Well I'd love to do a menu post, but it's Great Britain, so 'nuff said. Sights it is. Jen likes nature, and what can I say? I don't. It turns out that "shooting skeet" is not what I thought it was (thanks to Lil' Jon), so let's bring it back to the urban jungle.
Jen and I had about two and a half days in London, and it was our first stop. Considering we were beyond exhausted, we killed it if I do say so myself. I can't say we did EVERYTHING, but we did a lot...probably the best stuff because duh, it's us.
When we got in, we checked into our hotel and checked out the whopping five inches that comprised our room. We ran out for a quick lunch at the nearby Cask Pub & Kitchen, where a very friendly Emma Thompson lookalike waited on us since we hadn't eaten real food in hours. I mean, Hudson News in JFK didn't have gummi bears, but they quickly rectified that situation so Hudson News remains basically the best ever.
Anyway, we got back to our hotel and showered. A couple years ago, my friends and I stayed in what I reeeeally think may have been a swinger hotel in Chicago, and the shower was basically separated from the rest of the room by this glass wall and a curtain that was on the OUTSIDE, so the person on the inside would not have any privacy, should the person on the outside choose to open the curtain. I tell you this because it was a similar situation at our London hotel. Is this some stupid trend? The shower in London didn't even have a curtain though. It just had some frosted glass. So needless to say, after 24 years of friendship, Jen and I know each other EVEN better now.
What the hotel did have, however, was free wine and cheese every night at 5 p.m. So we partook in that and then wandered our way to a jazz club where we had a shitty dinner and tried really hard not to fall asleep.
Basically, what I'm telling you here is that the first day was kind of a bust, so we made up for it the next two days. Here's how.
WESTMINSTER ABBEY, PARLIAMENT, & BIG BEN
London is a massive city, and of course, not always the easiest to get around. But luckily the sights are pretty well clustered together. Case in point, Westminster Abbey and Parliament/Big Ben are basically next-door neighbors (and in walking distance from Buckingham Palace). Big Ben and Westminster Abbey are arguably London's most iconic sights, so this is convenient. We didn't go into Parliament to see the silly Brits in their wigs, and Jen was less than impressed with Big Ben ("It's not that big"...that's what she said), but our London Pass got us into Westminster Abbey AND let us jump the line. (Always get the city passes.) Westminster Abbey is crazy for a number of reasons -- it opened in 1090, so it's super old, and it's a beautiful, creepy example of Gothic architecture, if you're into architecture and you took Carol Krinsky's art history class with me. But perhaps most mindblowingly, lots of famous dead people are buried there AND Will and Kate got married there. Ah, British humor.
Unfortunately, Jen didn't get to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We didn't try to make it on our first full day there, and on the second, it inexplicably just didn't happen. Like...the weather wasn't bad or anything. They just didn't do it. I saw it when I visited London during my semester abroad in Italy, so I feel bad that Jen didn't get to see it. Especially since we walked really fast to get there slash I hobbled along behind Jen and whined the whole time about what I hope was just tendinitis. Anyway, sorry Jen, but luckily, there's YouTube. Here's what you missed, but at least you got to see Charles, Camilla and "the kids." (We didn't actually see them. And who are these "kids?")
Fortunately for us, however, the Queen was vacationing in Scotland while we were in London, so Buckingham Palace was open and we did a little self-guided audio tour. It was pretty cool. I think we probably saw approximately 4 percent of the place, but the Queen is hoarding some pretty good paintings up in there. There was also an exhibit on royal childhood, and the message was basically like "Royals are children too," and um...we skipped a lot of those parts because ha. ha.
London has ALL the museums. No really. So many museums, and most if not all are free, and that, my friends, is how it should be done. Jen and I went to three -- the National Gallery, the British Museum, and the Tate Modern.
The National Gallery faces Trafalgar Square, which is a sight in and of itself with all the crazy buskers and that weird blue rooster (and of course Nelson's Column). If you want to go to one traditional art museum while you're in London, this one is it. They have a huge collection Western European art, Renaissance art, and impressionist and post-impressionist pieces. Two highlights -- Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Degas's Dancers (one of my favorites).
The British Museum is full of artifacts from a bajillion ancient civilizations -- ancient Egypt, Rome, the Middle East, etc. We're more obnoxious art kids than history buffs, so we stumbled around this one pretty quickly, looking for the highlights like the Rosetta Stone and an Easter Island sculpture. But the building itself is very cool architecturally, and if you're into ancient civilizations, this is probably the best museum out there.
And then finally the Tate Modern (there are four Tates, so for the sake of brevity, when I refer to "the Tate," from here on out, I'm talking about Tate Modern). Alright, so I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again. I love art museums, and of all the art museums I've been to in the world, this one is my absolute favorite. I looked forward to visiting the Tate possibly as much as I looked forward to being surrounded by accents, if not more. I think it is a perfect museum in its setup, and I love its permanent collection. It's my happy place. I think I talked this one up way too much to Jen and she was not as impressed, and even though they didn't have an exhibit in the Turbine Hall, it is still my favorite. Plus, there were multiple installations that looked like poop, and I giggled and took photos like a 14-year-old, and then when a couple of 14-year-olds came in the room, they giggled and took photos too, and I questioned myself.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the installation that looks like strung-up balls, you know, like of the testicle variety, not the tennis variety, and for the select few of you who know me very well and know why the Tate is now very significant to me, you know how appropriate this is. o:)
A lot of you had excellent suggestions for us on where to get afternoon tea, which is such a British thing to do. Jen was like, tea, shmea, whatever, but I remember getting tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace and it was fun, so I told her we should do it. We went with the Lonely Planet suggestion because it fit where we were geographically, but first I want to call out one of their recommendations.
The first suggestion was the Wolseley, and while we didn't have tea there, we did get breakfast there our first morning, since we figured tea and breakfast are kind of similar. You can kind of see from their website that they are obviously very British and stuffy, so I think it's appropriate that Wolseley rhymes with Molesley, who is like one of the worst characters on "Downton Abbey." Like if the Wolseley has a human personification, of course it would be Mr. Molesley because he is basically a proud little bitch who isn't really that great at anything and no one likes him. They seated us in a hidden side room, because, as Jen put it, "they would have seated us in the bathroom if they could have," and the waiter clearly hated us and ignored us the whole time. I could have overlooked all of this if the food was good, but I saw the eggs over at the next table and thought they were mac and cheese, but not in a good way, so breakfast at the Molesley Wolseley made me want to vomit.
That said, LP COMPLETELY redeemed themselves with the recommendation for Bea's of Bloomsbury. The place was adorable, the tea was wonderful, and the goddamn scones were unbelievable. In Paris I wondered why we cannot replicate their baguettes in the States. Now I wonder why we cannot replicate London scones. Like I REALLY don't understand that because the rest of London food is shit, but their scones are delicious, so I think we need to up our scone game here. Can someone get on that? Plus our tea came with a bunch of other pastries and a muhfucking KEY LIME PIE CUPCAKE. So that was lunch one day. Get tea in London.
WEST END THEATER
Jen was also meh about going to see a show in London, but I took her mom, Leslie's, side on this one.
I remember seeing Phantom of the Opera on my first London trip, and it was amazing, and I told her that West End theater is like as big as Broadway (if not bigger). So between museum outings, we stopped at Leicester Square where they have a TKTS stand (like in NYC), and we got in line for half-priced tickets. OF COURSE I wanted to see Les Mis, but that was sold out forever. We also looked for Book of Mormon, but that was a no-go, also sold out. We ended up settling for Miss Saigon (which Schmidt referenced in "New Girl" last week -- good Jewish or bad Jewish?), a revival that we vaguely remembered our parents talking about.
The show was super raunchy with lots of dry humping at the very beginning (I mean, I was blushing kind of a lot), so if it comes to New York and one of you goes, can you please report back and let us know if they tone it down for prude American audiences? We are very curious about this. The production itself was also amazing. Between us, Jen and I have seen a solid amount of theater both on Broadway and off, and I don't think either of us has seen such amazing set design. The acting was great, the singing incredible, and it was all in all just fucking awesome. It was a killer ending to what was a rough start to the evening. Plus they serve mini ice cream at intermission like right in the seats so you don't even have to go that far, and even though I didn't really want vanilla, I got it because.
KENSINGTON PALACE, GARDENS, & HYDE PARK
We decided to visit Kensington Palace, Princess Diana's former home, before we were going to go to Buckingham to watch the not-changing of the guard, so we were a little strapped for time and basically walked around the gardens and past Hyde Park. Since we didn't go inside the palace, I don't have much to say except the Gardens are beautiful, even on a gray morning like the morning we were there. Plus there were lots of dogs which made me miss my cats, and made Jen accuse me of having a favorite (not true!).
Across the street, you can see Royal Albert Hall, where lots of concerts take place, and up the road a bit is the high-end shopping district with Harrod's and all the designer shops in Knightsbridge. We didn't do much shopping in London because the pound is nearly twice the dollar and um, we didn't really have any room in our stupid carry-ons anyway, but I do remember Harrod's from my last trip, and it's basically Macy's in Herald Square if you need a comparison.
TOWER OF LONDON, TOWER BRIDGE, & THE CROWN JEWELS
As far as castles go, the Tower of London is like the butch cousin of Edinburgh Castle, but lots of shit went down there, so it was cool to walk around. Plus, we got to see the awesome red poppy instillation, and I stood on top of one of the walls and said "You know nothing, Jon Snow," and then some fat dude nearby sneezed on me without covering his face and I got sick for the remainder of the trip.
We also stood in line to see the Crown Jewels, and there were no photos allowed, but you guys inspire me and I felt like I owed you a photo so I am a rebel (read: annoying tourist) and took a photo of Queen E's hat anyway. You're welcome.
Then we walked across the Tower Bridge which most Americans think is London Bridge anyway. (London Bridge is completely unremarkable.)
THE RIVER THAMES
There are a number of river cruise tours you can take down the River Thames, but Jen and I took a commuter boat from the Westminster end to the Tower of London end and walked back, stopping at the sights along the way. Along the Thames, you can see the Tower Bridge, London Bridge, and the Millennium Bridge, as well as the Shard, which is a skyscraper that looks like it hasn't been finished, St. Paul's Cathedral, and 30 St. Mary Axe. What? You haven't heard of 30 St. Mary Axe? That's probably because they call it the Gherkin. Yes. All of London calls its most phallic building the Gherkin. Do with that what you will.
So like I said, we took the boat from Westminster down to the Tower, and then walked along the South Bank. We stopped to take photos at Shakespeare's Globe Theater, but didn't go in. I did do this on my last trip, and if you're into Shakespeare it's definitely worth it. We ate at a shitty French restaurant on the water, and then we continued our walk down the South Bank to the Tate and did our Tate visit there. Following that, we walked across the Millennium Bridge straight to St. Paul's Cathedral, braved the Tube, tried not to collapse at the hotel, then revived ourselves with drinks at the super swank Hot Ham Water -- I mean Ham Yard Hotel with Jen's friend David.
Welp, Jen only has eyes for her boyfriend Mike, but THIS GIRL is another story. I admit, not all the guys in London look like Eddie Redmayne, but they a) have accents, and b) all dress like they've stepped out of a Burberry catalogue. Like they're all so sharp and well-dressed and they don't look uncomfortable the way my brother does when he has to put on a suit like once a year. (Also, why do American men bitch about that? I mean. A suit is just pants, a shirt, and a jacket which is BASICALLY WHAT YOU WEAR EVERY DAY ANYWAY. Try heels, a tight dress, and a strapless bra and then talk to me.) I wonder if all British men wear Burberry Brit for Men as well. That one wins the Staci award for Hot Man Fragrance of the Century.
Shit, if they all just fixed their teeth, they'd be unstoppable.