LONDON DAY EIGHT: THE SHOPPING CURSE

On our last day, we really felt the pressure to accomplish some of the things we hadn’t yet. Therefore, we set off to the Borough Market, which was closed the first time we tried, in order to get the infamous grilled cheese sandwich.

And oh, what a sandwich it was. The cook dumped in mounds of cheese into a container, then would take the bread and scoop huge amounts onto it, and press it in a panini type grill. At one point, he would add the combination of red onion and leeks. He eventually wrapped it in tissue paper and handed to us, as our eyes bulged from their sockets. Heart attack on bread.

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We had to take pictures, because that’s the kind of dorks we are. Plus, we wanted to make everyone crave our sandwiches. Success.

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We browsed the market, which is amazing. It’s crowded, but smells and tastes like heaven.

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Luckily, Sandy spotted a Prosecco booth and I was able to take a bubblicious time out.

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Afterward, we hopped on the Tube and arrived at Selfridge’s. Because we like the TV Show, and Jeremy Piven. After purchasing some surprises for my husband, we hopped back on the subway for Harrod’s. There we purchased more surprises and fought through crowds that make the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade look tame. These excursions cost me dearly. Not financially, but mentally. I despise crowds AND shopping, so it was the perfect storm for me to totally lose it. Somehow, I managed to not freak out and Sandy realized the imperative was to get me to the hotel for a drink to calm my nerves. Sandy is very smart.

After a small glass of wine, we decided to knock out one more item on the to-do list and hit Trafalgar Square. Guess what? A million people were there.

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I became punch drunk and decided you all needed this joke.

Guess what?

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Chicken butt.

Sorry.

We ate a scrumptious dinner and retired to our rooms where we began packing for our return trip. Our greatest regret is that we never made it into a museum. Sandy wanted to see the Rosetta Stone. I guess another trip is in the future, with less of the Royal Tour, as Sandy calls it, and more theatre and museums.

We shall return.

Thanks, London. It was incredible!

P.S. We overheard two different women today shout, “S#!t!!” And neither of them was me!!!

Win.

See y’all soon!

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LONDON DAY SIX: WAR AND PEACE

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I’m proud to say we once again braved the Tube and ended up exactly where we were going. Kensington Palace. This was the childhood home of Queen Victoria and the home of William and Mary. Currently, it also plays host to the Fashion Rules exhibit, which traces the history of the clothing worn by Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana.

The presentations are beautifully arranged and when we arrived around 11:30, there was not but a small crowd in the rooms. Following are some of my favorite pieces. All I need is a World War to eliminate bread and sugar from my diet and I might achieve a waist this size as well. If I remove a rib or two.

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Meanwhile, the other rooms are dedicated to two sad stories. One is that of Queen Anne, who lost 17 babies. She finally gave birth to a boy, William, who though rumored to be quite frail, danced and danced at his 11th birthday party. Hours later, he went into a troubled sleep from which he never awoke. Anne was broken hearted and went to her death years later knowing the monarchy would pass into the hands of a distant relative. It landed (after much passing of laws to surpass approximately 50 others) with her second cousin George I. He was 41 when he discovered he was in line for the throne.

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This exhibit was titled Anne’s 18 hopes.

The second tragic story is that of Queen Victoria. She was madly in love with Albert. They were married and had a veritable gaggle of children (9)! Unfortunately, Albert died rather young, at 42, leaving Victoria mourning for the rest of her life. There were even calls for her to abdicate the throne if she couldn’t snap out of it. She wore official mourning until she passed away 40 years later. They appear to be the first royals to be truly in love.

We stepped out of the gloomy story and into the garden where we were nearly blinded by the beautiful flowers. A couple of photos are below.

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After a short trip back to the hotel to catch our breath, we decided to fast forward to World War II. The Churchill War Rooms were a startling look at underground headquarters for the core of the the British Government during WWII. How these people lived and worked, day in and day out without sunlight, without knowledge of what exactly was going on outside, is astonishing. It’s like a land-locked submarine. There were signs announcing the weather. Warm and fine, etc. We became completely enthralled with the history of Churchill and had to rush the last of the War Museum before closing. The map room is on view, complete with a graffiti version of Hitler drawn on one map, and Churchill’s bedroom, where he reportedly spent only three nights, aside from his daily hour long naps that broke up his 18-hour work days.

We may have to return to the gift shops, where I found wartime slogan magnets and posters with helpful hints like, Eat Less Bread. There was also a modern take on the Keep Calm theme that directed, Sod Calm and Get Angry.

Strange. that’s exactly my tourism philosophy.

Meanwhile, strange spottings today: one was apparently what UK buddy, Dave, refers to as a hen party. The other is a look-alike of the week. A muscular Ben Kingsley.

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LONDON DAY FIVE: THE WORLD’S A STAGE

UPDATE 1:

Sorry – I am updating with photos and more details as I get a chance. This is going to be short and sweet. I’ll add details later as it is WAY past my bedtime and we have a huge day tomorrow.

This morning, or more like noonish, we went to Buckingham Palace. State Rooms, Mews, and Gallery. Photography was only allowed outside the palace and in the gallery, so I don’t have a LOT to share, but here are a few. Loved the mews. I intend to travel by carriage from now on. My favorite was the Scottish carriage, although the Aussie version has automatic windows and a heater.

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After fighting our way through the gift shop, (chaos), we grabbed a bite to eat near The Globe and went to see The Tempest. It was absolutely breathtaking! We leaned our sore bodies against the back wall and got swept away. I’d have been even MORE swept away if the 12-year-old boy next to me wasn’t texting and tossing his plastic water bottle up in the air.

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Overall, the day was marked by the fact that Sandy was even more short-tempered than I with other tourists. New candidates for most obnoxious? Russia.

We even managed to find our way back to the Tube and to our hotel without incident. Thanks, Amy and Dave for that!

Cheers!

LONDON DAY TWO: THE TOWER

Sandy and I were tired enough last night to go to sleep in a room that was approximately 80 degrees last night. Not exaggerating. Dave and Amy were expected by 9:30 AM to join us on a trip to The Tower. They were also responsible for deciding what sort of Tube tickets we needed for the week. After purchasing a 6 day Oyster card we made our way to The Tower, where much to our admiration of Rick Steves there was not a line to enter. Apparently being first or last to enter is the primo goal. Amy was in charge of the map, and our first destination was the Tower Jewels. Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed, so I have no photos of the crowns,p acceptors, swords and orbs that had us bouncing up and down on or toes and Dave requesting that Amy not hold up her engagement ring/ wedding and to make a comparison. This was sage advice as some of the stones were 150 carats. What we wanted to know sort was how much some of these items weighed. We finally came across a plaque that told us one of the crowns weighed 5 lbs.

After our first trek down the living sidewalk past the jewels, Amy pulled aside a Beefeater who explained which crowns were used for what to this day and which crowns Charles and Camilla would wear. We were relieved to hear the crown for the Princess of Wales was actually kept in Wales, and that out of respect, Camilla would not wear it. After breathing a sigh of relief, we made the circle and went past the jewels again as Amy recited all her new found information.

We visited the Torture chamber, the Salt Tower and the gift shop, of course. Amy was a game hostess and posed for us in several of the displays.

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We hopped onto the tail end of a Beefeater tour and entered the chapel, where seated on the pews, we heard the tragic stories of Lady Jane Grey, Anne Boleyn, and Catherine Howard, all of whom were beheaded and buried under the alter of the chapel. Once back outside, I approached the green, where the executions took place, and photographed the memorial. By some miracle, everyone moved out of my way and I snapped a shot, but you’ll notice a pair of pink tennis shoes in the frame. I prefer to think that was a playful symbol of Lady Jane, executed at age 16 and Queen for 9 days.

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We skipped the White Tower in lieu of a cheeseburger along the South Bank, but will definitely try to return later this week.

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After lunch, we made our way across Tower Bridge and back the The Tube to locate Fortnum & Mason, where we had reservations for tea, thanks to Amy. We shopped a bit and picked up some souvenirs, tried on some fascinators, and then went to tea, realizing we should not have eaten so much at lunch.

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Tea lasted about 2.5 hours. The host became our friend the moment the cameras came out to photograph everything. “Is this your first visit here?” Christopher asked. “What gave us away?” The camera laden Amy and Sandy asked.

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After tea, we walked through St. James park back to the hotel for a quick refresher and on to the local pub. (Many of which were closed on Saturday night because we are in somewhat of a diplomatic district.)

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We finally found The Sanctuary open and piled into a booth to enjoy a pint or two before returning to the hotel it’s a promise to meet in the owning, but it too early. We have plans to find the Borough market and attain cheese sandwiches by noon. A worthy goal, in my mind.

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While we were gone, housekeeping noticed the sweltering condition of our room, which led me to believe I was having constant hot flashes. The situation has been corrected and we now sleep in a refrigerator. Sandy says she will not adjust the thermostat, even if she has to buy a cost and hat. Freezing is preferred to our humid sleep of last night.

Thanks to our companions today, it feels as though we are quite at home here. Instead of a frustrating day of finding our way around, it was quite leisurely and the company was just what one would wish. We are quite lucky, I dare say, to have Amy and Dave willing accomplices to our escape.

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