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Eurotrip, 2005

Day 2: London, England

March 2, 2005

by Margaret T. Minnick

We awoke on Wednesday March 2 remarkably chipper and rarin' to go. The breakfast at our hotel almost did us in, though. The sausage seemed to be made of half bread and half bologna. I can't remember what the eggs were like, but I'm thinking that might be for the best. There was also fruit cocktail in heavy syrup available for consumption, and it was actually the best thing.

Our hotel (the Royal National, at Russell Sq.) was a huge, Stalinesque affair of grey concrete and 60's-era signs. (See photo at left.) It was chock-full of school groups, which was kind of intriguing and kind of irritating. I can't say that being surrounded by over 30 American teenagers was exactly what I had in mind for my first morning in London, but I did find myself wondering what it is like to be the fancy kind of teenager who goes on school trip to a foreign country. But, I digress.

We had an early morning date with the Tower of London. We walked a bit, and then caught a bus (double decker! woo hoo!) over to the Tower of London. It was drizzly, but still a relatively pleasant morning at this point. It was about 9 a.m. or so. We purchased the audio tour from the extremely friendly man in the gift shop, and proceeded bravely through the cold drizzle, walking, stopping and looking at various important parts of the Tower as instructed by the audio tour. Chris was always a few seconds ahead of me, so he would walk up to some point of interest, look in the proper direction, and then I would follow suit.

The Tower of London is a lovely medieval castle where they used to chop off people's heads. The best part of the tour is the holding cell where prisoners awaiting decapitation were kept. There's even some medieval graffiti that the prisoners made. (See photo below.)

The Tower is also the home of the crown jewels, but we skipped them. This was Chris' call: I'd seen them before, and I could not report that it was the biggest thrill of my life. Chris is not a royalist by any stretch, so the jewels went unseen by us.

We then took the underground over to the St. Paul's station to meet up with a walking tour about Shakespeare and Dickens at 10 a.m. [At some point in here we stopped at the Monument, which is a kind of weird big column with golden sculpture at the top that commemorates the big London fire of 1666.] The weather was starting to become more convincingly cold and dreary by this time. The walking tour attendees were huddled under the shelter that covered the stairs to the tube station. We'd optimistically left our umbrellas at the hotel, but we did have hats. Chris wants me to mention that it was "freezing."

The walking tour was pretty interesting. It turned out to be more about Dickens than Shakespeare, which Chris was kind of disappointed about, being more a fan of Shaky than Dickens. I like Dickens, though, so I was okay with it. Our tour guide was a very brave old woman who really should not have been out in that weather. Several times she lost her breath while talking and had to sit down, gasping for air while we walking tourees stared helplessly. ("We're foreigners! We couldn't possibly know what to do in this situation!") A large hospital stood reassuringly nearby, but it was thankfully not needed.

We had a date to meet at the Tate Modern, and so rushed across the Milennium Bridge to the museum. We arrived blustered, flustered, and cold as Otter Pops. The weather had turned worse. It might have been snowing. The Tate Modern is a cavernous museum made out of a former power plant on the south bank of the Thames. We happened to visit while an audio installation piece was on display in the main hall. So, as soon as we walked in we heard a recording of a voice saying "think think think think think think think think ..." endlessly, which was pretty disorienting. I kept looking at the people around me and wanting tell them to shut up, but of course it was just the recording driving me bonkers.

At any rate, we met up with friends for lunch which was lovely and took a quick tour of the museum, including a room full of small paper cutouts of people being swept into a garbage truck, and then headed off to the Globe Theatre. After our tour of the Globe, we tried to go to Vinopolis, but the last tour had already started. By this time, it had started raining/snowing and it was rush hour. It took us a while to figure out where the closest tube station was, but we eventually found it and headed back to our hotel.

Our chipperness depleted, we recuperated at the hotel for a while, and then walked over to Vats Wine Bar for dinner. It was a little further than we expected, and it was outrageously cold and windy, but we were glad when we arrived to see that Vats was a very nice yet casual place, and the waitress was very nice and understanding when I asked her what "rocket" was. (It's a fancy kind of lettuce, like arugula.)

After that, we debated whether to go to a show we'd been planning to go to at Water Rat's, which wasn't too far away. The temptation to call it a day was high, but we went to the show anyway, and it was a good thing because it ended up being the most fun part of the day. We arrived more than halfway through the show, because they start things earlier over there than over here (like at 8pm), and close earlier, too.

The bands we saw were Lowdown and The Hot Puppies, from Wales. We made friends with a guy who was selling CDs for The Hot Puppies, and then ended up hanging out with the band for a little while and taking this funny picture of them getting into their van for the trip back to Wales (only one hour, they said!). After they had left, we ran back to our hotel and went to sleep.

Read Part 3!

[Back to Day 1]

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