Journal entries are posted in reverse chronology (newest first)
August 31, 2022
As we get ready to leave London, we decided to have dinner out "pub style" one last time at Marksman near Columbia Flower Market. We did the pub staples like meat pie (the pie tonight was chicken and chanterelle, Welsh rarebit, and the most amazing burnt butter cream tart. Very much worth it. We loved London overall... it's like NYC with castles. We did admit to some trepidation about moving on to a place where we don't speak the language (although Duolingo is helping) after having been in our own language environment for the last 5 weeks (contrary to what Winston Churchill might have said). Excited, though to see Camille and also Rachel and Selma who have just moved to Paris for university.
August 29, 2022
Today we went out to Notting Hill for Carnival. As you probably will recognize, August is a strange time for Carnival. Notting Hill Carnival started as a protest/celebration in the late 1950's to address longstanding issues by the London based Caribbean community as a result of colonialism and racism. Originally it was to address violence against Caribbean Londoners that had occurred in the Notting Hill neighborhood. Just like Stonewall Pride has morphed into more of a community celebration over time, so has the Notting Hill Carnival. It is now the largest street festival in Europe, and the largest "Carnival" based on number of attendees behind Rio. It's lots of music stages and food booths and a parade. We were disappointed that there wasn't more live music or bands playing, just mostly DJ's spinning. The "parade" goes on for hours and it's on the open street, so we just walked along the floats, stopping to take pictures of the dancers and dancing along sometimes when we got the urge. We probably moved at twice the pace of the floats, even though we stopped frequently.
August 28, 2022
Did laundry this morning, and then headed off to get some Dim Sum before we leave London. The place we found, the Phoenix Palace, was fine, if a little overpriced. We still haven't found a place anywhere that we like as much as Ton Kiang, which we get to visit when we're in San Francisco. One of the things we felt that was lacking at Phoenix Palace were any vegetable dishes to go along with the meat and seafood stuffed dumplings we ordered. We did, though, try chicken feet here, because they looked really good. They did them with a black bean sauce as opposed to just steaming them, and we really liked it. We think Stephen's mom, Judy, would like them as well as there's lots of cartilage.
August 27, 2022
We booked last minute-tickets via TodayTix again, this time to see a one-man show called Cruise, written and performed by Jack Holden. He was inspired to write this during the COVID lockdowns. It's semi-autobiographical and tells a story within a story taking us back to the 1980's and the height of the AIDS epidemic. It was a mesmerizing performance. He was onstage a solid 100 minutes without an intermission and had the theater enraptured the whole time. By far the best thing we saw while here.
August 26, 2022
We chilled at the flat today, getting some work done on forward planning for Paris and also all the parts of Chile, booking cars and stays in each of our destinations there. Then we headed over to Dalston Superstore, a gay club/bar a short walk from our flat. We loved the diverse crowd. The music downstairs was a bit to tweaky for us, but the upstairs vibe suited us well. On our way back, we ran by a storefront where they were preparing for Notting Hill Carnival... Post forthcoming on that.
August 23-25, 2022
We have taken a mini-theater run these last days. First was Treason, a new musical under development. Then we went to see the immersive performance Punchdrunk: The Burnt City, and the next night was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. We were able to get discounted tickets to all three using both the TKTS website and TodayTix.
Treason was a concert version of the musical that is still in development. It's about the Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament (although it sidelines the character of Guy Fawkes, appropriately, we thought). We think it may have been trying to be the British Hamilton. The focus of the story is the official anti-Catholic policies of the crown during this period that led to the plot. In fact, we saw evidence of this. It was in Hever castle that we saw a hidden chapel built into a false door of the bedroom in the house, as one of the sets of former owners (not the Bolyns) were secret Catholics. We had listened to some of the music online and thought it sounded interesting, so we booked tickets. The music was strong, especially the numbers written for the ensemble, the duets for the two leads, and anything the character Martha sang. The celtic beats behind the melodies gave a haunting (if somewhat repetitive) feeling to the musical numbers. The lyrics, though, could still use quite a bit of development; they were too rhymey-rhymey for both of our tastes (again, we think trying to be too Hamilton). There was also the role of the contemporary spoken word poetry style narrator that we were split on; Eli liked the device more than Stephen. As we were walking out of the theater, someone behind us noted, "Well, that still needs some work," and we agree. Lots of potential, though. If you're interested in musical theater, you should definitely check out the music online.
Next was Punchdrunk: The Burnt City. Punchdrunk is an immersive theater experience company. They're involved in all kinds of different concept experiences. For The Burnt City, they rented out a huge warehouse space (when we say huge, we mean probably 20,000 square feet) and created different vignettes that you can move through. Some are just staged, others will eventually have people moving through them telling part of the stories. There was very little dialogue and most of the story was told through contemporary dance and interpretive movement. There were, as far as we could tell (which we'll get to in a moment), two main stories going on. The first was the story of Agamemnon and the Trojan war. The other was set in the 1920's and was a mirror to the Greek tragedy. Each individual's experience of the performance will be different because the space is so big and there are lots of twists and turns through different rooms. Characters meet in spaces and then go off in different directions, so you may follow one character to a new space while the other half of the story you just saw plays out somewhere else. Occasionally you'll run into a solo character just moving or sitting or emoting. Stephen had a much more positive experience that Eli (although the both loved the ambiance and dance, etc.) because Stephen's "choose your own adventure" took him across both stories. Eli's path kept him inside the Greek story and so he was wondering where all 50 actors were. We still both would recommend it, though. We can't say enough about the overall experience as a possibility and how they executed it. It really is something that should be experienced, if you can.
Finally, we got day-of tickets to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It was a play with songs, not a true musical, and was definitely focused on telling the story for children. With that said, we enjoyed it. The staging was creative and visually interesting. The accompanying score was well written and many of the actors were playing instruments on stage as part of the staging while they were acting and singing... no small feat. We could see, though, with just a little bit of tweaking, that you could turn this production into an actual musical. Add a few more numbers where some lead characters actually voicing their thoughts and feelings through song (think "A Musical" from Something Rotten), and you'd have a true musical theater experience.
On Thursday, we also went to the Sky Garden, the Jack the Ripper Museum, Leadenhall Market, and had dinner before seeing the show at TAS Bloomsbury, a Turkish restaurant. The Sky Garden was free, but you have to get tickets in advance. It's not much of a garden, but has nice views from the 36th floor of the tower. It's more easterly than the London Eye, so you get a birds-eye view of different things. The Jack the Ripper Museum didn't have much to it, and it would be more helpful the read the Wikipedia page about the murders (which we did after visiting the museum). Leadenhall Market was worth a quick photo, but we liked Borough Market better. We also stopped by a ruined church, bombed during WWII that was reimagined as a public park. Very peaceful and haunting. If you're in the London Theater District and want to do pre/post show food, we would definitely recommend TAS. They have a whole bunch of set meze menus to share that are perfect for pre-post show (and they offer a 10% discount if you show your ticket). The menu we got had some very traditional and expected things like a yoghurt salad like Tadziki, a parsley salad, and hummus, but they all were flavored with different spices than what we'd ever had before. There were a couple of really interesting dishes as well that we can't remember the names of but were things we hadn't ever had before in that kind of combination.
August 22, 2022
We started today out on a quest to get Stephen some tennis balls so he can substitute them for a foam roller and do some self-massage. We tried a couple places first based on a google maps search, but they didn't pan out. We finally asked around and found a place. It put us near Covent Garden Market (reminded us a lot of Quincy Market in Boston) so we walked through it, and then continued on to the London Transport Museum. The museum was quite busy for a Monday... lots of families with their kids. The museum was a great history of the development of urban transportation and well worth the visit for us as city-philes. Stephen's alternate career if he wasn't going to be involved in education was to be a transit planner (or a subway driver as his 5-year-old self). Eli loved that you could get pillows, socks, and all manner of gear decked out in the fabric patters of the seats of the different lines across the network.
August 21, 2022
We rented another Turo today to drive out to the country again to see old friends of Stephen's from when he (and they) lived in San Francisco. Tudor and David decamped to Europe permanently a few years ago, and have a place in the country southeast of London in addition to a pad in the city and in Italy. Tudor and David graciously hosted us for the afternoon at their home (originally built as a farmhouse in 1576) and we got to mini-hike around the property and hang out and catch up. For Stephen it felt like no time had passed but in reality it had been 15 years since we'd all been in the same room, and Eli enjoyed meeting them both and spending time with them. Tudor and David are working on some environmental projects on their land, including the restoration of the watershed and replanting and selectively culling invasive species to build a more natural local habitat. They took us around to three of the ponds on their property so we could check them out and we walked through the woods and fields on their farm. That's where you'll see the selfies and candids taken.
On our way there, we stopped at Hever Castle. This castle was owned by the Bolyn family, of whom Anne was famously married to Henry VIII. Henry and his wives are having a moment thanks to the musical Six (which we saw the last time we were in NYC). We had forgotten to mention when in our post about Warwick that one room of mannequins had Henry with all six of his wives and we overheard an eight-year-old boy saying to his father... "divorced, beheaded, died... divorced, beheaded, survived..." which is a line from the opening number of Six as each of the wives introduce themselves to the audience. In any case, Hever was in quite a state of disrepair when William Astor (the American you'll remember if you watch the Gilded Age on HBO) bought it when he moved permanently to Europe. He took about restoring and reinventing it but keeping the Tudor style with all the wood, etc. With the self-guided audio tour, you can see how the room looked just prior to the restoration begun by the Astors and see how much they kept, recreated, and reinvented. As impressive as the house was, the real star here were the gardens. None of those were in an original Tudor style, but they were gorgeous. They have a huge lake in the back that you can walk around and large Italian Renaissance style gardens as well.
This is Hever Castle, not Tudor and David's place (although their place is pretty nice also).
August 20, 2022
After taking a day to rest and recuperate from our out-of-town trip (and for Stephen to nurse his lower back that was acting up again) we headed out to see the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory. You can get a combined ticket to see both and it saves a little bit of money. They want you to choose a time for each for your visit, and they are supposed to be an hour and a half apart, but they didn't seem to check the times at either location, and we only ended up spending about an hour on the Cutty Sark.
The Cutty Sark was one of the largest commercial sail-powered craft built, launching in 1869, originally to go back and forth to China as part of the tea trade. With the opening of the Suez Canal around this time, though, and the advent of steam-powered ships, the Cutty Sark was relegated to more general missions all across the world. You get to walk through the cargo hold and imagine it filled with cartons of tea (and how packed it would have been to the gills). And then you can walk on the top deck and awe at the amazing rigs for the sails (and the tight quarters for the staff).
The Royal Observatory was different than what we were expecting, a bit. Obviously, we were expecting stars and telescopes, and the prime meridian (aka Greenwich meridian, for the neighborhood where the Royal Observatory is), but the real focus of the observatory (we were to learn, given the fact that the prime meridian runs through it) was really all about time. Accurate measurement of time was necessary to accurately calculate distance by longitude while sailing. About 75% of the museum at the Observatory was dedicated to this quest to measure location east-west accurately. We took gratuitous selfies straddling the prime meridian which you can see below.
August 18, 2022
Woke up today and had another full English breakfast (we promise we only do this on a very irregular basis, but writing about granola and toast and yoghurt isn't exciting). We spent most of the day walking around Oxford. Oxford is a university made up of a whole bunch of semi-independent colleges. We toured Christ Church, which is one of the constituent colleges and inspired some of the sets in Harry Potter, and stopped in to see a few others as well (there is a charge for many). Each one has its own quad, but overall it felt more like a city campus vs. having one big quad with all the university buildings on it like colleges where we both went. The buildings, all made with Cotswold stones have this orangey yellow hue, which does give the town a cohesive feel. We will say that Oxford might have been one place where we would have wanted to do an organized tour of the whole city vs. just the tour we did of Christ Church's campus, to better understand the development of each of the colleges and how they interact with each other if you're a student at Oxford. Eli's cousin did a study-abroad experience in Oxford, so we'll have to quiz her about it when we see her in December.
We were done about 2pm and came back to the hotel room to rest for an hour before heading back to London. We were able to get late check-out because of Eli's Marriott status.
August 17, 2022
Breakfast at the Broadlands is included, so we woke up at 8 and had a full English breakfast, and then headed out on the road. We wanted to see Warwick castle and then were hoping to make it to both Sudeley Castle and Rodmarton House. We were glad to have made it to all three; each one was special in it's own way.
Warwick castle has gone "all in" on the medieval theming and does light shows and jousting spectaculars on the grounds throughout the summer. We just went in to check it out, but could imagine it being dramatic (if probably pretty hokey) to do the evening light show. Warwick was never really a royal residence, but instead was mostly occupied by nobles who fought alongside the king during the 100 years war and were rewarded for their loyalty with the title of Earl and the castle and land of the surrounding area. The rooms were restored to a variety of eras but they did go a little over the top again with the mannequins in the rooms. Now we're off to Sudeley.
We had a couple missed exits off of the roundabouts (look, kids, there's Big Ben....) a couple of times, and were stymied by some construction (we don't trust Google Maps in England for routing as we don't think it always gave us the best routes), but overall driving on the opposite side was not that tough. And we wouldn't have been able to see half as much if we had tried to do all of this by train. With that said, our first fill-up today of about 8 gallons, which filled the tank of our tiny car was $70.
Sudeley Castle is actually still occupied by its owners, so is only open for a limited amount of time. It's claim to fame is that it is the resting place of one of Henry VIII's wives. It was interesting to see how you convert a property like this for modern usage. Although we obviously didn't get to see the family's quarters, they did open up a guest room and guest bathroom that are currently in use to see the mixing of modern and artifacts. The most beautiful aspect of this building was that there was an old abbey from the 11th century on the property and they did not remove the ruins but rather incorporated them into the garden when they built the castle in the 16th century. It made for some striking photos.
We then had enough time to get to Rodmarton Manor. Rodmarton Manor is also still occupied, and is open even less frequently (only Wednesdays and Saturdays from 2pm-5pm through the summer months). Rodmarton is different, though, as it was built during the English Arts and Crafts period and is a good example of how this movement looked in Britain vs. in the United States. As much as we love visiting castles, if we had to pick a place to live, it would be more like Rodmarton Manor. We weren't really allowed to take photos in Rodmarton, but we were able to capture one from the living room.
From Rodmarton, we drove to Oxford for the night, checked into our hotel (we used points to stay at the Courtyard), and then went out for Ethiopian food nearby.
August 16, 2022
Today we start our "getaway" trip (as if this whole traveling adventure isn't one big getaway) from London. We rented a car from Turo, which is a car sharing service like AirBnB but for cars. We thought it would be more convenient to be able to pick up a car close by rather than having to trek to center city or to one of the airports to pick one up. While yes, it was convenient to be able to pick up the car a short walk from our flat, we did decide that next time we would look for a car on the outskirts of the city on the side that we'd be traveling toward. On our way out of and back into London, we spent an extra 50 minutes getting across the city because we were visiting sites to London's west and we are on the east side. It would've been faster to rent a car near Paddington and just take the Tube back to our place once we were all done.
Our tour included Stonehenge, the Cotswolds, a couple of castles/houses in the Cotswolds, and Oxford. First on our drive out of London was Stonehenge.
People have said that Stonehenge isn't much, but we actually had a positive experience, and would have stayed longer had it not broken out into some pretty heavy showers while we were there. It's one thing to stand in a palace or castle from 600 to a thousand years ago (or even two thousand if we're talking Greece) and ponder what humans were doing and how they were living at that point. It's another thing entirely to ponder the same from almost 5000 years ago. And then to understand that all of human history is just a blink of an eye in the context of the cosmos.
The Cotswolds is a general name for the area west of London that is hilly, farm-y, and filled with picturesque towns. Think the Poconos as it relates to New York City. We stayed in Bourton-on-the-Water. It was very picturesque town, but clearly a tourist center. Since we had the car from Turo, we wanted to find a place that had parking, so that limited us a bit. Bourton-on-the-Water is filled with tons of B&B's so you can't really go wrong. We stayed at the Broadlands. When we checked in, we were speaking with the innkeeper, and she mentioned that she has a boat in Cape Coral, Florida, that they go to when not taking care of the inn. Clearly innkeeping in Bourton-on-the-Water is something that does more than "pay the bills."
We walked around town for a bit, and along the river (which is actually just a creek). To the person that owns the Mill House, please be aware that we're coming for you and if you should die in unusual circumstances and your house should go up for sale, it will be ours. They also have a cute miniature model of the town built out of Cotswold stones. It's how you would've gotten a view of the city from above before there were drones. We went back to our room to rest for a while and then to The Rose Tree Tavern for dinner. The Rose Tree was great! Eli had sea bass (and it was so good that Stephen actually liked it), and Stephen had the lamb shank that was one of the best that he's ever had. Definitely more than a pub, but simple food done well.
August 15, 2022
London is a very big city, so travel times on public transit from our place in East London are at minimum half an hour. Today we went out into the "burbs" a bit to see Hampton Court Palace and Strawberry Hill House, which are not too far from each other and about 1.5 hours from us in East London by transit (which makes lots of stops).
Hampton Court was the palace of Henry VIII (and all of his wives). It was remodeled briefly by William and Mary after the restoration, so it's got lots of Tudor and Baroque stylings in it. We appreciated seeing the Tudor kitchens. You could imagine all of the work that went into Henry's lavish feasts and banquets (there's a difference... banquets apparently were more VIP). Strawberry Hill House was a "merchant class" house mostly built in the late 18th century but in the gothic style. It was a cute enough place, but the star of the show were all of the volunteer docents they had placed in every room who would tell you about the history of that room in the house and some of the furnishings. You could just tell how much they loved talking about the property and how personally they were invested in the story of the house. It was well worth the visit just for them alone.
August 14, 2022
We were hoping to meet up with Stephen's cousin, Karyn's, boys who were in London just for a couple days before heading to Greece, but their football match got switched to today from Saturday as it was the "Match of the Week" and they figured they would want to hang out at the venues near the stadium after the game, so we ventured out to do a couple of things in the center of London that we hadn't gotten to yet: The London Eye and the Graffiti Tunnel.
The London Eye was kind of gimmicky, and not cheap at all. The whole ride takes about 25 minutes and we waited about 40 minutes, even though we had tickets for a specific time. You do get a good view of Westminster Palace and some of the other buildings on the river, though, and thankfully it was air conditioned as it was quite hot again today.
The Graffiti Tunnel was worth the walk to see. Much more artistic than Brick street. We even ran into a couple of people working on new designs for the wall while we were there. Our photos benefited from the lighting they installed in the space.
Since we didn't end up meeting the boys out, we went a little farther afield for dinner and checked out a Uyghur restaurant in North London. We had visited a Uyghur restaurant in Bejing when we were there and enjoyed it, so wanted to revisit that experience. This meal was not quite as good as what we had when we were in Beijing, though, although the lamb skewers were really tasty. If in London, though, we would recommend that you check out some of the Uyghur restaurants around the city. Definitely an interesting mix of flavors.
August 13, 2022
Okay. I'm sure you're first going to ask what two gay guys without any interest in sports are doing going to a football match. Consider it a social anthropology data gathering experiment. Premier League tickets for any of the teams in and around London are impossible to get if you're not a member of the club, so we looked farther afield. We were able to get tickets to the Southampton Saints vs. Leeds United at face value and took a train about 1.5 hours to get to Southampton. We were able to get actual seats as non club members because frankly, the Saints are not a very good team.
Southampton is the largest port near London and so is the embarking point for many large cruise ships. We saw a few docked while we were there. Additionally, this is where the Titanic sailed from, so there's a lot of kitchy Titanic theming around town as well. We took a morning train so we could walk around town a bit before going to the match. We stopped at the Tudor House Museum. This was everything we were hoping the Museum of the Home would be in London but was not. The house has been continuously occupied since the 12th century and you get to see it through it's many forms and changes over time. After having seen many castles for Royalty to see how they lived across time, it was interesting to see how the merchant class lived as well (and as relatively bland as their housing was in comparison, to imagine how life would have been for the working class). They focus on 3 periods: Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian, and you can see how style, taste, and technology of the home changed over time. It's hard to imagine a place being continuously occupied for over 600 years when the oldest buildings in Florida are just now 100 years old.
Southampton was alive with activity for the opening game of the football season, so we walked around to various pubs and already crowds were amassing at noon and the game didn't even start until 3pm. We looked up some pubs/restaurants and had chosen to eat at Smugglers, which was about a 30 minute walk from where we were at the Tutor House. We got there, and even though it was not crowded at all, they weren't serving food to anyone who hadn't made reservations.. just drinks. It actually turned out well because we went over to the Black Phoenix instead, which was just down the block. It had been on our list as well, and we're glad it's where we ended up. They had lots of interesting burgers and sandwiches with about half of them being vegan. They were celebrating their 2 year anniversary that day, and so Stephen go the special birthday vegan burger and Eli got the katsu chicken sandwich. Both were excellent in flavors, and the guys at the bar were super nice and made good beer recommendations. Definitely worthy of a stop.
Then we headed over to St. Mary's Stadium. Some interesting features of a football game in the UK: The pre-game music was not quite what we were expecting.... The Smiths, Simple Minds, Love and Rockets-- all British bands, sure, but we were expecting Chumbawumba or something more crowd-inducing than "The Charming Man." Alcohol has been banned in the stands. This is a result of all of the violence following matches a number of years ago. And security was all over the place. They have a section for visiting fans, and there was probably triple security around them that ran all the way up the stairs with a "no-person zone" of 6-8 seats between their section and the rest of the stadium. The Leeds fans were very vocal, chanting and singing throughout almost the entire match. There was less of that from the Southampton group around the rest of the stadium. With that said, the changes put into effect seemed to help-- nobody got out of hand and the crowd was very organized overall. Especially as we left the stadium. The most organized group exodus we've ever seen.
Having not really watched much soccer before, we enjoyed the pace of the game. There were a number of really exciting plays, and a lot of just watching the movement across the field. Southampton didn't play well at all, even as they were more frequently controlling the ball. They were down 2-0 in the closing 20 minutes of the game and came back with a couple of really impressive moves down the field that yielded 2 goals to tie up the score.
August 12, 2022
We had planned to go get breakfast this morning and go grocery shopping while the cleaning person that our host uses cleaned the flat, but we got a message right around the time they were supposed to show up that they weren't going to come, so we decided to stick to our plan anyway and went to By the Bridge Cafe, a breakfast and lunch place that reminded us a lot of one of our favorite breakfast places in Delray, Over the Bridge Cafe. By the Bridge has rooftop seating overlooking the canal and it's quite a pretty set-up up there. You just have to navigate a very tight spiral staircase to get there. We were totally impressed with the waitstaff's ability to get food up and down without any spillage or faceplants. We both had the proper "Full English Breakfast" which includes 2 eggs, toast, hash browns, beans tomatoes, mushrooms, sausage, and bacon. They also do much more creative food at the cafe, but we hadn't yet had a full English, so we did it. Neither one of us could finish it all.
It was going to be another scorcher today, so Eli booked us time at the famous (or infamous?) Hampstead Heath Men's Pond. The other option was to go to a Lido (pronounced LIE-do in UK English). Lidos are basically private clubs that have a swimming pool. If it gets warm again, we may try doing one of those. Hampstead Heath has 3 ponds-- a mixed, an all female pond, and an all male pond. The men's pond was a mix of mostly gay men and orthodox Jews... an interesting combination to be sure. The gays, though, were clearly setting the tone. There's a nice grassy area where you can lay out before your reservation is called. They instituted this reservation system a few years ago and most are not very happy about it, but it looks like it may go away soon. Back before COVID, apparently the pond was quite packed when the weather was warm enough. We think the reservation system was put into place for social distancing reasons. Apparently nude swimming used to be allowed as well, but that's no longer the case. We're glad we came. The water was bracing, but not as cold as we were expecting... probably around 72 F. It's a really nice setting to be in the water as well looking out at all the trees surrounding the pond. The only downside is that the pond is fairly deep so you really have to be treading or swimming all the time unless you are right up by the shore. We'd definitely choose to go to the pond again for a nice afternoon of swimming and lying about.
August 11, 2022
Today we headed out to Windsor and Eaton to see Windsor Castle. The castle is the queen's "weekend residence." It really is a castle more so than a palace. It has a keep in the middle and all of those kinds of things. It originally was built as a fortress to protect the approach to London from the west. However, Charles II, who was king and a relative of Louis XIV of France, wanted something that rivaled Versailles so remodeled the castle's interior as his "country home." Of course, the building was destroyed by fire on a number of occasions, so the majority was rebuilt in the Victorian period, The most recent fire was in 1992, and the rooms destroyed in that fire were returned to the neo-gothic Victorian stage. Lots of armour and armaments hanging on the walls. There were a number of rooms that were fashioned as they would have been when Charles II did his reworking in the baroque/rococo style. Again, no photography was allowed in most of the interior staterooms.
It was CROWDED at the castle, and we have to say that we weren't comparatively impressed with the interiors compared to some of the other places we've seen recently. The town is cute, though, and we spent some time walking around. It was super-hot by the mid-afternoon (90 F) so we decided to come home and skip some of the other possible things we could have seen on the way back into the city. Eli's parting thought, though, was that it's got to suck to be queen and have your weekend house directly in the path of flights landing at Heathrow. Every 3-4 minutes we could hear the drone of airplane engines.
August 10, 2022
We took the afternoon to visit Westminster Palace, which is the home to the Parliament. The original building was built in the 11th century. Again, they don't really let you take photos in the important rooms, but we got some shots of the exterior and of the Great Hall. You'll notice the wood roof... It's the largest self-supporting wood roof in Europe. They use the room for banquets and state functions. You could certainly imagine the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones being filmed here. The majority of the palace burned down in the early 19th century, and was rebuilt in the neo-gothic style. Interesting that they chose to go that direction rather than doing something more contemporary for the period.
It's also funny to note how old school and low-tech some of the features of the building are... They have mailboxes like you would have in a teacher's workroom for the MP's in the anteroom of the House of Commons. There were a whole bunch of posted signs and reminders printed on paper and hung on the walls with clipboards in the voting hallways. And they never fail to mention the authority of the monarch and the traditions involved as it relates to parliament.
On our way back, we saw an announcement about a rail strike for August 13th. We knew about the one on the 18th and 20th, but this one was news to us. We had planned on going to Southampton for a football game on the train on that day so were worried about if that was going to fall through. Luckily, we called Southwestern Rail, and they are one of the few companies whose staff are not striking on the 13th, so it looks like we're a go for the football match.
August 9, 2022
We are so embarrassed because we failed to get a group selfie, so you'll just have to read about the wonderful night of food and drink that we had with Josh, his sister Miriam, and Miriam's partner Tom, at Jolene. If you're following chronologically, you know that Josh and Miriam are in-laws to my cousin Deborah. They and Tom are the most wonderful, interesting, and fun people to spend an evening with. They came over to us in East London (Miriam and Tom on bikes, which if you read our initial post from London, is quite impressive). Tom and Miriam work in the creative field and Josh works for a documentary filming company, so lots of stuff to talk about. Thank you all for sharing the evening with us.
August 8, 2022
We booked ourselves an afternoon high tea (is that redundant?) at the restaurant on the 8th floor of the OXO tower for today. Since it's right by the Tate Modern, we decided to go there beforehand and see how much we could finish up. We spent about another 2.5 hours today at the museum and were able to see all of the free gallery spaces. Make sure to hit the Tank galleries on the -1 floor. Similar to the Cistern in Copenhagen, the Tank is a very atmospheric space where the art is designed to maximize the atmosphere in the space.
We then moved on to the Restaurant at the OXO Tower for our 3pm afternoon tea reservation. We looked at a bunch of different options for afternoon tea, and decided that the most important items for us were a nice view, a price under 60 pounds per person, and a mix of traditional and non-traditional. The OXO Tower Restaurant's tea had all three, and they executed it well. The restaurant looks out over the Thames, and they have both indoor and outdoor seating. Even though it was a very warm afternoon, we sat outside and, as it is shaded from the south by the indoor part of the restaurant, we stayed shaded and cool. View? Check!
We had four tiers to our tea experience. There were a mix of traditional and modern touches.... the ubiquitous scones and clotted cream and jam were the first tier. The scones we're used to in the US are often dry and crumbly. These were crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside. Much more like what we would call a biscuit. The next tier was a sampling of some small bites... there was a sausage roll, a shrimp and seaweed bite, and a cheese puff (which was the standout). The third tier were the finger sandwiches... traditional, yes, but with some non-traditional flavors. There was a cucumber sandwich but with a anchovy butter, there was a tomato sandwich but with manchego and an onion jam, there was a chicken sandwich but with a curry mustard, and then the most traditional egg salad. The final tier was "dessert," (as if there wasn't enough sweet already)... a chocolate cake with raspberry cream, a shortbread cookie with cheesecake frosting, and finally an elderflower mousse. Interesting food? Check!
And in total it ended up being 126 pounds for the two of us (including 2 glasses of wine plus the tea). And we were so stuffed, we didn't bother with dinner. Overall we enjoyed the experience here as much as we did when we had afternoon tea in Shanghai.
August 7, 2022
Thank you, Abhi. Today we did an amazing AirBnB experience with Abhi as our host. He taught us the Art of Indian Home Cooking. As the title implies, this wasn't just a "here are a couple of recipes you can make at home. He delved into the how and why of composing Indian dishes so that we could use some of the theory and the spices and the flavors on our own. Similar to Thai (which makes sense since there was a lot of cross pollination between South and Southeast Asia), he focused on balance between bitter, sour, sweet, heat, and umami, with salt as a flavor enhancer. We made Chai, homemade yoghurt, a chickpea curry, dal, and tandoori chicken. On the way, he showed us how to mix and blend (those are two different things as we now know) spices, when to add what (a garam masala blend, which we made, only goes in at the end, for example, because all the spices in it have already been toasted and blended before being ground), and to experience how the dish changes flavor at each of the stages. We came home and tried making our own yoghurt. Our first two tries weren't as successful as we hoped, but we feel like we'll nail it on the 3rd. We got lots of video but not as many pictures because Abhi was keeping us so engaged and busy. You'll have to check it out the videos on our social media platforms once we get the videos completed. Abhi is a great guy... charismatic, fun, a bit sarcastic. Definitely do this if you're in London and want to learn more about Indian coooking.
We were so full after the 3 hour experience, we didn't bother with dinner. We got on a Google Meet later that night with Stephen's family and then Eli's mom to talk logistics about meeting up for a visit to Lisbon, Andalucia, and Toulouse in April.
August 6, 2022
Today we worked out our problems over the phone with TfL from our trip to Kew, finalized our trip for the 16th-18th to see some sights in the countryside, and then headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The permanent collection is free here as well. The building is also a piece of art in and of itself... high Victorian. We of course didn't make it through the whole thing, but this time concentrated on the Asia and Islamic art galleries, with a quick stroll through the Rodin, Silver, and Jewelry galleries.
The Silver gallery was interesting not so much for what was displayed, but tor the decoration of the gallery itself. The original, and now restored, gallery was originally decorated completely in ceramics..... majolica tile and sculpture and wall accents.... totally over-the-top Victorian. As fashions changed, they redesigned the gallery until nothing of the original decoration was there. About 10 years ago, they went back and partially restored some of the ceramic decoration as you enter the space so you can get a feel for what the whole gallery would have been like.
We both continued to note to each other the undercurrent of Empire still present in many of the written descriptions of the artwork. We included a photo of one for you here so you can get the idea.... so nobly did they provide "conservatorship" for the piece that they gifted the piece back to the UK.... quite noblesse oblige.
August 5, 2022
Today we headed to Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens. During summer they have a company that puts on Shakespeare plays, and they were doing Twelfth Night, so we got tickets and they include entry into the gardens. The show started at 7:30 so we figured we'd get there about 3:30 or 4 and have a walk around the gardens, then picnic for dinner and watch the show. Transport for London did not cooperate with us today. First the Overground train we were going to take got cancelled, and so we decided to switch modes and take the Tube instead. We got to Victoria station to find that the District line was having a switching problem so there were no direct trains to Kew, and the service they were running was only every 20 minutes. At this point we had already spent an hour traveling. In any case, we finally got to the gardens about 4:30 plus had all kinds of problems with missed touches so it ended up being an $18 fare that should have been $2. We'll have to call tomorrow to get it sorted out.
The gardens are quite extensive, but unfortunately we felt a little rushed after the TfL fiasco, and many of the conservatories and buildings close between 4:30 and 6, even though the gardens are open until 7. Overall, though, we felt like the gardens weren't as well presented as the botanical gardens in Copenhagen. Maybe part of our reaction was due to how long it ended up taking us to get there. On another note, we totally understand that grass is a water sucker, and so it's the environmentally friendly choice to let the grass go brown in the parks after spring, but EVERYWHERE in London they are doing this. For a dense city without a lot of green space, we appreciated being able to enjoy the extra green sometimes in the parks. It IS different than having lots of manicured McMansion lawns sucking up tons of water.
The performance of Twelfth Night was very good. They did it with 1930's costuming and worked in some jazz standards as well. It was fun to be able to see a performance in this kind of garden setting. They also did some judicious edits so the whole thing lasted about 2:15. It was also fun to hear some of the Shakespeare lines called out in &Juliet used in context in Twelfth Night.
August 4, 2022
Spent the day putzing around and working on a plan to take a getaway out into the country while we're here in London. Then we headed to Soho to Meet Josh, who is brother to Sam and brother-in-law to Deborah (who we missed seeing in Toulouse because she was on tour in England while we were there). Sam was great to email Josh and his sister, Miriam, to let us know we were coming, and both have welcomed us warmly. We'll get to see them both again on Tuesday next week.
Josh took us to a cute tapas place there, Pix Pintxos. Tapas here were very traditional, mostly served on crusty bread. All were excellent. We also got to meet Josh's roommate, Jonathan. It was great getting to meet them both. We moved on to Circa, which is more of a traditional gay bar. That's where our group selfie was taken. Circa has a front room which is half-outside and that's where most people were hanging out. They also have large 6 person booths further back, which is where we camped. Josh and Jonathan left us after drinks at Circa, and we headed first to Compton's. The crowd was older, but we're getting up there in years too (and we lived Wilton Manors adjacent for a long time). We thought it would be cute because we saw the woodwork and wallpaper and figured it might be atmospheric... it wasn't. It was kinda smelly and we couldn't say the bar staff were particularly friendly. We then went on to Village Soho, which is much more our style. There was a variety of seating and bar areas-- an easy place to hang out. We ended up staying til about 11:30, but then booked it to the tube so we could get on a train and not have to take a bus. The Overground and Tube lines near us run 24 hours on Friday and Saturday, but not on a Thursday night.
August 3, 2022
We made a quick run in the morning for groceries, and then decided to check out the Docklands and Canary Warf. The area has been developed into soulless office buildings. The only thing we got out of our trip down there was a walk through the beautiful rooftop garden on the Canary Warf Elizabeth Line station, and finally finding a place to buy a kitchen knife and bread knife since the ones in our Air BnB are dull (this has been a week-long adventure that we haven't been memorializing in the blog). Late this evening we had a video meet with a representative from Knowmad Adventures, who is helping us find the right Galapagos cruise for us.
August 2, 2022
After our theater experience last night, and knowing we'd be going out to the theater again tonight, we kept it easy. and went to the Museum of the Home and the Whitechapel Gallery in the afternoon, which are both not too far from our flat. Museum of the Home is housed in an almshouse from the 18th century. It's free to enter, but the exhibits aren't that extensive. We thought they could have done more in setting up and displaying how homes have evolved over time. There was the outdoor section that had that kind of a set-up, with differently styled gardens based on time periods. They had an herb garden that contained and explained herbs not just used for cooking, but also medicinal, dyes, etc. That was really interesting.
The Whitechapel Gallery was everything we were hoping the ICA was going to be but wasn't. Lots of great contemporary stuff to see here on rotating exhibition. Definitely worth the visit. To get there, we walked along Brick Lane, which is known as a graffiti art space. It's mostly filled with vintage shops and restaurants. There was lots of graffiti, but less "art" or "mural" like than what you find in Wynwood.
We came home, relaxed a bit, and got ready to go to the Royal Drury Lane Theater for a one night only performance of Chess (that ended up turning into two nights only and then a 3rd matinee). Chess has been a favorite of Stephens since the original concept recording was released in the 80's and Eli performed in Chess with Slow Burn Theater a bunch of years ago.
For those who are not theater buffs, please feel free to skip the rest of this post. This was mostly a concert staging, but they included lots of choreography from the ensemble (actually some things that really enhanced the performance overall). The voices of the principals were all amazing, minus the person playing the Arbiter. Both Samantha Barks as Florence and Joel Harper-Jackson as Freddie blew away their vocals in probably two of the most vocally challenging parts for musical theater other than Evan Hansen. Frances Mayli McCann was beautiful on "I know him so well" as Svetlana, but she didn't get much to do in this stripped down version of the story and we almost lost her singing "Someone Else's Story" because it kind of came out of nowhere. Chess has been revised basically every time it's ever been performed, so it's never quite the same show twice. This time they stripped all but the most basic dialogue and took out "Merano," "What a Scene What a Joy" from the first act, and something (but we can't figure out what) from the 2nd act. There was not Walter Gorsey, and Freddie's motivations aren't always so clear (other than his incredibly sung "Pity the Child" which was moved to the first act). The crowd were all clearly aficionados, and were screaming after both "Nobody's Side" and "Pity the Child." So glad we decided to do this.
August 1, 2022
Stephen went to work out in the morning, and since the weather report was "iffy" (although it didn't rain at all), we decided not to go out to the Royal Botanical Gardens (which we'll save for Friday) and we booked ourselves to see & Juliet through the TKTS website (still comes with a discount) for about 47 pounds a piece. We got row M toward the left of center, but just like Broadway, the theaters are so small, most of orchestra and mezzanine are all great seats.
Not wanting to tire ourselves out before the show, we decided to make a light day of it, and we took the tube to the Design Museum in Kensington. Most of the galleries here are free, but the stuff on exhibition wasn't very extensive. Similar to the design museum in Denmark, they did some exhibition education on design solving human problems, but the theme here in London was very much more about futurism and progress than the design museum in Denmark. They also had an exhibit on reuse in fashion.
Stephen made the mushroom wellington for an early dinner, and then we went to see & Juliet. & Juliet is a jukebox musical using the music of Max Martin that continues the story of Romeo and Juliet if neither of them had died. Max Martin has written some of the biggest pop songs of the late 90s and early 2000s. Think Pink, Backstreet Boys, Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, etc. He only has fewer #1 writing credits on Billboard than John Lennon and Paul McCartney. As a jukebox musical, his music is about as good as it gets, and most of the voices in the show were excellent (standouts were the two female leads). We thought the more interesting story, though, was the subplot of Juliet's non-binary friend May. Eli overall liked the show as a whole while Stephen enjoyed it but thought they could have done more with the premise of changing the ending other than the vague "female empowerment" stuff that Juliet gets (and that also runs through the 3rd subplot about Shakespeare and his wife, Anne Hathaway). We won't spoil the ending of the main Romeo an Juliet plot for you, but Stephen thought it could have been more.
July 31, 2022
Today is Market Day across London... lots of outdoor markets to visit. We started at Columbia Flower Market which is a short 3 minute walk from our flat, but we took the longer way around, walking along the canal. We were hoping to find some potted herbs again, like we did in Copenhagen, to use while we're in town, as it's cheaper to buy the potted than already cut fresh herbs given that we're going to be here for over a month. Lots of houseboats on the canals. We did a little research on that. Apparently, you can rent a mew for your boat at 10,000 pounds a year; otherwise, you have to switch your location every two weeks. Lots more boats, recently, have appeared as a response to the housing crunch in London.
The flowers weren't inexpensive, but they had lots of beautiful stuff. Also, the street as a whole is cute and quaint, with tons of coffee/bake shops and other random cute goods. Our favorite store title was "Jump Like a Lice." We found our herbs and then went on to Broadway market to pick up farmer's vegetables. The Broadway market, though, was mostly hot food stalls, so we ended up stopping at an organic market nearby and then going to Sainsbury (which is kind of like a SuperTarget with food but not quite as big) in Whitechapel for some other staples. On our way to Broadway market, though, we ran into Hackney Farm by accident. It's an urban farm with real live animals and a vegetable garden that is free (donations requested). Families can bring their children to see the animals and learn about a working (if small scale) farm. Residents can come and pick fresh herbs and vegetables on the honor system.
We then trekked to the British Museum in the afternoon as it's free and another case of where there is no way you can possibly see everything in a day. Originally we thought we would follow the map of the "highlights" that is available on the British Museum's website (you're supposed to be able to cover the highlights in about 3 hours), but once we got to the Egyptian and Assyrian rooms, that whole plan went out the window. We spent a good 2 1/2 hours just in those galleries. On the one hand, it made us excited for Egypt and Jordan in November, but also caused us to think about the conditions under which the items we were looking at, really monumental in scale, were removed from their original location, and who had a say in that. The Moai statue from Easter Island displayed at the museum has been requested to be returned by the Rapa Nui people, but the museum has as yet not agreed to do it (although they do add a disclaimer on their website regarding the current state of the statue). For that matter, I'm not sure Iraq would be the best place to house the Assyrian art right now; lots more people have access to it in its current location that if it were repatriated to Iraq. Update: through the help of an old family friend (who Stephen's dad suggested we contact), we were eventually able to get the tickets to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and so will be able to see the Moai in their context.
Stephen was going to make mushroom wellington for dinner, but had a fail with the puff pastry, so we went out to eat Venezuelan style arepas for dinner just a short walk from our flat down the canal.
The Rosetta Stone
July 30, 2022
We woke up this morning and decided to get some orienting done to the city at large. We wanted to stop by the West End to check out the TKTS booth to see what kinds of stuff they were offering for discounts so we could maybe plan to add a show at some point if we had a day where it made sense. There's lots of theater going on right now in London, but not all available on TKTS. There are a couple of musicals we decided we may want to see that are available at TKTS and are specific to London... &Juliet and Back to the Future.
We then walked over to Trafalgar Square. They were setting up for a celebration and watch party for the Women's European Football Championship. The UK is playing Spain. We continued walking because we wanted to walk by 10 Downing street to say "buh-bye" to Boris Johnson. In video footage on the news and press conferences, you see the PM stepping out of their door to talk with reporters, so we thought we could get relatively close to the house to at least grab a selfie. Alas, the street is blocked off to the point where you can't even see the door because it's around a corner. All we got was a shot of 13 Downing street. We did, though, manage to catch the changing of the mounted guard on the back side of the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
We stopped by the Institute for Contemporary Arts. A relatively tiny space that seems to hold one rotating exhibit at a time, but entry is only 5 pounds. This one was called Penny World, a retrospective of poet/artist Penny Goring. They were all kids of artwork on the theme of being on the verge of poverty. Lots of art using found objects, textiles, and pen ink.
We walked toward Buckingham Palace to try and get a better selfie at the gates, and as we were on our way, we ran into some sort of Royal marching band marching down the mall. I asked a Brit if she knew what this was for, and she just shrugged her shoulders and basically said that there is always something like this going on at the palace for one reason or another.
July 29th, 2022
Today we went to see the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. The Tower isn't actually a tower, it's more like a fortress. It was the home of the monarchs from the 11th century until the 16th century. The exterior architecture is, like the city at Carcassone, almost quintessentially what you'd think of for a medieval castle. There are a number of exhibitions inside, but everyone comes to see the Crown Jewels. There's an exhibition on military gear and something about torture. You can get a guided tour or a self-paced audio tour. We opted for the latter. We walked around a bit and spent a short bit of time at the exhibition on armor, but were here really to see the jewels (which you can't take photos of). There is an additional queue to get to the jewels. Then there is an additional queue inside the building where they are constantly reminding you that the first set were destroyed during the Cromwell period and then were minted anew to match the old styles. They also talk a lot about the biggest diamond ever mined in the world, and how that was fashioned into jewels for a variety of the pieces that were on display. We will say that the size of these diamonds used, particularly in the scepter, was incredible. But it got us thinking a lot about the projection of power and subjugation that represents. Denmark has all these things (although their monarch has no constitutional authority), but how they talk about their monarch is very different in how the monarchs of the UK were presented. There is still a great deal of reverence and celebration of that authority in the official descriptions and guides here that was not present in Denmark. Honestly, it felt kind of off-putting to us, even though we could appreciate the raw beauty of the items on display.
We took the River line (a ferryboat) from Tower to Westminster. Stephen felt queasy.. the Thames is actually kind of choppy with all the boat traffic. We passed by Big Ben to snap a selfie and had a quick lunch at a cute sandwich shop near the Abbey. Then it was time for our ticketed entry there. Again, it comes with an audio guide. It is quite impressive as a building and is quite the example of English Gothic, as it took over 500 years to complete. We weren't expecting it to be so crowded with memorials and tombs, of many other people besides just the monarchs. We did experience some of this at the cathedral in Roskilde, but not to this extent. It really gives you a sense of how intertwined the church and the state were for a very long time.
After touring the Abbey, it was quickly home. Eli made couscous salad, we rested a bit, and then dropped into the drag show at the pub that is stumbling distance from our flat. It's called The Glory, which for us, was a nice shout-out to our favorite haunt across the street from us in Delray that is no more (Death or Glory). The drag show was very avant garde and political... not the typical show you see from the drag queens in South Florida. It reminded Stephen on the shows at the Stud in San Francisco that Heklina ran for so many years (which we don't use the full name of anymore as the term is actually offensive). We both had a blast. Definitely like the vibe of this place and it's great that it's so close.
July 28th, 2022
The oven is fixed! Well, not quite completely fixed.... more like jerry rigged. And to get it that way, we will have to light the stove burners with a lighter until our Air BnB host can get an electrician to replace the circuit breaker, but we have a functioning kitchen. And we even made it out to do some sightseeing. We were able to book tickets to see the staterooms in Buckingham Palace for later today. Once the repair person was done, we booked it into central London, thinking we could see some sights before the time for our entrance tickets to the palace. We stopped at Westminster Cathedral. Oops! Apparently there is a difference between Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral... two churches with the (relatively) same title. Westminster Cathedral is actually a Catholic cathedral, built around the turn of the 20th century. It was done in the Byzantine style, as you can see by the barrel vaults leading to the multiple domes. We then went over to Victoria Station (not very photogenic inside, but the facade was nice), and then got in line to the palace.
We could not take photos inside the palace , so you'll have to rely on our descriptions. The palace was added on to in the late 18th century when it became the official residence of the monarch and what we think of the main facade was added when Queen Victoria ascended. It's in a neo-classical style (it reminded us of many of the federal buildings in DC). The interior rooms were quite grand, although, nothing compared to the opulence at Versailles. Lots of red and gold. The ceilings were mostly geometric in their relief and gold leafed vs. having images or frescoes painted. Some of our reactions:
The thrones the monarch sits on aren't really that grand... nothing Game of Thrones like. Same as the thrones we saw in Denmark. Maybe that's because they want the monarch to not look puny compared to the chair?
After having visited the residence of the Queen of Denmark and the Queen of Great Britain, we kind of get the role that a "head of state" does, although how Denmark envisions their monarch (with no formal constitutional role) vs. in the UK, is very different. In the US, the president gets saddled with having to do all these "head of state" tasks like the annual Christmas balls that go on every night from Thanksgiving to Christmas... and they have to do that after having done the job they were elected for all day long. In places that have a monarch, they handle all the ceremonies and recognitions that are a requirement of the "state" as such.
The Queen's tiaras and jewelry (not the crown jewels, which we're going to see tomorrow) but just her "regular wear" stuff was beyond opulent. All of the wealth of the colonies went to fund these things. You wonder how the world might have been different. And what if you sold them and used the cash to do something that benefits the community... someone still has to buy them. And they don't really do a lot of good sitting in a museum.
We came home and had our slightly delayed dinner.. roasted chicken, Jerusalem artichokes, and salad.
July 27th, 2022
There was a London Rail strike today. The Tube was working at diminished capacity and the Overground was barely functioning, so we took a double decker bus down to London Bridge and Borough Market. It is really cool to go up to the top deck and sit at the front window. It's a nice vantage point to see the street you're traveling down. The selfie of us is standing on the London Bridge with the Tower bridge in the background. Luckily the London Bridge wasn't falling down when we took the selfie... then again we are not fair ladies.
Borough was a meatpacking facility (although a bit older) that had been converted to a retail food hall, just like the Meatpacking District in Copenhagen. We walked along the south bank of the Thames toward the reconstructed Globe Theater, passing by the footings of the original Globe along the way. We took a tour of the Globe (we may go back and see a show there later) and then walked to the Tate Modern. We knew we wouldn't be able to tackle the whole museum in a day, and luckily, most of the museum is free, so we did one floor on one side, and will go back throughout our month to see the rest. We do think, though, that Stephen's mom should be able to show her quilts at the Tate. Hers are much better than the ones showing there (although possibly coming with a little less political commentary on the meaning of the quilts).
We headed back to the flat, and started working on dinner. We got everything ready (we were excited since we had found Jerusalem artichokes, which we hadn't ever cooked with before), and turned on the oven and..... nothing. The oven had no power. We reached out to our AirBnB host and she suggested flipping the circuit. We did that and we got a spark and all the lights in the flat went out. So needless to say, we went out for dinner. We found a much better pub tonight, The Ginger Pig Cafe. This is not to be confused with the Ginger Pig, which is where we sampled a meat pie at the Borough Market. The menu at the cafe is really eclectic. We had Greek style lamb, schnitzel, and a beetroot salad. They make feijoada. Didn't we say eclectic!?!? Definitely worth a repeat visit. It was strangely quiet, though, tonight. We were the only guests dining at 7pm. We got home and were able to get the lights back on and our host is trying to schedule a repair person for tomorrow.
July 26, 2022
We woke up super early to catch our flight to London. Copenhagen Airport was quite calm in comparison to the horror stories we read about at other European airports. Upon arrival in London, we took the brand new Elizabeth Line from Heathrow to town center, changed for the Overground and arrived at Haggerston station in about an hour's total travel time. Haggerston is between Shoreditch and Dalston in East London. Our flat is a 2 minute walk to the Overground station. London is zoned, but the zone system is much less complex than Copenhagen and they do fare capping daily and weekly, so when you hit the fare that would equal a weekly pass, they don't charge you any more past that.
First impressions of London. Maybe this goes without saying, but it reminds us a lot more of New York that other European cities we've visited. Maybe that's just because we're staying in East London vs. another area, but we are very much getting that vibe of hectic vs. Copenhagen that was so laid back and calm (and relatively quiet). There are many more cyclists here than we were expecting, probably just as many as there were in Copenhagen, but the infrastructure here is significantly less well developed. Bikes were weaving in and out of traffic, mostly traveling in bus lanes, and the buses here got quite close to the bike riders. We'll be sticking to buses and trains for our transportation in this city.
We decided to check out the local neighborhood to get our bearings and pick up some staples for the flat, and then went out to eat at a local pub. Food at the pub wasn't great, so we won't recommend it here, but the neighborhood is great. We stopped at an Amazon Fresh store in Dalston. It's one of those where you log in and it tracks your movements and sees what you pick up and then just charges it to your Amazon account. Our impression was that it was a lot of hype, and we think others may have thought the same as the store was dead inside. We did pick up 2 items just to test it out. Besides, Brits have a thing for self-check-out anyway. Our first experience says that it actually does speed things up at the market as they have like 15-20 stations all going at once so there is never any waiting for a self-checkout stand. It was then an early night as we were up so early to get to the airport.