Day 6 - It's Always Better the Second Time Around

Thursday, April 02, 2009
Good lord**, the walls in the B&B are thin!!! Last night I listened to the new guest in the room beside me (a Scottish builder I found out at breakfast the next day) chat on his phone for half an hour. A conversation I soooo didn't need to hear. And to top it, he snores worse than the Admiral!!!

I headed out early this morning again. After thinking about it last night, I decided I did indeed want to visit Westminster Abbey so I figured I should get there early and perhaps luck out like I did with the Eye. No worries there. I arrived about a quarter past nine and there were only 7 or 8 people waiting in front of me. It was disappointing to learn that there is no photography allowed within the Abbey. As it's a still an active house of worship and many of the tapestries and woodwork would deteriorate with all the flashes, it's completely understandable. However, that didn't stop some people from whipping out their cameras when the vergers weren't around. I would have loved to snap a few shots of the ceiling, it's breathtakingly beautiful. The sheer number of monuments, plaques, stones and sarcophagi with the abbey is incredible. Some are absolutely exquisite with intricate detailing and decoration while others are simple stones listing dates and names, and everything inbetween. Highlights included Shakespeare (although he's not buried here), Mary Queen of Scots, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Edward I (aka Longshanks), the list goes on and on and on. They also have the Coronation Chair on display, the throne used during the coronation of every English Monarch since 1308. The view from the cloister into the open square was gorgeous - at the moment I walked around the sun was shining on the side of the building and practically begged me to take it's picture. Alas I did not. The sign said "NO" and I'm always one to obey the rules. Stop laughing. Seriously, what's so funny...? Standing looking down at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I started to feel a bit emotional and overwhelmed by all that I had seen today. I began thinking of my grandparents and how much I missed them. I lit a candle and sat down in front of the altar to collect my thoughts and relax.

If you're planning on visiting the Abbey, I highly recommend (1) getting there early or you'll have to fight the huge crowds who visit every day, and (2) use the audio guides provided free of charge to visitors. I wasn't going to use it but are very few signs to tell you what's what or where to begin so I figured I'd give it a go. Jeremy Iron's soothing voice is the perfect choice for the tour and I could have listened to him talk about dead famous people for hours...

Although I had been in the area the day before, I had forgotten to walk the length of the Parliament buildings to see the statues of Cromwell and Richard the Lion Hearted so after exiting the Abbey, I headed back across the street. It was seriously tempting to join the queue of people waiting to get inside the Parliament buildings but even UK politics can't be exciting enough to get me to sit through a session. At the far end (the end opposite Big Ben) of the building is the Sovereign's Entrance. I took a couple of pictures of the gate and the lion's guarding it, chuckling to myself. All I could think of was that it's likely Charles will never get the chance to use those gates. I know, mean but seriously...what are the chances of it?

I made my way back to Trafalgar Square (again!) with the idea of visiting Canada House located to the left of the National Gallery (the side of the square currently displaying the Hotel for the Birds). Home of the Canadian High Commission in London, it's supposedly open to visitors and I had heard that it was somewhat of a "home away from home" for Canadians in London. Don't waste your time. I had to pass through an airport style scanner and metal detector manned by two English security guards who were completely baffled that I would want to have a look around. All that security to see a few computers (free for the public to use), a guestbook to sign, and a copy of the Globe and Mail to glance through. Ah well, all part of trying something new, right? The building itself is quite something to look at, at least from the outside. I saw very little inside that would make me go "wow". Disappointed, I headed back to my hotel for a rest before getting ready to venture out again later that evening in order to meet up with Milla once more before heading south.

While waiting for Milla outside of Holborn station, I swear I saw Gordon Ramsey run into the station with some of his "people". I can't be completely positive but the hair was right, the face pretty dang close, and he had on a very expensive looking suit. Why he'd be running into the tube station though...I have no idea. Maybe it was him, maybe not. Years from now when I tell this story, it'll definately be him. Milla showed up a few minutes later with news that she had found the perfect pub for us to have a drink and a bite to eat at. Just a few blocks away and down a back alley I wouldn't want to negotiate on a dark night, she surprised me with The Ship Tavern. Seriously. A more perfect pub for a sea captain, there could not be. Great job, Milla!!! We found a great seat at the back past the bar where we sipped Strongbow and feasted on the most delicious tasting chips ever. I loved it. If I lived in London, you just know this would be my hangout. Sigh...

It was a sad ride home on the tube after saying goodbye, not knowing when I'd get the chance to chill with my new friend again. Milla certainly made my time in London more enjoyable and I felt a little less alone in a strange city. Grazie così tanto Milla. Spero che possiamo incontrarci ancora qualche giorno.

** Aka "Oh my Christ!". That Pam, she makes me giggle...


Wandering Coyote said...

Oh, I am soooooo glad you went back to the abbey! It's fabulous isn't it? It was always my favourite London site.

I was thinking yesterday & today that it was good timing that you missed that whole G20 kerfuffle, eh?

Karen said...

WC, it was fabulous. Certainly one of the big highlights of London for me. As for the G20, I lucked out on that one! I planned my trip to miss the Easter crowd and just happened to bypass the protests and rallies. Thank goodness.

Milla said...

Ohhh those glorious chips and the Ship Tavern! I must go there some other time to haev some more.

Karen, I had a great time in your company! Grazie a te! And thank you also for the t-shirt which I am planning to wear for the first time on Sunday!

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