London Sun Dec 2 - Day 2

Trip Start Nov 30, 2012
Trip End Jan 31, 2013

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fiona's Comments:
I booked our apartment through a website - owners who rent out their apartments - and it is in a fantastic location. Two double bedrooms, a natty little kitchen, lounge/dining room, two bathrooms and a shower we just can't get to work. Apartment is super close to the Southwark Bridge and about a 2 min walk to the Thames. Our place, we discovered, when emptying the rubbish, is built on the original Globe Theatre site. Excavations at some time in the last couple of hundred years revealed timbers and foundations.This first theatre burnt down when a firework used in a play landed in the theatre's thatched roof and that was that. Our apartment is also next door to the Financial Times.

Everyone was up bright and early - maybe not so bright but definitely early. So at about 8am we were all sitting at the table eating breakfast when a window washer just appeared on our balcony outside and started to stoically wash the windows and ignoring us as we ate brekkie. We were only about 1 metre apart. I offered him a cup of tea but he just kept washing windows.

We are very close to London Bridge so we headed in that direction when we all emerged blearily from the apartment. On the way we passed a mediaeval stone rose which belonged to a church and is all that remained of the church. We also passed Drake's boat in a dry dock and the glorious Sothwark Cathedral with bells pealing on our crisp wintery Sunday morning. Next door to the Cathedral is the borrough market which is an artisans' market.

Nik tried oysters followed by mincemeat tart, apple strudel and a hot chocolate (and was not sick from that combo). Sof had a bread cheesestick, Bella bought homemade turkish delight, Zed was in seventh heaven with a wild boar sausage, sauerkraut and relishes and I discovered amazing stollen which they sold by the slice.

The Bulgarian stollen creator couldn't speak English but showed me her ipod with the recipe which included a roll of of marzipan in the stollen. So when the stollen was sliced there was a slice of marzipan as well - it was really good.

We found the London Bridge underground station and made our way to Knightsbridge - again - and emerged at the entrance to Harrods. The place was psychotic. A couple of musicians just outside the doors playing reggae, people streaming up the stairs from the underground and then funnelling through the doors of Harrods. Inside was just packed. We muddled through different departments - the chocolate department, smallgoods department and grocery section. There's beautiful old tiles and hand painted script on the walls and the food displays were stunning - it was just so packed and really hard to move around.

We went to buy an English pork pie and were told that we couldn't buy it yet. We could take it but the tills didn't open until midday - the 6 hour Sunday trading rule. So Harrods had been open since 10 with people walking around with what they wanted to buy and then at 12 we all got to queue at registers to buy our goods. We tried on 600GBP Russian styled hats and 220 GBP woollen gloves, wandered through the jewellery area and into a section featuring the theme of Disney jewellery created by Choppard.

There was a braclet designed to look like Ariel the Mermaid's tail and it actually shimmered. Just glorious. Watches at 60,000GBP a piece, drop pearl earrings wth diamonds - all just magical. I really don't like shopping and crowds so my tolerance level was getting a bit tetchy and I started corraling everyone out of Harrods. It was great to muddle through Harrods and I told the kids that possiby if we came back on a workday it might not be as hectic (alas we didn't get back to Harrods).

We emerged from Harrods gasping fresh breaths of air (not really but just dramtically emphasising how crowded it was). Zed and Nik zipped off across the road to get sim cards. Our phones on global roaming are not working so we need to get local sim cards. We can't even check our Aussie phone number messages as we can't access them - ugh. I took the girls into Gap which had a sale and they got hats, scarves and gloves.

Nik also hates shopping so when he and Zed joined us, he decided to amuse himself by pretending to be a mannequin. Whilst Nik was mannequinning (cringeworthy word I know), a very funny lady walked up towards Nik to check the clothes on display next to him and went 'Boo' to Nik which made him jump then she and he laughed. Very good.

After Knightsbridge, we made our way to Madam Tussaud's. I had bought tickets online so we just scooted through the ticket area. What to say about Madam Tussauds. It was so much fun and my kids' delight at being hams was well and truly nurtured.

The first section was all movie stars so we all hammed it up with George Clooney, Brangelina, JLo, The Elf (Orlando Bloom), short little Tom Cruise, Patrick Stewart, Nicole, Miley etc. It was so much fun and the kids kept posing and calling out Dad Dad Dad Mum, Mum, Mum get my picture. It was hectic. There was then an Andy Warhol room, followed by a movies room with ET, Sherlock Homes, Audrey from Breakfast at Tiffany's, Shrek, James Bond, Terminator. Terminator was followed by sporting heroes then the Royal Family and we all daggily got a family photo with them.

Singers and politicians followed - including the unusual mix of London mayor, Boris Johnson with Hilary Clinton and Russia's Putin. I think Putin would have been more impressive had he been flanked by women with coloured scarves covering their faces.

Somewhere around Barack Obama I asked Zed something and he was quite curt in his reply. I told him not to snap and he tiredly looked at me and said 'Fee I have been snapping for the last two hours.' which made me burst out laughing.

Photographing the kids had been exhausting - two of us, three of them and we just couldn't be everywhere at once. I then lost everyone (not on purpose) and went through the room of killers on my own. It was all too creepy and I didn't pay too much attention. I still hadn't found everyone so I went through the Hall of Screams with two Indian guys.

The Hall of Screams was a combination of wax figures and ghoulish human characters. The Indian guys ended up being more scared than I was and tried to get away by taking a service door. One of the scary humans in the Hall of Screams stopped being scary and directed us all back out of the service corridor and into the Hall of Screams. I then had to lead with the guys following me and none of us enjoying it.

There was then a cute little train ride called the London experience so we rode past various scenes of London life including Dickens` world complete with the rank smells of that time. Finally I left the train and found my lot waiting with their 3D glasses to go into the 4D movie experience. Inspired by all the wax models, Nik decided to pose again in a corridor with no other wax figures.

I had ducked into the loos and then all of sudden I heard screams then laughter and just thought 'Nik'!!! Of course, it was him. A group of tourists had come up to him wondering which wax figure he was when Nik smiled and the women all screamed (then laughed). Success! so he tried it again.

Luckily he was wearing the 3D glasses as the next lot of victims went to poke him in the eyes to see if he was real or wax.The 4D movie experience included wonderful sensations such as water squirting on our legs and air blowing on our necks. Lovely. I think that was the end of MT other than running the gauntlet of the gift shop.

It was the end of the day so the crowds had certainly dropped off. I cannot even begin to imagine how crazy London would be during summer. Walking around in winter is busy, bustling and super crowded.

When we emerged from MT it was dark and only 5pm ish. We made our way to Hyde Park via a DOUBLE DECKER BUS. Yippee.

We all jumped on at the side door, the bus started to go and then just stopped. The driver said something unitelligible on the intercom so we all froze and looked around at who he might be talking to. We started to walk up the stairs and the intercom blared again. We all froze and looked around like meerkats bobbing their heads up.

We started walking again, more intercom and finally I thought he must be talking to us. I went up to the front and he told me how we had to get on only at the front of the bus. Showed him our tickets and then slunk upstairs - only for us then to all get off a short while later. I think we spent more time on the bus being yelled at than actually being passengers. Yes the travelling circus works its way around the country.

Our destination was Hyde Park Corner. Every year, a part of the park is converted into 'Hyde Park Winter Wonderland'. More like the Hyde Park Moshpit. Obviously the marketing had done its job well as all of London had decided to visit Winter Wonderland.

Winter Wonderland promised a German Christmas market, ice sculptures, Christmas circus (as opposed to the everyday kind I encounter with my family), Christmas rides and loads of fun and wonder. London shuffled along to the entrance of Winter Wonderland to be greeted by an inflated, not so friendly looking Santa booming out some Christmas greeting.

We shuffled past the quaint Christmas market stalls arguing about what to eat, where to eat and who wanted to eat. It was all too much. We had to leave the merriment of the crowds so we found an escape route and made our way to the tube station to discover it had been closed down. We didn't have a clue where to go so we went across the road and took photos of the Lady Bodacea statue.

We ambled across another road to rows of double decker buses whose sheer existence gave us hope. Of course none of them were going in our direction. More ambling, more arguing and we ended up on another double decker bus - one stop on and it terminated.

Continuing with our ambling and arguing we ended up at Maccas for our first lot of food after breakfast so long ago. My map app wasn't working, we didn't know where we were or how to get home so we got another taxi and that was the end of Day 2 in London.

Zoran Comments:

Madam Tussauds is highly recommended.  If you go to London check this place out.  As Fi explained, the kids will enjoy it a lot but there are also some educational advantages.  There will be people they don't recognise (e.g. Nelson Mandella) and their questions about these people allow them to learn something new.

Taking yet another cab seemed necessary at the time but I have since learned that the Google maps app on the phone will give you specific instructions on how to get from where you currently are to wherever else you want to be.  For example if you want to take a bus it will say "take bus number 723 to stop xyz, get off there and wait for the 445 bus, this bus will take you to stop abc where you can get off and walk to your destination" - absolutely wonderful technology.
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