Londontown: The Euro Series

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Our flight (back) into Heathrow went without any problems. We took the tube into Barbican Station and wandered around, sweaty and exhausted with our packs (that most definitely weighed more than 10 kg. a piece) until Dan sorted out directions to our shoebox suite at Easy Hotel.

I had the idea that Indian food in London would be especially wonderful, given that, you know – they usurped them, and all. We found a little place and ordered drinks. A bit self-conscious of our “barbaric” American eating habits, Danny watched carefully as I fumbled through knife-in-the-right-hand formation, shoulders pinned to the chair back behind me.

We felt so sophisticated. We talked softly and were certain that no one would know we were Americans by looking at us.

Then, about thirty minutes into our meal, the gentleman seated three feet to my right tilted his hips to one side of his seat and ripped the most monstrous fart I have ever heard. Welcome to London, dearie.

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After dinner, we hopped on the tube to see two of London’s oldest pubs: The Blackfriar and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Exhausted from navigating the entire Emerald Isle, I couldn’t bear to touch our map, so when I saw the stop marked “Blackfrairs”, it seemed only logical that we would get off there.

But of course, once off the tube I became uncertain, knowing that Blackfriars was a street and that the pub may not be near the stop at all… so I waved down the attendant. “Could you point us to Blackfriars Pub?” and with complete sincerity, he said “You’re at the wrong stop.” Naturally, I thought, defeated. I nearly missed the punch line as he walked us to the front of the station and explained that “the Black Friar had been known not to pay his tab, so they impaled him just here.” It was laughs for all of us as we spotted the entry to the pub not 10 meters away.

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Many a pub we saw in London had a queue to get in, even early in the evening. The Black Friar was just the same, so we moved on to an even more antiquated establishment: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

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‘Twas garbage day in Londontown, apparently. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was out of the way and mostly empty, but cozy and not without history. We shared a brew alongside ghosts of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain and other long-dead men who knew where to get a drink, if they knew anything at all.

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Friday, July 5th

In my limited understanding of church history, I associated grand cathedrals like St. Paul’s with immense wealth, power, and therefore, corruption. Once beneath its dome, however, I could see that God had worked through centuries of believers to help our feeble imaginations understand his majesty and perceive his presence through that great building. It is a rendering of heaven – the expansiveness, light and reflections of gold and all other colors. There are no hard angles which caused me to feel as though I could rise up and up, limitless. In my awe I felt suddenly sad that, as a visitor,  I couldn’t retreat here frequently to sit in quiet reflection and wonder.

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There were no pictures allowed inside, so you will just have to go see it yourself. 🙂 After the most well-produced audio tour on our trip, we began the ascent to the Whispering Gallery and the external balcony of the dome. St. Paul’s is London’s most iconic building and appears in nearly every photo we took (quite by accident sometimes). The 360 degree views at the base of the dome provided the incredible views shown here.

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Once back on ground level, we set out to find lunch, but found ourselves back on the grounds of St. Paul’s with a picnic, reluctant to leave.

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Forging ever onward, we conquered the halls of the conquered: The British Museum. This is really the part where I should drag Danny in for a guest lecture post, since, as he insisted, he could designate a full day to each and every wing of that cursed blessed building. Don’t get me wrong, it was a phenomenal museum…. I just have a 2 hr. maximum for museums in general. Not to mention the whole “Dear developing/ancient world: We plundered kept these things safe for you for the last several centuries, so we’re going to go ahead and keep it nice and safe in the British Museum for the rest of time, but we will lend it to you, for a fee.”  – thing. Anywho, it was cool. Say hi to Cleopatra, Mr. Easter Island 1000 CE, and the Rosetta Stone.

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After ditching Dan at the 2 hour mark to seek out Starbucks and wifi, we later reunited and walked back down to the Thames in preparation for our night on the town. The Shakespeare Globe Theater (as seen from the top of St. Paul’s earlier in this post) was recreated by a passionate American director in full reverence for Willie’s original design – even, as was lucky for us, his love for the plebs. The floor space beneath the stage at the globe is open to accommodate some 700 “groundlings” per show. At just 6 pounds, I ordered in advance to ensure our tickets to Midsummer’s Night Dream. We arrived early and watched the entire play with our chins rested on the stage itself. Magical. Next time I come to London, I’ll be hitting up show after show while Dan makes his slothly way through the British Museum. It’s in writing, folks.

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After a day like that, we floated back to our hotel and slept so deeply that we forgot to be afraid of running out of oxygen in our tiny, windowless shoebox.

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Saturday, July 6th

Our day in photos:

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Early morning perusal of Portabello Road Market. Bedknobs and Broomsticks curiosity = satisfied.

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Buckingham pomp and circumstance, Regent’s Park, double decker bus and Big Ben at high noon.

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The Tower of London, Crowned Jewels, Largest Diamond in the world… and by 5pm we were at St. Pancreas station to catch the Eurostar to Paris, which explains this…

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