When we woke up Wednesday morning Todd opened our blackout shades to find that it was quite misty out - normal London weather. Todd has been wanting black out shades in our own bedroom for a while now, but I think they are ugly. He really liked that they had them in the hotel.
We really wanted to go to this place Raison D’Etre for breakfast, so we tubed out to that area just for breakfast.
A shot of some tube station hustle and bustle.
A fat pigeon on the walk. Though not the fattest by any means.
That morning while waiting on the train to arrive I noted how much I like the gust of air that the train pushes ahead of it, that lets you know it is surely on its way. And I found it quite funny to spot people sleeping on the tube. Since we traveled early this day, there were lots of little school children on the tube and I thought that was the cutest thing. I very much enjoyed seeing all the little uniformed children walking about the city and riding the tube. Especially since not so many schools wear uniforms here where we live – but in Mobile even public schools wear uniforms! Maybe I’ve missed them.
Raison D’Etre is a very small place that serves fresh pastries and sandwiches on fresh baked breads. There was a very nice French man who owns/runs the place. He was talkative, asking us where we were from and then describing a friend he had made that was a native Alabamian, but had since moved away. The place was playing funny honky tonk sounding versions of songs like ‘Walk This Way’ and ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, and then moved into a Moby set. I felt right at home haha. I ordered a coffee and a fresh croissant with jam, and Todd had a Cafe Mocha with a Nutella croissant that looked very good. We tried and tried to get back for lunch one day for a sandwich, but it never worked out and I was sad about that. NEXT TIME! I again said ‘y’all’ here and was met with dead eyes.
This car was parked outside of the eatery, and I wanted it so bad! If I were a rich woman I would have bought it on the spot.
From there we left for The British Library. Unbeknownst to me, we were going through Kings Cross station to get to the library. I had planned a special trip for another morning to pop by this station, so that I could see Platform 9 3/4, so since we were there anyway we went ahead and made that pitstop. There was also a platform 9 3/4 store and we spent some time there where I bought myself a Gryffindor house pin and enjoyed looked up close at the detail in all of the different wands. For anyone lost in this part of the post – this platform 9 3/4 bit is Harry Potter related – so don’t worry about it.
I’m pretty sure that the platform used to just be there for people to come see, and then there were a lot of crowds that would come so they started setting up this little line with people there to help. They take a picture of you that you can purchase if you wish, but you can take your own pictures as well. I had seen other peoples photos at the platform before we left for the trip, and realized that with the odd way you have to look back over your shoulder, some outfits werent very flattering for the photo. So I had been thoughtful about that when packing my outfit for the day we were going to Kings Cross. But…then this hapened and we were there anyway so I said ‘Whatever’! I knew this outfit wouldnt be very good for the picture with the big sweater, but I rationalized that I’m just wearing my wizards robes.
The British Library is the national library of the U.K., and it is a major research library. There is an area in the library called the Sir John Ritblat Gallery which contains some very old books and manuscripts on display. Some handwritten letters from people such as Charles Darwin and handwritten lyrics from various members of The Beatles are included. There is a whole room here devoted to the Magna Carta. We were not allowed to take any photographs in the gallery! This is the permanent exhibit, but they have others that change. There was one at the time that was an exhibit on childrens book illustration, that I was dying to take a peek at. I just knew that there would be some Roald Dahl gems, but the exhibit was closed because they were doing some work in there.
The library founders.
All morning there had been a misty rain, that wasnt worth pulling out an umbrella, but was an annoyance none the less. We walked through the mist to St.Pancras station -
-where we tubed towards Spitalfields Market.
There are plenty of different markets to choose from in London, and going to the markets was something that we were both excited about. Spitalfields Market had actual stores and restaurants lining the outside edges, and mostly sold clothes, with a couple of used book stalls and a record/rock memorabilia man. We had lunch there at Square Pie. A traditional English dish is meat pies. I had lamb and rosemary pie with mashed potatoes and traditional mushy peas – with gravy on top. Todd had something with mushrooms in it blech. This lunch was scrumptious! It was like a cafeteria line – you tell them which pie and which sides and they put it in a box and you are good to go.
I could go for another meal like that.
From there we walked to Tower London. Though no one has lived there in a very long time, the Tower of London is considered a Royal Palace and Fortress. It is right on the River Thames. We took the Beefeaters tour. This was a stop that we contemplated not doing at all, or doing on our own. At the last minute we decided to take the Beefeater Tour, and I am glad that we did! The correct term for a Beefeater is a Yeoman Warder (or to be even more proper -Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary. They are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. To quote Wikipedia “ In principle they are responsible for looking after any prisoners in the Tower and safeguarding the British crown jewels, but in practice they act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction in their own right, a point the Yeoman Warders acknowledge.” I learned that in order to be a Beefeater, one must be a retired officer from the armed forces with at least 22 years of service under their belts. Also, they live inside the tower walls! I suggest that everyone go read about the Tower of London and or the beefeaters on your own because there is so much history there, writing it in this blog post would make for a novel. Prisoners were held here, and there was a lot of torture and death sentences carried out nearby on Tower Hill. The Beefeater that leads the tour tells plenty of stories of royal crimes and deaths, which is kind of the point of this particular tour. Our Beefeater was named Bob and he was a funny guy! I liked him! When we were walking in there were several beef eaters milling about, and I saw one that stuck out to me. I told Todd “I hope we get that Beefeater.” And we did! It was Bob!
A shot of the hustle and bustle of the city as we approached Tower Bridge and Tower of London.
In the photo above we were standing in the old moat. The Beefeater talked about how everyone that lived in the tower threw their poo out into the moat and how bad it must have smelled. While we were standing there. And then he dissed France by saying how the moat went out into the Thames which flows to France. He made several diss jokes towards France.
Bell Tower. They would ring the bell to announce to the community that someone was soon to be executed.
Traitors Tower. This is where they would bring in a lot of the people who were considered traitors to the crown. But as Bob was talking I was just thinking ‘look at that beautiful wood and brick detail.’
Here is Bob! And then the guard that was at the gate posing with me.
View of Tower Bridge from inside.
Living Quarters inside the walls.
The end of the Beefeater tour was in a chapel where there were about a gazillion dead bodies buried underneath the floors. So many that at one time the floor wouldnt stay solid and kind of caved in. Queen Victoria had the bodies buried more carefully and the floors redone. We were not allowed to take photos inside the chapel. As we wandered out of the chapel we noticed some commotion. It was these guys!
Little did I know, but they keep guards outside of the building where the crown jewels are stored. The minute Todd reminded me of this I thought ‘DUH!’ While this isnt the same change of guards that you see outside of Buckingham Palace, I enjoyed this much better! The difference here is the show in front of the palace is actually a changing of the regiments, not just the guard. So there is a lot more fanfare, there is a band and everything. But the actual guards change out every two hours, within their regiment. That is what was happening here. We were five feet away from the change it was awesome to see close up! The gigantic guns are scary though.
One of the towers 8 Ravens. These birds are really big, I wish there were something near the bird for scale.
They keep royal armor displayed in the tower. Even way back in the day they did. They would have big parties and viewing these pieces was a thrill for all sorts of foreign diplomats.
King Henry VIII had an interesting piece there on the nether region area.
At one time, long ago, they had these faces made and put behind the helmets. I thought this one of Henry VIII was pretty funny.
This is the royal crest that is all over everything in London. It has a lion on one side and a UNICORN on the other….
Just outside of the tower is a great view of Tower Bridge. This is the bridge that a lot of people mistakenly refer to as ‘London Bridge’ – but its not! There will be a picture of London bridge in another post. It is nothing like this bridge, not fancy at all, but I wanted you guys to be able to see whats what!
Here we are in front of Tower Bridge. I like how by accident in the bottom right corner of the picture of me is the word ‘Life’. As an aside, when we were packing I was explaning that I was making room in my camera bag for two cameras, because I wanted to be able to easily pick up my zoom or my wide angle and not have to worry about switching lenses. Todd objected saying it would be too heavy. I stuck to my guns! I’m glad I did because most of our images are from the wide angle. I mean – we were going to monument after monument – you kind of HAVE to have a wide angle.
Here is a view down the other end, with our backs to the bridge. You can see that tallest building – that is The Shard. It is an 87 sotry skyscraper. It is the tallest building in the European Union.
We passed the Tower Hill Memorial on the way to the tube station and I wanted to stop and look. There are memorials everywhere you can look over there! The Tower HIll Memorial is a national war memorial. It commemorates merchant navy men and fisherman who last their lives during WWI and WWII.
After our tour ended we tubed to Harrods department store.
It is an ‘upmarket’ department store, which means I would not be able to purchase any handbag or piece of clothing in the joint. No way. Way too expensive. Harrods is 5 acres! There are 330 departments!! Harrods boasted Englands first escalator in the 1800s. They Fayed brothers used to own Harrods – they are egyptian businessmen, there are supposedly some pretty extravagant escalators decked out with sphinx and egyptian decor. One of their sons was Princess Dianas boyfriend. You may recall his name – Dodi Al Fayed – because he is who was killed alongside Diana in the car accident. There are two memorials to Diana and Dodi in Harrods. I wanted to see the escalator, memorials, the toy department, and the FOOD HALL. They are world famous for their extravagant food hall. It was very crowded, and I didnt take any pictures inside the food halls! We found the toy deparment which was unbelievable. $1,000 7 foot stuffed giraffe anyone? Or how about a whole menagerie? Motorized Ferrari? $1,000 toy pram for your baby doll? The lego section had this neat tower bridge.
And a huge Harrods doorman made from Legos.
Let me tell you. I did not much like Harrods. It was so large and sprawling, that I couldn’t find the egyptian staircase or either memorial!! There weren’t even maps anywhere! It was a big confusing mess. You had to walk through departments to get to other departments, with out markings telling you there was anything at the end of that department. The only reason I figured this out was from wandering around. But this was the only way to get to the departments, to wander through another. Kind of like in a old shotgun house, where you may have to walk through someone bedroom to get to another room because they are stacked behind each other. It only made both of us frustrated and annoyed. We did enjoy looking at all of the food in the food halls, and buying some! We bought some apple and chili jelly, some mint sauce, and some teas to bring home. We were planning on eating dinner from the food halls, but with all of this amazing food you could order, there was no where to sit down to eat it! It was ridiculous. We bought some baklava for Todd. I bought some chocolate covered dates because I was curious, I had never had them. Chocolate covered dates are now my new jam. They were delicious and I wish I had some right this second. We bought a few brownies to share. I think the chocolate brownie was the best brownie I had ever eaten. All of those treats we took with us and ate over the week. Honestly we skipped breakfast most days, and had a few bites of treats before heading out the door. WHAT?! We were on vacation – shut up!
We bussed back to the hotel to put our bags of souvenirs away.
For dinner we decided this would be our night for Indian food. We had to get Indian food while we were there. Why you ask? Over there, there are a lot of Indians, therefor a lot of good Indian restaurants. You know how in the states we have a lot of Latino folks – well they have a lot of Indian folks. I had never eaten Indian food before. We didnt know exactly what to order, so we selected a choice wherein they pick your food for you. They bring out an appetizer and then main course. The appetizer I remember was a sausage, and some kind of fried potatoey thingy that was delicious, a little salad, and something else. The main course was naan, chicken masala, and lamb curry. And there was some spinach potato dish. They come out in big dishes and you eat family style. I liked it! The staff was rude though. They got pretty snappy with the table next to us – “Um, food takes time to cook!” The lady at the table on the other side of us wasnt quite sure what to order. She tried to ask the server for suggestions and he was very short with her and rude again. She ended up saying – just pick my food for me. This is the night that Todd really realized that they do not refill your beverage unless you specifically ask them to in a lot of places.