Day 3 (November 13)

On this day, as he'd just seen the touristier things in London the year before, Jeff headed off to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian and other Greenwichey things. That left Eileen and I to hit two of the major tourist spots, starting with the Tower of London.

It wasn't at all what I had expected — the size of the complex beyond the walls was amazing (I thought there was one tower with the crown jewels at the top, oops) — there's a whole city back there. We started by walking through the medieval palace, and then we took a tour led by one of the Tower's Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters), Robin.

Then we went to see the crown jewels, which are so over-the-top it was hard to believe they were made of diamonds, jemstones and real gold. They were all stunning, but the crazy highlight was the punch bowl (Eileen told me about it beforehand but I had no idea it was going to be so enormous and intricate...it was really more of a punch vat). We were lucky in that we didn't have to wait in line long to see the jewels.

After the jewels, we went into the White Tower, to see some of the armor and weapons, and then the Bloody Tower, and some of the other buildings where prisoners, including Sir Walter Raleigh, were held.

Then, in our attempt to hit our new London Double (Jeff said it couldn't be done, but we are fast, and don't read all the little placards on things), we headed to Westminster Abbey, which was amazingly intricate in its architecture. The hodgepodge of tombs, though, was a bit over the top.

We went on a London Walk through the Abbey, so we had a guide to point out the highlights. Among them, tombs of various kings and queens, Sir Isaac Newton, Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens. It was the beginning of my being mildly freaked out by people buried in the floors of churches, although here I think it was justified — in one of the older segments, they had put a coffee stand over some people's tombs. I think that's just a wee bit over the line, there. If they put a coffee stand over my grave, I expect a double espresso piped down there every day. Italian roast. I just want to go on the record with that one.

We met back up with Jeff and finished the evening with an Along the Thames pub walk, again with London Walks. We stopped at four pubs, the last two from the 18th and 17th centuries, and had a half pint in each. I'm a fan of the half pint; I think they need to bring it to the U.S. Along with sandwiches in a box. But I'm getting ahead of myself on that one. We had Portugese food (roasted chicken) to wrap up the evening.

Day 2 (November 12)

On this day, we went to the Tate Modern, where, aside from looking at the more traditional modern art, we also "experienced" art in the form of a series of slides. The slides, the "Unilever Series," were set up in the open space in the building, which is a former power plant. It's a great space for art, and it makes them able to do things like set up giant silver slides. We rode the slides from floors three, four and five, and agreed that the fourth floor slide was the best.

After the Tate, we grabbed a sandwich and then toured the new Globe Theater. There weren't any plays running, as they only run in the summer, but the tour was enough to give you an idea of how Shakespeare's plays were originally performed — much better than looking at diagrams in high school English.

Then it was on to Vinopolis, which is a wine "museum." Primarily what that means is a place to look at some wine memorabilia and taste some samples. It was quite fun.

We came out into the evening and went to have dinner at a little place in Sloane Square — Chelsea Kitchen — that Eileen, our in-house (hotel?) tour guide knew about. When going to London for the first time, I highly recommend going with someone who lived there for a semester. Heh.

After dinner, we'd planned to go ice skating outside the Natural History Museum, but they were sold out. We did, however, see a fox (with a bag of potato chips in his mouth!) there, which made it worth the trip.

From there, we went to the Windsor Castle Pub, a charming little place with way-too-small doors (everyone had to duck to go from room to room) for some drinks.

Day 1 (November 11)

This was actually travel day number two, as Eileen, Jeff and I all took flights that began the evening of the 10th.

The plan was to sleep on the plane coming over. But my flight started at 6 p.m. and I was so wired that even my melatonin didn't help. Plus every time I would start to nod off, either the flight attendant would ask if I needed something (yes, SLEEP!), someone would cough or talk loudly, or the plane would hit turbulence. So I never really hit deep sleep.

Fortunately, although I got to our hotel (the Marriott Regent's Park) at like 9:30 a.m., they had the room ready. When you've been on a plane for six hours, through two major airports, and you can't figure out how many hours it's been since you last really slept but you know it's been a lot, let me tell you there is nothing better than a hot shower and a double espresso.

We opted to push through the day, so after unpacking and showering, we went on a This is London! walk. It included a boat ride on the Thames, and we actually saw all the major highlights during the walk. During that time there was also some drama of trying to get my international cell phone to actually work (it did after approximately 15 tries). It was really weird to actually be there and seeing all these attractions in person.

After the walk, we went to a Wagamama's for noodles, and then walked over to Picadilly Circus before taking the tube home. We were exhausted but it was still way too early to sleep, so we went to the hotel pool for awhile, which actually helped us wake up enough to go to the Marks & Spencer (M&S) Simply Food not far from the hotel for some breakfast food and other groceries.



So if you are wondering why it has been so very long since my last post, it's because I was in London (also, planning for London, packing for London, etc.).

The trip was outstanding! This was my first time there — first time in Europe, actually — and I absolutely loved it.

More in future posts...