01 – The Second Honeymoon
02 – Conquering Medieval Stairs
03 – Urinating in Brussels
04 – On to Paris
05 – Seeing Louvre
06 – A Police Story
07 – The Sun King’s Blingy Home
08 – Her Majesty’s Beverage in the Sky
09 – Hangin’ with Our Royal Neighbors
10 – Sending Ourselves to the Tower
11 – Raining on the Parade
12 – Her Majesty’s Beverage in the Sky Again
This morning began with the good ol’ Starbucks.
Except the barista got my order wrong and it tasted funny.
Then we went on to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was a beautiful church that unfortunately did not allow photography inside. I’m always bummed out when not allowed to snap a picture of something cool I see, but above all else I respect such rule at religious establishments. To some extent, it seemed intrusive being a tourist at a place of worship, so being allowed in was already a privilege.
I found it a bit odd that St. Paul’s had a heavy focus on glorifying war heroes. Instead of Christian saints, statues along the walls were of national heroes, some of whom died in battle. In the crypt below buried Horatio Nelson, Duke of Wellington, their lesser-known commanders, and Sir Christopher Wren who built this cathedral. Nelson was placed in a gigantic stone coffin in the center of the crypt, in a shrine-like setup surrounded by his buddies from Trafalgar. Seemed like the highest honor a person could get.
This large church and one of London’s main tourist attractions… had no working bathroom
One attraction of St. Paul’s was its staircase leading to the top of the building. The 528 steps got us to the Whispering Gallery (inner balcony just below the dome), Stone Gallery (outer balcony at the base of the dome), and Golden Gallery (small circular balcony at the crown of the dome). Although it’s taller with more steps, climbing this dome was easier than climbing Belfry of Bruges.
We got a lot of exercise out of this trip
View from the top
Shard yet again
While London didn’t have many tall buildings, the option to get a view from high up was surprisingly abundant. We had been up the Shard, Sky Garden, London Eye, and St. Paul’s – two from the north side of Thames and two from the south. It was an interesting contrast to New York, where you can get up to the 40th floor somewhere and still just be looking at an even taller building next door.
After the church, we went to one of the oldest buildings in the city – the Tower of London.
Built by William the Conqueror nearly a thousand years ago and expanded by later kings, this fortress has served many purposes in history. While plenty of great kings called it home, the Tower was better known for its prison and as a symbol of oppression.
While overrun by tourists now, the Tower stood here for over 900 years and witnessed countless English royalties born, died, and executed within its premises
The White Tower, est 1078
When compared side-by-side, I found the English history much more fascinating than their French counterparts, because some of its kings were fabulous out-of-the-box thinkers. Edward III of the House Plantagenet, for example, got sick of the French dude screwing his mom, and went on to declare himself heir of the French throne in revenge. Even better was Henry VIII who, having such strong desire to make babies with women other than his first wife, gave the Pope his middle finger and started his own church. The White Tower had these kings’ armors on display.
Henry VIII was a big man with large balls
The Tower of London, with its hefty admission price, was quite educational with its props and plaques. We learned quite a bit just by casually strolling from one place to another. Unfortunately the setup also lent itself to feel very much like an amusement park, taking away the seriousness I hoped for with a historic and royal fortress. Its most popular exhibits were the crown jewels and torture equipment. We skipped both due to the long lines.
Contact your health care provider if this happens
Tower of London Outer Ward, and the Shard in the background
Looking at old bricks made us sufficiently hungry, so we went on to lunch. The Rock & Sole Plaice was a popular fish & chips place for tourists. Like sour dough bread in San Francisco and deep dish pizza in Chicago, fish & chips in London was kind of a must on everyone’s to-do list.
The Rock & Sole Plaice
That’s a huge chunk of fish
Next up was one of my most anticipated destinations on this trip… the British Museum.
Being into Egyptian stuff as a boy, I had learned about and wanted to visit the British Museum 25 years ago. It was a strange concept, however, that some of the best Egyptian treasures should be found in the UK. The Brits looted from not just the pharaohs, but also from the Greek gods and Asian emperors, leaving this museum’s collections to be highly controversial. The feeling was mixed to finally visit some of humanity’s greatest relics in a giant pirates’ bay.
The British Museum was surprisingly smaller than the Louvre
The British Museum lobby
Cleopetra… I was expecting a much fancier mummy wrapping for some reason
The Rosetta Stone, the Mona Lisa of the British Museum
The Parthenon Marbles were among the museum’s most controversial collections, and they were cool to look at too
Easter Island statue
Afterwards, we took a black cab back to the hotel. It was one of the things to experience in London.
Selfie in the cab
In the evening we checked out Fortnum & Mason, a high end department store that had been awarded a royal warrant.
The Queen liked their ware
It was doing a campaign with the new Alice movie
For dinner, we walked a few blocks to an Indian restaurant called Veeraswamy. In the US when you hear Indian you just expect somewhere casual and lay-back, but this place had a doorman in costume, a hostess downstairs, a hostess upstairs, and someone offering to hang up our jackets. Both of us were thrown off by how upscale it was.
First time having soup in an Indian restaurant and it kicked ass
Afterwards, we walked through Picadilly Circus, and got boba to end the day.