Thursday, June 28, 2012

Londonton Abbey - Day 8

Previously, in London:
Londonton Abbey - Day 3 (Hampton Court Palace)

We started at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  I was a fan of the logo.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has a "Ballgowns: British Glamour since 1950" that I really wanted to see.  However, the exhibit wasn't scheduled to open for another week.  Sad face.  Instead here is T in front of some Greek garden statues.  Almost the same, but not quite.

There were lots of really cool hands on kids exhibits throughout the museum and we did pretty much every single one.  We made royal monograms, coats of arms, built a table, T finished this puzzle...

And I tried on a crazy hoop skirt.

There was a glass sculpture in the main atrium that really reminded me of the one in Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City.

This outdoor wooden staircase is from the 1500's.

Why don't they paint the lids of pianos anymore?  I think we should bring that back.

So this isn't part of the museum, per se.  It's just a regular chair for sitting in when you get tired.  But it was SOOO comfy.  All the chairs at this museum were really different looking and they were all really comfy.  This one is my favorite and I want to own some like it.

A much lesser tiara from the jewelry exhibit.  This is the only photo because apparently photos are not allowed in the jewelry area, though there weren't any signs saying so (and I looked).

Just some cool glass art.

We ate a lunch at McDonald's and I had the tangy tomato chicken (a UK thing, apparently).  It was two chicken strips and a small bag of seasoning and I had to make it myself like shake and bake chicken.  It seriously tasted like regular chicken strips with just the tiniest hint of something extra.  I was really wishing for a lot of something extra.  Yet another disappointment in the British food arena.

Then we headed to Kensington Palace and used our Historic Royal Palaces membership.  Members of the Royal Family still live here (like Will and Kate!) so only certain parts are open for tourists.  These gates are the ones that were overflowing with flowers when Princess Di died.

There were four main exhibits:  Princess Di, Queen Victoria, the King's apartments (King George I and II), and the Queen's apartments (Mary II).

The Queen Victoria exhibit was by far the best.  It had tons of quotes from her own diary and from letters she and Albert wrote to each other.  Basically it was just a really sweet love story.  And you KNOW how much I love love stories!  This was Queen Victoria's wedding dress.  She was quite short.

Prince Albert died rather unexpectedly.  This was one of Queen Victoria's mourning dresses and the mourning attire for some of her children.  I thought it was so sad the Queen Victoria remained in mourning for the rest of her life (40 years!).  At some point wouldn't you just want to let yourself be happy again?  Don't you think that is what your dead husband would want?

The Princess Diana exhibit was small and just ok.  It had five famous dresses that she wore along with photos of her wearing the dresses on display.  I thought the wallpaper made of iconic photos of Princess Di was pretty cool.

The restroom signs here were the best we saw in London.

Along the passageway there were embroidered pillows of all the royals who have lived at Kensington Palace (in sequential order, you can see Princess Di and Princess Margaret to the side).

It's nice, but not as nice as you would expect for a royal staircase.

This was a gorgeous life-size paper cut out and it really reminded me of the credits from "Enchanted."

A view of Kensington Gardens.  Thanks for another beautiful day, London!

This plate must be significant somehow, but I just took a photo because I really like how the ribbon is threaded through it.  I have a thing for ribbon.

Sadly, Will and Kate were not at home so this is the closest I got to them.

A lot of Kensington Palace just seemed like a nice house, but this ceiling was definitely one of the more palace type features.  (I took A LOT of blurry photos in London.  Oops!)

The actual coronation robe.  Check out that super long train!

Now this is more like a royal staircase!

The palace gardens are open to the public.  Kensington Gardens is actually connected to Hyde Park so the open space is pretty substantial.  Unfortunately, the open space was taken up by tons of dogs not on leashes.

Along the fence outside the garden we saw a lot of street vendors.  Mostly artists.  Some were pretty good, but how would you transport the art back home?

Of course at the end of the day we hit up the Tesco again.  Doesn't this sound like a scam?

S'more UK candy.  
The Twirl bar looked like Twix but it was a plain chocolate bar.  Not like a Hershey's bar, but like soft chocolate inside.  We don't remember what the Double Decker or the Wispa Gold taste like so they must not have been terrible or amazing.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Londonton Abbey - Day 7

Previously, in London...
Londonton Abbey - Day 3 (Hampton Court Palace)

Saturday we headed back to finish up the British Museum.  It should have been a straight shot to the museum on the red line but the track was closed for Olympic renovations or some nonsense like that so we had to take the really long way around.  So while we saw lots of signs about the Olympics, this was the only interaction (of sorts) that we had with them.

Basically, we saw "lots of old stuff."  Like this throne from the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens aka where a VIP would sit to watch the Olympics circa 140 AD.

This is a Japanese steel Tachi blade from late 1100's or early 1200's.  This kind of sword was used by samurai  on horseback.  I was just so amazed that it is in such great shape (shiny and sharp) compared to all the swords from Europe that only date from the 1500's.

Kicking it with some Egyptian statues (I have no idea who they are...)

The REAL LIFE Rosetta stone.  It was pretty awesome and impressive.

I know the reflections from the glass are annoying, but you can make out three very distinct types of carvings.  Super cool. 

A temple of something or other.

Parts of the Parthenon from Greece.

Obviously, this is a scale model of the Parthenon.  It's just kind of mind blowing because the friezes are so large, but on the Parthenon, they would have looked relatively small sitting atop the pillars and such.

This giant horse statue was part of a wealthy man's tomb / shrine thing. What is that called?!

Easter Island head

This is an Eskimo snowsuit for a three year old.  I just thought it was the cutest thing ever and I kinda want one for our baby. 

Getting eaten by a totem pole.

This is what I hope part of heaven looks like:  a giant library full of great books.

I know we don't drink tea, but these sets of tea cups were just so gorgeous that I wanted to own them anyway.  I'm not sure who they belonged to or how old they were, but they were in the museum part, not the gift shop part, so I'm sure they were out of our price range anyway.

This was our shortest day.  We left the museum around 4 and went straight back to the hotel.  We were SO tired from all of our running around and wanted a relaxing break from being tourists.  We watched a UK show that was essentially Zooborns, but on TV, so pretty much AWESOME!

We went to dinner at a Pizza Hut near our hotel.  It was definitely not like a Pizza Hut here.  Since that Pizza Hut didn't deliver, we assumed it would be a Pizza Hut buffet.  Oh, no.  This Pizza Hut was a classy joint.  Ok, not fancy classy, but like Olive Garden classy.  It was a sit down restaurant with waitresses and a wine menu and dessert menu and mood lighting and everything.  Sadly, the pizza was not that great.  We got a pepperoni pizza and the British pepperoni is not like American pepperoni.  It was more like a pepperoni crossed with canadian bacon.  So much for trying to get some good American food! (Though, to be honest, it was still better than a number of other places we had meals.)

Since we were still a bit hungry we hit up the TescoExpress (a chain convenience store that is more than a gas station, less than a grocery store) across the street from our hotel.  It was there that I met and fell in love with the 25p (about 40 American cents) jam donut.  They are 10 times better than any American jam donut, because the jam tastes better and there is more of it.  We visited the Tesco almost every day, and I got a jam donut everyday (except when they were out!  it was terrible!).  Some of the other UK treats we tried:
The skittles did not taste like regular skittles.  The texture was exactly the same, but the tastes were very different (like grape was much more wild berry) and much more mild.  The Haribo gummies tasted exactly the same as American ones.  Maom stripes looked like a Laffy Taffy but tasted like a strawberry Mambo candy.  The Toffee Crisp was similar to a 100 Grand.  The Starbar was like a Snickers with the addition of a wafer layer. 

The Tesco had an interesting sign posted behind the counter above the cigarettes: "If you appear to be under 21 we card."  Which we both thought is totally ridiculous.  It's not hard to look over 21!  In the states it's "We card under 40" and many places check your id regardless if you look over 40.

Speaking of smokers, MAN there are a lot of inconsiderate smokers in the UK!  They like to stand literally one foot outside main doors to hotels, restaurants, museums, etc.  While we were in London we saw a very obviously pregnant lady smoking!  Are you for serious?!  I wanted to punch her.  Everyone everywhere knows that is so terrible for your baby!  We also saw a very pregnant lady chatting with three other ladies who were all smoking.  It just made me so sad that they care so little about their babies. 

I'm going to try to have these recaps done by next Sunday!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Londonton Abbey - Day 6

Oh, Snap.  We have been home from London for a month.  I really need to just finish these already.

In case you missed it:
Londonton Abbey - Day 3 (Hampton Court Palace)

We took the tube to Picadilly circus then took a London Transit "Heritage Route" double decker bus to The Tower of London.  Finding the bus stop was a pain because everything was moved around due to construction.  But the bus ride itself was really cool.  If you visit London don't buy a hop on hop off bus tour thing.  Just get an Oyster Card and take the regular bus.  It's WAY cheaper and you see all the same stuff.

These photos aren't really of anything significant, just cool stuff we saw while riding around.  The tube is definitely faster, but you definitely see more of London on the bus.

Lion statue at Trafalgar Square.

This one is for my dad.

This is totally blurry, but this is the Royal Courts of Justice (the above picture is too).  I really wish we could have seen some barristers wearing their robes and wigs, but they are probably too embarrassed to wear them outside of the building.  And who can really blame them?  How can you take anyone seriously when they are wearing that?

These next ones are St. Paul's Cathedral.

So on our second time to Tower of London we saw everything we skipped the first time, including the Imperial Crown that the Queen had the audacity to wear so it was missing during our initial visit.  Of course, still no photos allowed of the Crown Jewels.

T in front of Traitor's Gate, where supplies and important prisoners (like Ann Boleyn) were brought into the Tower.

Contemplating the White Tower

The Tower Bridge

Looking through the hole where you shoot the arrows at the intruders.  Whatever that is called, that is what this is.

View from part of the wall walk. The road at the top leads to Tower Bridge.

Ummm... I don't really remember what this helmet is about.  Something, something... armor.

I know it's not exactly clear, but that is a crown on top of the weather vane.  Those Brits sure do love crowns as street accessories!

Entrance to the Crown Jewels exhibit

Go America!  This was one of about three references to the United States' "rebellion" that we saw in all of London.

This is the spot where notable executions, like Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard, took place.  It's such a strange monument.  The first time we saw it sort of from a distance I thought they had placed a plastic bag over part of it to protect it from the rain.  No.  It is supposed to be a frosted glass pillow.  You know, to represent how comfy people were just before they got their heads chopped off.  Even the Yeoman Warders think it is silly looking.

Also, I think it is strange how into King Henry's wives people are.  At almost EVERY gift shop there were King Henry's Wives sold as a set of nesting dolls and a collection of Christmas ornaments.  Why?!  Though I admit, it would be a bit funny if the nesting dolls separated at the neck of each queen and the neck was bloody.  Morbid and I still wouldn't want to own them, but kind of funny.

One of the famous ravens.

After the Tower of London we visited the Bank of London Museum.  The museum wasn't that great because I'm not into the history of British money or banking.  We went to the museum to hold the solid gold bar!  Well 99.97 % pure gold bar.  No photos were allowed, but let me tell you that thing was heavy (28 pounds)!  Like heavy enough that it hurt my wrist when I lifted it (because really, who has strong wrist muscles?!).  (The gold bar is in a plastic box that is just big enough to put your hand in to to hold but no way to pull the giant brick out.  It's a banana-in-the-box-that-the-monkey-will-never-get-out situation.

After holding the most money in my life (the solid gold bar aka £391568 aka $615,270) we ate lunch at an "American Diner."  And it was pretty good.  We had milkshakes and nachos and wraps and throughly enjoyed not eating crappy British food.  It wasn't quite American, but it was closer than anything else we had in London.  Unfortunately, it seems that America is quite intent on exporting crappy rap music and celebrity news because that kind of seemed to be the theme of the restaurant.

I definitely look pregnant in front of this random art on the way to the Museum of London.

We visited the Museum of London which starts at the very start of London aka the start of time.  So the first part was kind of like a natural history museum, then it gets in to Roman reign and goes from there. Some parts were definitely interesting, and other parts definitely were not.  I thought this real preserved dress was awesome.  No need to worry about how big your hips actually are in this dress - no one will ever know!

There was an exhibit about the plague in London and we watched a three minute video about it and I totally fell asleep during it.  We knew we were going to be cutting it close to seeing everything there before they closed.  I really think we could have seen everything, but they kicked us out - literally they made us exit the building - at 4:45.  Why have posted hours if you're going to kick us out before then?  This also happened to us at our next stop, which was The British Museum.

But first, one more of St. Paul's Cathedral:

The tube.  Some of those stations had SO many stairs!  The subway in NYC isn't that far below ground, but London's is WAAAAAY underground.  Those stairs became my nemesis and escalators my good friends.

In front of the British Museum, which is pretty much the history of the entire world.  Really, I felt like the theme of this Museum was "Plundering, plundering, YEAH!" (sang to the tune of "partying, partying, YEAH" from the song "Friday" as done by Stephen Colbert) because it's a collection of antiquities that the UK snatched up from around the world during their imperialism phase.

The cool glass ceiling inside.

The 2012 London Olympic Medals!

Which were made from materials from Rio Tinto Copper in Utah aka Kennecott Copper Mine!

The famous Lewis Chess Set (circa 1150)

George Washington coins and Continental Congress currency (it's hard to tell, but the paper says 1/6 dollar)

I don't know what this is, but we joked that it is the world's first slinky.

It's a hippo!  And I recognized it before even reading the sign!  I'm just saying that art from 3000 BC isn't always discernible and I was proud of myself for not having to have it spelled out for me.

Another hippo I recognized before reading the sign!  Apparently, the hippo shape is easy for me.

Insert mummy with mummies joke here.

I've seen mummies and sarcophagi before, and I thought there would be like five of them and it would be nice and we would move on.  But no, there were like 40.  And they were all SO impressive!

T and I both feel like we have seen this before in the scriptures.  I thought it was in Abraham but it's not there.  Anyone know where we might have seen it?  Was it in the older version of the scriptures?  Or the children's version?

We were nowhere close to seeing the whole museum when we got kicked out early (15 minutes before they actually closed!) again.

Because we stayed late at the British Museum for their extended weekend hours we moseyed over to see Parliament and Big Ben at night.  It's hard to take good night photos, yo!  This is The London Eye at dusk which is just across the Thames from Parliament and Big Ben.

Surprisingly, the Thames didn't smell.

We waited around for it to get a bit more dark.

We think the reason the corner tower doesn't have any illuminating lights is because there is nowhere to place them on the ground because the River Thames literally washes against the tower.

Then we headed off to a classy dinner of KFC, took the tube to the hotel and went to bed.  That was a 13 hour day, and we were exhausted!