Happy New Year (London Edition)!

Trip Start Dec 27, 2011
Trip End Jan 11, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Saturday, December 31, 2011

Today was New Year's Eve, so we got to sleep in a little as a holiday present. We met at 11AM after breakfast to leave for a tour of Whitehall. To get there, we took the Picadilly Line to Leicester Square. On the way we saw quite a few interesting things. We passed the National Portrait Gallery and as we walked to Trafalgar Square. In Trafalgar Square, there were a number of entertaining stories that Dean Faught had to tell us. For example, the statute of Edward the III was commissioned by him because he knew that people hated him and would not commission one for him after his death. Unlike many of the statutes on Trafalgar Square, his is not electrified (which makes a perfect resting spot for pigeons). Also, there is a statute of Charles I looking down the street to the place where he was executed.

We headed down Whitehall Street, which is where the royals used to live and play. We saw the building where the Scotland Yard was started (they are no longer housed in the building on Whitehall). We stopped by the guard house to take pictures with the horses and look at the banquet hall across the street where Charles I was executed. Apparently, they took one of the windows out and built a huge scaffolding. The executioner who was supposed to conduct the proceedings didn't show up (because he was presumably a little leery about executing a monarch), so they had to wake someone else up to do the job. During the reign of the fun monarchs, Shakespeare performed a number of his works for the first time in the hall. 

We headed further down Whitehall, passed No. 10 Downing Street (where the Prime Minister lives), passed the monument for women in WWII, and paused near Westminster. We did a quick point and tell about Westminster Hall, Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret's, and the statute of Abe Lincoln. Abe is a replica of one we had in Lincoln Park, and he sits right outside the Supreme Court building which used to be the place where people could claim sanctuary from Westminster Abbey. I am planning to go back to both the Abbey and St. Margaret's. Apparently the window in St. Margaret's (which you cannot see from the outside) was a gift from Ferdinand and Isabella to England as a gift for the wedding of Katherine of Aragon to Henry VIII's brother. Unfortunately, it was 20 years late and Katherine had married King VII who was, at the time, seeking a divorce. Another interesting point is that the bust of Charles I is facing the statute of Oliver Cromwell across the street (they did not get along). 

We had lunch at a bagel shop (which was very boring and weird) across the Thames. After lunch, Katie and I headed to Harrod's Department Store....that was an awful idea. Outside, there were fur protestors who were convinced that Harrod's was selling illegal furs and had very graphic material to prove it. Despite the great deals, the store was packed (a lot of obvious Indian shop owners were running around with huge stacks of perfume). We gave up rather quickly, but waited because Justine was supposed to meet us. As we were leaving, we ran into her and we all caught the tube back to the Goodenough Club to get ready for the evening festivities. 

We took the Picadilly Line to Green Park, where we got off and started walking. Green Park is supposedly named because Charles II's wife commissioned the gardeners to destroy all of the flowers so that Charles couldn't pick them for his mistresses (as Green Park was a favorite place to bring them for some "knightly skills" practice). We passed the Spencer house (the home of Princess Diana's family. A quick detour through a fenced in part of the neighborhood took us to St. James Palace (where William and Harry live). While we were taking pictures, a young man in a tuxedo jacket and shirt paired with plaid bottoms got out of a cab. I wanted to go to whatever party he was going to (it looked like it was going to be sweet). 

We continued walking passed Buckingham Palace (we paused briefly to take a picture of the balcony where the first kiss was) and to a pub called Westminster Arms. It was not very crowded when we got there, so we got the basement to ourselves for a while until the locals started showing up. The owner didn't recognize Dean Faught and he was giving us a hard time, but when his wife showed him that Dean Faught had brought Loyola pens, all was well (they love the pens here). A man from the US Army stationed in Germany kept talking to us because he was "grateful to finally meet someone who speaks English" (although I am not sure why since the entire country speaks English). He was supplying free beer for a while, which made it better (even though I ended up having to pay for one of his through a very bad turn of events). Around 1130PM, we all went to the bathroom (we made friends because the queue was so long for the women's bathroom...some girl told us she was pregnant to get to the front of the line) and headed out to look over Big Ben. 

Midnight at Big Ben was awesome. We had a champagne toast and kazoos (curtesy of Dean Jean). After eleven minutes of fireworks, we walked back toward the Goodenough Club. We stopped from roadies at a bar about halfway back. John Tingle wanted to show me a hat shop he worked for that was up on the corner. Unfortunately for me, there was only a hat shop four blocks away (that wasn't the one he worked for), and by that time, the group was gone. I never got to see the one he did work for, and I was stuck with him for two hours. I didn't get home until 3:45. We just talked about a lot of things at a bar (politics, law, his work (again), Berlin, travel), but it was really awkward when he told me he really wished he could offer me some coffee back at his room. Ick. I kept saying that Katie would be worried about me, to which he responded, "She's fine."
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