As some of you may know from my Twitter feed, our flight coming into London got delayed by 3+ hours, which cut a considerable chunk out of our time to tour London. We ended up skipping the British library and doing the museum for only a short time before it closed. Then, we spent today (Monday for us) touring the Tower of London before heading to our train. It’s worth noting, though, that United did give us vouchers for future flights because the delay was their fault. Scott’s voucher was for $200. We haven’t been able to check mine yet, for reasons best explained by this XKCD.
We checked into our hotel first thing. We had found a place close to Paddington station (Paddington bear!) to stay for the night, as we figured that would be most convenient to us for coming from the airport and going to St. Pancras the next day. It also happened to be just north of Hyde Park, which gave us a good place to go running. I ended up skipping the running due to time (we slept better than we thought we would last night) and also because I’d basically done my mileage walking around on that first day. DH did a 5 mile loop around the park this morning, though. Anyways, I’ve gotten off track. Our hotel was the Royal Court Apartments, and it was perfect. It’d be great for a longer stay, as the rooms have a kitchenette and living room attached. The only problem was that the tub was both really tall to step into and slippery. I was scared to get out without DH watching just in case I fell and died. 🙂
After we dropped our bags off at the hotel, we hopped on the Underground (and yes, we were making references to the game constantly…speaking of, if you want your game of On The Underground to be accurate to the current line, Tottenham Court Road can’t access the N/S line.) to head to the London eye. (BTW, I don’t know how well picture uploads will work from here, but I’ll give it a shot. This is my first time using the WordPress Android app. It doesn’t seem to let me caption or tell it where to put them in the post, though.) DH’s friend Ursula met up with us after we were done with the Eye, and we did one of the Rick Steves walking tours from there. There was a big festival going on along the riverfront, though, so we were literally pushing our way through crowds until we got to the bridge (where the pictures of us are taken at). Then, on the other side, near Big Ben, we saw that they were set up for some kind of bike race called the Tour of Britain. We saw lots of buildings along the walk toward Trafalgar Square and then stopped at the National Portrait Gallery so I could see the portraits of the Tudors, John Donne, and William Shakespeare. We stopped for a soda at a nearby pub before proceeding back to the Underground toward the British Museum.
Now, I admit to being dense about why the British Museum is a big deal. Just in case you are also dense about this, the reason the British Museum is noted as a “must do” attraction is because of that whole British Empire thing. They pillaged half the damn world, and all the stuff is in that museum. We saw tons of artifacts from Egypt and Greece including mummies both in and out of wrappings and entire temple fascias reconstructed, but sadly, we only had about 1.5 hours, so we only saw those few parts. Oh, and we saw the Rosetta Stone. It was amazing. I’d be willing to go back to London just to go back to the museum. I almost blew it off because I was like, we have tons of museums here. I mean, I live in Chicago…we have a million museums. But, this one is truly unique and worth visiting.
After that, we decided to try out a “gastropub” closer to our hotel, so the three of us hopped back on the tube. The one our guidebook recommended was booked up, but some locals overheard us inquiring and, as they were leaving, suggested another place a few blocks away. So, we ended up going to this place called the Tabernacle that was in a gorgeous red stone building that seemed to double as a community center. The food wasn’t traditional by any means, but it was yummy. I had a pumpkin curry dish, and DH and Ursula both had jerk chicken sandwiches dressed with guacamole. Then, we split a generous slice of flourless chocolate cake with fresh cream for dessert.
DH and I were both ready to call it a night at that point (though it was not even 9pm yet local time), so we bid farewell to Ursula and headed to our temporary home. Sleep was a bit rough. We both got to sleep fairly quickly, but we woke up a few times during the night. Both of us were awake at 4:30am, but then we went back to sleep and slept solidly until 9am. We would have slept past that, but we had set an “emergency” alarm at that time because we wanted to be at the Tower by 10am opening. As we groggily dragged ourselves out of bed though, we decided to wait until 11am to be at the Tower so DH could do his run and I could buy postcards and breakfast. It also afforded me a short walk in Hyde Park. When I was picking up convenience breakfast at a store along with postcards, I meant to grab a Coke Zero and a Diet Coke, but, even though I didn’t even notice Diet Coke with Lime on the shelf, the DCwL found its way to me, as I ended up with Diet Coke and DCwL. 🙂
The Tower was quite fun. We enjoyed the Beefeater tour, and we saw the Crown Jewels (bypassing the pre-jewels movies to speed up our time there). Those jewels are HUGE. I honestly wasn’t thinking I’d be very impressed by them, but I was. It was also cool to see the 16th century porticullis in the tower as well as Traitor’s Gate. And, of course, I went through the section with the torture implements, but it was surprisingly short, featuring only 3 things.
After that, we rode the tube back to the hotel, got our bags (well, DH nobly fetched the bags while I waited at Paddington), and hopped back on toward St. Pancras/Kings’ Cross. Oh, what’s that I said? Yeah, bitches, I went to Kings’ Cross station, and visited Platform 9 3/4 and everything! It was a madcap dash for us to find Platform 9 3/4, particularly because it isn’t where it’s supposed to be. They moved it from platform 9-10 either because of construction or to keep people like us from lollygagging and holding up the normal train workings. We went totally out of our way to platform 9 and then saw on a sign that it was actually closer to Platform 0, near where we started. D’oh! After that, DH ran across the street to the post office to get postage for the postcards, which was a harrowing experience for him…and then we dashed back over to St. Pancras to check in for our train. We got there with 8 minutes to spare (on the thirty minute recommended advance check-in), but we were nervous for how long clearing customs and whatnot would take, especially because we didn’t know exactly what to do or where to go. So, that was that, and shortly we were in our seats and on our way to Paris.
As of this writing, we’re checked into our hotel in Paris (which is in the Pigalle area), and it’s very nice. The room is small, of course, but it’s fine for us. It’s the Hotel Monte Carlo (the one in Paris, not the one in Monte Carlo, natch) in case you’re curious. We had dinner at a cafe down the street (steak au poivre for me, canard for DH), and I got to use a bit of French.
Tomorrow, Disneyland Paris! Yay! Believe it or not, we’re doing that because it’s easier on us than actual touristing. 🙂 It’ll be a nice break from the rushing around we’ve done for the past two days.