View of the Swiss Alps from Lauterbrunnen.
The next stop we had on our trip was to Lauterbrunnen, a small town in the Swiss Alps that lies in the Lauterbrunnen Valley and is overshadowed on one side by Jungfrau, one of the higher peaks in ‘the Bernese Alps’ (thanks wikipedia).
I had low expectations for places like Switzerland where it was more scenery than Things To Do on my list but it definitely surprised me. It was gorgeous. One of the girls remarked that the sunlight hitting the peaks made it look like the way to heaven, I totally agree. We were told of how there were a lot of waterfalls but most had probably frozen over.
I learned a lot of things about Switzerland actually - a fair bit I didn’t know about like that they had National Service or that they had such a high rate of arms ownership or that they apparently play a massive part in the international arms market. (Ok I just reread that sentence and all the ‘arms’ translated to body parts instead of firearms in my head - I meant firearms!)
Lauterbrunnen is a really quiet town. The shops don’t open until 3pm in the afternoon and aside from the epic scenery (no really, I can’t go on about it enough - it was amazing) there wasn’t much to do. There wasn’t any snow on the ground, just some frost occasionally.
We stayed in 4 person chalets with the shower and toilet block a few meters away and the (oh so very warmly heated) bar which doubled as our dining area near by. There were a few worried moments when the heater in our row of chalets didn’t work and there was some general muttering about I should’ve bought a sleeping bag and if the heating doesn’t start working I’m dragging the doona into the bar and sleeping but thankfully it didn’t come to that. When the heaters did start working, they were pretty enthusiastic. We didn’t do anything on the first night outside of having dinner and sleeping (or in the case of most others, drinking).
The next morning was brilliant. I’ve never seen snow before in my life so I was pretty excited about going up the mountain- we got the Jungfraubahn to Jungfraujoch (or ‘the Top of Europe’ - which just means it’s the highest railway station in Europe, there are a lot of taller mountains around it). It was expensive (142 euros) but I think it was worth it for me. The train up the mountain took about an hour with glorious scenery the whole way up.
When we were about to get on the Jungfraubahn up the mountain, one of the girls voiced a thought we all had and asked LaLa why there were fence-like structures higher up the mountains, in overlapping rows it seemed. LaLa told us that they were ‘cow catchers’ (and believe me, we knew there was some livestock around because we got off the bus at Lauterbrunnen and it smelled like India with the lovely odour of cowdung wafting around). She said the cows that lived here, after years of walking up those mountains, had some legs shorter than others and so when they turned around, they fell over and to stop them rolling down the hill, they built these fences- overlapping in some places to catch the cows- hence ‘cow catchers’.
So, some of you reading this might be aware that occasionally I am gullible.
Let me confirm that for those not yet aware and say that yes, as a matter of fact, I totally took what LaLa said at face value and it was only about half an hour later when we were still on the train up the mountain and the girl who originally asked the question repeated LaLa’s answer for someone else that my brain actually kicked in and went ‘wtf, that doesn’t even make sense’.
At least I realised then and not the next morning when LaLa announced she lied and a fair few looked surprised at being deceived?
ANYWAY, moving on. (They are actually snow fences to prevent avalanches.)
There unfortunately wasn’t snow at Jungfraujoch as I was expecting it to be with the snowball fights and snow angels but it was all ice. The open area had a swiss flag flying but as it was so still there were a few hilarious moments of some tourists trying to shake the flagpole to get the flag more visible. There was just one small iced over square in the open area and V had a comedic moment of flailing around madly before she slipped and fell (unhurt).
I took a multitude of ridiculous photos involving ’jetstar jumps’ in front of the mountain and then about 100 of the mountains just looking amazing of which I then deleted about 95 for looking exactly the same. You could get a close up of the glacier and there was a viewing platform at the very top of where we were which also provided a 360 degree view of the area.
There were a bunch of restaurants (including a Bollywood Restaurant which we decided we were ok with not visiting) and tourist shops up there including one that sold incredibly expensive swiss watches and, I suspect, a full range of swiss army knives. We bought some chocolate ostensibly for taking it back home, had a hot chocolate (or two) and then just wandered around the area, pausing in front of windows to exclaim yet again at how amazing the view was.
We came back down the mountain about 3ish in the afternoon, had some food at one of the restaurant/cafes in Lauterbrunnen and walked back to the accommodation and faffed around until evening (or in my case repacked my bags). We passed the church on the way back and it was so very picturesque with frost on the front lawn and all. There were a lot of English folk in Lauterbrunnen - apparently a fair few choose to retire there.
The food was surprisingly good in Switzerland. S and P are vegetarians and for the two nights in Paris, they were just stuck with cheese omelettes whereas the rest of us got to try (and I can’t believe I forgot to mention this in the post on Paris) snails and frogs legs. The snails were delicious by the way! Probably because of the large amounts of garlic sauce they came with. So good. The frogs legs were puny (duh?) and… not that good.
Er, back to Switzerland - we had some pretty filling fare of soup and then sausages and I think the vegos got cannoli? And then I decided to reacquaint myself with tequila (drinks appear to be ludicrously cheap here compared to Aus) but I’m a really boring drunk so aside from graffiting the ceiling (which we were ALLOWED to do! The tables and ceiling had peoples names and where they were from all over it) and writing something rude next to something a misogynistic asshole had written on the table, I didn’t do much.
One of the options that was available for our time in Lauterbrunnen which I am now really really wishing I had done (especially because I haven’t been able to do the skiing option here in Austria as there’s no bloody snow on the ground yet), was to go skydiving out of a helicopter. It would have been about a quarter of my budget though. About 6 of the guys did it and they had videos taken and it looked scary as all hell and fantastic. I am totally doing it when I get back (no really, I will).
We headed off the next morning for Florence. We’ve had pretty early starts all throughout this trip- certainly earlier than I’d ever get up on holidays. >.> But yeah, Switzerland was a surprise, a very very pretty one.
Arc du Triomphe in Paris.
The itinerary for our tour said that we’d be leaving at 6am in the morning from the Clink 78 except that actually meant that we’d be gathering from then and doing other stuff first like meeting our tour leader from Newcastle called LaLa (who had, as she emphasised, not-a-Geordie-accent), having breakfast, waiting for our bus to turn up after it got its headlights broken and so we only set off at 8ish.
As mentioned before, almost all of the 42 people who started the trip at London were Australians with a handful of Kiwis, one Brazilian and a few others. As we piled on the bus for Dover, I sat next to P while S and V sat on the other side of the aisle. P and S knew each other from uni (meddites from Sydney) and came on the trip together while V had been living in London and was going back home to Sydney shortly after the trip. We just clicked and now they’re stuck with me for the rest of the trip. :P
We took the ferry to Calais and then transferred to the bus we’d be getting comfortable on for the next 24 days and met the bus driver, Justin (who a bunch of guys later found out couldn’t sing for crap). I think it was only then that I realised that it would be a lot of travelling on the bus followed by a day in a city. In my head, everything in Europe is right next to each other (well, compared to Australia in any case) so I was a little surprised at the amount of driving we’d have to do.
We got to Paris fairly late in the day and went for a ‘city of lights’ tour. It was beautiful. Everything looks so much more mysterious and romantic at night. We drove past the red light district and Moulin Rouge to get to our first stopover at Sacre Couer and climbed a lot of stairs and had a pretty glorious view of the city.
We did a drive-by past the Place de la Concorde and gawked at the giant obelisk before making our way to the Arc du Triomphe and the frightening as all hell roundabout surrounding it. Traffic stopped at just the right place for us to take some lovely night photos of it and then we headed for our 15min stop at the Eiffel Tower for some absolutely gorgeous photos with it all lit up. We ended the tour with a drive by of Invalides and then Notre Dame which was where we were to meet for dinner the day after. Throughout the tour, LaLa had a running commentary of the history and importance of the buildings we were looking at which was really good.
Our actual day in Paris was pretty glorious. We managed to do everything we wanted to do! It was awesome that I found a group of people that wanted to do the same stuff as me (or occasionally let me organise the day)…
We started the day (as I wish a lot more would) with a few hours at the Louvre. It was nowhere near as busy as I thought it would be tbh and I think that has been something of a common refrain throughout our trip. We haven’t had to line up for anything and it’s never been very crowded wherever we’ve gone. It was amazing. I took way too many photos, of which a lot are probably terrible, including a few more that would belong in the Sheeba-standing-in-front-of-things album. The Mona Lisa was actually bigger than I expected (everyone told me it was quite small!) There was a crowd of people in front of it and a barrier so you couldn’t get too close.
I saw some Botticellis and Raphaels and definitely spent most of my time going through the paintings and then the scupltures section. Spent a lot of time staring at the Venus de Milo and got lost in the Egyptian section before finding my way out and then promptly getting lost in the Greek, Roman and Etruscan sections and it was amazing. So much artwork and sculptures and prettiness and there was no where enough time to see anywhere as much as I wanted to see.
The girls and I specifically set a time to meet up again by the big glass pyramid and I was a little bit late but hey, it’s the Louvre. We made good use of the Paris metro system throughout the day. We stopped at one end of the Champs Elysee and then walked down it, through all the Christmas markets and the stores toward the Arc du Triomphe. We had nutella crepes and some delicious soup & bread at the Christmas markets. We found Laduree and then had some maccroons which were soooo good. I was going to buy 3 but got distracted by the very aesthetically pleasing guy at the counter and got 4 instead. >.> I totally didn’t eat them all at once! V also bought some roasted chestnuts which were perfect for the cold weather.
We safely took the underpass to the Arc du Triomphe and went a little snap-happy. Then it was to the Eiffel Tower which we all thought wouldn’t be as awesome by daylight as it was lit up at night but boy were we wrong. Still so very very gorgeous. It looked brown from where we were which confused us a lot but turned out that was just because of the sunlight. We stayed there for quite a while, even after all our photos of picking it up, holding it in the palm of our hand etc were all done. It’s just so very pretty to look at.
We caught the metro to Notre Dame cathedral as our last stop for the day, took some more photos, tried not to interrupt the mass that was being held there and stared at a bride having wedding photos taken in front of it (that sure as hell beats Kings Park and the boatshed is all I’m saying).
Our night was rounded off by a visit to the Cabaret. Specifically one called Paradis Latin. It was… interesting. I’m glad I went but I wouldn’t go to another one I don’t think. Aside from the mostly naked ladies and men, there were circus acts and some singing. The night was made more memorable, not necessarily in a good way, by the fact that a few of the guys got very very drunk, did a lot of unclassy heckling (pretty sure they weren’t expecting a loud Kiwi yelling ‘take your kit off’) and then one tried to steal a chandelier from the place which resulted in a hell of a lot of broken glass. Needless to say LaLa did a lot of apologising to the management and I was a bit suprised at how rowdy that whole night was.
The next morning we had a bit of a talking to on the bus and were then introduced to the concept of TopDick of the Day - a large fluoro yellow construction vest to be worn for the whole of the bus day by whoever was voted as having the most dickish behaviour in the last city. They then have to wear the vest for the whole day, throughout any photo stops (which means someone’s Leaning Tower of Pisa photos would have been more amusing than usual) or lunch breaks and if they’re caught without it on, they have to buy whoever caught them a drink. Which would probably end up being the whole bus seeing as the vest is pretty noticeable. Needless to say, chandelier!guy sported the vest for that day.
Our next stop was Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland. Most people slept on the way there while I read the rest of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell- a book where I spent a lot of the time not knowing where the hell it was going and somehow about 200 pages in, it finally turned into a book where I had to know what was actually going to happen to the characters. I wanted to start yelling at a character death halfway through and kinda wished the female characters did a lot more and until I got to the last page (which was perfect in a really unsatisfying way) I wasn’t sure I’d have recommended the book.
So uh, I finished my planned holiday reading two days into the trip. >.> But yay for the Kindle. Also the terribly trashy novel I picked up on a book exchange which took me about 8 hours of solid bus-trip reading to finish. Reading is more fun than writing my posts on my phone, ok!
I also just finished reading Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell which got me overinvested the way meandering period dramas always do on the bus trip yesterday and today I picked up Rant by Chuck Palahniuk at the book exchange at the hostel I’m staying at in Salzburg which I am looking forward to.
Ok, I am going to go get ready for my lazy day in Salzburg and then hopefully manage to write another post tonight!
Have started the topdeck tour! I didn’t post for the last few days because of laziness and being distracted in Paris and then because internet is stupidly expensive in Switzerland (holy crap, I saw the Swiss Alps!!!!- ok that is for another post).
There are a disproportionately large number of Aussies on this tour and apparently a greater proportion of boys than usual (of whom a fair few are really annoying and appear to be in Europe for the sole purpose of getting pissed which sucks a little) but on the whole I think we’ve got a pretty interesting group.
We’ve already had a few interesting moments including a guy trying to steal and then breaking a chandelier from the cabaret place and an entertaining night last night for some people that had us starting today’s bus ride with ‘I Just Had Sex’ by Lonely Island feat. Akon…
I hadn’t realised it was pretty much going to be a day of bus ride and then a day in a city. I’m really glad I brought my kindle. Mostly people sleep and we have a selection of movies.
I’ve found a group of girls who are pretty like-minded in what do to on the tour so that’s really good even though one’s leaving in Rome. Of the other two, they’re both Indian and one just graduated from and the other is in fifth year med at UNSW. Surrounded by meddites. :P
Paris and Lauterbrunnen were amazing.
The bus rides are pretty same-ish so I’ll post about the days in the cities.
Back to watching Gladiator on the way to Pisa!
Replica of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module at the Science Museum.
Wednesday was my last day and I had fairly relaxed plans for the day. However I forgot to take into account that I hadn’t organised my SIM card for the Europe tour so that took up a large part of the morning and then again in the evening when roaming wouldn’t work.
One of the things I organised for the last day of my week was a visit to the Sherlock Holmes museum. I love that it’s at 221B Baker St! There was an ‘Inspector Lestrade’ outside the building dressed as he is in the illustrations from The Strand magazine.
The lower floors are set up as if Holmes and Watson still lived there. I particularly enjoyed the part with Watson’s medical bag set up with instruments he’d have used at that time and the photo of Irene Adler on the mantle.
The upper floors have life size figurines from certain stories at key points of the stories. There was a hilarious moment in the midst of my continuous photo taking where I was about to take a photo of a figurine of an elderly gentleman looking asleep on a couch whose story I couldn’t figure out when he moved.
He scared the hell out of me and I barely managed to stifle a shriek while the young guy next to me nearly tripped over from his startled leap backward at the movement. When I got my heartrate back under control I commented to the elderly gentleman that I hadn’t been expecting him to move and he smiled and said we weren’t meant to and then settled back into the couch to lie in wait for the next victim I presume…
I quite enjoyed the visit and somehow resisted the urge to buy some souvenirs at the store. It wasn’t something I’d definitely recommend to everyone but it was good.
Sir John Soane’s Museum was next on my list. It was amazing and looked like a house that belonged on ‘Hoarders’ the TV show. There were renovations going on outside as part of a program called ‘Opening Up The Soane’ because he had so many things attached to walls and in the rooms that it actually damaged the structural integrity of the house.
I loved the library. Aside from the sarcophagus of Seti (holy cow!), I really liked the sculptures and cornices he’d collected just hanging in what seemed to be no particular order, all around his house. His drawings and architectural plans for London were awesome. Some looked so amazing I was sad to find out that they weren’t all actually built.
The rooms were so crowded I could barely walk through some areas. The upper floors weren’t opened unfortunately. I wish the crypt was better lit. They had candles but only few were lit and there were more than a few sculptures I couldn’t see too well.
This house/museum wasn’t originally on my list but I’m so glad I went. It was different and interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I finished earlier than expected so I spent the rest of the day at the Science Museum. I didn’t have enough time to browse as I wished so I covered the secions I was interested in which was the parts on astronomy and medicine.
The timeline of medicine was pretty interesting. They had picture displays about the stages in the development of medicine and dentistry.
There was also a section on technological developments in medicine which had some really interesting displays including an iron lung, one of the first dialysis machines as well as sections on vaccination and the development of insulin.
The sections on astronomy were awesome. One of the first things I saw when I entered the building was a replica of the landing module of Apollo 11. They also have the actual lunar module of Apollo 10 which was awesome. There was the history of space exploration with sections on Gagarin and space shuttles as well as a bit on surviving on Mars.
I’m happy I managed to visit the Science Museum, I just wish I’d had more time. I got carried away at the British Museum at the start of the week so my plans were thrown awry. I managed to do most of the things on my list for London though. I’m so glad I made one, it meant I didn’t dither around wondering what to do. I think it played a large part in helping me have such an amazing week in London.
Still alive, will write up some posts on bus ride from France to Switzerland. Hah, how cool is it that I can say that?
Hmm this is a worse pic than I thought it would be. Anyway, it’s of a wall of the Tate Modern.
I didn’t realise this at the start but I came in one of the side entrances to the Tate Modern so I was bit confused to find myself not at the beginning.
My opinion of the place varied from ‘huh, that’s really cool’ to ‘wow that looks like a spectacularly esoteric piece of work’ and ‘Hah I bet whoever made that is laughing their butt off that they got paid for it’.
I really enjoyed one of the collections currently showing by Taryn Simon which had rather compelling stories attached to photos of people.
The rooms on feminist artwork were really cool- I posted the Guerrilla Girls posters before.
I saw a fair bit of the permanent collection, I think my favourites were The Sick Child and The Ballet Dancers.
I think by then I figured I should leave to see The Globe or I wouldn’t have enough time.
I really enjoyed the Exhibition on the history of The Globe and its rebuilding. I didn’t realise how recent it was. The actual tour wasn’t very long and the guide seemed quite intent on impressing the Italian girls rather than guiding at the start. :P
It was interesting, though that was probably because we were actually in the theatre. He explained a little about why the theatre was built south of the river, where the actors would’ve gotten changed, how the crowds might have been etc.
Post-talk, I went back to browse the floor of the exhibition which had costumes and props that they use in current productions as well as recordings of famous people who’ve played Shakespearean characters. (Alec Guinness will always be Obi-Wan to me.) You even got the opportunity to record yourself in roles opposite some of those actors.
The only thing that would make London better would be if all the interesting stuff was open past 5pm. I kinda got shoo’d out of there…
Had a nice end to the day with dinner with Cameron at a Vietnamese place which had really large meals (or it felt that way because I’d been snacking all day).
Anyway, am currently on the bus for my topdeck tour. There are a disproportionate number of Australians on board which could go either way. Hopefully I’ll continue updating on my trip!
Apologies for any spelling mistakes in these posts!
St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Tuesday was one of the only days where I feel like I had enough time to see all the things on my list and to a satisfactory degree.
St Paul’s Cathedral is beautiful. It’s very stately in appearance and the nave and the dome are gorgeous. The inside is edged by statues and carvings and commemorations and while the audio guide assured me that wasn’t the case, a fair few of them were very yay British colonialism (unsurprisingly). The crypt is atmospheric to say the least. So many plaques and of so many interesting people- Blake and Fleming come to mind here.
I was pretty keen to climb the dome to the Golden Gallery (but was slightly worried by the sign saying it was one way up so don’t try if you think you can’t make it. :P) I think the Whispering Gallery would have been more fun if I’d had someone to try it out with but it gives you an amazing view of the cathedral floor from up there.
The steps to the Stone Gallery were more narrow but the view was awesome. The Golden Gallery view was brilliant. I’m so glad it wasn’t as foggy as the day before. Took a lot of photos and did a lot of laps of the area.
Coming down was interesting. Easier except for the very very narrow cramped steps down to the Stone Gallery which had me worried more than a few times that I was gonna pitch head first down them or that the middle aged portly guy in front me would.
My route out of the cathedral was distracted by the Occupy Wall St protesters. Apparently the cathedral was closed for a while due to this before it was realised they were non-violent.
I headed over the Millennium Bridge toward Tate Modern and the Globe (I kinda can’t get over how cool it is that so many awesome things are Right Next To Each Other here). My trip over the bridge was interrupted by a youngish guy who introduced himself as Mustafa from Afghanistan and wondered if he could take a photo with me so he could tell people there were pretty Indian girls here. Which was a bit weird to say the least. :S Everyone also got shifted to one end of the bridge during this and signs were put up that filming was taking place. Obviously everyone jostled to have a look at what was getting filmed. All we saw were two girls in exercise clothes artfully jogging down the bridge.
New post for the Tate Modern!
The Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
Monday was dedicated to the the Tower of London and then a trip to the Royal Obeservatory at Greenwich. The whole day was great, one of my favourite days so far.
I started with the Tower of London which was really quite crowded. The Yeoman Warder (beefeater) who gave our tour was very loud and melodramatic and hilarious and colourfully dressed. The tour was interesting and didn’t take too long and went into gory detail about numerous executions, had a love story thrown in for good measure as well as a lot of making fun of the French (surprise!)
Saw a lot of very impressive bling too with the Crown Jewels. Took a lot of photos and read a lot about the place. I spent more time there than I thought I would. I am not really sure what I can write about it, just that it was a very very picturesque place - like so many places seem to be here. I was about to make my way out but they’d just cordoned off the entrance to fire off a 62 gun salute to Prince Charles so everyone was deafened by that for a while.
I caught the ferry (one of the Thames Clippers) to Greenwich which would have been a lot more exciting I think if it hadn’t been The World’s Foggiest Day that day. :S
Greenwich was amazing. I didn’t have enough time to go to the Maritime Museum so I just headed straight for the Royal Observatory. You can cut through Greenwich Park to get there and with the fog and the trees, the park was super creepy. In a-murder-is-about-to-happen or a-supernatural-occurrance-is-in-the-offing sense. Or as Arya also noted, there was definitely a momet of wow-that-is-a-very-pretty-park-I-wonder-if-I’ll-come-across-Mr-Darcy—here. >.>
Aside from planning my own Regency Romance as I went through the park and climbed the stairs up toward the oberservatory, I spent a lot of time marvelling at how incredibly pretty Greenwich University looked in the distance. Definitely like how I imagined sprawling English university campuses to look like.
The observatory building was gorgeous (surprise!) I took the requisite photos of me astride the Prime Meridian and then went inside to have a look at the history of the place. A large amount of it was dedicated to the first Royal Astonomer John Flamsteed and his very meticulous star charts. I really enjoyed the section on the Longitude Problem and the work done to solve that. I spent a lot of time just wandering around and reading all the information on display.
I only went over to the Planeterium fairly late and there weren’t any more shows by then unfortunately. As I was leaving I got to see the green laser that the observatory projects that marks the Prime Meridian.
I enjoyed an even creepier brisk walk back in the dark through the park and caught the DLR back.
And to round off the awesome day, I had a Harry Potter tour in the evening. :P Apparently it was the second time it had been held on a Monday night and they were definitely rethinking this time slot seeing as it turned out to be just me and the guide. Apparently it’s usually run on weekends and they get at least half a dozen people there and during summer they can have up to 40 people there for a tour.
In any case, it was a much shorter tour seeing as it was just me but it was a really good wander through central London and I saw the Monument to the Great Fire of London and went over London Bridge and saw the first coffeehouse in the city and what was used as the original filming site for The Leaky Cauldron and where they’d filmed parts of Diagon Alley in the first movie. There were large parts of the tour that had ‘oh, and this is the [somewhat tenuous] link to Harry Potter’ tacked on to the end but it was still fun though.
And then I did laundry. Slightly less exciting end to the day. :P
OMG A SQUIRREL! At Hyde Park.
Eeek super behind on posting.
On Sunday I said goodbye to Pili, the Argentinian girl who’d arrived at the accommodation at the same time I did. She was loud and friendly and exactly the kind of person you need when you’re worried about how to break the ice as you meet the other people packed in like sardines next to you for however long. She was here after a week long conference in Dresden and I think hadn’t really travelled before so she was kind of homesick by the time she left. It was really lovely to get to know her. The only other person I’ve gotten to know has been the kiwi guy who I think still thinks it’s funny and accurate to be sexist? He’s a character though. All the others have just been coming here to crash (often at odd hours) or stay for only a night before leaving.
I spent Sunday wandering around London which ended up being exactly what I needed. I disembarked at Piccadilly Circus and circled from there. Old Bond St was full of shops I’ll probably never be able to afford but were very pretty to look at (aside from DeBeers, it read like a who’s who of fashion).
I headed over to Buckingham Palace (as you do) and was pretty surprised at the crowds there until I realised it was the day of the Remembrance Ceremony. Everyone cheered as an escorted car went past but I didn’t catch sight of whoever was in there. I took a bunch of photos and debated hanging around but figured I was more interested in the other stuff on my list of things-to-do than potentially catching sight of royalty.
I walked up Constitution Hill which had SO MANY LEAVES. It was awesome. I decided to only kick my way through the leaves for half the way up the hill, it was fun!
There are a lot of monuments to war in London. There are a group of war memorials up in or near Piccadilly Arcade. There are 4 pillars with, I’m assuming, everlasting flames at the top dedicated to the million+ ‘volunteers’ from places like India who fought for the British in the two World Wars.
In the area in the centre of the arcade aside from the Arch, there were some structures with wreaths in front of them that I went toward to read the cards attached and only then did I realise that the reason there was one from the government of Western Australia was because I was standing in front of the Australian War Memorial. It’s rather large and the whole area exudes somberness.
I crossed over to Hyde Park which looked like a storybook version of what autumn is meant to look like with these gorgeous avenues of trees shedding red/gold leaves. It was pretty crowded. I walked through the Rose Garden and was about to head back toward the road when I saw everyone was heading uphill to this curiously flat area so I followed and was duly surprised to see a lake there! The London Eye loomed close by and deckchairs were set up along the banks and there were a lot of geese. It was moderately exciting, almost as much as seeing swans the wrong colour (pssht, who has white swans, black ones are much cooler).
I figured I’d have a fancy (fancier?) lunch than I’d been having and decided to combine lunch with my trip to Harrods. The store is a little overwhelming in its size and variety and quality of items available. I ate at The Tea Rooms which was kinda expensive but it felt like A Very English Experience especially given the food I ordered.
It was getting pretty late by the time I got to the National Gallery. The National Gallery is housed yet another eminently intimidating building and the collection is pretty awesome. I hit all the high points but unfortunately all the tickets for the Da Vinci exhibit had sold out for the day.
The paintings are somewhat awe-inspiring from the beauty and colour and subject matter. I don’t think you need to be religious to appreciate the sense of grandeur and worship in a lot of those paintings.
That took up most of my afternoon and I had an hour or so to kill before I met up with Fik for dinner so I just sat outside in Trafalgar Square on the steps and people watched. After dinner, we wandered through possibly the seamier side of SoHo which was an experience. :P
It was really nice to have a pretty relaxed day.
Awesome. Guerrilla Girls posters at the Tate Modern.
University of Greenwich.
This place looks amazing.
The Natural History Museum is… epic. The building it’s housed in is rather amazing in its grandeur. It has glorious windows and gargoyles and a very picturesque garden surrounding it.
And then I got in and was faced by Dippy, the diplodocus skeleton in the great court. There was a rather large (but fast-moving queue) to see the dinosaurs so I had a wander through the sections on mammals and birds first instead which was pretty damn cool. So many species and varieties and colours- just, whoa.
The section on dinosaurs did not disappoint. I read about dinosaurs I’d forgotten all about and marvelled at huge painstakingly reassembled fossils and grinned stupidly at the animated models and then half way through my enthusiastic photo taking, the camera died because I am an idiot who forgot to charge the battery. :S After a minute of ‘aaah the crowd is moving along and I don’t have a photo of the T-Rex!!!’ I realised my phone camera had deigned to work that day so I used that instead.
There were so many children there, more obviously so in the dinosaur section and in the mammals section (the blue whale model was pretty cool!) The stuffed models for a lot of the exhibits were showing their age (especially the cheetah and leopard) but little plaques mentioned that the museum was aware of this but were willing to leave it as such rather than obtain new specimens.
The last section of the museum I covered was on the Earth. I think this section looked the most dated, from the simulations available, to the bits on Pluto. The area on minerals was really well done though. The specimens were displayed well and the information was interesting. There was a giant model of the earth’s crust you could ride an escalator into which then lead to an area covering earthquakes and volcanic eruptions including a simulation of the force of the ‘95 Kobe earthquake.
I ended my visit by going for a tour of the Spirit Collection of the Darwin Centre. I learned that they had over 22 million spirit specimens and in the entire museum, they had a total of over 71 million specimens which is damn impressive. I saw the preserved giant squid specimen which was suitably scary and then saw a few ‘holotype’ specimens collected by Charles Darwin on the Beagle which was pretty amazing!
I managed a wander through the main sections but there was a lot I didn’t see and a lot I didn’t fully appreciate but I ran out of time. They closed at 5:30pm and my original plan was to find a warm cafe somewhere to wait until I met Alex for dinner but as I rounded the building, there was a sign saying ‘ice rink’ and under some trees strung with pretty white lights, there was a brightly lit carousel whirling merrily next to an ice rink with a lot of children and adults skating around to music playing loudly over speakers. It looked like something out of a book.
So I put my gloves on and sat right there for the next hour and a half (yay for my coat and gloves and hat!) and laughed hysterically at people hobbling unsteadily past and children holding on to (I’m assuming base-heavy) penguins for balance while the music ranged from Celine Dion to Dangerzone. It was pretty awesome.
On the way to dinner, there was a guy on the paths leading to the tube platforms playing music. I hesitate to call him a busker but I suppose that’s what he was, it’s just that he was playing a harp! So, uh, that was new.
It was good to catch up with Alex for dinner! We went to the Devonshire Arms, her ex-local pub, where the food was ‘just a little bit fancy’ and so very delicious and cheap. I don’t mind eating alone but it’s been so good to see people here and it feels like such a good end to the day.
Sorry this update was late! I’m gonna sleep like a log now and post about today in the morning!
(And Mum, you’ll be happy to know that my hair looks quite nice once I’ve blow dried and straightened it!)
Artwork outside my accommodation.
I made the mistake of wearing the pretty boots instead of the practical walking boots yesterday and boy did I regret it :S
After hobbling back from The British Museum Take Two (and I wasn’t done there, not by a long shot but I have to see some of the other stuff on my list), I went out for dinner and drinks with Cameron and his friends. We met at a pub called The Salisbury which was in walking distance of the Leicester Square tube.
Holy cow, that area was awesome! It was crowded and colourful and loud and it was musical adverts everywhere and it was exactly what I envisioned London to be. I did a lot of open mouthed staring and pointing and I will definitely be going back for another wander. Also there was MnM world???
We had a super filling dinner of delicious Chinese food and sake at Joy King Lau where I met Cameron’s hilarious and awesome friends and ate waaay too much.
We then headed for an Italian (or at least Italian-run?) bar/club in SoHo where the wait staff had amazing hair and they played a lot of 90s pop and Michael Jackson. It was pretty great despite me being a party pooper and leaving before 12. I ended up wandering around some more before I headed back, the whole place was significantly cooler than I could ever hope to be. :P
I feel like I only realised yesterday that there was so much to do and so little time to do it in! I like it here, it’s exciting.
They have so many Hindu statues here I feel like I’m in a temple.
Today was meant to be Science Museum day but it took me ages to buy my jumpers (which I’m hoping aren’t as boring as I think they are) so instead I’ve only got enough time to come back to the British Museum and see the exhibits I missed out on yesterday. Oh no, what a hardship >.>