|View of St Pauls from the Thames|
Anne to starship command….come in starship command….we have established a connection with the outside world!
Finally on the sixth day of our vacation my mom and I were able to reach the outside world, thought it was still a primitive connection. We still did not have internet access however the hotel did manage to get us two TV stations: one which played the British version of Jerry Springer all day and the BBC which was able to provide us with SOME kind of weather update.
We woke up on this day earlier than the previous and decided we would again try the more relaxed approach to our trip (because CLEARLY it had worked so well the previous day). We watched the weather report on the BBC, though we couldn’t really understand the report since everything was read in celsius.
The general consensus was it was going to be ‘breezy’ with a chance of light showers. While watching the weather report, I noticed that the map which showed the directional winds looked oddly like something we would see in Oklahoma (tornados) or the Gulf (hurricanes). It just basically looked like a giant churning, windy nightmare. So I opted for jeans, jacket, and my trusty scarf/burqua while mom went for long pants and a t-shirt.
|Mom sure looks happy to be ‘princess’ for a day
at Kensington Palace…..more like
Off with her head!! LOL
We went to our little breakfast place and since we didn’t really know what ‘porridge’ would be (oatmeal-ish?!?!?) we stuck with the same English breakfast we had the day before.
While enjoying our coffee we decided to plan our day. We had bought train tickets to Stratford-Upon-Avon for the day and had originally planned on seeing Shakespeare’s house and Warwick Castle. When Sam and I were in England, we went with a tour company (which would have been the smart thing to do with mom) and I really wanted to take mom to some of the places we visited.
I thought we would be able to manage on our own without a tour company, so I had bought train tickets to go to Stratford for the day. At one point I even entertained the mention of renting a car from the train station and drive around the English countryside….I have NO idea what I was thinking!
I obviously had delusions of grandeur.
We couldn’t even navigate the public transit system let alone try to drive a car with everything backward!
|I on the other hand can’t WAIT. We got to have
our pics taken at Kensington Gardens as ‘Queens’
Can you see who the Red and White Queen in these pics??
It was glaringly apparent after the first night we arrived in London that Stratford was simply NOT in the cards so we had made the decision to bag Stratford and try to enjoy London. We decided we would TRY, I repeat TRY to make it to St Paul’s Cathedral, and then to Kensington Palace, and maybe do some shopping in Covent Gardens which is like a big flea market.
As we sat around drinking coffee and planning, I realized I could not deal one more day without a watch and a coin purse….never mind I had gone six days without either and we were going home the day after next. So we made a note that we would look for those two things at Covent Gardens but did not really plan on doing any ‘shopping’ anywhere else.
We began walking to the Tube from out hotel to begin our day and….surprise….it started raining cats and dogs! Mom was smart, she packed close toed shoes, I only had sandals and I just couldn’t take one more day with wet feet…..seriously between the rain, humidity, walking, blisters, and sweat….my feet were stinkin’.
Since I did not pack any close toed shoes and I knew I needed them so we decided to take the Tube to Oxford Circus (don’t ask me what I was thinking, I clearly wasn’t!), get off the Tube, ‘quickly’ buy a pair cheep/comfortable shoes, a watch, and a coin purse.
|Restorative work being done on the church
most likely in preparation for the
We got to the Circus at 10:00 and it was just starting to get kind of busy. We found a cute little shop that had four levels of just trendy young adult clothing (think Forever 21 on a bigger and better scale).
So I figured it would be a breeze to run in and find shoes…WTF right??!?
All the shoes were either high high high heels, dominatrix boots, Greco-Roman warrior sandals, or very unattractive Wellies (rain boots). No one really helped with sizing so I tried on about four pairs before I found the equivalent USA size 9. The plus side…..everything was 70% off!!
I was able to find a pair of shoes though they were ugly construction-ish looking work boots they did the job….I also found a coin purse, socks (since I didn’t bring any), and a watch–though it’s a pocket watch, like an old Victorian looking pocket watch—which hangs around your neck on a long necklace….apparently the English don’t believe in wrist watches for women?
Ironically, I have now become really attached to this watch LOL. So about the time we leave this store mom says she’s cold and must find a sweatshirt or something to wear over her t-shirt because the wind is so cold and it just cuts right through to the bone! Plus it’s raining still and we are freezing.
|Entrance to St Paul’s|
Mom decided to go find a souvenir stand where she can buy a cheap sweatshirt….God forbid she find something in the four level department store we just left where everything was on SALE!
As we were walking out to find a souvenir shop, I see a way cuter shoe store that had WAY better prices than what I just paid for my ugly shoes. I decided to check it out while mom went to the next block up to find her sweatshirt and we agreed to meet back in front of the shoe store in 30 mins.
I went in and sound these super cute, super comfortable pair of shows which weren’t too expensive and close toed. I asked the guy for a size 9 (not remembering the UK conversion), he raised an eyebrow and said he wasn’t sure they carried THAT size….he returned with this massive pair of shoes (they were a USA size 12). Now, one would think he would notice my American accent and wonder….hummm….she probably means UK size 7….and bring me that size rather than waste his time and mine proving a point—-point being I was a dumb American who thought she had bigger feet than she really did.
We ironed out the sizing thing and I got a cute pair of patent leather Hush Puppies and no they don’t look ‘old lady-ish’! Oh and I bought gel inserts for added comfort. I took my other construction-ish looking shoes back to the other store for a refund. I found a bench right by the shoe store so I could see mom and decided to dig out my socks and put one the new shoes.
|The dome of St Paul’s note the menacing
clounds in the background!
The next thing I know, a huge wind gust comes up and literally whisks the bag with my socks in it away into the street!
I tried to run after it but it was no use….the bag was gone! So I am just sitting there bewildered, thinking f*&^ it I’ll go without socks. All of a sudden mom comes walking up holding the bag with my socks. Apparently she saw it and realized it HAD to have been mine as no one else would have luck like that. Maybe my luck was about to change.
Mom had a bought a sweat shirt (but wasn’t wearing it) and I was able to get my socks and shoes on so we were now on our way (at 11:30) to St Paul’s Cathedral. The down side to this whole shopping thing was that we would now have to carry a bag with boxes and another pair of shoes in it all day long but I was happy because my feet were dry and I didn’t have to go sockless—oh and I knew what time it was!
|Feed the birds…..for tuppence a bag’|
So we take the Tube to St Paul’s and exit, where we make it to St Paul’s without incident however it was so windy we were getting blown away…..we literally felt like Mary Poppins. I can see how easy it was for her to ‘fly in on the east wind’ as it was so strong it nearly knocked me over more than once! We had to stop before we got to the cathedral for mom to put on her sweat shirt since she was cold.
I don’t know that I believe her entirely, but she claims the souvenir shop was sold out of ‘normal’ colors like black, white, gray, blue, or even red sweatshirts….she claims the only color available was bright purple—that and the sweatshirt has this huge “I HEART LONDON” phrase scribbled across the front. Can you scream tourist any louder?!?!? It’s like wearing a moving bulls-eye—REALLY mother?!?!?! Bright purple?!?!
I eventually decided that the bright purple eyesore was ok since mom kept wandering off, this way I could at least locate her quickly! Anyway we reach the steps at St Paul’s and I went to take a couple of pictures but was not really successful since I couldn’t keep my hands steady from the wind.
I watched some old man smoking (well attempting to smoke) a pipe tobacco in the wind wearing what was obviously a really really bad toupee. Just as I was thinking ‘wow that guy must have cemented that toupee right to his scalp’ it goes flying off into the east wind! So either the guy didn’t realize the toupee was gone or just didn’t care since there was nothing he could do, I wasn’t entirely sure. I wondered for a moment if I should say something about it but decided against it and stood there laughing hysterically, I mean really what would I say….excuse me sir I think your rats-nest, I mean your toupee went that way?!?!
|tuppence a bag|
Mom stayed on the steps trying to adjust herself and juggling the shopping bags….as I was trying to capture the essence of St Paul’s by taking pictures from the front of the steps. As I was going this, I found the perfect shot…..I was taking pics when I noticed mom in one of my shots (you can’t miss that sweatshirt) and I just started laughing. One of my favorite movies is Mary Poppins and I love the song/scene ‘Feed the Birds’ which is filmed on the steps of St Paul’s—check out the video from the movie here, trust me it’s worth it to get the full effect of this moment!
Poor mom looked like the lady from the video feeding the birds (‘for tuppence a bag’) with her giant carpet bag, and she was standing like in the EXACT same place. So I just started laughing like uncontrollably and snapped this nice candid photo of her.
|I did not take this pic but you get the idea
how dirty the building is, note the change in color
about mid way down the church
To give you all a little background on St. Paul’s in case you don’t know, it’s a huge London icon. It has been a symbol of hope especially during the Blitz in WWII. During the Industrial Revolution the exterior of many of London’s landmarks were ‘damaged’ from all the coal burning and one of the dirtiest buildings is St Paul’s. The exterior of the church has a very ‘blackish’ look to it from the smoke and for the last decade major restorative work has been done to the exterior (40 million pounds has been spent—which is roughly 60 million USD).
They are pretty much taking a tooth brush to the whole thing to get the soot off because the cleaning material to remove soot is abrasive/toxic/dangerous they can only use it on small sections at a time. Anyway, as most of you know Princess Diana was married here as well and it is pretty much the most beautiful church in London. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and he used the Vatican as his inspiration so the interior is very Roman-ish and fancy.
Anyway, we made it into the church and were pleasantly surprised that there weren’t too many people there, we didn’t even have to wait in line to get tickets! We spent about two hours wandering and viewing the crypt which boasts residents such as Admiral Nelson, The Duke of Wellington, and Sir Christopher Wren himself. Predictably…..mom cried though the church. After composing herself, we then decided to go up to the Whispering Gallery.
Now the audio guide thing said there were about 300 stairs to the Gallery. That doesn’t seem too terribly bad so mom and I decided to walk on up. We were ready to D-I-E when we got up to the Gallery, at which point we decided to NOT go all the way to the top tower (another 150 stairs up). Instead we sat in the Whispering Gallery which is named so because it is said if you whisper something on one side of the gallery, it can be heard as clear as a bell on the other side. We tried it and yes you can hear….maybe not crystal clear but you can make out other conversations.
After sitting for a while we decided to make our way back down. Mom sat for a little longer but I figured I would need the head start since I’m the one with the medical condition. On the way down I see this sign that says “DO NOT ATTEMPT IF YOU HAVE MEDICAL ISSUES SUCH AS BREATHING PROBLEMS, HEART PROBLEMS, OR ARE PREGNANT. Great……NOW they tell me!
Since I had no choice I began walking down the spiral staircase back to the main floor. Keep in mind there is only ONE railing and the stairs are awkward and wide…..and given my extreme sense of balance—or lack thereof—I was holding on for dear life (and because I was feeling lightheaded) looking down hoping I wouldn’t fall.
All of a sudden some lady (an American lady by the way) who was walking up the stairs stops right in front of me and blocks my path, literally. I’m like ‘excuse me’ and she gets all mad and starts yelling about ME excusing HER.
She told me to ‘move out of her way insetting that she needed the hand rail’ and sensing aggression and feeling particularly obstinate I said ‘no you move, I have a medical condition and I need the railing’. To which she replies ‘oh piss off, get out of the way’ and starts shoving me.
Most people would have rolled their eyes and let it go but it was the principal of the whole thing plus I was so sick of random strangers touching me (I hate hate hate people in my personal space that I don’t know!) that it was hard to control my frustration. Since I was bigger and younger than her (medical condition or not) I elbowed my way past her and claimed the railing as my own, I could totally have won Survivor at that moment. Mom heard the lady complaining up the stairs as mom descended and she thought, oh dear God I hope that woman isn’t talking about MY child—sorry mom but she was!
|Swans at Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens|
Now that I was satisfied at regaining some control over the vacation we walked around a little a bit and mom cried some more. We then decided to have tea at a little shop right next to St Paul’s.
Since it was still relatively early, we went to Kensington Palace (and yes we made it there without incident) and were able to go on their last tour of the day in the palace. They had this really really cool exhibit there called “Enchanted Palace”. It was like I stepped into a Tim Burton film, think Alice in Wonderland….it was AMAZING. I want to redecorate my whole house like that now.
|Gates of Kensington Palace|
The tour is also a kind of game/scavenger hunt, the objective is to find the ‘7 Princesses’ throughout the exhibit which was really fun. Mom and I had the best time ever there! The inside it absolutely gorgeous as are the grounds but the exhibit was truly the most ‘enchanting’ part of it all.
This was hands down my most fav thing we did…..I have never been to Kensington Palace but wanted to after watching the film Young Victoria this year. I love Queen Victoria and this film….so to be there and actually walk down the same staircase Victoria used to get to her private quarters and see where all the princesses played or where Princess Diana played with her boys. It was a very special moment for me and I was so happy to share it with mom….it was AMAZING! A highlight of the trip so far. We could only use our cameras in one room which had a little fake thrown thing where we could look like a ‘princess’ or ‘queen’ for the day. Mom wasn’t thrilled about having her picture taken in it but I was all over it.
|Me in front of Kensington Palace|
After the tour finished we wandered around the grounds for a bit, though I got yelled at for photographing the ‘private royal entrance’. Some random lady walking her dog said the entrance—-which apparently is heavily guarded and they HATE paparazzi—does not allow photos of the private entrance, they will come out and take your camera so she told me I had better leave. Before I could explain that I wasn’t the paparazzi, the lady left. No one from MI-6 came running out or anything so that was a relief.
|Mommy and I in front of
Kensington Palace, we were really tired!!!!
We proceeded to walk down to the Small Pond in front of the Palace and fed the swans and other birds—I think the theme of the day was ‘birds’ between the swans and who could forget mom’s ‘Mary Poppins’ reincarnation in the steps of St Paul’s.
We then walked through Hyde Park (we decided Covent Gardens was out….we were really tired of the Tube) and decided to explore some of the pretty gardens, paths, and water ways around Hyde Park instead. We saw the Albert Memorial on our walk which was more like an Indian temple than traditional monument.
We then found a nice path way along the Serpentine lake and saw the Peter Pan statue, the book was at one time released as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Author JM Barrie’s inspiration came largely from the park. Anyway after seeing the statue of Peter Pan we walked right into these lovely gardens called the Italian Fountain Gardens I believe (???) which were really really pretty and relaxing….until the rain and windy picked up.
|Kensington Palace Grounds|
We took some pictures here and then made our way toward the pub right across from the park and had dinner. After that we walked around the area where our hotel was and ended up back at our hotel before 8:00…..that was a FIRST for the entire trip! This day….well minus the windy nightmare, was the best.
It was so nice to just walk around London in the neighborhood we were staying and check out the beauty and it was nice not to be stuck in lines or hassel with public transit that much, we didn’t ride the Tube which was a welcome break! I was totally Tubed out!
The first thing I did when I got back to our hotel was start unloading my purse because it was ridiculously heavy and I didn’t know the cause. While I did that, mom decided to take a much needed long hot relaxing shower before bed. I dumped out everything in my purse and discovered the course of the weight which has been causing my arms and shoulders to ache all day……15 pounds and some pence (whatever those equal). All the money I had was practically in change…..those Brits they really like their coins. I am not sure when the world stopped accepting paper money.
|Some swans at Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens|
All of a sudden mom comes out and says there is something wrong with the toilet. We go look and it appears the 200 year old building we were staying in did NOT invest well in pluming. It took 4-5 ‘flushes’ and a plunger to make the yellow no longer mellow. We asked the front desk about the toilet and they said its normal….bad water pressure.
SURE and I am sure completely unfixable as well!! They could have warranted us….again what ever happened to the English ‘gentleman’ concept?!?!?!
|Peter Pan Statue|
|Italian Fountain Gardens in Hyde Park|
We went to bed early and all in all were in a much better way than the previous days….it seems like things were looking up just in time for us to leave.