Tuesday, March 13, 2018

London, England

My beautiful college roommate was in London for a few days with her sister-in-law and husband (who happens to be the drummer for Skid Row) and she wanted to know if I could fly up to see her.  OF COURSE!  Who could say no to that!?!  Also: this is my solo trip of the year!

Naturally, this is how my trip started.  Now, some of you know I don't like to fly.  Others know I have a penchant for bourbon.  Mix the two, and voila!  I present to you: the party table.  Some of this isn't mine.  The guy next to me was going to London to see a friend and I was just helping him get the party started.

I love meeting people and learning about them, where they came from and what their history is.  This German kid Julian was hilarious with his little man bun (yep) and a sweatshirt that read, "Super Hooker."  Perfect.  I see a lot of this kind of thing around Germany, and I've always wondered why the German's don't take offense to this kind of stuff or see it as super weird, as we would in America.  Well, clearly he didn't care for it.  He said he didn't like the phrase, so he covered up the H, an O, the E and the R with small patches and made himself a sweatshirt that said, "Super OK!"  He even bedazzled that ring himself.  People will always surprise me in ways I never expected.

My flight from Nuremberg to London Stansted was VERY late.  The flight didn't land until about 11:30 pm, and I knew that the hour long train to the city would be too much for this old mom.  So I pre-booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express at Stansted.  It's a nice little hotel and you get breakfast with it, much cheaper than anything you will find in London.  For example, the beautiful gothic St. Pancras Renaissance hotel (above) is over $400 for tomorrow night.  I priced it elsewhere for one night next week at $675.  Meanwhile, I only paid about $80.  From Stansted Airport, you will have to take the Stansted Express into the city down to Liverpool Street.  I paid 17 pounds (or about $23) and it was really easy, even with a suitcase.  The Holiday Inn Express takes you back to the airport, only steps away from the train station. Buy your ticket online and have it sent to your smartphone and bam!  It's easy!

The Renaissance above is a beautiful building, that's for sure. When I took this picture, I was on my way to the British Library, where you can see a whole host of gems that can't be photographed (nor would the photographs be of any quality since the lighting is so low.)  

Probably the most important piece in the British Library is the Magna Carta. I mean... it's the Magna bleeping Carta! 

Of the 63 original clauses in the Magna Carta, only 3 are still enforced today. But it was revolutionary at the time, when the feudal society rose up against the tyrannical ways of King John (particularly his abuse of the justice system) and made their demands known.  It was the first time limits to power had ever really been put on a king.  

Some of the other gems in the British Library's Treasures collection include handwritten Beatles lyrics, a handwritten copy of Handle's Messiah (complete with cross outs and scribbles), one of the original Gutenberg Bibles, and (above) Jane Austen's Volume the Third, one of her early fictional manuscripts.

My next stop was to be the National Gallery but I was starving, so I had to go find something to eat.  I went down to Trafalgar Square on my way to get some lunch, and spotted this guy on top of the Chandos bar who, like something you see at Disney World, moved around as he opened the next barrel of beer. Behind it is the very pretty English National Opera.

My lunchtime destination was the Lamb and Flag, an old stomping ground of Dickens.  He used to work in the same neighborhood, and would come here for a pint after work.  It's one of the oldest pubs in all of London dating back to 1623, although it really can't be confirmed as a pub that far back.  The poet John Dryden was assaulted in this alleyway allegedly (though never proven) by thugs hired by Charles II's mistress after Dryden wrote some not-so-kind things about her.  Another similar theory is that the Earl of Rochester hired some guys to kick Dryden's butt in the alleyway for the same reasons: Rochester had (perhaps erroneously) believed that Dryden's "Essay on Satire" had been directed at him.

Did Dickens sit in this very corner?  I may never know.  Since it was Friday during Lent, I was thrilled to be in London, one of the very best places in the world to get an excellent plate of fish and chips!

"Since the days of Charles II, the Lamb and Flag has been a famous Ale House known as the 'Bucket of Blood' for its prize fights in earlier days.  The Inn has been host to such historic figures as Samuel Butler, the poet Dryden (who was attached by rogues outside the pub) and Charles Dickens, who worked nearby.  Today the Inn carries on the tradition of four centuries of hospitality." 

With a full belly, I headed back over to the National Gallery, which sits in Trafalgar Square.

It's easy to get overwhelmed by all there is to see in the National Gallery.   I love swirly Van Gogh and his "Wheatfields." 

One of Van Gogh's more famous paintings, Sunflowers is one of the favorites of my daughter.  So I had to take a selfie and send it to her!

Sunflowers by Van Gogh, without my ugly mug in it.

Interesting juxtaposition of Cezanne paintings.  The paintings on the left are some of his earlier works, which are more heavy and dark. Both on the left were painted in the 1860s during his Dark Period.  The painting on the right, Avenue at Chantilly, was painted in 1888.  If the placards hadn't been there, I wouldn't have known this was the same artist.

I like Monet, but I really like his "Flood Waters."  I looked up the history behind the painting (because... floods...) and there had been some fairly significant flooding on the River Epte in Giverny in 1896.  To me, the trees seem to be screaming as they sink into the rising water.

This fella was sleeping on the job. Don't worry if anyone takes or touches that priceless painting.  This guy is totally on it.

One can go to an incredible art museum such as the National Gallery in London to see the "major hits" of classic painters, and I won't lie -- I like to see those.  But sometimes, if you give yourself the time, you'll find other paintings that pique your interest.  Like this one: "Still Life with Drinking Horn" by Willem Kalf.  This painting was so life like to me, like a photograph instead of oil on canvas.  It also made me think of a dinner Todd and my brother might have if left to their own devices.

Rembrandt, Self Portrait at the age of 63.  This painting made me want to take up painting and paint portraits of myself at various ages, just to see how the artist (me) sees herself.  Rembrandt painted this the year he died, 1669.

We all know what Reubens is known for: his bosomy females.  Something about this woman is a bit more reserved though. The placard on the right says, "Portrait of Susanna Lunden, probably 1622-1625.  The subject of this enchanting portrait is thought to be Susanna Lunden, the daughter of the Antwerp silk merchant Daniel Fourment, and sister of Reubens second wife Helene.  The painting probably dates from shortly after her marriage to Arnold Lunden in 1622." 

Van Gogh's "Farms near Auvers" from 1890.  I like the cartoon nature of this one. 

I love Monet. I know, it's trite.  I just love how little blobs and swishes of paint in a kaleidoscope of colors suddenly become Water Lilies, Setting Sun (1907).  I particularly liked the placard that said, "Monet kept the painting until 1923 when, circumstantial evidence suggests, he may have reworked it."  How many times have we reworked our "art?" 

I have to admit, this was probably my favorite painting in all of the National Gallery (and I'm pretty sure I saw everything.)  This Henri Matisse painting was on loan, titled "The Forest at Fountainebleau" (1909).  Everything in this painting seems alive to me.  Bent trees seem like dancing humans and I know the sun is setting on the west side.  It's how one painter can show shadows without actually showing shadows.

A poignant statue of George the 4th and I couldn't stop giggling at the fact that he had a bird on his head!

Nelson's Column from the late 1930s, flanked by the famous lions in Trafalgar Square.  Admiral Nelson led the fleet to victory over Spain and France in the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars. 

St. Martin in the Fields sits in Trafalgar Square as well, and is known for its charities and classical music concerts.

This is one of the seven types of LGBTQ pedestrian traffic lights displayed around London. They first appeared in the summer of 2016, before the Pride festival, but after the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando.  Rock on, London. Rock on.

From Trafalgar Square, you can enter the Mall via the Admiralty Arch.  It's used for ceremonial processions, but only the royal family can go through the center arch!

St. James's Park lines the Mall with daffodils emerging from the still-green grass.  

As I continued along the Mall toward Buckingham Palace, it started to rain. Boo.

One of these days, I'm going to visit London in August so I can hate everything about the massive crowds, but finally get to visit the interior of Buckingham Palace. (Queue wistful sigh.)

The Queen Victoria Monument wasn't completed until 23 years after her death, but it's one of the most popular spots in London during big events, such as royal weddings, the Queens Golden and Diamond Jubilees, and even a parade during the 2012 summer Olympics. 

E II R.  Elizabeth Regina, the second.  This made me wonder what happens when she passes away?  Does everything bearing this stamp (and there are a LOT of them around London) have to pass to Charles III or George VII or whatever he will be called?  C III R or G VII R might not fit as well as this did.

How I know the Queen is not there:  The Union Jack is flying.  If the Queen is in residence, her standard is flying.

I stayed in the cutest little hotel in the East End for my one night in the city without my friends.  I would highly recommend the Point A Hotel in Shoreditch. It was small, but super nice, very clean, and only a few blocks between the Old Street tube station on the Northern Line and Liverpool Station serving multiple tube lines.  I got the room for $106 USD and in London, that is a steal for a place of your own (ie: it's not a hostel and I don't have to share a bathroom.) Breakfast doesn't necessarily come with the room, but it's only 7 pounds and their cappuccino is really good. I get wicked anxiety about eating alone in a restaurant (don't ask) so I went to the grocery store and made myself a little picnic!  Eating dinner is different than eating lunch:  not all pubs or restaurants are crowded during lunch on a weekday.  However, on a Friday evening, they're all super packed.  No thank you. The hotel had a connection to YouTube so I just played Rick Steves videos for most of the evening!

Finally my lovely friends Kristin and Jen showed up from the States early in the morning on Saturday and we went to the (third for me) hotel to drop our bags off.  But first we need to rearrange some stuff, and you know I'm totally not afraid to get down on the floor and do this!  

We passed by the Horse Guards on our way to the first pub stop of the day (what? Don't judge!) and we couldn't resist a photo op with one of their beautiful horses.  Does this guy hate his job, or what!

WIENER ALERT! Oh and he's wearing a little sweater!  I sent this picture to Grant and he said, "I prefer pugs!"  Well gosh!  Thanks!

Pub Number One MUST be The Red Lion.  I'm from a really small town, and we have one little dive bar called the Red Lion.  Everyone knows of it, and how it's still a functional establishment is beyond me. But it's definitely our favorite place in Indian Rocks Beach!  Now I get to have a pint at one in London!

Seriously.  You can see how much we've had to drink.  Like none. This is how we are ALL the time.

Photo cred to Jen for this stellar pic of beer, fake flowers, silverware, etched glass and some intricate carvings on a building across the way.  Dickens used to come to this pub too - when he was a kid.  At one point you could have spotted former Prime Ministers Clement Atlee, Edward Heath and Winston Churchill here at the Red Lion.

Well let's hope so. 

You come to London... and what do you want to see?  Big Ben! Yeah, that's not gonna happen for another four years as Big Ben and the Clock Tower are undergoing renovations.  I knew this was the case, but it still made me sad to see it.

 This is as good as it's gonna get for one of my favorite Griswold quotes.  Big Ben, kids!  Parliament!

The view of the London Eye (and the Aquarium) from the Westminster Bridge.  No way in (expletive) am I getting on the London Eye ever again.  That thing is terrifying to someone who has a big fear of heights!

It was very windy on the Westminster Bridge.

After our quick jaunt across the Westminster Bridge, we came back to Parliament Square Garden with its many flags and Westminster Abbey in the background.  I love the fun London cabs in the foreground!

At this point, we've walked a whole four blocks so we are very hungry and thirsty and decided to stop into the Clarence for some lunch.  We still say this was the best fish and chips of the entire trip.  Jen and I also discovered our love for mushy peas!

These girls are bonded by one man:  Rob Hammersmith.  One is married to him, and one is his sister, so they share the name forever.  They thought this was the most glorious thing they had ever seen!  Their name in lights!

Look you guys!  It's our name!  (This may or may not be their Facebook profile picture...)

Phew.  I think we walked another 6 blocks.  That's it.  We deserve another pint!  The Lyceum Tavern was only a few doors down from our hotel, thankfully.

Jen looking cute with her massive bottle of beer as we sat in the terrace area of the Lyceum Tavern.

I found this on my phone when I got home which is stupid funny.  I could not find my way around this hotel, so I took this picture -- if I got lost, I could just find my room number on my phone!

In the morning, we woke up late (naturally, everyone was jet lagged) and went to the one place that everyone agreed was a must-see:  The Tower of London.  I was last in London in 2002 and I remember seeing All Hallows by the Tower and how it was the "oldest in the city of London," and I thought - "Hey that's cool!  The oldest!"  Maybe this is where my love of superlatives came from???

I love superlatives.  Meanwhile, these clowns love the name, "Wagamama."  I asked why and Kristin said, "Just because it sounds funny!"  I don't know what a Wagamama is, but I'm pretty sure it's whatever their expressions are.

Ahh the glorious Tower of London!  Let's go see some jewels!

The Tower of London and it's entrance.  Note the animals on the right.  The area used to house exotic animals such as lions, alligators, bears and kangaroos.

Daffodils rising out of the area that was formerly a mote.

King John (of the Magna Carta fame, see above) founded the Royal Menagerie in the 1200s.  Unfortunately, they were often mistreated and in 1835, they all moved over to the London Zoo in Regent Park at its founding.  His son Henry III is actually credited with starting the Menagerie but it's thought it's origins came during King John's days.

Let's go into the Tower of London, shall we? 

We decided to climb the Bloody Tower because Bloody Towers sound like a lot of fun.  But seriously... the steps were among the steepest I have encountered in all of Europe and we laughed the entire way up.  We also decided that Kristin grew another appendage with Jen under her armpit in this picture.  I think we all laughed until we wet ourselves!

If it wasn't damp and cold in the Bloody Tower, I might have enjoyed living here. I'm sure it didn't look or feel like this back during Sir Walter Raleigh's times when he was imprisoned here back in the early 1600s.  This room, however, is where the young princes Edward and Richard were imprisoned back in the late 1400s.  Their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester was their warden until Edward V came of age, but he wanted the throne for himself so he had them murdered. They were last seen alive here in 1483 and in 1674, the bones of two small children were found beneath a stairwell in the White Tower which were most certainly thought to be the two princes.

The pathway leading from the Bloody Tower to the spot where the executions took place (where the crowd is). 

I like juxtapositions.  The half timbers of the Tower of London with the Shard (built in 2009) rising above in the background.

If you follow the path from the Bloody Tower toward where the Crown Jewels are housed, you can stop at the execution spot of many famous Brits.  Did you know that 11 people were executed in the 20th century at the Tower?  Prior to that, between 1388 and 1780, 122 people were executed here, including Lady Jane Grey, Queen Katherine Howard and Queen Anne Boleyn.  Guy Fawkes was held at the Tower, but was executed at the Old Palace Yard at Westminster.

Eeeek!  Shiny and sparkly things!  I would never pass up the opportunity to see the Crown Jewels when in London, no matter how many times I have been here.  Unfortunately, you can't take pictures as you move along the moving walkway past the beautiful State jewels.  So this is the only picture you're going to get from me. When Charles I took the throne, there was a war soon after called the English Civil War in which Charles sold off some (most of?) the Crown Jewels.  When he was executed in 1649, new jewels had to be made.  Most of these gems, including the St. Edwards Crown were made in 1660/1661.  One of my favorites though is the Imperial State Crown, which Elizabeth II wore during her coronation.  It contains the Cullinan II diamond, a 317 carat diamond worth (well, let's just say it's priceless.)  The entire Cullinan Diamond was 3,106 carats and weighted about 1 and 1/3 pounds.  It was given to Edward VII on his birthday with nearly all of it still in the possession of the Crown, most of it cut down to make various royal regalia and State jewels.  Approximately 208 carats of the original 3,106 are in the private possession of the Queen of England. 

The White Tower sits at the center of the Tower of London compound and was built by William the Conqueror around the year 1080.  I can't even wrap my head around that.

Inside the White Tower is currently a great display of the Royal Armouries.  Lots of horse armour and lots of human (king) armour. 

Did Henry VIII have this approved?  Let's protect all of our bits and pieces, shall we?  I heard two things from various people standing around me when I was taking this picture.  One of them was, "Well.  Henry VIII sure thought highly of himself!"  The other was, "You need to grow up!" 

I legitimately couldn't get The Mountain and Tyrion Lannister out of my head with this one.  Sorry.  When you watch a lot of Game of Thrones, that just happens in places like this.

This was one of the earliest known wall fireplaces in all of England! Superlative!  Check!

St. John's Chapel within the White Tower was originally a citadel within that was built in the late 1000s.  It is the oldest part of the White Tower and has survived intact from it's creation.

When you go from a nearly 1,000 year old chapel to a random dragon made of hats and other various metallic pieces... I dunno.  But it's still kind of fun.

 Some heads were cut off on this block.  With this axe. That's not disturbing at all. 

As we were leaving the Tower of London, we had one more stop to make:  Traitor's Gate. 

Traitor's Gate is where many of the Tudor prisoners entered the Tower of London.  We all agreed that it was interesting that Queen Elizabeth I (the daughter of Anne Boleyn's who died here when she was three) entered the tower through this gate at the order of her half sister Queen Mary of Scotland.  Mary ultimately released her, only so she could later start her eventual coronation walk from the very same spot.

A close up of the Traitors Gate.  The River Thames used to abut this gate before the flood protection measures were put in place. 

I know you're thinking, "Hey!  London Bridge is falling down!"  But no.  This is the Tower Bridge. And it's simply lovely.

The Shard from the Tower of London, with the HMS Belfast in the foreground.  (Note to self: Grant would probably love to see this when we come back!)

The next bridge to the west of the Tower of London is ACTUALLY called the London Bridge!  I'm gonna date myself but all I hear is Fergie (the singer, not the Duchess) when I think of this....

Our last official stop of the day was the Shard.  The views of the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast are stunning.

We thought you could get a really good spatial view of the Tower of London from the Shard.  Many (!!!) years ago, there was a mote around the Tower of London, but that has since been filled in.

Borough Market sits nearly at the base of the Shard.

 I see this picture and I can't help but think that Kristin and I might be (ok, we actually are) cousins.  Her great-great grandfather and my great (x3) grandfather were brothers.  Then throw Jen into the mix and you have Kristin's daughter, Renna. 

London in all of it's glory.  St. Paul's Cathedral (slightly left of middle) is where Charles and Diana got married and it's one of my favorite churches in the entire world. 

Hazy days don't make the best of days to go to the Shard. But I can spot the London Eye as well as St. James's Park and eventually Buckingham. 

After our trip to the Shard, we needed to get back to get ready for the Skid Row/Night Ranger show at the O2 Shepherd's Bush.  Did you guys know that I used to make maps for a living?  I'm really good at spatial context.  This hotel though... nope. All was lost for me.

Uber ride to the Skid Row Show, take two!  We remembered the socks but we forgot the passes! 

Despite the fact that I have thirty seven chins in this picture, we were super excited about the show!

Inside of the O2 Empire at Shepherd's Bush.  This place has some serious musical history.  Who hasn't played here?  Even Charlie Chaplin performed here back in 1906.  You might know this place as the spot where Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks said her famous not-so-friendly quote about (then President) George Bush: "We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States if from Texas."

One of my favorites!  I might have sort of named my daughter after her. And other famous Natalie's, but she was always my first.

Everything?  Really?  The world according to Night Ranger!

While the opening bands went on, we girls went out to get something to eat (and drink!)  I love playful mysteries! So does Jen!

Beer (and Makers Mark) at the Green. 

My absolute favorite picture from the entire trip. I'm not sure there's much that sums us up better than this.

This was great.  We laughed so hard at these pictures.  I'm not allowed to post see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil but... trust me.  It was a classic.

Back at the O2 Empire... hey, it's the Pixies!

Good thing I knew where this was....

Skid Row was a dual headliner with Night Ranger.  I like Night Ranger - but I can tell you right now, Skid Row was really the headliner!  I was really amused by Night Ranger - the guitarist kept grabbing his back (which appeared to be bothering him) and all I could think was, "You know you're old when..."  In case you're curious, yes, they played Sister Christian! 

Sign in the bathroom:  Please do not flush these things.  I gotta admit... I'm gonna be super sad if you flush maps or goldfish. 

For Skid Row, we watched a big chunk of the show from the side stage.  I seriously couldn't stop watching Rob- anyone who can play drums just totally mesmerizes me.  The hands are going to different beats, the feet are going to different beats and he needs to know all of these things for every song they play.  That is a talent I will NEVER have. He told me after the show, "I only messed up twice!"  

ZP and his incredible hair is the newest member of Skid Row. That dude can sing.  He uses a lot of mousse in his hair.

Smokey Rob furiously pummeling away at the drums. 

Smokey Rob furiously pummeling away at the drums, part two.

Watching the show from the side stage was super cool, but you could not hear ZP at all as the speakers were all facing out toward the crowd.  So we jumped back into the crowd for part of the show. 

We couldn't clap with drinks in our hands so we improvised.  Or we did sorority snaps like it was 1995.

Jen and Rob after the show in the dressing room. 

Jen wanted to wear pretty shoes to the show, but they were absolutely killing her feet.  So she asked one of the band members for some socks ("I won't be returning these") and she went home in socks.  Just socks.  All the way out of the venue, into the Uber and back to the hotel, on wet pavement.  

I'm pretty sure we didn't get out of the hotel until after 11 on our last day in London, and we wanted to visit Westminster Abbey.  I didn't realize that you can still see the clock face on the tower on the opposite side of Big Ben!  Well, at least we can see that!

The Palace of Westminster was where medieval kings and queens lived, but now houses both Houses of Parliament - the House of Lords and the House of Commons.  It is still owned by the Crown, however, and is still technically a royal residence.

This gentleman has to pass by some big guns to enter the Palace of Westminster.  An interesting fact about Parliament:  Members of either house can't eat or drink when they're in the chamber, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer CAN have an adult beverage when he's delivering the "budget statement."  I mean, I can't blame them! I want alcoholic beverages when I'm talking about my finances (or lack thereof), too!! 

Westminster Abbey is one of the most famous churches in the world.  Not only is it the site of many royal marriages and coronations (including the current Queen Elizabeth's coronation), it's the burial site of many kings, queens and people who did important things (ha!) such as Charles Darwin and Sir Issac Newton.  Many famous writers and poets are also buried there, such as Geoffrey Chaucer, John Keats, T.S. Eliot and Alfred Lord Tennyson. 

But our luck... Westminster Abbey was closed.  It was Commonwealth Day, and the Abbey was two hours from hosting the Queen and her family.  It was actually the first time Prince Harry's fiancĂ© Meghan Markle was seen in public with the Queen (which is a very big deal.)  I wanted to wait and stalk them, but no one else in my party wanted to do that!  (Gee, I don't know why!?)

Man, this picture would be WAY cooler if the Clock Tower (renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012) wasn't under all of that scaffolding.  Grrrrr.

We started to walk across the Westminster Bridge again but the weather was crummy, so we decided to head back. 

Not far from Westminster Abbey is Downing Street, where the prime minister (currently Theresa May) lives at number 10.  That's the grayish building you see in the center.

One of the most powerful people in the world lives on this street.

 Our next stop was Covent Garden, with it's little shops and restaurants.  It's been a little fruit and veggie market since the mid 1600s and is probably best know to younger generations as a location featured in My Fair Lady/Pygmalion where Eliza Doolittle was a flower salesperson.

Inside of Covent Garden, this guy (down on the floor with his arms in the air) was singing his heart out and he was REALLY good.  

Kristin and Jen in Covent Garden.

The Covent Garden area is really cute with narrow pedestrian ways and lots of shops and pubs.

In fact, we definitely needed to stop and have another pint, this time back at the Lamb and Flag.  We pestered the bartender for this "Happy Water For Fun People" sign. Don't worry, we gave it back!

After our stop at the pub, we got back on the Hop on Hop Off bus and headed over to St. Paul's.  If we can't see Westminster Abbey, at least we can see St. Paul's, right?  On the way, we passed the Sir Christopher Wren designed St. Clement Danes, which was nearly destroyed during WWII and still bears the pock marks of bullets and shrapnel.  Sir Christopher Wren was the architect who made London the way it is today, with his design of many churches and buildings after the Great Fire of London in 1666.  St. Clement Danes is the Central Church of the Royal Air Force.  Did you know that William Webb Ellis, who invented the game of rugby was once a rector here?

I've visited a LOT of churches in the world.  But NONE are as beautiful to me as St. Paul's. The interior ceiling in the Quire is second to none with it's golden and colorful mosaics.

BUT OF COURSE... in true Griswold fashion, the church was closed for visitation due to Evensong.  You could walk around the Nave, but not enter the Quire area, which is where the impressive ceiling is.    You also can't take pictures inside, so I accidentally took this picture with my phone.  You just can't see the beauty of the ceiling though.

I took this picture from the St. Paul's official website.  Since they won't let me take pictures inside, they can at least lend me a picture to show you how beautiful their church is!

Waiting for the bus back, you get a nice view of the dome at St. Paul's. 

I had a REALLY early flight out of Stansted the next morning so we went to dinner and called it an early night. My early morning flight required me to get on a 3:20 am National Express bus at Victoria Coach station, meaning I had to get up at 2 am. I badly needed this coffee at the airport.  Or Carleen needed it. Or both of us did. 

Lastly, I need to say this about my trip.  I had a bag of leftover British coins from our trip to England and Wales a year and a half ago. So I brought it with me.  And it turns out, the "old money" is no good in England.  They will still take old 20 pound notes or greater, but literally nothing else.  So that one pound coin you see on the right?  It was literally of NO value in London.  They only accept the new pound to the left.  I was told that if we wanted to exchange it, we would have to go to the Bank of England (and I could only find one in all of London, far away from where we were staying) and they will exchange them for you.  This is how they can tell you that the money is not worthless. I was really mad! So to all of you who are going to England anytime soon... beware!  If a merchant tries to give you change in the old format, ask for the new money!

Ahhh London, I'll always love ya.  Until next time!

The Bailey Planet

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