My shiny little online spot to help y'all keep track of me while I galavant around London.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

And, how was your weekend? (Ed. 2)

Jolaine left yesterday after a four-day visit... we pretty much went everywhere and did everything possible, so yes, this will be another long blog.

So either skip ahead to the long version, or here's the short version:

She got in late Wednesday night, so we went to a pub in my area (the Hobgoblin, I think it's called), drank 'til we got booted out. Then, stayed up all night talking, as I haven't seen her in well over a year.

Thursday I had classes all day (production, which sucked massively, and shorthand, which didn't) so Jolaine wandered the city by herself, until later that evening, when we met up at Picadilly Circus (bad, bad place to meet!) and wandered into restaurants and pubs all night.

Friday went to Westminster Palace and the Abbey, walked along St. James' Park past 10 Downing Street (Tony Blair's house), the Cabinet War Rooms, and the Horse Guards Parade, tho we didn't stop in any. We ended up at Trafalgar Square, shopped, hung out and checked out the National Gallery (which I will be back to many, many times as it's stunning and free--free! to see Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Monet's Waterlily pond, which is one of my all time favourites, and pictured here below) before shopping along Picadilly and Regent's street, going for dinner, and then Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre. Ah, I feel so cultured!

Saturday we did the walking tour of Westminster Palace--awesome--then walked down to the river, and then back across to Buckingham Palace, before stopping for fish and chips and heading to the tube so Jo could catch her plane...

For photos, click here. I warn you, there are 45. With commentary. (There will be more, too, as these are just the digicam photos.)

And that was the short version.

Long Version...

Wednesday... Jolaine got in around 7pm to City airport, which is pretty close to where I am. We met up at the New Cross Tube station, dropped off her stuff in my flat, and went straight to the pub; this time, one called the Hobgoblin a little further down the street. We went thru a few pints apiece, and a few bags of crisps, before the pub closed. Pubs close pretty early here weeknights (around 11:30ish?).

Next, we wandered down the street to some local conviencence store amazingly was still open. Jolaine complained that the package of crisps she wanted barely had anything in them, so the guy laughed and gave 'em to her free.

Anyways, went home, ate, and talked until the wee hours of the morning...

Thursday... I had class all day, so Jolaine was left to her own devices, which apparently involve stalking celebrities, getting soaked in the rain and finding some wonderful museum I've never even heard of, but now very much want to visit.

After my classes and her touristiness, we met up outside the Picadilly Circus tube station--or that was the plan, anyhow. Picadilly Circus is basically three streets (Picadilly, Regent, Shaftesbury and a few smaller ones) meet up. At any hour, it's full of people; hundreds on a slow day. And, there are three exits/entrances to the tube, one off each street. So... bad, bad place to meet. We did eventually find each other, tho, so all was not lost.

We had planned to go see Phantom of the Opera, but it was sold out, so instead we wandered around Trafalgar Square, along the Strand, and north into Covent Garden, where we had dinner and found a cool pub, with one very nice australian bartender, who was not only nice looking, but also gave us free crisps. Went home after that, on the tube.

Friday... We took the tube into town in the morning, after stopping for breakfast in New Cross. We wandered a bit a first, doing the "what do you wanna do?" routine, and eventually walked along to Westminster Palace. It was closed for some judge's meeting, but we bought tour tickets for Saturday, which was a stroke of good timing, as Saturday was the last day for tours, as Parliament is back in session next week.

So we walked along to the Abbey, which was also closed, or we assumed it was, based on the large number of police--the armed ones--surrounding it. (Most cops here don't carry guns, but if they are packing, it's this massive sub-machine looking type. And, while most cops here are generally happy to give directions or advice to tourists, the ones with big guns seem to like it a little less.)

Then, we walked along St James' park, which is gorgeous, passing but not really spending much time at 10 Downing Street (Tony Blair wasn't in, as he was having heart surgery at the time, or something), the Cabinet War Rooms (which I'm saving to tour in winter, as they're in a bunker) and the Horse Guards Parade, which didn't have any horses. We passed thru the Admiralty Arch and found Trafalgar Square with Nelson's Column. It's named after Lord Nelson, who after his greatest naval victory, at Trafalgar in Spain against the French, was shot in the back by a sniper and killed. The British seem to think that worthy much remembrance, as this is one freaking big column.

The Square is very pretty, and only a few blocks from Big Ben, which can be seen down the Whitehall road. There are many statues, two huge fountains and lots of pigeons, as well as the National Gallery. So after tea on the steps, and a bit of a rest watching some Hindi dancers film a video, or something, we wandered the National Gallery. This thing is massive, and free and has an amazing collection. They're doing a Renoir exhibit this month, and have several pieces from every master you could name, and many you couldn't. (They also have my favourite, a Monet, pictured here, and a ton by Van Gogh, who's Jo's favourite, so we were very pleased, and I found a shirt I want, but it was 30£, so I didn't buy it). They do free tours, and free audio tours, so my plan is to go back often and do the audio tour for every single painting. We'll see how that goes.

After that, we went and bought our theatre tickets, and then went shopping. We walked down Regents Street, off Picadilly, and Jolaine decided she wanted purses, so she bought two. We had dinner at a place called Spaghetti House, which contrary to what the name might suggest, is nothing at all like Spaghetti Factorys here, in that the food was fabulous.

Then, down the street to Her Majesty's Theatre, and my first ever West End musical. For only 22£, we saw Phantom of the Opera for not entirely bad seats. There was a pillar in front of us, but that blocked my view much less than the orange-on-a-toothpick sized head sitting directly in front of me.

The show was fabulous: great production and set, wonderful music and even better than expected singing.

Saturday... Jolaine left Saturday afternoon, so we only had the morning to sight-see, and had to carry her over-packed backpack with us everywhere. First stop was our tour of Westminster Palace. Our tour guide was great--and there's nothing better than a good tour guide--and told us lots of history and anecdotes about when it was built, the architects, the artwork and parliment itself. The House of Lords and the House of Commons are kept completely seperate; the former is covered in gold and massive paintings, as it must be fit for a queen, as she ceremoniously opens parliment for each session. She has a massive throne of engraved, carved gold, that extends several feet to each side. The Commons, on the other hand, is all carved in rock and stone and wood--to be honest, I like it better. The queen is not allowed to step foot in the Commons because a King once did, and tried to arrest five politicians for treason, so now it's not allowed. (Said king was later executed for treason himself, the only king to be executed by the state.)

Anyways, tour guide-man told us many good stories, but my favourite involved a painting of Lord Wellington ("Well done, Sharpe!") shaking hands with his Prussian ally, after defeating Napoleon's French army. It's 14 meters in length, taking up the whole length of one wall of a room often used for speeches. Indeed, speeches have been given by Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and such in this room--but not by France's expresident General Charles De Gaulle. He refused to speak there, just because of the painting (which, being a fresco, was painted directly on the wall.) Ha, ha, what a poor sport.

Okay. Moving on. We went down to the river, looking for fish and chips, but instead just found the Thames, some boats, and some more statues--memorials are everywhere here.

Then, we started walking to Buckingham Palace. It was a long walk, especially with heavy backpacks, but took us past New Scotland Yard (which sadly does not do tours or offer a gift shop) and down some very cool streets. Eventually we got to the Palace, which truth be told, was kinda boring. A tour would have been nice, but we didn't have the time, so we just kinda hung around the gates for a few minutes. And, yes: impressive, amazing building. But I've seen lots of shiny pretty things since getting here, and to be honest, I'm not a monarchist, and have always thought the whole concept of the modern monarchy to be a massive waste of money.

Jolaine did, however, enjoy the gift shop.

After that, fish and chips at some dodgy dungy diner, with the meanest waitress ever. And yes, for those of you that know the story of Barfing in Banff, I did eat the fish. And it was damn good.

Then, off to the tube to get Jolaine to Heathrow in time for her flight. No tears at the goodbye this time--I think I'm getting better at saying goodbye, thank god. And, at one of my line changes, while standing in Canada Water station, I heard the following announcement:

It doesn't matter how fast you run in your striped rugby shirt, I still know you doubled up, you cheap little man.

And yes, if my day wasn't already awesome, that definitely awesomed it up some more.

So, that was my weekend. For more photos and more commentary (and probably a little repetition), go here. There're 45, and more to come. This set is from the digicam.

And if you've actually read this far, give yourself a pat on the back; you're a good person, if a bit bored.



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