Tuesday, January 10, 2012

England part 3: crown jewels and sausage rolls

(Mouse over pictures for commentary...well, hopefully. I have been advised that it's not working for everybody, for which I apologize, but I have no idea how to fix it. If it makes you feel any better, you're not missing much!)

Because everybody else had already seen it on previous trips, it was just me, G, and the lads at the Tower of London.

I don't think I want to go there

Tower of London

Stained glass at the Tower of London

The Tower Bridge

Tower of London

Guard at the Tower of London, caught in midstep

We decided to see the Crown Jewels first in hopes of beating the rush, and that turned out to be a wise decision indeed! They had a really clever way of keeping people from "hogging" the jewels and blocking everybody else's view: you took a slow moving walkway past the display cases, and then you could take another one to see the back of the cases as well. The jewels were absolutely gorgeous, and even though the placards mentioned how heavy the crowns were, I'd have killed to wear one of them for a couple of minutes! No pictures were allowed, but you can see some of the jewels here.

After ogling the jewels, we walked around and looked at the torture chamber and many different exhibits of armor and weapons. Then we got lunch at a fish and chips stand and ate while surrounded by dozens of hungry pigeons and gulls. It's a small miracle that none of us got crapped on, especially since a crazy old woman kept encouraging the birds by reaching into a trash can and throwing food at them.

We met up with A and J and took the underground to the British Museum, where we reunited with Madre and Padre. D had a set agenda that he really wanted to follow, so he and his parents went off on their own. The British Museum was HUGE and it probably would have taken days to see everything, but we managed to see quite a bit, including the Rosetta Stone, Hokusai's famous Great Wave, human and animal mummies, and some really cool clocks and watches. One thing that was particularly nice? The museum was totally free! London is even more expensive than Japan was the last time I visited, so a freebie, especially a really cool one, was much appreciated.

After the museum, we took an extremely crowded train back to our neighborhood, where we picked up some groceries before going home. We had frozen pizza for dinner and watched some really goofy game shows on the telly.

The next day, we said goodbye to Madre and Padre, who were spending the rest of the trip visiting old friends, and took the tube to Paddington Station. It was once again crowded as shit, and I felt bad that our enormous suitcases were taking up so much room, but that's one of the downsides of public transit, I guess.

When we got to the station (and yes, it's the one where Paddington Bear was found), we had some time to look around, so I bought a ton of magazines, some drinks, and cough drops for my incessantly tickly throat. Then we hopped on the train and made our way to Bath. It was nice to be able to sit for a couple of hours! G spent most of the ride sleeping, and I enjoyed my cheesetacular magazines.

Upon our arrival in Bath, we had a loooooooooooong trek to the Holiday Inn Express. We thought the hotel was much closer to the station, but nope! I was about to have a minor meltdown because I was so tired and my shoulders hurt from my heavy purse and dragging my suitcase behind me like a balky pet. After noticing my discomfort, G offered to take my suitcase, which improved my mood considerably.

After checking in and dropping off our luggage, we walked across the street to a tiny restaurant called the Little Lime Lounge. It was a cute little place, and the proprietor was very friendly. I had a stack of pancakes and delicious bacon, and G and I split an order of lime-dusted chips as well.

Back at the hotel, J, A, I., and I decided to head out and explore while G and D stayed in their respective rooms to read and rest for a bit. We walked all over Bath, which is a charming combination of old and new. We stopped in the Bath Abbey to look around, and a friendly priest started talking to me. He asked where I was from, and when I told him, he clapped his hands together and cried, "Splendid! I love Americans, they're the golden retrievers of the world!" I'm still not sure what he meant by that, but I think it was meant to be a compliment, so I didn't take offense.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

We also stopped at a museum that had an eerily beautiful garden of fiber optic flowers that looked straight out of a Final Fantasy game...

This looked way cooler in person.

...and then popped into a grungy (but fun) pub called the Hobgoblin, which had some very, ahem, colorful graffiti in the ladies' room:

Graffiti in the Hobgoblin pub bathroom.

Um...good to know, thanks.



Back at the hotel, I napped for about an hour. Everybody else wanted pizza for dinner, but I didn't feel like it, so I had a much more nutritious meal from the convenience store across the street: a sausage roll, a glorious Cadbury confection that was shaped like a star and filled with aerated milk chocolate and ganache, and a Coke Zero.

Later that night, no doubt due to my strange dinner, I dreamed that I was riding a dragon and it set fire to the London Eye. I should watch How to Train Your Dragon again for tips, because apparently mine is a total brat.

(to be continued)