Hello and sorry. I know it’s been a long time, but we’ve had a very busy few days without break from the heat (inside and outside, ugh). There’s been a heat wave in every city except Amsterdam this entire trip, so if you’re not a fan of the heat, don’t come traveling with us, I guess.
The day after mom and I went to Buckingham, we took the day off (I slept until 2 pm, whoops) and hid from the hottest predicted day. The next day (Saturday) we decided it was high time we went to Harrods. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a single store the size of a city block and five stories high (plus a few basement levels). The outside is gorgeous, but my hands were full when we got around to the front of it, so here’s one from Google.
There’s a full grocery store inside, and they used to have horse gear and puppies for sale. They also installed the first escalators in the world there. The inside is gorgeous as well, with painted ceilings in the food areas reflecting what’s sold there.
Mom and I… might have gone a little overboard. We reasoned that we’d been careful the rest of the trip, and ended up with a huge bag and several smaller bags to take home on the crowded and boiling Tube. It was so much fun. We stuck more to the souvenir side of the store, but we couldn’t resist looking at the luxury home sections. Some of the prices completely blew our minds. 589 pounds (over a 1000 dollars) for a bathroom soap dispenser?! Even if it was crystal… Imagine being able to afford something like that.
My absolute favorite part of the day was having actual afternoon tea in the middle of Harrods. I ordered an English rose tea and was stunned to see real roses in the teapot when I peeked inside. It was delicious.
The boys came back Saturday night. On Sunday, we did the first of two extremely long days. The British Museum.
Remember when I mentioned that a lot of the other museums had replicas, the original of which were at the British Museum? Yep. It’s even bigger than Harrods.
It took us a good 10 minutes to sort out what all the museum had and where to go to see it.
The center room of the museum.
A tourist standing nearby told his friends that “this makes the Smithsonian look weak”. I’ve never seen the Smithsonian, but I’m inclined to believe him. I mean, at the entrance to all the exhibits is The Rosetta Stone.
It’s more like the Rosetta boulder, but absolutely surreal to see. Of course, this was the opening piece for the Egyptian exhibit. I would have screamed if they’re weren’t 3000 other people in that room (how I wish I was exaggerating the number of people). It was unreal to see real Egyptian stuff that they dragged up from Egypt. And most of it dated back 1000 years before the Vikings!
There was also a section on Assyrian temples.
And this crazy set of Middle Eastern doors.
Made from cedar and bronze from somewhere in the Middle East (didn’t recognize the location)
Oh yeah, and stuff from the Parthenon.
And mummies. Lots of mummies.
Not to mention the huge collection of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Celtic, Viking, and Medieval artifacts that I forgot to take pictures of. It was spectacular.
Unfortunately, (and surprisingly, considering the stuff they have there) the British Museum wasn’t air conditioned (save the Korean and Japanese exhibits). The heat coupled with the sheer masses of people wore us out far quicker than I would have liked. We ended up seeing almost everything, but the last hour is a bit of a haze. Dad and I were using each other as backrests on a bench when I realized that the massive painting I’d been staring blankly at for the last few minutes was an original Rembrandt. Surreal.
But that was nothing compared to Monday. We were out of the apartment by 7:20 to catch a bus on the other side of town. The tour bus was… incredible. The bus tour took us to Windsor Castle first.
Top of the list for favorite castles. And here I must correct myself. Here, I say that the Queen was in while we were at Buckingham. That’s wrong. They fly the Union Jack when the Queen is out. They fly this flag when the Queen is in (The royal standard). So we still did get to be in the vicinity of the Queen, after all.
After a tour of the State Apartments (no pictures allowed), we caught the changing of the guard, which was cool but surprisingly frustrating. It took them a good fifteen minutes of marching back and forth and occasionally shouting and marching in formation for a bit to replace a single guard. Is that my Americanism coming through?
Our next stop on the tour was Stonehenge. Stonehenge. Imagine I’m screaming again. I took over a hundred pictures, but I’ll spare you.
It was actually pretty rushed. By the time we walked around the whole thing, we had only 10 minutes to rush back to the bus. It may have been partially my fault… Stopping to take pictures every ten feet… Yeah…
But our last stop was Oxford. It’s truly a gorgeous city. The Paris of England. I was too busy staring and thinking (see below) but luckily mom took a few pictures.
Tolkien studied there, and parts of the first few Harry Potter movie were shot there. Unfortunately, the hall they used for the Great Hall collapsed a few days ago during all the thunder and lightning, so we couldn’t see it.
Something that the tour guide said really struck me. Hitler considered Oxford such a beautiful city that he wouldn’t bomb it. Instead, he promised to make it his capitol when he conquered England and bombed Cambridge instead. Says something for the city.
Now about the thinking. I don’t know how many of you are aware of this, but my college offers the ability to study at Oxford for six months as an international student. And while I’ve been planning to do it… I don’t know. It didn’t feel like someplace I could be comfortable in. It may be the heat, or the exhaustion, or my never-ending headache (Yes, I’m drinking lots of water, it just sucks to be allergic to Advil), but the prospect of studying there just didn’t… Oh, you guys don’t really care about this and that decision is two years away.
Oxford was our last stop, so we headed back for London. It was my first time doing an all-day bus tour, and it was a lot of fun! I wouldn’t want to do it for any longer than a few days, but it was a great way to see England. Besides, the tour guide was super helpful from getting on, to seeing the sights, to where we should get off to get home easiest and where to get the best Indian food (yum, by the way).
And when I say all day, we left at 7:20 and didn’t get back until 9:25, when we passed out.
Which brings us all, at last, to today. Dad left very early this morning to visit a friend in Ireland, and Michael was tired, so mom and I headed out on our own again. Our first stop was Westminster Abbey, where all of the coronations are hold, as well as the most recent royal wedding. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures. It was beautiful, and most of it was used as crypts for various kings, queens, lords, dukes, knights, children, and poets. There was also a shrine to Shakespeare and Charles Dickens’ grave. Very cool.
We then trekked over to a botanical garden. And I’m very serious about trek. We rode the Tube for a bit, then walked and walked and walked and walked some more before finding a map that said the garden was only five minutes away, at which point we walked in the wrong direction. But we did get there eventually. After an expensive, but delicious lunch, we explored the small garden before giving up and getting a taxi back home.
Tomorrow we need a day off to recover from the last few days and attempt to fit all our souvenirs into our bags. Wow that was a long post. Only two days before we fly home!