Bus Tour (Nathan)

Trip Start Sep 03, 2010
Trip End Oct 27, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quick Note: I somehow screwed up the dates without realizing it until now- the Salisbury Cathedral and British Museum were both on the 23rd! So if the dates seem shifted around, it's because I've attempted to fix it as much as possible. Also, we're leaving Paris tomorrow, headed for Germany, and the place we're staying has no internet, so I may not be able to update for a couple days, depending on whether we can find a pub or something with wifi. Sorry I'm so far behind! We've been really busy. I miss you all and I've been thinking of you lately a lot.

So, I apparently forgot about it, but on one of the previous days (probably the same as the Natural History Museum) we also visited the National Gallery! No photography was allowed, but it was a fantastic art gallery with some really spectacular paintings. I liked the 16th, 17th and 18th century ones best- everything before that was ultra-religious and full of flat, weird, lifeless figures. The paintings I liked were still mostly religious in theme, but they at least made it interesting, portraying people with actual expressions and more subtle symbolism, as well as a much richer selection of colors and incredible detail. I usually prefer science-oriented museums to art museums, but I can appreciate art if it's interesting and moving, and the National Gallery provided plenty of that.

Anyway, on the 27th we took a bus tour of London! We didn't actually spend a lot of time on the bus, using it mainly to get between places we wanted to go, but when we were on it there was usually a guide talking about stuff as we drove by. The first one was incredibly melodramatic and a little hard to understand. He was really, REALLY into his job and when we drove by landmarks he would say stuff like: "And it was here... that poor young Lady Jane Grey, only 16 years of age, was ordered to DEATH in that very courtyard. OFF... WITH HER HEAD!!" He had this awesome deep British historian voice, which made it even better. Every time he spoke, I had to force myself not to start giggling. Glennica thought he was awful.

We revisited Picadilly Circus, and mostly wandered around browsing the shops, sort of taking a break from galleries and museums for a day. We found Hamleys, a 7 storey toy store, but it was pretty disappointing... almost everything was licensed stuff based on cartoon shows, with little in the way of traditional toys. Glennica bought a Pac-Man stress ball, but I haven't seen her using it yet. We later took the tour bus to Harrod's, which Glennica wanted to visit. I'd never heard of it before, but apparently it's a department store that sells just about everything. It was very ritzy and high-class; but true to its word, even I found a couple things to buy, though they were souvenirs for friends rather than anything for myself. There were things like life-size stuffed toy rhinos, reversible girls' dresses that could be reconfigured into 80 different outfits, furniture and electronics, a massive perfume section, and of course tons and tons of women's clothing. But the most interesting part was the food market, a sort of surreal underground complex like a cross between an outdoor market, a supermarket and a mall. There was a room for meat, a room for dairy, a room for fresh produce, a room for chocolate, and a separate room for sweets (which in Britain are distinct from chocolate, I guess) which had candy and a Krispy Kreme. This was (and so far, still is) the only significant selection of Halloween items I'd seen since the underground Kmart in New York, with gourmet stuff like life-size chocolate jack-o-lanterns and adorable little ghost marshmallows. It was a fun bit of window-shopping.

After that we went to Harvey Nichols, which was another large, nearby department store, as well as the name of a British professor I had in college. We didn't really look at anything but the food section, and there was another Yo! Sushi up on the top floor, but Glennica said the food there didn't look fresh like it did at the one by the London Eye, so we decided to go to the one across the street from Harrod's (these places were everywhere in London). That one had bowls stacked up on the counter as though they hadn't been cleared off for three hours and when we came in they completely ignored us for five minutes, then told us they were having problems and couldn't serve us for ten minutes. Glennica was pretty pissed, and gave up on the sushi. We had soup and sandwiches instead.

We caught a ferry from Big Ben down to the Tower of London, and got another speech on the way from the captain. He wasn't a tour guide and wasn't actually required to give the speech, so he sounded kind of bored and put-upon, acutely aware that most people on the boat weren't even listening to him. I actually liked his speech, which had kind of a dry, downbeat sense of humor and a lot of subtle jokes that he seemed to be making for his own amusement more than anyone else's, and I tipped him when we got off the boat. Glennica thought he was awful.

After that we walked across Tower Bridge and along the Thames again- it was pretty much the opposite of the ferry trip we'd just taken, so we saw a lot of the sights again, but now from up close instead of on the water. We went all the way to the London Eye, where we tried for the third time that day to have sushi, this time at the same Yo! Sushi we'd eaten at yesterday. It was great, just like the first time, and it turned out there was a special on Monday, so we vowed to eat there yet one more time before leaving London. After that we took the Underground back to the hostel and went to bed early.
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