Day 14: Dumplings and Palaces
This morning I’m the first one awake. My head is slightly painful from last night’s Belgian beer session. Nothing that a little Advil couldn’t handle. We begin today by pre-packing. With London being the place we spent the most nights at, we’ve created quite the pigsty!
After pre-packing I hit the showers and noticed that my tea tree shampoo and conditioner are missing. I must have left them in the showers the morning before. I hope whoever has them really liked the combo of great smelling and that tingling sensation it gives. Furthermore, I hope they love it so much that they want to buy some more, but in a cruel twist of fate, they can’t find it in the UK, meanwhile, I’m back in the USA where I pay too much for it while they go crazy finding it. Likely that won’t happen, and nobody cares that much about shampoo, but it’s a nice thought.
After so many “Breakfast Fails,” we consulted with the power of Yelp.com and found a nice French place called “Le Pain Quotidien.” Josh had a delicious looking poached egg, Stacey had fruit and a muffin and Stephanie and I both ordered a croissant, but she had tomato and I had ham, so we made a trade: one piece of ham for one piece of tomato, therefore making a ham & tomato croissant that wasn’t on the menu.
After breakfast, Josh went to see more friends and the rest of us headed to the British Library. The Library was pretty cool and had a fantastic exhibit on science fiction writing. Some of those highlighted were Terry Prachett’s Diskworld series, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and a few that had an interesting plot. I wanted a list of the books because I wanted to read some of them, but the program was 10 pounds or so.
In the collected works room, we saw some first drafts of works of Jane Austen and Mark Twain (He and Leonardo Di Vinci, both had really, really tiny handwriting.) They also had 1 of 4 copies of the Magna Carta, as well as a Gutenberg Bible and original lyrics of what would become famous Beatle songs (some were scribbled on envelopes and one was on a child’s birthday card.) I was somewhat bummed out having believed that the Beowulf manuscript was housed here, but it’s probably at Oxford with the “Elephant Man” John Merrick’s skeleton…or wherever those two artifacts are kept.
(Post Journal Note: I was a dumb American and walked past the Beowulf Manuscript, it’s labeled as something different)
After the library, we caught the bus and went to try a place that Josh ate at last night that made us jealous called Ping Pong, which specializes in dumplings. We also followed Josh’s suggestion and ordered a blooming dragon eye tea. The waitress brought us clear glasses with a flower bulb, which after adding hot water bloomed into a really awesome flower. We ordered the sampler, so our first course came out with the deep fried stuff: 2 deep fried spring rolls, some dessert thing, and something wrapped in rice paper. Next, came the steamed stuff, I didn’t know what they were, one had vegetable but whatever they were, it was really yummy.
After lunch, we headed to the Banqueting House, which is known as the place where King Charles I was beheaded at the end of the Civil War in Britain. However, it turned out that it was closed today due to a private event. Now that our plans were changed we decided to visit Buckingham Palace earlier than expected.
At Buckingham Palace, I immediately noticed the flying Union Jack waving above the palace, which I had learned at the Tower of London tour that the Union Jack is flown when the Queen isn’t home (when she is home the royal coat of arms flag is flown instead.) The elegant gardens out front were really remarkable and I hope that they really bring some bang to our photos. As expected, we watched the Royal Guards patrol for a bit. While watching the guard, there was a 30 something year old mother explaining to her toddler that the Queen was not home and suggested that she went to buy some tea for herself at Sainsbury when he asked where she went. I ended up eavesdropping on her longer than I should since she had a voice very similar to that of Elizabeth Hurley, which for men has that same effect that Sean Connery’s voice has on women. It was a nice break from the British version of “valley girls” that we’ve been hearing outside our window the last few nights.
After we took our photos outside of the gates of Buckingham Palace and everything, we walked to the Duke of Wellington Archway and then tried to go to some garden, which like the gardens in Edinburgh, these gardens were sealed off as well. We did however; find all the embassies in London in our mindless walking around. Now that we had a lot of newly found free time, we had nothing planned for the rest of our day. I suggested that we do the Jack the Ripper walking tour, which was on the initial itinerary, but was moved to a “if we have time” column, which we now had ample amounts of.
One of the “incredible” photos that I took
We went back to the Hostel, so that the girls could change and then we took the Underground to the Tower of London to find the walking tour. On the way to the hostel there was a pretty funny moment when some dreadlocked man on a bike nearly got wiped out by some tourist’s rolling bag, I don’t know what he said exactly but it was pretty hilarious sounding since he had a Cockney accent. Once we arrived to tower hill we had some extra time, so we went to find somewhere to eat. We didn’t want to stray too far and ended up eating at Subway! (yeah in England….) The Subway was out of nearly everything and the ingredients weren’t good at all. Afterwards, we found our way to the right Jack the Ripper walk. We went with the tour that would normally be led by Donald Rumblow, who wrote a few books on Jack the Ripper, however he wasn’t working that night. Our tour guide was instead led by a wild haired man named Steve. Despite a few forced jokes, the tour was really informative and thought provoking. We didn’t pay the extra pound to get a map with a list of the primary Jack the Ripper suspects because I got an entire book for free in Edinburg as part of our admission and this walk was the same price! It was interesting to see the sights of the murders, which now are sights of commercial buildings and parking lots. In addition, we heard stories of the different suspects; personally the story of Montague Druitt, a school master that had a history of mental illness in his family made the most sense to me. Especially, after the fact that he wrote a letter to his brother, telling him that he’s afraid of becoming mentally ill like their mother. He committed suicide shortly after the final murder. So there were some stories that made sense in that respect, and then there were some really wild ones like a story about Lewis Carroll and another one about a Free Masons cover-up with the Royal Family’s involvement. So, it was a fun walk overall. After the tour, Steve opened up an invitation for people to go treasure hunting with him; apparently that’s what Steve likes to do when he’s not giving Jack the Ripper tours.
We took the Underground home and planned out how early we’d be leaving to get to Heathrow. It looks like the train runs at 7 and it takes an hour to get to the airport and we fly out at 9, so you throw a security check point in and it looks like we’ll be cutting it very close. Having learned my lesson from the flight over, I did the right thing and went to bed.