Sunday, May 3, 2009

Awesome Anniversary Trip - Part 3

So, as I said in part 2, the long day wasn't quite over yet. Prince Charming and I had heard that the secret to jet lag is to get on the local schedule as quickly as possible. So that is what we endeavored to do. We climbed into our hotel bed around 8 or 8:30 pm local time. And promptly fell asleep. Which ought to have been the end of Tuesday.

But (you felt that one coming, right?) I woke up in the night completely disoriented. I jumped out of bed (this is a true story) and pulled open the curtains. It was dark (duh) but I was convinced it was morning. I woke Prince Charming up (well, his wife leaping from the bed may have done that part) and gasped, "What time is it? What time is it?!"

He, as any good husband would do, groped in the darkness for his handy dandy bedside clock and informed me, "Eleven".

"PM?" I couldn't believe it. I was convinced we had slept through an entire day in London. He had to tell me again. And then he, much less patiently, if I do so say so, said, "Karen, go back to sleep. It isn't morning. Go back to sleep."

Good times. Being the good wife I am, I obeyed and had a wonderful night's sleep.

In the morning Prince Charming went out in search of breakfast. Yes, our hotel offered room service, and no, we weren't about to pay that (££)for breakfast. Instead he brought me back a pastry of some type and this:
You may laugh that I took a picture of my breakfast beverage but I'm here to tell you that it was The Best bottled o.j. I've ever had. Seriously.

Thus fortified we went out to conquer London. First stop: Little Italian Restaurant where I had lost my 15 postcards. No luck. They didn't act like they had ever seen us before. Which they had, merely 12 hours earlier. Just so we're clear on that.

The next thing we did was hop back on the double decker buses. We rode back down where we could see such wondrous sights as these:

Oh, wait, that's just some guy in his bare feet sitting outside some Very Important Historical Building (London has these on every corner - buildings, not barefoot guys).

But check out this view:
Pretty cool, huh?

Then we got off the bus and walked around about 15 miles. Just kidding. It only felt like 15 miles. We were in search of some new postcards, which are not actually easy to find when you want to. Postcards found, we then had to find a post office. Which, once again, was not incredibly easy to find. We ended up at a Mailboxes Etc. where we bought stamps, wrote our postcards ("Could you please move over there?" - Snobby Desk Clerk), sent our postcards off to our beloved progeny, and moved on, all the time wondering if we would see our girls before our postcards did.

Then we walked a bridge across the Thames. (Yes, it still gives me a thrill to write that sentence!) Pictorial proof that we were tourists behaving in tourist-y ways sometimes:

We were looking for the Imperial War Museum. But apparently "You can't get there from here." (That phrase echoed in my mind several times on this trip.)

Still, we are the persevering sort (some would call it stubborn) and we did manage to find it. After walking under some pretty horrid tunnels and around some dodgy looking buildings. (Prince Charming and I can find dodgy neighborhoods wherever we travel. It's a gift.)

The museum was amazing, plus I can count it as research for the ever percolating novel, so there's that. Consequently I had Prince Charming take pictures of many things and their little captions, but I won't bore you with all of those. Accept the following two pictures as proof we were there:
This is one of their WW1 models. They have a life size "Trench Experience" and I'm not kidding when I tell you: it was one of the creepiest exhibits I have ever gone through. If that's even remotely what trench life was like...shudder. Sadly, the "Blitz Experience" wasn't nearly as impressive. Rather silly, actually. Although that could have been because of the rawther bored tour guide.

We were both impressed with all the artifacts in this museum. Prince Charming isn't quite as "into" WW2 as I am but he is intrigued by aspects of it. This caught his eye: There isn't anything to give that picture scale but it's actually taller than Prince Charming.

The war museum is, as you would expect, quite sobering. Then there is the level devoted to the Holocaust and sobering doesn't even come close to describing it. No pictures are allowed on that level but it doesn't matter. The reality of sin and depravity just hits you square in the face and doesn't let you go. The model (only a small portion) of Auschwitz hit the two of us particularly.

We walked out and the signs directed us to the next floor, "Crimes Against Humanity". We neither one felt up to it so we returned to the ground floor and calmed ourselves down. Then we went to the gift shop.

The gift shop was full of British school children. Apparently they each had £5 to spend. It was fun (and therapeutic!) to watch them select their treasures. There were some who picked up nearly every item. ("No, dear, that's £5.50. You don't have enough." Imagine that sentence repeated about seventeen times.)

As it happens, I bought my only souvenir at this shop: a book about the home front (Britain) during the Second World War. Definitely counts as research. Made my backpack a bit heavier, I must admit. That's the problem with having a weakness for books.

Then we left and set out to cross the Thames again. Through trial and error (lots and lots of error...) we managed to end up back here:
We paid the (rather exorbitant) fee to tour the Abbey. (What can I say? The British Museum and the Imperial War Museum were both free. We were getting kind of spoiled.) Pictures aren't allowed inside but it is amazing! I highly recommend you visit if you are ever in London: Queen Elizabeth I! Mary, Queen of Scots! Henry V! And many more! All right there! I can't stop using exclamation points, it's that great!!

Snatches of history and everything I've ever heard about notable Britons just ran through my mind the entire time. It is quite indescribable.

Incidentally, we ate a snack at the tiny little food stand inside the Abbey. Kind of weird to eat a candy bar and notice there's a grave right at your feet. It can't be avoided in Westminster. Unless they, you know, closed the snack bar. Which they are not about to do.
Some places in Westminster are "fragile" and closed except to clergy. We saw a group of three monks go up into one of these areas. I tried to persuade Prince Charming that he should insist on his rights as a Minister to get us into these places but he (being the highly principled man that he is) wouldn't do it.

There's a little museum (naturally) in the Abbey. Here you can see funeral effigies of many kings and queens. It's interesting and morbid all at the same time. Also in the abbey, you can see "the oldest door in England". If you're into that sort of thing (turns out, we are).

The very age of everything about the Abbey is sobering. "Oh, that's 1,000 years old? Right."
By the way, Prince Charming took all of these pictures. I think that last one looks like a pretty cool postcard.

So, late Wednesday afternoon, we had seen some amazing things, skipped a meal, taken the wrong bus (several times) and now we had to hurry back to the hotel because we were going to meet someone...

5 comments:

sarah in the woods said...

Sounds like an amazing trip!

MacKenzie said...

Your thoughts on the Imperial War museum were exactly the same as mine - I still don't know how we managed to get there or get back, but I am so glad we did. I didn't actually want to go, but Craig did so I obliged, and it was a good call on his part. I can still remember parts about the Holocaust.

Kelly said...

I have to tell you that I just about choked I was laughing so hard when I read about the 11 o'clock incident. That's great. :)

Kelly said...

And I may just be in an incredibly easily entertained mood today, but that second picture with the two men reading the barefooted guy's paper who was sitting next to the woman picking her teeth was quite a site. ;)

Vicky said...

Am lovin' this tour more and more! I love the suspenseful ending!

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