Backtracking a Week – Melissa & Azaria!

So, about a week ago, Melissa & Azaria came to London!

Melissa’s friend Annie came along too, and the first day we walked around London, doing typical touristy sightseeing things. Annie was supposed to meet up with her parents that night, but their flight got delayed a full day – so they were SO nice and let us stay in their hotel room for the night.

The next day, Annie’s parents finally made it to London, and they were exhausted. Melissa, Azaria, Annie and I went to Leicester Square to see how much musical tickets would be for that day. They weren’t too bad, but we decided that we didn’t have time to see a play and go out. – Azaria’s mom had a friend who was a bouncer and got us into a nightclub for free! – We met up with Annie’s parents at the Museum of London and walked through the first floor, and decided after that we were done. We went to a pub for dinner, which ended up taking longer than we thought because we didn’t realize the Arsenal – Manchester game was on! Then we went back to the hotel to shower, and change for going out. (Azaria’s mom had booked us a room for that night)

Us girls got to the nightclub in Leicester Square okay, and we got in for free. But the drinks were so expensive! And it took us about an hour to hail a cab home. (There were a ton of unlicensed cabs, but they’re so unsafe, we wanted to wait for a black one… apparently 3am is a busy time in London, with so many people leaving bars and clubs.) We had lots of fun anyway! Before we went out, Melissa, Azaria, and I were saying that it was like we had only seen each other a week ago – but in reality, it’s been FOUR years! I can’t believe it. We got along so well on this trip it was like we were never apart, nothing was awkward or silent.

Sunday morning Annie decided to hang out with her parents so Melissa, Azaria, her mom, and I headed to South Kensington to see Harrods. We had a nice lunch/dinner at pizza express and then Melissa and I walked Azaria and Sheona to Victoria Station to see them on their train. It was sad, we all started crying, although I am going to visit Azaria (hopefully!) before I leave.

Monday Melissa got up to meet Annie & her parents to go to Stonehenge, and I went to class. I met them in the evening at the train station, where Annie and her Mom & Dad left to fly to Dublin. In the evening, I took Melissa to a school function, the Grand, with the rest of my flat.

Tuesday morning Melissa had to catch her train to meet her friends in Lisbon, Portugal (it was her spring break). The weekend flew by but I was so happy to see everyone!

Stratford-Upon-Avon

This morning I woke up at 7 to go to Stratford-Upon-Avon with a CIS group. This is our second and last tour provided by CIS. After stumbling around Ghislaine and Tony (who were sleeping on my floor) and stumbling around generally, I got on the bus and fell asleep immediately. It was a 2 hour bus ride, which I am thankful for.

First we went to Warwick Castle, which is a really old castle but was pretty cheesy in the way they had it set up. It was similar to an amusement park, like Busch Gardens, but no rides, just people in semi-accurate costumes.

Lauren pointed out that the woman and the maid are wearing conflicting outfits – the woman’s is from the 18th century and the maid’s is from the 19th century. This is all in a medieval castle.

there were peacocks wandering around the outside of the castle. This one opened his feathers for us.

this is the view from atop the wall. climbing the stairs up to the turrets was awful; cramped, spiraly, and dark… I don’t know how knights did it. 



can you see the tiny little sheep in the fields?

After Warwick Castle, we drove over to Stratford-Upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born! It was the cutest little town, my second favorite after Bath!


This house is the house Shakespeare was born in (apparently). No one is 100% sure but this is the house his father owned. First they owned half of it, and then when he became wealthy, bought the other half. After we saw this, we walked over to the church where he was baptized and is now buried. It was a beautiful walk through the town along the river; I took some photos: 

Royal Shakespeare Company

Mallards in the Avon River

I like the circley one in the middle. 

This brown building is where they think Shakespeare went to grammar school. There are no records but because his father was wealthy and a town figure (he worked in the Church) he would have sent his sons to school.

Shakespeare bought this house for his wife & himself to retire in, but never actually lived in it because he died before then. 

Note the name of the restaurant. Everything there had some sort of bard reference, including Iago Jewelers and Much Ado about Toys. Our tour guide joked that someone has yet to open “Out! Out! Damn Spot!” dry cleaners.

Pretty Woodwork

 After Stratford, we took a 10 minute drive to Shottery, where we took a tour through Anne Hathaway’s (Shakespeare’s Wife) childhood cottage. It was GORGEOUS. It reminded me a little of Belle’s cottage in beauty & the beast. 

 

We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the inside, but our tour guide (who looked just like my optometrist) told us some general facts about the house. Mr. Hathaway was well off because he was in wool trading. The rooms on the right end of the house were the original, and the others were added on later. He told us some interesting idiom origins including: “bedboard”, which comes from a table made where the top board can be lifted off to be placed on the floor to accomodate a guest. These are also why you don’t put your elbows on the table, because the tabletop will literally flip over; “sleep tight”, which refers to ropes tied between the bed frames used to hold up the mattress. Every night the ropes would be pulled as tight as possible for the most comfortable sleep; and “cold shoulder”, which actually refers to bacon. When a guest came, if they were very important, their bacon would be served hot. If the host didn’t think you were notable enough to have the bacon heated up, you would be given the “cold shoulder”. 


Updates

Last week our flat went out for dinner together at Nandos, a chicken restaurant, 

then we went for a drink at a bar nearby

Then, this past week Ghislaine came to visit! We did a lot, Camden, Tate Modern, Touristy Stuff, Shopping, etc. Then Berangér’s boyfriend (who is studying in Nottingham) needed a place to stay for a night before he met his parents so he also crashed in my room (it was a little tight with three of us!). We all went to the bop together last night. I had a trip through CIS in the morning so I had to get up early and leave, but I had so much fun while they were here!! 

V&A, part II

I didn’t have class on Thursday, so I went back to the Victoria & Albert to see the rest of the museum. I tried to go out today, to see another museum, so I could combine them into two posts but once I got into putney to get onto the tube, the station was closed! It was already around 3pm by then (museums close early on weekends, like 5), so I gave up and came back home.

Before I went to the V&A, I went to see Covent Garden, somewhere I hadn’t been yet. It was so cool! Definitely one of my favorite places so far. I didn’t take any pictures though, I felt super touristy, and had no reassurance to take them anyway because I was by myself.

I started on the 2nd floor and immediately got trapped in “Ironwork”. sounds boring, and I thought I’d fly through it, but it was full of cool gates, signs, and keys (which is where I lingered the longest). 

They were so pretty! #21 has the monogram of William & Mary in it – yes, the same W&M as the college. 

I liked the Greyhounds

After that, I walked to the textiles room, which was FULL of hundreds of textile samples. They were renovating two more rooms (thank god, I can’t believe there was that much to look through). 

There were hundreds and hundreds of pieces of fabric organized like this! It would have taken hours to search through. There were some students and an older woman there who looked like they were researching them, almost like a fabric library.

I quickly went through the Theatre & Performance rooms, filled with memorabilia, like posters, costumes, and set miniatures. I didn’t stay long because there was this really loud, annoying spanish tourist group of teenagers. Also, most of the items were fairly recent.

THEN I got to the jewelry rooms. 

And I thought VMI rings were big.

These are snake armlets (worn around the upper arm) from ancient Egypt, 100 AD

I took a picture of the sign for this so I could remember: Starting in the center of the spiral at the first arrow, the gemstones are Diamonds, Rubies and Sapphires, Spinel, Chrysoberyl, Beryl, Peridot, Tourmaline, Topaz, Garnet, Zircon, “assorted gemstones”, Quartz, Microcrystalline Quartz, Opal, Lumachella, Turquoise, Malachite, Lapis lazuli, Pyrite, Pearl 

Jack Russell Terrier Bracelet.

Somewhere along the line I came across Shakespeare’s First Folio, pretty crazy. It is the first known collection of all of Shakespeare’s works, published in 1623. Of 1,000 printed, 228 still exist today.

After that I was pooped, and on my way out peeked into the bookshop. I wanted to get a book about the museum itself (& it’s architecture.. pictures below), but I could only find books about certain collections. Before I could even start looking hard enough, they turned off all the lights and announced the shop was closing. I left, and headed back to the tube to get back home. 

The Courtyard

Main Entrance. That thing in the middle is a sculpture by a famous artist. I don’t like it, I think it looks like a huge bundle of glass lawn ornaments.

Clock

Museum Library

Another view of the courtyard

this weekend

So, after my Harrod’s adventure, I met up with Lauren and Blakelee for dinner. We went to Chinatown and got a delicious buffet meal! After that we went back to the flat and went to the Bop at school which we found out once we were there was “American High School” themed! What a laugh!! I think people here think Americans dress for school like the kids in High School Musical. So many people were wearing football jerseys and cheerleader costumes. I’m pretty sure the only time I ever did that was when I was Richard for halloween and wore his homecoming jersey. One girl was wearing a complete pink ladies getup. That was fun, nothing noteworthy besides the theme. 

SATURDAY we went on a Jack the Ripper tour through newEurope, the tour company we used in Paris (I highly recommend! They are fantastic!) This is Me, Blaklee, and Lauren with our guide, Giles.

London Skyline at night, the yellow egg shaped building to the left is city hall. 

Our guide told us other ghost stories of London, including those of public execution and hauntings in the Tower of London. 

Tower of London

This is Traitor’s Gate, which, at the time would have been entered by boats under the London Bridge and into the Moat. Anyone who entered here would not come out. All of the prisoner’s heads were displayed on pikes outside the gate. 

Tower Bridge:

While we were over near Tower Bridge, our guide told us a story about sending convicts to Australia; Usually people would be sentenced to x amount of years of hard labor in Australia, and immediately after their trial, they would be sent to a little jail cell near the docks below ground level. Once there were enough convicts to fill up a ship, they would set sail (3 months long) to Australia. When people were sent to this little underground cell thing, they said they were going ‘down under’ …. and THAT is where that saying comes from!

Our guide took us to a part of London I’d never think to find! It was the last remaining piece of the Roman Wall (With some Norman Wall on top), 2,000 years old. 

Then he pointed out some cool buildings, this top one here, known by the locals as ‘the gherkin’ is built by the same architect who built city hall. It’s also in a Harry Potter movie. (after that, he did a great Alan Rickman impression for the three of us) 

This one below is hated by a lot of Londoners and is referred to the ugliest building in the city. Basically, the architect moved all secondary structures (stairs, elevators, heating systems) to the outside to maximize floor space. 

This bench is the exact spot where a Ripper murder victim was found. Lauren and I thought we were pretty funny. 

Next, he took us to a road that would have been like the roads of the 19th century – Jack the Ripper’s time. Many streets like this were destroyed in the blitz, but this is one of the surviving few. Imagine it without lights, with a stench, and apparently some dead bodies, and that is what it would have been like to live in the slums of London in the 1800s.

The ten bells is associated with two Ripper murders – both women frequented this pub, and one of them was last seen here the night she was murdered. After meeting him in the pub and inviting him back to her flat, he had 10+ hours to strangle her and mutilate her body (which he did, apparently there were blood and organs everywhere, although they never found her heart) That was the last known attack from Jack the Ripper. 

 

Afterwards, we went into a grocery store to get some snacks and we found these: wine pre-packaged in a wine glass. 

SUNDAY we went to the national portrait gallery in trafalgar square. It was a nice size, and full of interesting portraits. 

That night, we went to Brick Lane to get dinner. Brick Lane is known for its ethnic food (the curry mecca of London). We lucked out though, because there was a huge Sunday market with all kinds of food! There was indian, thai, chinese, japanese, mexican and even jamaican food. I got some chinese food and egg rolls. Because we stumbled into it right as people were cleaning up, we got good deals on all the food, it was ridiculously cheap; when I asked the lady how much were the egg rolls, she said “uh 6 for one pound!” and I was like okay! and we were going to split it between the three of us.. and then as we were scooping them into our tray she kept yelling take more! take more! We really lucked out. Now I know the secret for cheap delicious food!!

HARRODS (deserves its own post)

Lauren’s friend came to visit this past weekend so I tagged along while we did some typical london touristy stuff. Friday I went to Harrod’s in the morning while Lauren waited for Blakelee’s train to arrive. I thought it would just be a department store like Bloomingdales or Neiman – I was wrong! It has literally everything anyone could ever want. Their motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique – All Things for All People, Everywhere. That is true. It has 330 departments and is over ONE MILLION SQUARE FEET. Anyway, when I said it has everything, it does. It’s got all the basics like perfumes, purses, shoes, gift items, and designer clothes (Lauren & Blakelee met me there and we saw so many dresses that celebrities wore)… on top of all those luxury goods there are 32 restaurants that serve anything from coffee, chocolate, tea and krispy kreme to spanish tapas, sushi and indian food. There are champagne bars and oyster bars. There’s a beauty salon, barber shop, spa, AND a dog spa. BankS (yes plural–i guess you need the money to be in this store haha. Also, just read online that you can buy gold bars at the bank.), personal shopping, caterers and design services. Optometrists, hearing services, Pharmacy, key cutter, shoe repairs, sigar shop, travel agents…etc etc etc There are even custom tailored clothes (duh), gift items, AND you can have someone make you your own fragrance.  You aren’t allowed in if you are wearing army fatigues, a scout uniform, shorts, a mohawk, or apparently, they refused entrance to a woman who was over 15 stone (200 pounds). 

My favorite parts of the store were the Egyptian Escalators, Egyptian rooms, and Egyptian Elevators. Its basically beautiful art deco -esque, with greens and golds. I really cannot describe it to its potential, but here’s a video (still not as amazing as the real thing) : http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4219104098246230802#

At the bottom of the escalators, there is a fountain dedicated to Diana and Dodi (his father owned Harrod’s until just recently). It has a used wine glass from the night of the car crash and an engagement ring in a glass case. The wine glass is kind of gross, actually. 

Some other noteworthy things I saw:

  • There is a pet store with purebred Chihuahuas and French Bulldogs. If you have £4,500 on hand, you can buy one. There’s also a dog spa/groomer where your pup can get a Blueberry & Vanilla Facial, Aromatherapy Bath & Body Massage, or a Thalssotherapy Mud Bath.
  • Not only does it have 32 restaurants, but Harrod’s has a full grocery store – a bakery, fromagerie (cheese), charcuterie ( fancy butcher), traiteur (butcher/delicatessen), wine shop, candy shop, tea shop, coffee shop, confectionary, patisserie, fish, poultry, meat counters, fruits, veggies, florist, and anything else you would need
  • There’s a huge room of oriental rugs, one full of outdoor furniture, and one full of antiques. If you needed a bed shaped like a giant shell, one of the Rolling Stone’s jackets, an original Snow White movie poster, or fossils, they have it!
  • There are 4 Harrod’s gift shops
  • There are reasonably-sized Waterstones (Barnes & Noble) and HMV (Best Buy) within Harrods
  • Within the Sony electronics store, there are spy listening devices and bullet proof clothes. 
  • Safe Deposit Boxes
  • a Piano room, guitar room
  • a phone store
  • need I go on?

Lastly, I noticed that they had a SPELLING MISTAKE in their store map! Ha! They spelled the word “object” wrong, so I nicely decided to send them an email. Look at this:

maybe I’ll put my title as “her royal highness"