06 August 2012

London Calling, part 1

I don’t know about your house, but when it’s Olympics time, Team P keeps the television on the competitions virtually non-stop during our waking hours. And if you watch that much of the Olympics, you’re bound to get in the spirit of the host city, right? Right? You all want to learn more about London?

What I’m asking here, in this awkward segue, is, please care enough about London right now to let me show you my vacation photos even though they have absolutely nothing to do with the Olympics.


As I’ve mentioned a few times, dear readers, Mr. P and I headed to London last month for the wedding of two of our dear Nashville friends (although who are now, like us, no longer in Nashville). Just to be clear, the groom is from England, while the bride is from New Jersey. When they got engaged I asked if she’d be married in New Jersey, as it’s usually the bride’s hometown that takes precedence. She responded, “Heck no, I’m getting married in London! Would you pass up the chance to get married in London?”

She has a point!

So that’s how Mr. P and I found ourselves spending the week in London, immediately before I started my new job. And our first stop was the swanky hotel that Mr. P booked for us:

After a transatlantic flight-through-the-night plus two hours to get to the hotel, that was the most beautiful hotel room I’d ever seen. But even now, when I’m relatively well-rested, I love those black-and-white photos of London landmarks and the ivory damask curtains! It was chic.

Plus, this was the view from our room:

And the whole downstairs, including the dining room, looked as gorgeous as this:

The reason that Mr. P and I could swing a fancy hotel in London – a notoriously expensive city – was because we stayed out in the ‘burbs. Also contributing to the low cost was that the hotel that was a bit of a hike from the Underground station. But considering that Mr. P and I would rather travel a bit farther for a nice hotel, and we don’t really mind walking, it was perfect for us.

And speaking of walking, that’s how Mr. P and I experienced London – on foot. We bought a seven-day pass for the London Underground, and that and our feet got us everywhere we wanted to go in the city (no trains, no cabs). It’s a distinctly Team P way to travel, and it’s not for everyone. But I like it because you get to see everything up close.

So I thought I’d spend today’s London recap showing you London on Foot, Team P style! There’s no better way to enjoy distinctly London-y areas like Oxford Street than strolling on foot...

... and the same goes for Picadilly Circus.

There are many beautiful buildings throughout London, so I was a bit surprised to see that this is the exterior of the British Library:

We stopped in there to see all sorts of old/ancient documents, like the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, and the original draft manuscripts from Handel and Beethoven, among other stunning works. I loved it! But alas, they didn’t allow photos, so you only get to see the boring red brick exterior.

We made sure our walks included the standard touristy fare, like the London Bridge:

No really, that’s London Bridge. Of “falling down” fame. No, it doesn’t look very fancy. Ohhhh, you were thinking of Tower Bridge, that I showed you back on Photo Friday. This is London Bridge, and no, it’s not as pretty.

At London Bridge, though, is the historic entrance to the city over the Thames. We made sure to stop and get a photo with one of the griffins that guard the entrance – it’s Mr. P’s new school mascot!

We had to take this shot, of course. I was sort of amazed that they still have phone booths there, as I can’t remember the last time I saw one in the States.

More sight-seeing: St. Paul’s Cathedral from Millennium Bridge...

And from the road.

We skipped going inside St. Paul’s, mostly because I thought it was expensive and it annoys me that you’d have to pay to enter a church (we could have gone during evensong for free, but it never worked out conveniently).

One of my favorite days was spent walking around Southwark (pronounced suh-thuhk), just south of the Thames. It’s not at the top of most tourist sight-seeing lists, but I really enjoyed it! Here’s Southwark Cathedral, which is where Shakespeare attended church:

Shakespeare and his actor buddies are part of the reason for Southwark’s seedy history, when brothels and drinking and gambling was the norm. Here’s one of the few remaining institutions from that time (it’s cleaned up its act today, as far as I know):

And just behind The Anchor was once... Shakespeare’s Globe!

Don’t be fooled; the real Globe burned to the ground back in Shakespeare’s day That’s a not-quite-full-size replica of the Globe Theater, built just a couple of decades ago, but it was still neat to see.

As Mr. P and I continued to explore, we found more other B-list sights and neighborhoods, like the Royal Courts of Justice:

We only peeked our heads in rather than watching the proceedings. It was a beautiful building, but I couldn’t take photos inside. Here is a mental picture instead: Hogwarts!

I also loved walking through the pedestrian-only streets of Soho, like Carnaby.

We got our tikka masala just around the corner! Take that, Brick Lane.

Then there were the sights around town that are not tourist landmarks, but things I had to see nonetheless. As a Harry Potter fan, I made sure to snap a photo of King’s Cross:

We didn’t want to spend the money on our travelcard to get through the barriers just to snap a photo at Platform 9 3/4, but I did peek in just to see if Dumbledore was hanging around. (He was not.)

While walking from some point A to point B one day, we found ourselves by the University College London. I nerded out and wanted a photo at the entrance to the Biology building.

The best part of this photo is how another passing tourist saw my reaction (“Oh my gosh! Mr. P, take my picture take my picture!”) and immediately stopped and started flipping through his guidebook, trying to find the building and figure out why I was so excited. There are biology labs in there, dude! Doing SCIENCE!

But even nerdier was our journey to a few landmarks from BBC Sherlock:

I got a few smirks from passing Londoners who totally caught me geeking out outside the fake 221B Baker Street. Oh well.

There was also the trek to St. Bart’s, but Molly Hooper was nowhere to be found.

And BBC Sherlock fans will understand why I am pouting in the rain on this spot on the sidewalk outside St. Bart’s.

If you’re not a Sherlock fan, you should probably watch Seasons 1 and 2 of the best television show ever! Immediately! Also on Netflix so no excuses!

I admit that I did worry some before our trip that Mr. P and I would run out of things to do in London – we’d both been before and weren’t interested seeing the most popular sites a second time. But I loved exploring London on foot. I cannot emphasize it enough! That way the tourist attraction, the thing to see and experience, is simply the city itself!


Tina said...

There were a couple London Bridges... I don't recall all the history - it can be looked up - but I do remember the London Bridge I sang about as a kid was actually torn down in London and rebuilt in AZ coinciding around the time I started teaching 1st grade in MS, the early 70's... which now that I think about that occurring in pre-www days and no cable news network, even, I'm surprised I heard anything at all re:it... ! And now, I am just happy to be able to remember that. Heh.
Love the BBC Sherlock sites - except I have so much to accomplish today after 2 weeks of company and yard-saling and now all I really want to do is rewatch those episodes... I'm going to work out a reward system for myself - put in a load of laundry, watch 1/3 an episode, do something else, watch some more... ;-) Should only take me a week or so to get caught up... :-/ Take care, my Dear, in Cape Cod...