We woke up the next morning, December 30, after a pleasant night full of chicken curry and great sleep, ready to take on the streets of London.
We started the day with Cafe Nero (thanks for the suggestion, Kelsey!) hot chocolate and espresso. Cafe Nero quickly became a twice-daily part of our time in London. There was one right across the street from the flat, and the public restrooms in the cafes throughout the city were an added bonus. We also stopped by a little bookstore to buy a pocket map of the city. Luckily, I have an impeccable sense of direction, AND I was a geography minor, so we didn’t even come close be being lost (not that we could have been, since we were just wandering!).
The day started out perfectly misty and damp, just how London should be. We crossed the mighty (brown) Thames to the Embankment where we saw a beautiful World War II memorial, a great view of the Eye, and Parliament and Big Ben. This is a great intersection of the modern and historical sides of London. The Thames has been the center of life in London from the time of Henry VIII, William the Conqueror, and even earlier. The Millennium Wheel, or London Eye, is a once controversial sign of modern London. The timelessness (ha!) of Big Ben is iconic, and the history made in and around Parliament is also impressive. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with all the feelings about history.
- Construction on the present church began in 1245 by Henry III (he’s also buried there)
- Before that, William the Conqueror and his successors were coronated on the same site
- Survives the Tudor era and all the there and back again of Catholic/Protestant rule
- Weddings: Henry I of England to Matilda of Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II to Phillip, and Will and Kate of course!
- People buried there: kings and queens (excluding 2 of my favs: Henry VIII and Richard II), Geoffrey Chaucer, Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin
We didn’t pay the fee to go in, but I did fangirl appropriately outside, and buy a tiny gargoyle and some tea in the giftshop.
Next, we decided to go ahead and see Buckingham Palace and see where the day took us from there. The weather cleared up, and the sun even showed itself! We walked through the park, saw some geese, then turned the corner to the iconic palace. I didn’t have as many feelings here, but I did try to keep an eye out for the queen! We walked along the royal apartments, took a picture with the changing guards, saw Charles’ favorite spot up to this point, Admiralty Arch, and then continued on to Trafalgar Square.
In Trafalgar, we stopped at yet another Cafe Nero, saw the lions and Napoleon, and a big blue chicken. Since we were already out and about, we made the quickest of stop at a McDonalds (reminiscent of our first morning in Dublin) for a cheeseburger on the go – no stopping for real food on this day of site-seeing! At this point, we figured why not go on and go all out – we walked up Drury Lane (of muffin Man fame!) to the British museum (where I again had all the feels – but that’s a topic for another blog, coming next week!). – Spoiler alert – I got emotional about the Elgin Marbles.
From the British Museum, we walked on to the Barbican Centre for one of the many highlights of the trip: David Tennant, the 10th Doctor himself, starring in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of Richard II. Seriously – what a day of emotions, and I am not an emotional person (it’s the Britishness I inherited – stiff upper lip!). I mentioned in a recent blog that he is my dream guest blogger – still waiting on that call, Davy! The performance was great, we loved it, then we waited out by the back stage door for him to emerge in all of his hair-extension-ponytailed glory. I was so close, that had I not been so polite, I could have touched him. The ponytail served as a great repellent.
Walking on air, we went over to the Jugged Hare for the best dinner of all time. Charles had the slow roasted rump of a Hertfordshire Fallow Deer, and I had a meat pie. I don’t think this one was cooked by Mrs. Mooney or Mrs. Lovett, but it was certainly deserving of a song of how great it was. The deer rump was the most delicious piece of meat I have ever tasted.
We started back to the flat around midnight, and passed Saint Paul’s Cathedral along the way. This was one of the (if not THE) most impressive sights we saw on the trip – and we saw an awful lot of stuff. We had seen it in the distance earlier in the day, and it is an iconic part of the London skyline. Seeing it in person, bigger than life, was something else. None of the pictures can do it justice.
We continued along the Thames, which was the only time I was slightly uncomfortable in London – along the river, at midnight, under bridges. Maybe we should have taken a different route. Things were a wee bit confusing as the city was preparing to set up for the fireworks on New Years Eve. Regardless, we made it back to the flat and passed out from a day full of excitement.
To sum it up, looking back on the day’s events, this was possibly one of the very best days of my life (surpassed by the day before when I got engaged in northern Ireland and that time I graduated with a PhD).
- Actually go in Westminster Abbey
- Climb to the top of St. Paul’s
- Ride the London Eye
- Museum of London
- Go back to the Jugged Hare