Goth Panda

June 28, 2013

Day Ten: Westminster Abbey and Hampton Court Palace 2008

I traveled to the U.K. in June 2008 on a combination work/vacation trip. I posted about it on my old group blog Population Five. Now that I am writing more about traveling at Goth Panda, I am reposting these here for thematic unity, and also because reading them reminds me of the trip. I want to go back! Anyway, that explains some of the dated references.

How I was addressed in England:

  • Madam
  • Miss
  • Mum (as in Ma’am, not as in Mummy)
  • Luv
  • Lass

I was kind of hoping for “milady,” but it didn’t happen. Also, the already-mentioned Scottish waiter called my beverage a “wee half-pint” (since everyone else ordered full pints). I believe there may have been collective swooning at that. Except for Mike, of course.

The last day might be the easiest day to recap, because we weren’t allowed to take photos in the morning, at Westminster Abbey. If you want to see what it looks like, just go back a few entries. Or, you know, use Google.

Westminster Abbey was kind of amazing, because the whole time I kept thinking, “There are countless numbers of dead people all around me.” We saw all the famous dead people there were to see. We stopped in Poet’s corner, where I touched the plaques for Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters (none of whom are actually buried there), and stomped a little extra hard on the gravestone for D.H. Lawrence (who is). I hadn’t bought any souvenirs from the other places we visited, but I did get the tour guides for Westminster, because I wanted to see exactly how many dead people I had walked over, and who they were.

After that, we boarded the short train for Hampton Court Palace, which Henry VIII appropriated from Cardinal Wolsey (again, a spoiler for The Tudors). The palace started to be renovated in the Georgian era, but they ran out of funds. So today it is half medieval and half Georgian.

Entrance02

Medieval

Medieval

Georgian
And the Georgian side….

Courtyard

Hallway

It says on their brochure that you can see Hampton Court Palace in three hours, but I am here to tell you that is a lie. We did not see all of the house tours in three hours, and you need even more time if you want to go into the gardens. There are a lot of gardens.

Fountain

Georgian

Statue

Statue

We also went in the real, honest-to-God hedge maze, where we discovered French high school students snogging, but no Goblet of Fire. Unfortunately.

June 26, 2013

Day Nine: Tower of London and British Museum 2008

I traveled to the U.K. in June 2008 on a combination work/vacation trip. I posted about it on my old group blog Population Five. Now that I am writing more about traveling at Goth Panda, I am reposting these here for thematic unity, and also because reading them reminds me of the trip. I want to go back! Anyway, that explains some of the dated references.

Things I miss about England:

  • Cider with ice
  • Hobnobs
  • Having a pub down the street
  • Mars Planets candy
  • Everyone being polite
  • Cadbury chocolate bars (Can you get those here?)
  • Trashy British celebrity news. Explanation: For the week we were there, the Daily Mirror was offering Doctor Who stickers every day in the paper. So we bought it, and sometimes I read it, and I became kind of fascinated with the crazy British celebrities that we never hear about over here. How will I find out what Peaches Geldof is up to? And what about Roo and Coleen’s wedding?

On Thursday morning, I took an informal poll of the group: what of the things on our list to do was the most important to them? The overwhelming consensus was the Tower of London.

Because it was expected to rain and because I was a little sick of lugging it around (I don’t mean that, baby, I love you!) I left my 20D at home, and contented myself with my little PowerShot for the day. We got to the Tower and had breakfast in a forgettable little diner place. Its most important quality was that it had seating. By this day, as I remember it, the pace was catching up to us. The periods of time that we could actively sightsee without resting were getting shorter and shorter.

Tower of London

Tower of London

Re-enactment
As we were passing by, they had actors doing a comic historial re-enactment for the kids about a Scottish prisoner who escaped from the Tower dressed as a maid

Fawkes
A faux-CNN report on the Gunpowder Plot

Graffiti
Prisoners’ graffiti from the cells

Crown Jewels
Where the Crown Jewels (real or fake?) are kept

Schoolchildren
These schoolchildren in their oddly archaic uniforms — kneebreeches for the boys, skirts for the girls, covered with almost a cassock — were everywhere

Memorial
This was a memorial on the execution site to the people who had died there

Memorial
Spoiler alert! Now you know how the second season of The Tudors ends

Chapel

Guns
I kept calling the White Tower White Castle, to which Mike responded, “Where are Harold and Kumar?” Inside the White Tower: guns and more guns

Cannons

City Wall
Part of the original Roman city wall

After the Tower, we went to Bloomsbury for lunch, and then the British Museum. On the way there, we got a little sidetracked, which will be explained when you see this:

Gosh
Can Mike pass up a comic book store? No, he cannot

Gosh

We did eventually make it to the British Museum.

British Museum

Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone, people!

Elgin Marbles
A piece of the Elgin Marbles

Elgin Marbles

Asian Antiquities

Dragons

British Museum

June 14, 2013

Day Five: London (and Stevenage) 2008

I traveled to the U.K. in June 2008 on a combination work/vacation trip. I posted about it on my old group blog Population Five. Now that I am writing more about traveling at Goth Panda, I am reposting these here for thematic unity, and also because reading them reminds me of the trip. I want to go back! Anyway, that explains some of the dated references.

So one of the best things I think we did on this trip was buy BritRail passes for the week. We had planned a bunch of day trips, so it was cheaper to buy the passes than to buy the individual tickets, for one thing. It was also more convenient; once you had the tickets validated at a station the first day, you could just hop on and off the train for the rest of the week. It also came in very handy when your plans change suddenly, as happened on this day.

The night before, over dinner, I had proposed that we go to Edinburgh the next day, since it was one of our less touristy destinations, and therefore I thought was likely to be less crowded. Unfortunately, I did not reckon with the National Rail system’s propensity to schedule track repairs and other delays for the weekend. We got to the train station early, before realizing that the first train didn’t leave until 9 a.m. Then, we were actually on the train before we realized that with all of the delays, we wouldn’t be at Edinburgh until after 3, and we would have to catch a 5 o’clock train to be back in time. So we made the split second decision to get out at the next stop – lovely Stevenage – and catch a return train back to London, where we arrived by 10 a.m.

Once back in London we were faced with another dilemma. What to do for the day that didn’t involve travel outside the city? We decided to take an open-air bus tour around the city. But first we decided to sit outdoors at a little cafe near the train station, and that’s when we found out that sitting outside in a touristy district is a mistake. Because we got hit up twice by beggars. The first was an old gypsy woman, who targeted me when I had my purse out to pay the check. I couldn’t understand her because she wasn’t speaking English, but it was pretty clear by the end of the conversation that I was actually being cursed by a gypsy, for the first time in my fairly short life. The second guy was British, and he didn’t bother cursing me, although he did berate the table of French guys next to us.

Then we caught our tour bus, and I learned, to my surprise, that it is possible to get sunburned in London.

Marble Arch
Marble Arch in Hyde Park

Mme. Toussard's

Buses
I thought they were getting rid of them, but there still are double-decker buses in London

Apple Store
On the tour, we found out where the necessities of life were located in London — including the Apple Store

London Eye
The London Eye sees all

Modern Buildings
Some of London’s modern buildings

Tower Bridge
On the Tower Bridge

We had lunch at one of the corporate pubs – Mike and I both had falafel burgers, which were pretty good. Then we decided to go back to the Thames and take advantage of the free river cruise that was part of our bus ticket. The sun was so bright during the bus tour that our photos were getting blown out. When we got back in the early evening, the light was much better and we got photos of Big Ben and Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge, although it was too late to go inside any of them.

Tower Bridge

Tower of London

Tower of London

Big Ben

Parliament

Parliament

Westminster Abbey

June 12, 2013

Days Three and Four: Oxford and London 2008

I traveled to the U.K. in June 2008 on a combination work/vacation trip. I posted about it on my old group blog Population Five. Now that I am writing more about traveling at Goth Panda, I am reposting these here for thematic unity, and also because reading them reminds me of the trip. I want to go back! Anyway, that explains some of the dated references.

Day Three

Day Three was the conference day. It seemed to go pretty well, and I have high hopes of coming back next year. There is the chance that this will become an annual event.

I got back to the hotel room after the conference, and Mike and I went out to search for sustenance. We ended up at a faux-Irish pub. I was still nervous at this point about ordering at the bar, but it was the young bartender’s first night working, so he was nervous, too. We had Bulmers cider on tap here, and that proved to be our favorite throughout the trip, although Strongbow Extra Cold was a close runner-up.

We amused ourselves back at the hotel by watching television. The hotel made a big deal of the fact that they had satellite TV, which gave us a total of — wait for it — twenty channels, two of which were in French. We did manage to see Simpsons reruns, and we inexplicably watched the horrible Godzilla 1998 remake. I told Mike it was because we were missing American culture.

Saturday morning we went to a little breakfast cafe right around the corner, where Mike was introduced to thick-cut English bacon. We then took the train to London with all of our luggage to meet Kris and Barb at our new hotel.

Since the Oxford portion of the trip was funded by my work, and the London portion of the trip was funded only by myself, there was a big stepdown in hotel quality when we got to London. Gone were the soft bed, down pillows, heated towel rack, and fourteen of our twenty channels. The London hotel wasn’t terrible, just budget quality as compared to the Oxford one. It was conveniently located near Paddington station, and the neighborhood looked like it was predominantly tourists.

We met up with Kris and Barb, who were slightly bedraggled from their plane ride and Underground journeys. If you plan to travel to London ever, please remember to take a taxi from the train station or airport. I had unfortunately directed Kris and Barb to the Underground, which while it is in many ways a wonderful system, lacks escalators and elevators at many of its stations. If you have luggage to wrangle, you are better off with a taxi.

Since we couldn’t yet check into the hotel, we wandered down the street, where I had learned beforehand was a real neighborhood pub. Apparently in England, and particularly in London, many pubs are being bought up by corporate chains. We only discovered that two of the pubs on the street near our hotel were of this type when we went to both and discovered that they had exactly the same menu. The bar staff was also, strangely, Eastern European.

This pub, the Victoria, was (along with the Kings Arms) the best pub we went to while we were in England. It was here that we discovered that one could buy cider in half-pints (inspiring quite a few Laura Ingalls Wilder jokes), and that in addition, only ladies could safely order half-pints, without having their masculinity called into question. We also had a lovely lunch. I had a baguette with shredded cheddar cheese, and diced cucumber, red and yellow bell peppers, and red onion, along with chips. The amount of chips I consumed in England is truly astounding.

Then we went back to the hotel, checked in and took a long nap. We went to a resturant for dinner that Mike insisted on calling the British TGI Friday’s. It was mostly unmemorable, except that they served us apple pie with custard on top, and the custard was delicious. Everyone began scheming how next time they would order apple pie with custard, only hold the pie.

After that – more sleep.