In the last week of London, there has been a flurry of activity-- making sure we see all the things we wanted to see! I've heard quite a few of "Oh, I gotta run to Sainsbury's one more time to get candy for my family" or "I gotta see _____ broadway play before I go."
We have sure made our rounds this past week.
Monday: class, a lecture by George Chittock who was about 5 years old or so during the London Blitz in 1940-41 during the war. He was telling us about what it was like, the bomb shelters that families had in their backyards, how he remembers staying in his family's shelter one night after a rainfall the previous day and the shelter had 6 in of rain chillin on the bottom of the shelter (I'm sure only adding to the ambiance of bomb noises for 12 hours during the night when their "friends," as George called the Germans, were bombing London).
Tuesday: Noon tea at Kensington Gardens right by Kensington Palace. My first experience with herbal tea... I gotta be honest... perhaps its an acquired taste. I had blackcurrant, jasmine, and vanilla herbal tea. It was this lovely rose color, and I thought it was gonna be good when I sipped it, but then when I swallowed came the bitter herby taste. The color was tricky, it was just a beautiful blush! I kept trying it thinking it would get better. Unfortunately... no luck. But the cucumber sandwiches and raisin crumpets were to die for. That night, we got to go to the play Mousetrap, a murder mystery. It has been running since 1952! It was a great play-- kept me interested the whole 2 hours and the set didn't change once! At one point, it was gettin pretty suspenseful and someone in the audience screamed! ha, only later did I find out it was one of the girls in our program.
Wednesday: Trip to the London Temple. Da bomb.
Thursday: Cricket Match at Lord's Stadium. Middlesex Panthers v. Essex Eagles. P.S. Cricket games last FOREVER. But cool though, a bit like baseball but with two batters goin simultaneously and only two bases (called wickets) that the batters run between while the ball is bein caught by the other team in the outfield. A little fun fact, the panthers' colors were pink! I feel like that would not normally happen in the states. Can you see basketball happenin in pink jersey's?
Friday: The Tower of London happened (about time, right Granny? :) It was way sweet. Got to see the crown jewels, which were ah-mazing. Though perhaps Britain is monopolizing a bit on the diamonds, they've got the First Star of Africa and the Second! Both the biggest diamond and the second biggest. One in the scepter (530.2 carats, thats right you read it right, five hundred and freakin thirty! Like the size of a plum) and one in the Imperial State Crown (more like a cherry!) We went on a a conveyor belt to see all the jewels.. and I conveyed by three times, yea they were beauties. I didn't realize there were so many crowns! One for coronation only, one to wear right after coronation and at the opening of Parliament, one especially made for when there were joint sovereigns and they needed more than one crown, one made for the King (I can't remember which one off the top of my head now...poo) when he went to be crowned in India as the crown jewels are not permitted to leave the country, and a few others as well. It would never do to only have one crown, of course.
Also saw the lucky ravens. An unusual tradition here I thought, for centuries it has been considered very unlucky if ever all the ravens and birds were to leave the Tower. Therefore, quite a few kings back, they decreed that ravens should be kept at the Tower at all time. There are 6 there now, with their wings clipped and a special Raven Master to look after them to make sure they don't leave, and 2 backup ravens caged up juusst in case.
Saw the chopping block they used for Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife. yikes.
|That's an old wall there in the Tower of London enclosure... to the right is the 'Bloody Tower' and behind the wall on the left you can see the cage for the extra ravens.|
Saturday: Tour of the Houses of Parliament. This. was. awesome. The way the tour guide was describing Henry VIII was fascinating and a way more positive perspective than anything I've heard before. He was saying how self sacrificing Henry VIII was, that to divorce Catherine of Aragon (his firstie that he married because she was his brother's widow) and to marry Anne Boleyn was the move that prevented a Civil War from happening in England. That he HAD to have a legitimate heir or else all hell would break loose. I just never heard ole Henry described in that light before.
The House of Commons was way cool too. The MP's (thats what our guide called the Members of Parliament!) have eight minutes to vote on a proposed bill. Sometimes, the MP's will be out and about when it is time to vote. So in all the pubs around the House of Parliament they have a Division Bell (the voting is called the Division, as it divides the "aye" voters from the "nay" voters) that rings when the votes need to be cast. The police bobbys apparently halt all traffic around the House too for 8 minutes to allow the MP's (also our guide called em 'suitors' as they all wear suits!) to run in from their 'liquid lunches' or pint of beer, and cast their vote. How fascinating! Our guide also said that the 'aye' voters or the Aye's go to the right and the No's to the left when they come into the house, he called this the Picasso Connection. haha pretty clever, eh?
Saw the Trooping of the Colors for the Queen's birthday on a tv in a pub. Loved it. Also went to the Cabinet War Museum, which was just right-o cool. It houses the basement rooms that Winston Churchill used as meeting rooms (and sometimes living quarters) for his cabinet during the war. It was too dangerous to be holding meetings in Houses of Parliament, so they moved to this more remote and more un-obvious location. Churchill was so interesting. Always with a cigar in his mouth, daring and likable, but a bit scary. There was a quote by one of his many typist secretary's Elizabeth Nell, it was written in her memoirs that
"When typing, it was hard to understand what he was always saying- he had a slight speech impediment with his "s" and he always had a cigar in his mouth. But, sometimes what he said was so interesting that you want to stop and just listen. [when he was hard to understand] you could ask him what he said if you're brave and prepared for a put-down. Or you could put what you thought he said and hope he didn't roar at you later."
I do apologize about the length :) I'll add pics in a bit. love to all.