The fif one

So at this point you’ve heard about almost everything. Except day fieeeeeeve and the trip home. Aren’t you excited?

After cramming a ridiculous amount of sightseeing, culture, shopping, walking, tubing and food into the first four days, on the day before we left, we took it easy. Kind of.

We dropped Alistair off at his day camp and headed for the O2, which, if you’ve never heard of it, is a ginormous arena with a bunch of restaurants and everything in the world inside of it. Almost.

It’s where we went to see the Titanic exhibit, which I was pretty excited about because I’d wanted to see it when it stopped in Louisville, but missed out. Plus, ya know, I did see the movie four times.

Why? One word: Leo.

The exhibit – a traveling one – tells stories of several of the passengers as well as puts on display everything they’ve brought up from the wreckage at the bottom of the ocean. It’s amazing how much some of that stuff is still intact. There was a shelf of plates where the shelf had disintegrated but the plates were still there, perfectly lined up where they landed.

When you start to go through the exhibit you’re given a boarding pass. It has the name of a passenger on it and some information about them and at the end you find out if you lived or not. Lovely.

I was a first-class lady (naturally) who was coming home from visiting family in Paris. And apparently, I had been warned by a fortune teller not long before I got on the boat to “stay away from water.” WOOPS.

Ashley was a second-class lady who was a model and a mistress. Scandalous!

The others we were with – Matthew’s friend Penny, her son Ethan (who I taught to say hamburger like an American) and Penny’s dad Wolfgang (honest-to-God, and he is Scottish) – were various passengers with similar stories. I think Ethan was a second-classer too.

Matthew, however, was a bigshot. He was Ismay, the owner of the White Star Line, the company who owned the ship. If you saw the movie, he’s the skeeze who jumps in a boat with a bunch of women and children like a chicken and one of the crew members sees him but lets him go.

About halfway through the exhibit is part of an iceberg, supposedly. Or, a big chunk of ice that they’ve cooled to the temperature it was that night.

It was so cold it burned, if that makes any sense. I kept my hand on it for approximately five seconds. Had I really been on the ship and ended up in the water, my weak-threshold-for-pain ass would have died quickly.

We get to the end and wouldn’t you know it, we all died. Except Matthew. Sad.

We consoled ourselves – well I did anyway – by trying to teach Ethan how to say words like we do, but not before he showed us his “American rap skills.” I don’t remember all of what he said, but it was something like, “And where my bitchez at?”

He’s 13. Go America.

Keeping with the theme of the day, we took our own boat ride after a quick lunch. We took the boat down the Thames – pronounced Temms, like PIMM’S. WHAT?? – to a tube stop closer to home.

From there it was time to figure out a way to re-pack all of our stuff, plus souvenirs, without going over the 50-pound weight limit allowed before you have to pay extra. That was fun.

That night, we found out, we were headed to a dinner party in Chelsea, with Roma and her family and Matthew, Alistair and Allyson of course. The dinner was at their friend Sally’s, who is the first person all week to give us the European kiss-on-each-cheek thing.

The food was delicious, and there was wine and champagne a-plenty. Also part of the dinner party? A discussion on how Ashley and I were the No. 1 guests who’ve stayed with Matthew and Allyson.

Yep. We’re awesome like that.

You see, Allyson had made a list of the things we needed to do as soon as we got there. We’d accomplished everything on it, and then some – for example, hang out with an old Scottish man.

I’ve told her to frame it. And hold everyone that visits after us to the high standard that we’ve set. It’ll be hard to match…much less to beat.

Dinner was delicious, of course, and that’s the night we had the Gu cake that I would possibly marry if it wouldn’t be weird. It was that good.

Oh and before we left, we made sure we took some pictures – well, Sally’s son Seb took some – and then we got some of our family.

This is Sally.

Seb and Emma (Roma’s daughter)

Straight-up gangstas

Roma’s son, Alex

Family!

And we couldn’t resist a last-minute run up the stairs to get a quick picture of Sally’s bedroom. Why? Because, according to her, at some point, Charles Dickens had had sex in the house where we’d just had dinner. In what’s now her bedroom. Yay history!

I didn’t want to go to bed that night because it meant it was over. And we in no way wanted it to be over, therefore we decided we’re going back. ASAP.

Advertisements

Oh you fancy, huh?

Normally I’m not a fan of Mondays. They are not my favorite. In fact, I most often refer to them as my nemesis (nemeses?).

But the Monday I spent in England? Best one I’ve had in as long as I can remember.

Of course, any day immediately increases in potential when it starts with one of these.

Ashley started out with one of those – I had the ‘Afrocat’ as we called it. But this looked too good to skip and we had a long day ahead, so I needed all the caffeine I could handle.

The delicious breakfast we had was at the Wolseley. Which we passed at least three times while trying to find it, and then asked someone at Starbucks who was an asshole, because they were four doors away from the place and just decided to have a little fun with the dumb, lost Americans.

I suggested a Starbucks protest.

Anyway, the Wolesley was next to The Ritz, and around the corner from several places I will never be able to afford.

Case in point:

After not even attempting to enter a single one of those stores – we just took pictures of all of them from the street. Then we headed to one of the only places this nerd wanted to visit in London.

Yep. That’s Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.

SPOILER ALERT: It’s not actually on a platform, it’s outside King’s Cross Station. And unfortunately, you can’t actually run through it to catch the train to Hogwart’s.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t try.

Next on the list? A jaunt through the park. But what would make the trip better? BIKES.

Yeah. That was a good idea, even though it didn’t seem like it at first. It took us forever to figure out how to pay for the damn things and then when we got them free, Ashley got on hers to find that the seat was up about 10 feet to high.

Geez, you guys. You know how they compare things to bike riding? Like, “It’s just like riding a bike.”

Yeah, they should stop saying that. Because I hadn’t ridden a bike in years. And it showed.

This picture is of me soon after I texted Rachel telling her what we were doing and how I hadn’t ridden a bike in about 40 years.

Oh, and Ashley fixed her seat.

Once we got going, though, things got a little easier. And the view was pretty great.

It was a lot like this, actually.

Only not really. We didn’t sing. Mostly laughed, especially when I not once, not twice, but three times, rode right over signs on the ground that said “No cycling.”

And then we had a stranger that could have easily stolen our cameras take a picture of us in the pretty park.

Matthew had suggested a place to go for dinner and we were almost there when we spotted something we thought was possibly more awesome. A sushi place where everything’s on a conveyor belt.

Yeah. You grab what you want as it comes by and then based on the color of the plate(s) when you’re done that’s how much you pay.

It was yum times 10. And kind of like a game.

After that, it was on to a kind of shady part of town for the Jack The Ripper tour.

Remember how I joked we’d do the Murder Tour of London? OH WE SO DID FOR REAL.

We so excited.

This is Adrian. Our tour guide. He knows everything there is to know about Jack The Ripper.

One of the victims got killed here, I think. I dunno. We went several places and learned a lot, actually. Like that JTR didn’t have 11 victims like many people think. He only had five.

We saw real blood on the street during the tour, too. Shady part of town, I tell ya. Or possibly put there for dramatic affect?

Nah, it was shady.

We finished the evening with a nice walk across London Bridge.

Pretty.

Oh, and then there was some PIMM’S drinking. Duh.

At this point? One day left. Sad. But dammit if we hadn’t gotten pretty much everything we wanted to do, done. We are efficient.

And on the third day…

…they went to see the queen. Well, her house anyway.

Sunday morning we, along with probably a million other people, headed for Buckingham Palace, to watch the changing of the guard. We somehow managed to get pretty close to the fence, which really is still pretty dang far from the action.

But at least we weren’t like these people. I’m not sure why they came because I’m pretty sure all they could see was fence and the person in front of them.

There was lots of marching back and forth to the gate, which was kind of weird, because it was just two at a time and they would march to random spots along the gate. Oh and there was a dog.

Their marching style is interesting. When they halt, they kind of kick their leg out to the side and bring it back around before stomping. I don’t know how to explain it.

One got really close so we at least got a few shots of the guard without too much of the gate in the way.

Then it was off to lunch with Allyson, Matthew and Alistair, but not before we had our Sunday morning dose of religion, made possible by this monument/exhibit/art thing we passed in the park by the palace.

Lunch was at this Chinese restaurant in I-Have-No-Idea-Where-We-Were Notting Hill. No Julia Roberts or Hugh Grant sightings though.

Matthew was in charge of ordering and rightfully so. I’m pretty sure I fell in love with every dish he ordered. There was dim sum, this doughy-shrimp thing, noodles…I may have even had tofu, I don’t know.

After that, it was time to head to Abbey Road. Yep. THAT Abbey Road.

It’s still a working road, but since pedestrians have the right of way there, cars have to stop while silly tourists cross the street doing their best John, Paul, George or Ringo walk. Also while the person in charge of taking the picture risks death and stands – or squats – in the middle of the road. In traffic. Pandemonium I tell ya.

But of course, we jumped right in and did a couple trips across the road and back.

It’s funny to watch though, because you know it pisses some of those drivers off. There’s a webcam set up where you can watch live every day and see some of the craziness for yourself. You’ll see what we saw – Beatles fans trying to act oblivious to cars to get a picture of themselves that’s only slightly as cool as that album cover.

It was awesome.

Then, yours truly found out we were near Baker Street and wouldn’t ya know it, that’s kind of famous too. Sherlock Holmes, anyone? 221B, baby.

I have to admit I’m pretty partial to the Robert Downey Jr. version.

But yeah, Sherlock Holmes was a character in a series of books first.

We visited the gift shop where I almost bought a pipe to not smoke out of, but decided against it because I had to save my money for practical things like pens shaped like Big Ben and William Shakespeare.

There was a museum with tours we didn’t take part in but made sure we got our picture with the hat and pipe and a quite exuberant policeman.

The tube station we took home left from Baker Street and along the walls were different colored silhouettes of Holmes. I think I want to decorate my bathroom with them one day.

Now no English experience would be complete without a visit to the pub. Luckily, there were several in walking distance of where we were staying. So, after I whooped some booty at Progressive Rummy against Matthew, their neighbor Roma and Ashley, we headed up to the pub whose name I couldn’t tell you because I don’t remember it.

All of us plus Roma’s family started out the night on the patio, playing cards, but once we heard there was a trivia game about to start, we quickly moved inside.

Ashley sang my praises on random, ridiculous knowledge, making me worried if I’d be able to perform under the pressure. And that’s only if they weren’t local questions. If the questions were about London, well, I’d serve them better staying out on the patio.

This pub, I should mention, is where Ashley and I began our love affair with PIMM’S. Roma was drinking one and we decided to try them after our beers and never looked back. It was fate, really.

Picture a chorus of angels singing.

Also fate, having a couple questions in the trivia game that Ash and I were perfectly suited for. In a music round she was able to identify Warren G’s “Regulators” by the first few notes of the song and I unscrambled a word that I could have gotten a lot quicker if I’d realized at the beginning that where we put a “z” in England they usually put an “s.”

Oh and they asked what U.S. state Boston was the capital of. When we told Roma’s husband Andrew the answer, he said “Thank God you’re here.”

We do what we can.

We didn’t win, but we had a pretty good showing.

And at least the food and the PIMM’S were yummy.

Dazzled by the pudds

You guys, people say England isn’t known for its food. And to that, I say, “Pshaw,”
on account of some of the best food I’ve ever eaten I had when I was in England.

For reals. England should be known for its deliciousness.

And, because we are American, we took pictures of pretty much everything we ate. And drank. Which was a lot. Prepare to get hungry.

We didn’t have fish and chips – don’t judge, we gotta save something for next time – but we had all kinds of other stuff.

Like, the second day. When we went all proper English and had tea. Along with tiny sandwiches and some delicious desserts.

Isn’t it pretty?

And that, well, that is just a table full of desserts I could have probably eaten every bit of. Including Victoria Sponge cake. She had the cake made for her every day. It must be so nice to be royal.

Speaking of proper, though, we saw a sign for proper hamburgers. But didn’t have any. I’m not sure what constitutes a proper hamburger, but I imagine you have to wear gloves while you eat it or something.

Possibly – in my opinion anyway – the best thing we had was our breakfast at The Wolesley. A close second was the dim sum and other yummy Chinese food we had that was so amazing we spent our time actually eating it and took no pictures of it.

But our fancy Wolesley breakfast started with these beverages – a cappuccino and an affogato (which Ash and I of course called an Afro Cat). The affogato is a scoop of ice cream – yep for breakfast ’cause I’m an adult and I do what I want – with espresso poured over it.

Our actual meals? Ashley had Eggs Benedict and I had something called an Arnold Bennett omelet.

Kids, I don’t eat omelets in America. This trip changed my life.

Other food highlights?

Ashley got some British candies. And I would have pictures to show you of the display but that wasn’t allowed. So this is Ashley, with her British candies. When we were on the one wrong train we got on our whole trip.

We had some amazing nachos.

And then there was this other dessert that I may or may not be drooling over while writing this.

Yeah. That’s a belgian waffle, with bananas and vanilla ice cream on it and some kinds of sauce. I think chocolate and caramel maybe.

Bangarang.

At a dinner party we had appetizers and an entree that were almost too good for words, followed by Gu cake. Gu with a little doohickey over the u. And the title of this blog post? Written on the side of the Gu cake box. Seriously.

I don’t like cake, but I would marry this stuff. It was that good.

We also found some new favorite drinks. And I’m strictly a beer girl these days so the fact that I loved both of these means they’re REAL good.

This first one, I honestly don’t remember what’s in it. It’s a Tokyo something. And we drank it in two minutes because we had to go catch the tube.

And finally, I’d like to introduce you to PIMMS, a.k.a. THE BEST DRINK I’VE EVER HAD.

OK. So this drink is a type of gin, I believe. The way we had it – and in our opinion, the only way you should drink it – was in a glass mixed with lemonade and garnished with all kinds of stuff.

What kinds of stuff, you ask? Strawberries, oranges, mint and…wait for it…cucumbers.

I ate so much stuff with cucumbers in it in England. And liked it. What is wrong with me? I pick them out of salads here.

So, if you know where in America we can get some PIMMS, especially without paying an arm and a leg, please let Ash and I know. We’ll be your best friend. And we might let you share…might being the operative word there…