Cheap canvas suitcases are a hot mess–Invest in good luggage!

Today was our all things Victoria and Victorian-ish themed day. After a relatively good day at St Paul’s and Kensington Palace/Gardens yesterday, mom and I woke up for our last full day in London. Not entirely confident that it wouldn’t rain, mom and I both opted for close toed shoes and sweaters.

Mom totally lovin the city of London!
On the agenda for the day was the British Museum and our night time Jack the Ripper walking tour. However our big treat for the trip was going to Buckingham Palace to see the Victoria and Albert museum exhibition. I really wanted our trip to be special for both mom and I, so this was my little ‘secret’ purchase since I knew she would love it since we are both huge Victorian/ Gothic era history fans.
Since last year mom, Susan, and I have been really into Queen Victoria after watching the film The Young Victoria. We had to wake up earlier than we had on previous mornings if we wanted to eat a real breakfast and have coffee before we had to be at the Queens Gallery at 10:00 when the exhibit opened.
We decided to not get too adventurous on our trip with the food so we again went to the café around the corner and had the usual breakfast we had been eating for three days now—cereal, eggs, toast, ham, and coffee. We headed out fairly quickly and took the Tube….again….to Buckingham Palace and surprisingly, we managed to make it there without incident.
The Queens Gallery Entrance
Here’s some background on Buckingham Palace for those who are interested. The Palace didn’t become the official ‘royal residence’ until Queen Victoria became Queen in the 1800’s and she was the first to live in it as Queen. Queen Victoria of course, was the longest ruling monarch ever in British history (and the longest ruling female monarch ever) and pretty much re-populated a dwindling line of royal options by producing nine children!
She is thought to be the first to bring hemophilia to the royal line which caused major problems later, especially in the Russian monarchy…..Alexis future Tsar of Russia’s mother, Alexandra was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and also a recessive carrier of the hemophilia gene which became a dominant gene in her son….all very interesting, I love science too bad I can barely balance my checkbook otherwise I would have gone into genetics.
Mom in front of the Queens Gallery
Anyway so Queen Victoria did lots of things and advanced the British Empire. She also managed to marry the love of her life, Albert. Together they collected lots art and antiques while also being trend setters by ushering in new forms of art like photography. They were probably one of the few royal couples who actually LOVED each other, so this exhibit mom and I went, was a collection of their most prized possessions and facts about their life together.
Buckingham Palace itself is only open to the public during certain times of the year (ie; when the Queen is on holiday etc.) however the galleries and other detached buildings are open year round. We got to the Queens Gallery and managed to get our tickets without any problems…..we even passed security without incident which by now I considered a small miracle.
Since there are no ropes or anything around the gallery pieces (except the diamonds, they were behind major bullet proof glass) palace security asks that people check their bags, purses, and jackets (in case anyone knocks stuff over).
Psycho mess at changing of the guard!?!?!
Now I just bought my new Hush Puppy shoes the day before and though I thoroughly broke them in, I did have a blister on my heel since one of my feet is a little bigger than the other. When I woke up and got ready I doubled up on the socks and worse super sticky band aids on my heels. So by the time we get off the Tube and make it to Buckingham Palace my band aids have come off but rather than being pushed up above my heel like more toward my ankle…they went under my toes to the ball of my foot….don’t ask me how or why.
I went to the bathroom to try and fit them but I didn’t want to take the band aids off all together since my blisters were pretty bad.  They were the most beautiful bathrooms EVER and they had pink extra soft TP and scented soap… about a step up from the hole-y Swiss cheese TP in the public restrooms in Paris….not to mention we didn’t even have to PAY to use the bathroom.
Once I think I have the band aides all situated, we enter the exhibit but once you start you can’t really leave. As we walk through the exhibit my band aids started creeping down into my toes again and they are REALLY uncomfortable and painful….I was limping around and as I was doing so I lost my balance and instinctively reached for anything to steady myself….and the first thing was a statue from Victoria and Albert’s collection.
In a panic, I tried to reach for something else and somehow regained my balance…..thank you GOD that the statue was attached to the pedestal! If I had knocked over some priceless royal heirloom I would have prayed for death!
It was immediately clear that I needed to somehow take the band aids off and deal with the blister situation….but I couldn’t get back to the bathroom and there were all these fancy-schmancy ‘royal’ security people around who were giving me the evil eye. I ducked into a room which had a bench and not very many people. Mom was occupied by the audio guide thing in another room so I was able to remove my band aids without her freaking out.
I sat down on this bench thing and tried to remove the two pairs of socks and band aides without calling too much attention to this really rude and un-lady like behavior all while trying not to look like I’m going to steal something or destroy it.
No wonder nothing gets done in London…..they have this s(&^%
happening twice a day?!?!? WTF?!?!
So I manage to get one sock off, and then the other but the band aid is stuck to the second sock which I desperately needed if I hoped to make it through the day.
I wrestled with the band aide inside the sock and all of a sudden I catch this horrible whiff of something FOUL.
I realized it was my feet and people are looking around like WTF….what is that smell?!?!
I quickly shoved my bare foot back into the shoe and when I pulled it back out (after the smell seemed to clear) out of nowhere, I had another band aid stuck to the bottom of my foot! I thought both the band aides I put on were inside the sock but apparently not. When I pulled my foot out this gross, blackish (from the dye in my new shoes NOT my feet), stinky band aid goes flying.
I jumped up and grabbed it, bare foot and all so no one would see it and freak out. I put it in what I thought was my back pocket of my jeans. I assessed the damages done to my feet from the shoes and rogue band aids and I saw that my pinky toe on my right foot had a HUGE blood blister on the side AND bottom of my foot… f-ing wonder it hurt so bad! Not to mention my heel was raw. I knew it would be a long day at that point.
So I manage to get both the socks back on but I had no place to put the band aids and there were no trash cans so I put both in what I thought was my back pocket and went on to try and find mom…..the security people in that room were looking around for the smell trying to figure out where it was coming from when I left.
We continued through the exhibit and learned all kinds of interesting facts about Victoria and Albert. In the last room, this lady and her child were standing by me checking out a photo of the king and queen when the mom says to the child…..’no honey no, don’t touch that’….the child was standing RIGHT behind me….now I didn’t think much of it at the time but when we left the exhibit and I stopped in the bathroom I realized I had my two band aids stuck to my backside and ya… just looked all kinds of WRONG!
Buckingham Palace Gates from St James Park,
note the hoards of people on the other side
So we left the exhibit and decided to cut through St James Park which is located right in front of Buckingham Palace to take some more pics. The Queens Gallery is located on the backside of the Palace so it’s kind of out of the way from major foot traffic. As we were walking toward the front entrance of the Palace, somewhere I hear music. I begin to wonder what all that music is about and where’s it coming from?!??!
All of a sudden we run into a HUGE bunch of people……the streets were like deserted and then all of a sudden….boom…..sea of people! Apparently it was time for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. There were HUGE crowds of people and everyone one was pushing and shoving their way so they can see the changing of the guard ceremony……never mind this ceremony happens like twice a day so it’s not like it’s a special once a year thing.
It was pure chaos, we couldn’t even stop to enjoy the ceremony as the police were SCREAMING at everyone telling them to ‘keep moving’…..‘stop’…….‘get out of the way’. It was like a flurry of different directions from the police so it was hard to try and navigate let alone enjoy the ceremony.
We finally decided we just needed to go to the other side of the Palace to the park where we could get out of the nightmare. As we made our way other through, storm clouds gathered and……again….it started to rain. We took cover under some trees and then decided to go to the British Museum for some free sightseeing (most museums are free to the non-exhibit things). So we wandered over toward Wellington Arch to catch the Tube.
Gardens at the British Museum……and gobs of children
completely unaware they are blocking my shot!!!!
We made it to the British Museum without incident and got an audio guide and yet another map of something. Mom and I decided to split up since she wanted to focus on the Greek and Egyptian things while I just wanted to sit down.
I am not really into ancient history like my mom is, plus Sam and I had been to the British Museum when we were there. The only good thing about the British Museum audio guide was that it had GPS tracking to pin point your location in the museum and points you in the direction of cool things in that area. I think you can track your party via GPS too if you sync them at the info desk but not 100% sure…..since the audio guides are iPod/iTouch they are pretty easy to use, however, other than the GPS it was hard to use because they give you a pen tool thing to enter all the codes for each piece which is like 3 numbers long and with all the people around, it’s hard to use and almost not worth the 5 pound price tag.
Whoever the curator is at the museum should be given a HUGE raise because he is a genius……they have little stools scattered in some of the more busy rooms and entrances that you can fold up and carry with you for free in the museum. Which means…..instant seating anywhere you go! This beats the hell out of the Louvre in Paris since in Paris everyone just sits randomly on the floor of the museum when they are tired. So this was a huge improvement! I carted mine with me everywhere and finally stationed myself in the Egypt room as I figured mom would make her way there eventually. As luck would have it mom made it to the room about 20 minutes later so I had a nice rest.
The entrance to the British Museum
We looked around at the Egypt stuff which was cool but both mom and I agreed that we had pretty much seen all this stuff before when the Egypt exhibit came to Portland three years ago, it was all kind of a repeat. There wasn’t anything else we really wanted to see (except the Rosetta Stone which we saw and shockingly were the only ones standing by it for a whole 30 seconds), plus I could tell we were both tired of walking and REALLY REALLY tired of the people…..this was the only place we went where mom DIDN’T cry.
Me lovin the red phone booths! Too bad I can’t

figure out how to make calls on them!

We left the museum around 2:30 and had tea and a snack right in front of the museum at a little café. It was pretty good and reasonably priced…..except the lady serving us looked at me strange when I ordered a pot of tea for me and a pot for mom…..she only brought us ONE pot not two….not really sure why. I had a jacket potato which was AMAZING and we then wandered around looking at all the cute shops. As we shopped mom brought up a good point….what the hell were we going to be about the luggage situation?!?!?
I had already decided that I would need to buy a new suitcase……so we started looking around at some shops and they were all REALLY expensive (70 pounds for a medium one…..low end model….so that’s like $110 USD roughly).
Part of the preserved area and local haunt of
Jack the Ripper
We began reassessing the bag situation about that point. There was NO WAY my stuff would fit into a carry on size bag or even a medium size for that matter. Plus both of our bags were pretty heavy when we were at the airport but mom’s had some ‘wiggle room’ (roughly 10 lbs).
So after considering our options I decided NOT to buy a new suitcase and just put a couple of things in mom’s bag. I would just pack stuff on the opposite side of the suitcase hole and just let the plastic hang….fu)(*&, it right?!??
Mom then brought up the question about transportation between London and the airport. We had bought tickets for the Gatwick Express train which leaves from Victoria Station. Gatwick airport is the smaller international airport in London and way easier to navigate than Heathrow (so it would seem) plus it was cheaper to fly out of.
The problem was that we would have to take the red District Line from our hotel to Victoria Station and locate the Gatwick Express in morning traffic with 2 massive suitcases, giant camera bag, and 2 purses. I just couldn’t do the Tube ANYMORE. I HAD to have something be easy…..for once and I didn’t care what it cost!
So mom and I agreed to take a taxi from the hotel to the airport directly. So on that decision we felt MUCH better…..distribute the weight of our luggage, reconfigure the packing to hide the hole and plastic flags hanging down and take a taxi directly to the airport. So with a plan in place we begin moving right along with the rest of our day.
Wellington Arch, again note the gobs of people!
After shopping we decided it was probably time to start heading toward the Tower of London which is where the Jack the Ripper walking tour leaves from. We had about an hour or so to wander around which was nice….not only nice relaxing…..but nice weather for a change. The sun was out for a few minutes and then of course the winds blew in some clouds which looked a little menacing. We took the Tube to the Tower exit and for once we got off the Tube and followed a “WAY OUT” sign and another sign that said “Traders Gate Souvenir Shop this way” with an arrow point us in the correct direction (for once we didn’t have to use a map!).
Apparently the tour started at 6:00 so we had about an hour –and hour and a half to walk around before they started lining up for the tours.
Mom and I had to use the bathroom and of course we had to pay and it was NOT NEARLY the fancy-schmany place we had been at earlier….this bathroom was GROSS and soooooo not worth the 5 pence we paid to use it. Oh and if you’re in there too long the start knocking on doors asking how much longer. Talk about RUDE.
So after the bathroom we wandered around the Tower and took in its beauty (rain and burqua free today) and we were able to marvel at its architecture. I couldn’t help thinking about Anne Boleyn…..leave the Tower to Westminster to be coroneted a queen, return from Westminster to the Tower…..a traitor. How sad and then to sit in your room while you watch your husband build your platform for your very public death…….Henry’s only redeeming quality was that he hired a specialized swords man from France to do the deed.
All Hallows Church at the Tower
After marveling the Tower for a while we went over to the All Hallows by the Tower church which looked pretty cool. We couldn’t get in since they were doing some weird German play there that night but the exterior was extraordinary. It was gutted and rebuilt during the Blitz in London during WWII, it most famous wedding was USA President John Quincy Adams in the 1700s. Anyway it’s a cute little church and looks like fun to visit if you are looking for something to do that it quick but fun.
We finally headed back toward the gift story to meet our party. We stooped in the little garden thing right by the gift shop and noticed a statue erected in honor of Caesar and the Roman influence on the wall. You can still see the Roman wall——which you can still touch and rub all up on—–which really seemed to float moms boat…..she loved it.
It was fun to watch her be all excited about the big old rocks but no I wouldn’t help her steal a piece, remember that happened last time you removed something you should from a sacred historical place……I will name no items or countries…….but you know what happened Dear Mother!
Courtyard at All Hallows Church by the Tower
We finally started our tour…my feet were KILLING ME already….I was in a world of hurt and the guide told it would be about 2 hours of walking through White Chapel area. This was the other thing I was really looking forward to since Sam and I missed this on our trip I really wanted to go.
So we start walking and the wind kicks up of course. Our tour guide is this cute little old Scottish man who is REALLY REALLY into morbidity and ‘the Ripper’.  So we start walking and he just takes us across the street without looking and we all almost die from a car that came out of nowhere….and he’s all ok you’re on your toes now be on the lookout and chuckled. WTF!?!?!?!?
I will now always look both ways and NEVER trust anyone again. He took us around to some of the murder scenes, it was creepy to sit right where someone had their vagina and organs ripped out and harvested neatly next to your body. CREEPER!
At the next sight mom and I took the lead since some tourists had children with them. As we walked through the tunnel he stops in front of me suddenly and does the: woooohhahahahaaaboooooahahah cackling ripper scream in my face.
It scared the living crap out of me… freaked me out so bad that I used just about every curse word known to man. I was met by death stares from the other tourists who didn’t approve of my language on a ‘family tour’….really?? We were talking about murder and ripping women into shreds via their reproductive organs (we even saw one pic) and you think this is a PG13 tour!?!?!?!?!? Whatever.
All Hallows Church at the Tower’s Gardens
Our guide gave us the background on the most common theories about the identity of the murderer… Prince Albert Victor among many other suspects.
The tour was pretty cool and now I want to learn more about Jack the Ripper since I didn’t know much before, I am intrigued. I think the coolest part of the trip for me was walking along the originals streets just like they would have been in the 1800’s in London. In the area of White Chapel called Frying Pan Alley nothing has changed. Sure sure sure, every store is an Asian restaurant but the structures themselves are unchanged so it was really cool to feel how things might have been back then.
Not to mention everyone goes to the Ten Bells Pub which is where Jack the Rippers most famous victim took her last drink, and the pub is pretty much a shrine dedicated to ‘ripper-ology’. All the pubs in the area are packed and I guess the cool thing to do is stand around out front of the put and block the street…’s like one big house party!
Slums where they found bodies
of women, victims of Jack the Ripper
in the 1800
At the end of the tour we still had not eaten dinner (by now it was about 8:30). I wasn’t too hungry because I ate my jacket potato, but mom was starving. So after we tipped our tour guide and he gave us directions to the nearest Tube we walked and walked and walked past all the pubs.
I asked mom if she wanted to go to one of the pubs she’s like ahhhh no its too packed. OK so we keep walking when all of a sudden she grabs my arm…..hard… she’s going to fall over and I’m like are you ok!?!? She said she was dizzy for a moment and needed someone to balance her….and she picked me!?!?!?!
Big mistake. I can’t even balance myself here as we have seen especially on this trip. I mean really come on now!
The White Chapel that gave the area
of London it’s name
About that point I start getting worried because she looks all white and weak so I started desperately looking for a food solution since it was like 9:00 by now and we had to be up by 5:00 am for the airport.
I kind of wanted to get a move on here  but I didn’t want to push her too hard and kill her. Oh side note, Susan said I would kill mom in London since she thought mom was too delicate and couldn’t take it…..I was like ya right…..well I think differently now I did almost kill her.
Our tour started over by the Tower and ended in White Chapel which is fairly close to the Tower however, not as close as one might think. I didn’t want to walk back to the Tower and look for food, so we asked the tour guide how to get back to the Tube. He left us standing more or less a huge unfamilar Tube station….which was busy because it is not JUST a Tube station, its like Oxford Circus…, dining, and home to both the Tube and railway station. So it’s like a SUPER CENTER for public transit. So here we are standing in this random Tube station…..stranded with mom close to fainting from lack of food.
However I do want it noted that I DID suggest eating at the tea shop/cafe thing by the British Museum like I did but someone wasn’t hungry. After walking around for a little bit, searching for a pub that wasn’t slammed at 9:00 on a Friday night…..I see a restaurant that doesn’t look too busy but their food is like 35-40 pounds a plate (so in essence, EXPENSIVE)…..and mom and I agreed hells no, though at that point I really wanted to sit down because after the mile or so long walking tour my feet were SCREAMING and my blisters were B-A-D!!!!
So right next door was a McDonalds but mom refused to eat that. I’m like I just want to grab a snack and go back to the hotel……rather than listen to reason….ok well maybe not reason but rather than listent to me, mom …..instead of sobbing like we did on the pier, starts yelling that she must have food and must have it now and storms into some weird health food store and bought a salad.
I am not sure what she was thinking because there was NO place to sit except for the middle of the train-station/Tube station and….honestly… the words ‘healthy’ and ‘yummy’ really go together?!?!?! I bought some health food snacks like ‘crisps’ (USA translation= chips) We snacked and people watched for a while and finally decided to go home….on our last Tube ride YEAH!
A preserved section of the city, Frying Pan Alley
We stopped at our hotel and ordered a cab for the morning and the desk clerk said it would cost about 25 pounds (about $40 USD) from our hotel to Victoria Station, where we could catch the Gatwick Express I asked about dropping us off from door to door at the airport which was about 100 pounds ($roughly $150 USD) since Gatwick is kind of far so we scratched that idea…..we opted for the taxi to Victoria Station and use the tickets we had purchased before we left.
I happened to ask about a cab from Oxford Circus to our hotel….how much in say busy traffic. According to our concierge it was about 20-25 pounds max.
I could have screamed! All that f-ing walking and we could have hailed a cab for like $30-40 USD?!?!?!? WTF?!?!?!?!
We went to our room to start packing up…..the toilet still didn’t work……5-6 flushes was about average. ….I think I would have gone out and paid for a public restroom at this point.
10 Bells Pub where the Rippers famous victim had her last
drink. Note all the people outside, that’s just what they do in
pubs I guess.
We started organizing the clothes into two separate bags and when the weight was pretty evenly distributed and the hole patched up via safety pins and tape I found that my bag was pretty much good to go.
Mom zipped up her suitcase. I was musing about how surprised I was that things turned out pretty well with my suit case. I vowed that as soon as I got home I would buy new luggage and burn this nightmare.
I went to stand my suitcase up when all of a sudden the zipper breaks. Like irreplaceable breaks… the pull thing has come off all together, the teeth won’t shut….and it won’t close, period .
I felt like Nancy Kerrigan screaming out why why why and sobbing like crazy!
It was a mess. My suitcase had no way to close and no straps to hold in my stuff……the top wouldn’t close…..there was just absolutely NO HOPE….ZERO!
After a long cry and laugh session we decided to load everything in to mom’s suit case……which weighed well over 100 lbs. She’s like let’s just pay for the over the limit fee…..I wasn’t sure how much it would cost since ever airline is different and I didn’t want to chance it…..plue there was no way in hell either of us was going to be able to lift that nightmare.
At this point I just wanted to buy a new suitcase…..well actually, I first wanted to leave everything I owned in London and buy new stuff later and then I decided that it would be cheaper to buy a new suitcase.
We tossed everything of mine that I can live without…..lotion, band aids, gym socks, one of my brushes, I mean EVERYTHING I didn’t need stayed in that room which included the suitcase.
When we were done loading my stuff into mom’s bag we tried to lift it and broke the side lifting handle thing as it STILL weighted well over 100 pounds. We were in a world of hurt but I just didn’t f-ing care….I just needed to go to bed and care for my blood blisters on my poor little feet.
Mom trying to take a peice of the Roman wall with her!!
The plan for the suitcases was that I would look for one at the airport and buy it and repack in the bathroom…..because that doesn’t look suspicious or anything! F-ing luggage……I will never pack anything from now on that can’t fit in a carry on and I’m buying a hard shell suitcase on 360 spinning wheels!



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