Monday, August 10, 2009

Day Two

So many, many, MANY hours after we set out from home, we arrived at around 6:30 in the morning at Heathrow. We met a really nice college student on the plane who is in England to join an archeology dig near Canterbury and talking to him was really interesting.

We made it (FINALLY!!) to our hotel which is in Golders Green, a little bit outside of London. My first piece of advice for other people planning to visit London is going to be: Don't do the Underground with a lot of baggage. It's hard and tiring and the bags get really heavy and the tube is crowded - even fairly early in the morning. DON'T DO IT!!! Once we made it to Golders Green tube station, having lugged our luggage (by the way, is that where the term "luggage" comes from? Meaning something that you have to lug around?) all over Heathrow and up and down Underground steps, we had about a mile to walk from the station to the hotel...oh, and did I mention that the wheel bearings on our not-so-rolling suitcases went kaput and we were literally dragging our bags? There was so much friction between the bags and the pavement that when I tried to fix my wheels, I burned my hand!

The hotel was not all that we hoped for but it gave us a place to put our things and take showers before heading back into London proper. There seems to be a large Jewish population here - we've seen many of the men and boys out and about. Also, there is a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church just down the street. Bet there will be some great food in this town!

After we freshened up in the room, we got back on the tube (I will be hearing "mind the gap" in my sleep!) and headed to the National Portrait Gallery and Trafalgar Square. The NPG is huge and just a portion of the National Gallery. We saw so many portraits and I tried to connect them all historically for Tim (Me: "That's James II - mainly based on his conversion to the Catholic Church, his daughter and son-in-law, William and Mary, deposed him. Over there is Mary...and there is William." Tim: "They kind of look alike." Me: "Yeah, they were cousins...all the royals are related to each other pretty much...") since that is much more my area than his, which was a lot of fun (for me; maybe not so much for Tim) but I couldn't always keep them all straight myself. Also, we were both going on very little sleep. The highlights for me were the Tudor portraits, Jane Austen's portrait drawn by her sister Cassandra (the only known picture of her drawn from life) and a fantastic full length portrait of Dame Judi Dench - possibly my favorite actress of all time. We also saw a recent photo of the "kids" from the Harry Potter movies in the Gallery. Who knew Daniel Radcliffe had so much chest hair??? We had tea at the NPG cafe (by tea I mean that I had tea and Victoria sponge cake and Tim had coffee -or what passes for coffee in the UK) and I discovered the bliss of a sugar cube and milk in a good strong cup of English tea. At the bookshop we picked up some postcards for the kids and a magnet of King Henry VIII (because who wouldn't want Henry on their fridge, right?) Tim said if I got Henry I needed all the wives but alas, I couldn't find them all. Only Katharine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn (can't believe she was the sexy one!) and Katharine Parr, looking a lot like Elizabeth I when she was young. I guess Anne of Cleves hardly qualifies - not nearly English enough and barely a blip on Henry's marital timeline. Poor Jane Seymour and silly Katherine Howard bit it before they could make much of an impression on history. Oh, also I bought books (anyone surprised?).

We went down the crypt (which sounds way creepy but isn't) of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church to check out the brass rubbings you can do down there. Very cool but more something to do with the kids and not cheap.

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