Day 17 – Friday, May 11th

As Joey (from Friends) says…..”LONDON, BABY!!!!!”

My plan was to go to the Tower of London first off, but here is a brief synopsis of my trip……

Walk to station…..get on train…..whoops, it is the WRONG one…..get off of train…..get on correct train…. arrive at Tower Hill Station….go outside to head to tower….oh no, it is raining….go back in to station to decide alternative action…..oh good, it has stopped raining……go back out to take photos…..on no, it is raining again……go back inside to plan alternate journey…..oh look, it has stopped raining again……. go back outside to walk across street to Tower….oh no, now it is POURING rain….. go back inside and catch train to next station…..go down huge escalator….go down another huge escalator(out of service…..81 steps)……walk short distance……go up huge escalator…… go up another huge escalator…..walk short distance…….walk down short stairs…..walk down another short stairs…..walk distance…..go up half stairs, go up more half stairs….walk distance…..go down half stairs…..walk….go down half stairs…..walk…..go down half stairs…..catch train to Holburn……arrive Holburn….go up huge escalator….walk outside of station……BRIGHT SUN SHINE and CLEAR BLUE SKIES!!!!!

Thus was the start of my day, but it was just a part of being in London. I spent the first part of my day at the British Museum, but after the V&A yesterday, I didn’t stay too long. I did manage to find the Egyptian mummy exhibit (just follow the people and voices) and saw some very interesting sarcophaguses. The most interesting thing about the mummies was the CAT scan that had been done on each of them. In the Cleopatra mummy, they found 3 packages in the chest cavity….probably preserved organs, and also another package that was probably a scroll or a figurine. A female figure was painted on the outside of the cloth and also on the top of the coffin. There were also 2 cat sarcophaguses, and one of a fish as well.

I also got to hold a small pottery oil vessel that was made in 300 BC (this was a part of their “hands-on” exhibit). Of course, you had to hold it in cupped hands and only over the velvet box, but it was very cool to hold something that was so old .

There were a number of groups, both adult and children, who were doing artwork in the galleries. It was fun to watch all of them concentrating on their subjects and drawing while all of us tourists took their photos. I asked one lady if she minded being a “part of the exhibit”. She answered that it was all a part of the ambiance of being in the museum.

I left the museum, bought a cheese and tomato (pronounced to-MAH-to) baguette and walk back to the train station. I then headed to the Art Academy, with the idea of seeing a Monet exhibit that was there. Once I got there I heard someone say that it was only a few rooms and not many paintings, so I decided not to spend 9 pounds ($18) to see it. Instead, I started walking through town to head to the National Gallery…..I never made it there.

I was sidetracked by a chocolate shop called “La Maison du Chocolat”. As I was looking around, I was offered a free sample of one of their raspberry chocolates. It was wonderful, so I decided that I needed to buy some more. I found a tiny box (only contained 2 chocolates) for 2 pounds and 60 pence, so I bought it. I asked the shop keeper if I should eat it then or save it for later and she said “now, of course!!!!”. I did eat one of them, but saved the other for Michael. After she took my money, she walked me to the door and wished me a good day. I was impressed with the service and respect for such a small purchase!!!

Across from this shop was Fortnams and Mason. This is another store that we have heard of from British TV shows that we had seen, so I had to explore it. It is a VERY up-market store, with wine, cheese, a deli and other speciality foods in the basement, china, crystal and other cooking items on the 2nd floor and clothing and home furnishings on the 3rd floor. I didn’t go any higher, but they served “High Tea” on the 4th floor. The stairs were carpeted and there was another spiral staircase in the center of the store. In the basement, I found emu eggs for 22 pounds and Blue Stilton cheese in white and blue glass jars. There was even a venison (deer) leg and hoof stuck into a vise so that it could be carved. I almost bought a hamper that contained goodies to have with tea, but finally decided not to do it. Michael and I may go back tomorrow.

As I was walking away from F&M, I found an art gallery that had a signed Rodin copy of his sculpture called “The Kiss”. This is one of Michael’s favorites, so I thought I might pick it up for him, but unfortunately, there wasn’t a price on it….you had to ask!! Oh well, maybe another time.

I also came across the auction house, Christies. The building itself was not much to see….It was covered with large posters about things that had sold there. However, I did get to see four or five people carrying paintings inside.

I then saw a sign for Buckingham Palace so I headed that way instead. It was lots of fun just walking down the streets and seeing the old house, double decker buses and cute little taxis. I was amazed while watching the bicyclists. They would ride down the middle of the street, basically against traffic. I would panic the first time I saw a bus coming towards me!!!!

My first indication that I was close the palace came when I saw a palace guard…..you know, the ones with the red uniform, fuzzy black hat and gun with bayonet attached!!! I was standing at the corner of a building talking to Michael on the phone when, all of a sudden, the guard turned and started walking right at me, with gun pointed. SCARED ME TO DEATH!!! But, after he had walked about 10 paces, he stopped, turned and walked back again. He did this about 4 or 5 times and then retreated back to his original position just outside of his little guard box…..what a job!!!

Just next to this building was a bunch of trucks, some labeled as ice catering and strawberry catering. There were also a bunch of black clad individuals (waiters) that all went enmasse into a locked gate. I also heard a band starting to warm up, complete with LOUD bass and singing. I never did find out what was going on, but it must have been quite a party!!!

I strolled along the road toward Buckingham Palace and enjoyed the parks scenery and RAIN!! I really didn’t have time to explore the Palace, but enjoyed just seeing the outside. The changing of the guard was taking place, but I couldn’t figure out where to cross the street to get there, so I watched from a distance.

I now started the task of finding a tube station to return to the apartment. While wandering and looking for the station, I passed Her Majesty’s Theatre and noticed that “Phantom of the Opera” was playing. Upon inquiry, I found that there were balcony tickets available for Saturday night, so I bought two and we are now looking forward to the evening.

I literally jogged to the apartment so that I could meet Michael and colleagues to go to dinner. We were hosted by Young, who is from Malaysia, and he knew where the BEST Chinese food was, so we hopped on yet another tube and went to Soho and China Town. We ate at “Joy King Lau” and had Lobster with Noodles for starters (appetizer), and Tofu and Pork, Roast Duck, Fried Turbid (fish), and Greens (bean leaves) and Mushroom noodles. It was all prepared in the Cantonese style and was all very good. Young was determined to show us some sights, even though it was pouring down rain, but we finally made it back to our apartment and a welcomed rest.

All in all, a WONDERFUL day!!!!!

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