Rain? What rain? Only glorious London sunshine! We lucked out some how and caught five days of excellent weather. Which is most fortunate as neither of us thought to bring an umbrella.
To me, London is the witty, chic, and charismatic cousin of Vancouver (where I hail from) The similarities in climate and people really helped to make me feel welcome in the big city. Something I didn’t realize I really needed after relocating across the globe away from everything I know and love. A big part of which may, or may not be Starbucks. Aside from our aggressive tourism, London already feels like home. We’ve mastered the tube system (Hello, Oyster card!) sampled the espresso at local coffee shops (though I stubbornly cling to my skinny vanilla lattes) downed cold pints of cider in warm and cozy taverns and I’ve also learned that the British take their meadows very seriously.
I know I sort of hinted at the annoying tourist bit when I went all Harry Potter on you in the last post, but did you really get just HOW touristy one can be? This is me attempting to take a photo for the cover art on my upcoming album.
Just kidding about the album. This is THE famous cross walk used in the Beatles album cover just outside Abbey road studios. Getting here was relatively easy if you’re willing to walk a fair way. If you look carefully, you can see all the annoyed Londoners in their cars waiting for us tourists to walk back and forth across the cross walk in an attempt to get a good photo. It’s impossible to stand in the middle of the road to get the shot they did, and the alternating traffic made is extremely difficult to get any photo at all in the end we all looked a little bit mental as we walked one way and then the other, repeatedly.
The great thing about traveling with a foodie, is not just a superb selection of dining experiences, but her wide knowledge of cuisine means she can sniff out the most authentic Vietnamese in the city. Not only did this place smell amazing as we walked by (and exactly how it SHOULD smell according to Bev) but the food was flavorful, the broth aromatic and had great depth of flavor. Pho Cafe is definitely worth making a stop in if you’re around any of their 19 locations.
They’re also really considerate of your white blouses and give you this fetching blue bib number to wear as you eat your red soup. Which is not at all funny to your traveling companion with the big camera.
We happened to visit the Tower of London on the one day that threatened rain. The imposing fortress is well known but entirely worth the visit. 1000 years of history is yours for the exploring. Immediately to your right when you enter is the gate the important visitors would have come through, hard not to imagine King Henry the 8th walking through it on his way to visit Anne Boleyn who lived there prior to being made queen (probably led by the enormous codpiece he favoured) I was extremely surprised to find that people live in the tower grounds. The torture chamber and graffiti carved into the stones by the unfortunate souls who met their end there juxtaposed by the cheery welcome mats and red geraniums at the threshold of the yeoman abodes.
Luckily for us the rain never came and we were treated to exceptional views of the Thames and London Bridge.
There is an English Heritage Visitors pass that can be purchased for your trip to the UK. This pass enables you to enter National Trust sites either for free, or at a serious discounted rate, visit just three sites with the pass and it will have paid for itself. Not only can you visit stately homes, roman ruins and other landmarks but it gives you access to events put on by the English Heritage such as reenactments of the Battle of Hastings. It can be purchased for the length of your visit and bought on-line here. If you’re travelling to England and plan on seeing Deal Castle, the home of Charles Darwin, or Stonehenge (to name a few of the included sites) it’s definitely worth it.
We attempted to see the only home of Charles Dickens still standing and now a museum. We didn’t make it in time to join the last house tour, despite all our hustle, likely because we were weighed down by our giant pho meal. But we were able to look through the gift shop. So I will have to go back and try it again.
Our final night as tourists closed with the wildly hilarious Book of Mormon in London’s West End. Not knowing what to expect when Bev bought the tickets insisting we would love it and we had to go, I sat down with some apprehension in my heart. I love musicals, but I don’t love ALL musicals. What would this be like? Would I even like it? Could I pretend I liked it when Bev asked what I thought? Turns out I didn’t even have to pretend. I couldn’t say enough about it. It was hands down the BEST performance I have seen in a long time. I never stopped laughing. Yes, it’s about Mormonism, it touches base on controversial issues including faith and indoctrination. Is it racist? That’s not for me to decide. I opened my mind and let the song flow in and I found that it was good.
Did I miss anything? I’ll be back in London in September and would love to hear your suggestions for things not to miss on my second go around!