Look kids Big Ben, Parliament!
Trip Start Sep 23, 2009
12Trip End Oct 04, 2009
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We got in late on Sat night and did not feel up to blogging so we decided to write Saturday's blog on Sunday along with Sunday's since we knew Sunday would be mostly uneventful. Then, Mike got pretty sick on Sunday and Sunday night was a rough night with fever, etc so we are writing all three on Monday. So please feel free to comment on each of the posts as if they were separate days.
Sat morning started off with free breakfast again followed by a ride on the tube (London underground) to our first stop of the day which was Millennium Bridge.
We strolled across the bridge and took some pictures while we were waiting for St Paul's Cathedral to open at 8:30am.
Words can't describe how ornate and over the top this church was. Everything was done to the fullest and lined with gold. They must have sunk 100s of millions into this church. Really makes you question why there is a collection jar on your way out, especially since you already had to pay admission. Regardless, the church was beautiful. They don't allow pictures so you will have to use your imagination. Of course, Harmony was never one to let pesky rules get in her way so she snapped some sneaky pics.
We got to hike up to each level of the church and eventually ended up 350 feet above the ground. That's 35 stories!
It equated to almost 1000 stairs total and this was just the morning! To top that these stairs were in these little winding stone hallways that were very stuffy.
Needless to say Harmony and I felt very "French" by the end of St Paul's. Ironically, there was a sign upon exiting that said "We hope that you leave the Cathedral inspired and refreshed". We were far from refreshed and the only thing we felt inspired to do was take a shower........or move on to the next stop!
The next stop was the famed Tower of London. Google it to learn more. This was the one attraction Harmony was looking forward to the most because she has a morbid fascination with dead people and how they die. Coincidentally, they chopped off 1500 heads at this place so she was in her element.
We had a great tour by a Yeoman Warder who was hysterical.
The old castle/fort is huge and is in great shape for being so old. We had lunch on the Thames River right under the Tower Bridge which was simply amazing.
We went back in to see the King Henry VIII battle armor display and then left to see some more sights.
We jumped on the tube and headed to the Temple Church from The DaVinci Code. Unfortunately it was closed so we couldn't see the Knights of the Round Table but we got some nice shots on the outside.
Now is a good time to mention how amazing the tube is. It is extremely efficient, clean, and very easy to navigate. NY city could learn so much from just the tube alone, let alone the rest of the city.
Next we headed to the area of Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey since they are all on top of each other. What an amazing set of architectural pieces there are on this block. Big Ben is awesome and very loud.
The Houses of Parliament are so much more ornate then we expected. We actually mistook them for Westminster Abbey at first.
Then we actually found Westminster Abbey and were even more in awe. We did not get a chance to go into the church but the outside was absolutely amazing. The amount of detail was unreal. We took a break here and just lay in the grass outside the church soaking up the sun.
Then we decided to walk through St James Park to get to Buckingham Palace. This park was amazing and had so much wildlife. Mike had a chance to feed squirrels and birds from his hand which he never passes on when given the opportunity.
Neither of us were too impressed with Buckingham Palace.
We were more impressed with the gardens and the fountain outside of it. We did not see the changing of the guards as we weren't there in the morning and did not feel like getting there 2 hours early. Besides, we saw the changing of the guards at Windsor Castle and thought that would be sufficient.
It was at this point we were feeling adventurous and decided to walk to a pub we had read about. Mike did not want to leave London without experiencing a London pub and Harmony decided to give it a shot. It was hard to find but, when we found it, we immediately fell in love. It was called the Nag's Head Pub in Belgravia London. This place was amazing. It was small but the pub owner greeted us and allowed us to go downstairs to the "dining room" which consisted of 3 tiny tables and one larger one. Most people were sitting outside. Come to find out London passed a law last year that bans people from smoking in bars and restaurants. Now everyone sits outside since everyone smokes! So the owner kept coming down and taking more stools out to put outside. We were down there with only two other guys but we loved it! The whole place was decked out with very old pictures and antiques. We had no idea what to drink so the pub owner recommended Adnams Bitter beer.
Mike finished his pint and half of Harmony's since she didn't want all of hers. We decided to order classic pub food too.
Harmony had bangers and mash and Mike had shepherd's pie.
Both were absolutely amazing and only 7 pounds 50 pence which is unheard of for London food, especially food that good. We somehow managed again to have dinner in London including beers for just about 20 pounds.
It is at this point where we should have quit while we were ahead. Our plan was to eat here, jump on the tube and head back to our room by 9pm to get packed for the next day. Unfortunately, Harmony really wanted to try sticky toffee pudding and read about a restaurant that had it 1.5 miles away. She also read that the same park we walked through in the day would be nice at night since you would see Big Ben and Parliament lit up in the background. Well, curse whatever blasted book she read this in. Let's start with the nice walk. 15 minutes in and we hadn't quite entered the park yet. Now, those of you who know Mike know that his bladder can only fit about a pint in it. Well, thanks to Harmony's extra half pint, we were 50% overloaded and quickly reaching defcon 5. Also, our only complaint of London seemed to be literally a complete lack of public restrooms or trash cans (despite the very clean streets on both accounts). The day before we spotted one of the infamous pay toilets in London and laughed. Well, it's at this point where Mike was begging for one of these and would have gladly paid 20 pounds for one. So we start our "stroll" through the park and quickly realize it is pitch dark with no lights whatsoever. On top of that, Mike isn't really strolling, he is beginning his lifelong quest for a precious loo and sweet relief. It is at this point that Mike is very glad to have his knife with him. You know the saying "the freaks come out at night"? It's true in London's very dark parks. Who knows what these people were doing. You know what is even more ironic? There is a saying in England when someone has to pee, they are "busting for a slash". Well, with Mike's critical rupture point while holding a knife surrounded by crack heads, that saying took on more than one meaning! We then come upon an oasis in the park. It was a very fine dining restaurant in the middle of the park with patrons eating there. Hallelujah! Naturally, they don't allow Mike to use the bathroom there but politely guide him up and around the corner to the public toilets he desires. 1/4 of a mile later and we finally find them. At last right? Wrong, they are totally padlocked. The ass clown at the restaurant forgot to mention this. We figured it was an honest mistake. Another peaceful half mile of tweakers twitching in the darkness and Mike slewing swear words in both English and British and we finally escape the park. We finally see a sign that points to the underground and the public toilets. We go down, around, up, down, circling, and back up to find nothing. Some lady says go back down and then up and they are behind a fountain. We do this, find the fountain, and find nothing resembling a bathroom behind the fountain save the fountain itself which was insanely tempting if it is wasn't for Harmony keeping Mike in his non-barbarian state of mind. A solid hour after the quest we find a public restroom at Trafalgar Square in the middle of an Islamic EID festival. Yes Mark, Mike had to pee that bad!!!! OK, so now we set off for the elusive sticky toffee pudding. We find the restaurant 1/2 mile later and they say "you want to order the pudding to go? I'm sorry, that makes no sense to us, what would you carry the pudding in?". !#%!#%!#!@#@!#@#%!#%^!#$# You freaking Londoners have never heard of take out containers, doggy bags, etc? WTF? Screw it. We are done. We had an awesome day ending at the pub. We will rent one of the Men In Black devices to erase our memory right after we were walking out of the pub......
-Mike and Harmony
Where I stayed