A.K.A This city is huge!
01.10.2012 - 04.10.2012
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We plunged into the heart of English life: London and, you guessed it, soccer. We snagged tickets to QPR hosting West Ham United, which apparently is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the Premier League. Holy crap, we just don’t do sports right in America. The fans were constantly singing, chanting, and taunting both specific players and each other. I remember one song even alleging that a particular player ate the feces of birds. Add a cockney accent and you’ve got a recipe for good times. Oh and get this: no booze in the stands!
The following day we toured what can arguably be described as the most beautiful manmade structure on Earth: Wesminster Abbey. The rising vaults, the intricate decorations, the number of historically important entombed there. Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin to King Edward the Longshanks (ffffreeeeeeeeedddooommm) to Bronte sisters and Lewis Carrol. Right there!
Oh and it’s right by Big Ben, which you can’t tour if you’re from a different country. Total BS. Screw you impressive and imposing symbolic clock tower. Screw you.
Near our hotel we happened to wander underneath a commuter train bridge in Southwark. The tile on the wall had been gouged out in several places and honestly (in a British accent) looked quite unkempt. Next to it we noticed a plaque describing that a V2 bomb had exploded 500 yards away, leveling several buildings, and scarring this wall. Apparently one of many sites around the city with tangible and immediate remnants of the conflict. Errmazeballs.
So food in Britain is terrible, right? No. We ate at an upscale Indian restaurant one night, ordering butter chicken and some other stuff that sat next to the butter chicken. Savory, creamy, spicy, mmm mmm goodness. We couldn’t stop eating. I think I bit the plate.
Our planned time in London was coming to a close, so I went to the interwebs to book a Chunnel ride down to Antwerp. No times? Wha? STRIKE! Apparently the train workers union needed an increase to their annual stipend of mayonnaise, so they shut the country down. Rude!
Turned out to be a blessing as we got another full day to tour through the Tower of London. White Tower, trebuchets, armor, torture, blah blah. The coolest bit was Beauchamp Tower, where prisoners of great political or social value were held from the 1400s to as late as 50 years ago (mobsters!). Like any bored and confined person, they turned to graffiti and without your standard spray paint, they turned to chiseling the rock. Intensely detailed carvings of poems and laments, coats of arms, etc. line the walls. Most of these are in Latin, but the ground floor has a translation of the most impressive ones. The craziest part was that some prisoners were allowed to hire out craftsman from around the city to do the work for them. It’s good to be the King.
We were finally leaving that afternoon for Belgium where we could replenish our clean clothes supply, but had the morning to continue exploring London. We headed to the British Museum via the tube. The stop for the museum is called Russell Square and as the train unloads this mass of human congestion stops in front of three elevators. Feeling young and fit, we disregarded the warning sign (“There are 175 steps to the ground floor”) and started climbing. It’s a trap! Evil does not quite describe the stairwell of that train station. It. Was. Torture. We arrived to the coat check of the museum still breathing hard and drenched in sweat, the dossier knew exactly why.
BUT the British museum was awesome! Put this one on the bucket list kids; it’s a fascinating place. Some of humanity’s oldest artifacts are there, including a 13,000 year old Mammoth killing sling carved from bone! The Sloane wing of the museum is itself an exhibit in that it was the original collection of artifacts from the late 1700s. He collected everything: bugs, plants, mummies, ceramics, jewelry, etc. You run around like a kid in a candy thinking that you’ll find something no one has seen before in a maze of little boxes and shelves, all labeled and catalogued precisely.
Seriously, you want to go to there.