gloucester and York.
It’s completely amazing to see how many historic events, royal weddings, royal funerals and Coronations took place in the very area we were walking through. More amazing perhaps was the tombs of those who rested there. I found it ironic that Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary of the Scots, while vicious enemies in life, were laid adjacent to each other in death in their respective tombs. There were other kings and queens such as Richard II, Edward the Confessor, Henry III, V & VII and George II who built an\elaborate tomb for his queen and followed her in death just a few years later.
My personal favorite section was Poet’s Corner, where many literary legends such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, Rudyard Kipling, Jane Austen, Robert Blake, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Percy & Mary Shelley, and many others were either buried or paid tribute to. It was amazing to see so many recognizable names. I definitely want to read or re-read some of their works now!
We went into a courtyard on the grounds where we met a very sweet orange tabby cat that was affectionately greeting visitors. Stacey and I pet him and being a vet tech, Stacey remarked to the cat how someone’s been taking very good care of him. We took a photo of “Abbey Kitty” before saying goodbye to him and resumed our tour.
The final part of the Abbey included a memorial to Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, whom were both buried next to one another. On the way out of the Abbey, we passed the decorated grave of “The Unknown Warrior;” a British Soldier that was killed in France, who’s body was returned to England with no name, rank, or other identification.
At the gift shop, it was obvious that London was still feeling that “Royal Wedding High” as Prince William and Kate Middleton souvenirs dominated the shop. I appropriately found a picture book called “Cathedral Cats.” Having met “Abbey Kitty,” we looked to see if he made it in the book, we found one that looked like him but couldn’t tell for sure.
After the Abbey, I saw the opportunity to take some “Desmond the Elastomasaurus” pictures. Having originated at Loch Ness to fake a “Nessie photo,” I figured my toy dinosaur was a fun thing to photograph, so I got pictures of him “eating” various London attractions and phone booths. It probably looked weird for a grown man taking a toy dinosaur out of his bag and take pictures of it (I think I made an involuntary growling dinosaur face when snapping the photo.) Although I looked like a weirdo, the pictures are very amusing and I can’t wait to post them online. Plus, they love Mr. Bean here and probably found my antics hilarious.
We ate lunch in a crypt under a church, appropriately named “The Crypt Café.” The graves on the floor dated back to the early 1600s. Stephanie got the cold dish special, Stacey and I were drawn to the soup, but I also got Crème Brule, crisps and a soda so mine ended up being three times the price of Stacey’s (Brad-Brain strikes again). I was very surprised that The Crypt had Wi-Fi so naturally I shared this fact on Facebook and Twitter.
After lunch, we visited the National Gallery. I got separated from Stacey and Stephanie when I got distracted by a coffee mug, but I found Stacey a few minutes later. She said that I was “like her 2 year old” and she “needed to keep me on those leashes people put on kids.” Now that I was far away from coffee mugs, we joined a tour around the gallery. Our tour guide was very passionate about the art she told us about. We only heard her talk about 6 paintings, but it was really interesting and for a uncultured heathen like me, that has no knowledge about art, it was cool to hear details about what was REALLY depicted other than my “Brad-Brained” interpretation of saying “Oh hey it’s a girl in a robe” and not the real story about sadness and repressed love.
Having just a hour and over 1000 paintings, we didn’t quite make it through too well but I saw a few Monet’s, Peter Paul Ruben’s, as well as a Michelangelo, a Di Vinci, and a Raphael, so I saw 3 out of 4 artists that Master Splinter named the Ninja Turtles after. This is what goes through my mind in art galleries.
We returned to Westminster Abbey for the Evening Song service. This is a free way into the Abbey, but mostly devoid of all the cool parts. The service was neat and we were seated next to a memorial of one of my favorite British Poets William Blake. Ironically the sermon included the passage of Revelations 12:3-4, which William Blake painted a famous painting called The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun, which was prominent in the movie/book Red Dragon (the prequel to Silence of the Lambs.) After the service, we once again passed the marbled floor graves of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin as well as one I missed earlier of Michael Faraday, who was renowned for his work in electromagnetism and whom the character of Daniel Faraday on LOST was named after.
Back at the hostel, there was evidence that Josh had come by but most likely will stay with friends again, but he’s rocking new shoes apparently. While settling in our beds, we heard the very clear sounds of our next door neighbor having very loud sex. What’s funnier is just an hour or so later, we heard him walking her out of his room and then giving her tourist tips about carrying a money belt around…The Brits really know how to welcome tourists!
Tomorrow we’ll tour the Tower of London!!! To Visit!!!…..I think….