London Day 9 – The last day – Saturday, August 23, 2014

Itinerary: St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Tate-to-Tate River Boat.

When we visited St. Paul’s it was on a Sunday and we could not take the tour. There are no tours on Sunday when there are mass services.

Victoria and I took the tour while Stefan and Daniela slept in. We got there right when the cathedral opened at 8:30 am. There are no photos allowed but here is a nice exterior shot.


Inside there is a World War II Memorial in a chapel. They have a book with the names of the fallen soldiers and each morning they turn a page so every name gets a chance to be displayed.

We also went up to the Whispering Gallery. After climbing 257 steps I was dizzy and out of breath. (There is no elevator.) I had to sit down before I could go into the Whispering Gallery. As much as I wanted to climb higher to see the views of London from the very top, I was physically incapable. (Not to mention we were running out of time. We had plans to meet Stefan and Daniela at 11 am near The Tower of London.)

The Stone Gallery is 376 steps up from ground level, and The Golden Gallery is 528 steps up. I must get into shape so that next time I am in London I can climb to the very top and see the views. Perhaps start from the top and work my way down.

To see the Cathedral floor from the Whispering Gallery was both frightening and incredible. I was too scared to go to the edge so I peaked over from a safe distance back.

Victoria and I tried the whispering trick from opposite ends, but neither of us heard the other one. It does work in Grand Central Station in NYC though.

After meeting up with our friends we walked to Tower Bridge and on the way saw the volunteers installing the handmade ceramic poppies around The Tower of London. They blend in behind the trees because they are also wearing red. I love this photo I took. Great coloring and it mixes old and new (The Shard) buildings.

Continue reading

London Day 7 – Thursday, August 21, 2014

Itinerary: Banqueting House at Whitehall, WB Making of Harry Potter Tour at Leavesden Studios.

How scary and awesome is this? I can’t even imagine not having any fear when cleaning Big Ben.IMG_3881

After breakfast Victoria and I separated from Stefan and Daniela for the morning. We would meet up in the afternoon to go to WB Harry Potter tour.

Vic and I wanted to see the Banqueting House. We learned A LOT of history about the Banqueting Hall. We even sat in on a 20 minute lecture all about the ceiling paintings by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. We learned what story each painting tells, where they were painted and how they were installed, as well as the history of cleaning and moving them. There was so much fascinating information to absorb, especially if you love art history. Instead of going over all the details that can be looked up online, or read about in a book, I am just going to share a few photos. It really is a great place to visit. It is quiet, relaxing (they have bean bags to sit on), doesn’t take up the whole day and is quite affordable. The aesthetics are just beautiful. So if you are in London I highly recommended this site.

IMG_3893 IMG_3894

Continue reading

London Day 6 – Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Itinerary: Abbey Road, King’s Cross Platform 9 3/4, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Peter Pan statue, Harrods, The Old Vic stage door.

We had went to bed early to catch up on rest. Daniela and I were trying to keep the cold we developed under control. So we slept in a bit and by the time we were ready for breakfast, the hotel’s complementary buffet was closed. So we had a quick bite to eat near the hotel and bought some cold medicine along with cough drops at the one pharmacy we found.

Then we got the show on the road and went up north to Abbey Road. Just as suspected it was crowded with tourists taking photos as they crossed the street like the Beatles. The road is also a busy street with cars always passing and honking at the tourists. They especially honked at the tourists who didn’t keep walking but stopped to pose mid-walk. There is no traffic light at the intersection. It was madness.

If I lived and drove there, I’d avoid Abbey Road at all costs. I guess they must have to take that road or it’s just easier even if tourists block your way.

None of us would trust our cameras with strangers in this hectic situation so we took turns. I decided I wanted to be George Harrison and even wore all blue to match him in the photo. Stefan wanted to be Ringo, so Daniela was John and Victoria was Paul. Funny, Stefan doesn’t even like The Beatles (he says they are overrated *major eye roll*) but he’d do anything for a photo op.

I went across the street first to stand on the island in the road. I took a photo of the three of them in the order of John (Daniela), Ringo (Stefan), and Paul (Victoria). Then Victoria took one of me crossing the road solo. The plan was to photoshop me into their photo as George, but we never found someone to do that for us. Whatever, we can still say we walked across Abbey Road like The Beatles.

Continue reading

London Day 5 – Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Itinerary: Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

I am so behind with getting these ten days in London posted. Continuing on!

After breakfast we purchased our tickets for Buckingham Palace online. The morning time slots were booked and the next available one was for 3:30. We had to rearrange our plans a bit.

First we went to Trafalgar Square to see the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. Yay for free museums!!

Trafalgar Square is turning into Times Square with the ridiculous characters. I saw a Mickey and Minnie Mouse soliciting for tips to take photos with tourists. I don’t get it in Times Square and I especially don’t get it in Trafalgar Square. There were also people costumed as Yoda or the Grim Reaper. They looked like they were suspended in air but were really sitting in a harness that was hidden by a long robe.

There were also chalk artists who drew some really cool sketches. On this day I saw someone drawing Watto from The Phantom Menace. The previous Friday I saw an artist drawing Jim Morrison. I would have taken photos except I wasn’t sure if I had to pay for one and I didn’t want to pay a single pence.

IMG_3677 IMG_3679 IMG_3682

I love that in the National Gallery you can take photos. With a limited amount of time we could only see the highlights of the museum and so we followed the suggestions in my travel book. There was a section with a map of the National Gallery and where to find certain works of art.
Continue reading

London Day 4 – Monday, August 18, 2014

Itinerary: Windsor Castle, Oxford, and Stonehenge.

This tour was pre-booked a couple a months before our trip. Our coach was leaving Victoria Coach Station and after rushing, getting lost, and running around the confusing, under construction area, we finally found our bus tour!

Our tour guide was Russell and our driver was Ian. Russell was a short man with brown hair and a mustache. He was a stylish dresser with a brown jacket and suspenders.
He noticed my TARDIS necklace and mentioned that the new season would premiere that Saturday. I’d see it when I got home the next week.

Our first stop was Windsor Castle. While we were on the queue to get into the castle Russell took aside those in our group who had the London Pass to bring them to their entrance. With the London Pass you pay a fee, and then you get your own skip-the-line entrance at certain attractions because you already paid.

As he was taking them aside a Windsor Castle employee asked if the group was with Russell. He responded that they were and that they had London Passes. She then proceeded to explain that they could go on ahead. Russell said that they were with him and he was taking them to their separate entrance and he would be back for the rest of the group. There was a back and forth exchange about this and then Russell said, “I’m taking them in.” The Windsor Castle employee was taken back and widened her eyes at his tone.

He was a bit snippy, but that will always be an inside joke between Victoria, Stefan, Daniela and I. Throughout the trip we would periodically say to one another, “I’m taking them in.” LOL

Here are a few small things Russell told us about Windsor Castle. George IV was very vain and built ornate castles. He rebuilt Windsor. It had many styles over the years and the one we see today is from the 1820’s.

George IV was the fattest King of England. Henry VIII was the second fattest. George IV was 350 pounds and had a 54″ waist. This has been disputed by people, but Russell said George IV is the inspiration for the nursery rhyme:

Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,

George IV was a terrible drinker, gambler, lover, and king.

Windsor Castle is the home of the Queen today, when she is not spending the summer in Scotland. The Round Tower is not open to the public because she keeps her archives and private art collection there. She has many drawing from Leonardo da Vinci. I am jealous.

After going through security we went straight to St. George’s Chapel. We needed to be back at the bus by 12:15 so this would be the express tour. On our way to St. George’s Chapel we encountered the changing of the guard. It’s a long ceremony so we just took a few photos, and I took some video.

Continue reading

London Day 3 – Sunday, August 17, 2014

Itinerary: East London – St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, Blackfriars Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, London Bridge, Tower of London, Jack the Ripper tour.

This was such a long, long, long day that I am going to do my best to summarize it as much as possible and just going into the highlights. I planned the day to start at St.Paul’s and by the evening end up at Tower Hill tube for the Jack the Ripper tour.

First there was weekend construction in the Underground and we had to figure out a new route to St.Paul’s Tube station. I really love the huge advertisements they have in the subways. I already saw The Rover and What If in NYC, but if we had more time I would have liked to see what the cinema experience is like in London. I am surprised Daniel’s movie was not titled The F word. I thought it was changed to What If only for the US market?

It’s Harry and Cedric across the hall from each other!

IMG_3242 IMG_3243


Continue reading

London Day 2 – Saturday, August 16, 2014

Itinerary: The London Eye, The Crucible, and dinner with Lee Pace, Anna Friel, and David Thewlis!

This was a very exciting, unforgettable day.

We got a late start (11am) so we skipped the Banqueting House (saved it for another day) and went to the London Eye.

Daniela has a fear of heights, therefore ferris wheels are not ideal. I have a lesser fear of heights. I do fine if the space is enclosed. An open ferris wheel, like the ones they have at small fairs, is a definite no for me.

Daniela thought to go to the London Aquarium instead, but it was about £25, I think, and an hour and half wait. After seeing that the pods were enclosed and that the wheel kept moving she decided to come on with us. She was fine on the ride. She sat on the middle bench and looked across the skyline. Though she did say that the people next to her were coming up with theories of how the wheel can malfunction. Not something one wants to hear when they have a fear of falling from great heights.

Our late start meant we had to do the fast pass, about a 20 minute wait, versus the regular pass, which had a time slot for the queue at 1:30. The Crucible started at 2:30.

We were in the Lilian Baylis Circle of the Old Vic Theatre. It’s the third mezzanine up. We were warned when we bought the tickets that the rail would be in our eye line, but our view was not blocked. Victoria and I even brought binoculars with us.

I loved The Crucible. It was three hours, with an intermission, but I was entranced the whole time. I especially could not take my eyes off of Richard Armitage.

My friends Stefan and Daniela did fall asleep. Stefan said the incense made him sleepy. That was added for effect since people were burned in Salem. Also, it was our second day in London so there was the jet lag too. We didn’t think about that when we bought the tickets in advance.

The play was intense, but there were some moments of humor to break up the seriousness. Every actor was outstanding and I cannot imagine how they kept their voices night after night. Especially Richard.

Richard was just brilliant as John Proctor. John is a flawed man and while he is not angel, he does feel guilty and wants to atone for his sin.

There is a scene at the end when John Proctor is about to be executed and he is kissing his wife goodbye. Anna Madeley, who plays Elizabeth Proctor, is one lucky lady. Their last kiss was long and deep. To be in her shoes…(sigh).

Abigail Williams is vengeful sociopath. She will kill the whole town through false accusations to get what she wants. Samantha Colley played her perfectly. I’m going to keep an eye out for what she does next. The Crucible is her professional stage debut. She trained at The Oxford School of Drama.

Reverend Parris, I wanted to strangle that a-hole. I could feel myself having to hold back commentary when he spoke.

The staging was perfect. It was in a circle with the actors also bringing in the set props. With it set up this way you see the audience all around, thus it is like looking in a mirror and seeing your own sins.

I think a moment was omitted. Victoria was telling me that she read on Tumblr that there was a moment when John Proctor throws a Bible. One night Richard missed his mark and hit a woman in the face. He was supposed to throw it down the aisle. After the performance he apologized to her. When we saw the play John Proctor never threw a Bible.

I had not read The Crucible since high school and I had forgotten many details, but as I was watching the play some of the important ones came back in a flash. Such as when Mary gives Elizabeth the poppet as a gift. I gasped because I remembered that it was a trick and she would be accused of witchcraft. I then also remembered Elizabeth’s life was spared because she was pregnant.
(A similar thing happened with another Arthur Miller play, Death of a Salesman, when I saw that on Broadway with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield. Again old memories of details came back to me, the mistress’s stockings and the hose tied to the gas found in the basement.)

The Crucible was a fantastic play and I am happy that digital theatre has filmed a performance this past week so I can see it again. I recommend that you download it when it is available or see it in cinemas when it comes to your city.

5 out 5 poppets. 

At first I wasn’t sure I would write about this, but then Anna Friel posted photos on her Instagram here, here, and here, so I am going to tell my story.

Continue reading

London, England – Friday, August 15, 2014

Itinerary: Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Trafalger Square, Piccadilly Circus, Shaftesbury Ave, and Charing Cross Road.
I went on a wonderful trip this summer to a place I have always wanted to visit, London! My sister and I started planning two years ago by telling our friends this would be the year we’d go and anyone who wanted to come along was welcome to join us.

Last October when I started doing some research and seeing who was still interested in going we were a total of 10 people. By January when we booked we were four. Some friends had to drop out because of different circumstances.

Sister and I started by making a list of what we wanted to see. I broke it up by neighborhood, and then I made mock itineraries to see how many days would be efficient and affordable. We still didn’t get everything on the list done, but we did bloody well!

So the 4 of us (Sister and our two friends, S and D) agreed on 10 days and then decided on a time in August that worked best for everyone.

We left the evening of August 14th and arrived very early in the morning of August 15th.

First off, what is with having to check myself in at a kiosk at Newark? I paid a lot of money for this flight and I am on vacation. Cater to me! This is not my job, it is the job of the people who work in the airport. There should be a human being behind a counter doing all this: checking me in, checking my passport, weighting and tagging my luggage. Why am I doing this? These kiosks are more trouble than they are worth because they quit in the middle of session our session and then an airport employee had to come over and help us anyway. Unbelievable.

So the flight was uneventful, which is good.
We landed later than we were scheduled. Which is fine because the airport pickup service I arranged would take that into account and therefore we would not be charged for the driver’s waiting time. When he was 10 minutes late we called the company to let them know he had not arrived. They said he’d be where we were waiting in 3 minutes. Our driver was a total of 25 minutes late.

The rest of the day was smooth sailing. We checked into Double Tree Hilton. They give you a warm chocolate chip cookie when you check in. The room was nice and clean, and comes with a desktop computer. I love that.

After we were settled we stared touring. We were a 5 minute walking distance from Westminster Abbey. We took the scenic route through Victoria Gardens, taking lots of photos of the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben.

We went inside Westminster Abbey to take the tour. Sister and I did so in May 2013. They don’t allow photos, but I didn’t care this time and I snuck a few. I took Elizabeth I and Mary I tombs and the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots. 

Continue reading