Friday, October 25, 2013

Chelsea in London Part II

Saturday, October 19

We woke up on our first full day in London a little later than we had planned. The alarm went off at 7am, but we finally got out of bed at around 8:30. We went straight to breakfast, as it ended at 9am. When we walked into the cafeteria area, I could fully appreciate how big the hostel is. It was packed and there was a line for the food. I sent Romeo off to find a table and promised to bring him some food.

Well, when I got to the counter, I realized I might have to break my promise as there was virtually no food left! I snagged the second to last box of cereal and the last two croissants. Balancing that as well as a bowl of milk for the cereal, I found Romeo at the table. He got us drinks (coffee for him, hot chocolate for me!), and we discussed our plan for the day. Eventually, the staff put out more food so I went and got us more provisions.

When we returned to the room, we got ready quickly and set off for the Tower of London. We took a bus to the general vicinity, then walked a little bit to the tower. While I stood in line for the tickets, Romeo went to take photos. He hadn't seen where I went, so when he finished and I saw him walk in the opposite direction, I was torn if I should leave my primo spot in the tickets line to get him, or just find him after I got the tickets. Luckily, he finally spotted me and joined me in line.

We got our tickets, and I again lucked out with getting a student ticket, and headed for the entrance. Just as we entered, a guided tour was starting and we joined in. It was lead by one of the Yeomen Warders, or Beefeaters. He was very genial and fun to listen to. The tour was massive, though, and it was sometimes hard to hear him. We stayed with the tour for the duration: 1 hour. When he finished, we headed towards the White Tower with the big collection of weapons. We had a short tour of that, then looked through the artifacts, coins, weapons, and armor. It was interesting, but I am not too much for those kinds of exhibits.

I had been half-blind since Rome, sporting 1 contact in, 1 out, due to my eye's irritation. This constant state of half blurred vision takes its toll on my head, and after a while I had to find a bench to sit on and close my eyes. Romeo let me sit while he wandered the room, then collected me to move on. I was perfectly fine with that!

We left the White Tower and had a small snack of pretzels as we waited in line to see the Crown Jewels. There were some Koreans behind us and we evesdropped a bit. Romeo, who is way better at Korean than I am, told me that the mom was asking her kid why he didn't like meat...

Anyway, we waited a while and finally got inside as it was starting to sprinkle a bit. Some more waiting and we got to the room that houses the jewels. It was stunning and surreal to be separated by only inches from the largest cut diamond the in the world (over 500 carats!).

We finished that up, and I had only one more area I wanted to visit before we left the Tower. I wanted to see an exhibit in the Bloody Tower called Torture at the Tower. Romeo gives me a bit of a hard time about how fascinated I am with that kind of stuff (I am currently reading Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, so I get his point...). We waited in another short line, and this time an Indian/British family was in front of us. I heard the older boy (about 7 years old) telling his younger brother (about 5 years old) about King Henry VIII.

Brother #1:"Imagine you had 6 mummies, and 2 of them died!"
Brother #2: "Huh?!"
Brother #1: "Yeah, two of the mummies died. Had their heads off!!! Imagine if it was your  mummy!!"
Brother #2: (totally confused and freaked out, looks at his mom) "But, no...? Mummy's here....?!"
Brother #1: exasperated sigh at his brother's lack of understanding.

Okay, maybe my memory of their exact words isn't perfect, and maybe this rendition isn't that cute, but believe me! In person, it was adorable!!

Finally, we entered the exhibit. It was interesting as we got to see three of the most "popular" instruments of torture: manacles, the rack, and another that I can't remember the name but basically you are folded in three and this metal cage is clapped around you and over your back. Looked excruciating! Ultimately, though, the exhibit was small and as we exited, I admitted as much to Romeo, "Well, that was underwhelming..."

We headed for the exit of the Tower and got a wonderful view of the Tower Bridge. After snapping some photos of each other, and asking a nice passerby to take one of the two of us, we walked across it to the Southbank. By then we were starving, so we had fish and chips at a pub in Hay's Galleria. It was packed and the food was no

t too great. But, we were starving so we ate with gusto.

After lunch, we continued our walk along the Thames down the Southbank. We indulged in a chocolate covered Belgian waffle (which was incredible!!), then crossed over to the other side of the river to continue the walk towards Parliament. It was leisurely and enjoyable as the sun was peaking out from behind clouds. The weather was mild as well, and on the whole it was a perfect walk along the Thames.

When we finally got to one of the bridges that has a perfect view of Parliament, Big Ben, and the Eye, it was starting to sprinkle again. We snapped a few quick photos then headed for the Tube to make our way towards Brick Lane to meet Romeo's friend for dinner.

We met Jonathan, who Romeo knew in Korea, at the subway station a little early. We were both very early, but luckily we found him easily. Once we met him, we consulted a map and navigated to Brick Lane. Brick Lane is an immigrant neighborhood and has changed throughout the years depending which ethnicity was the primary immigrant ethnicity of the time. Recently, it has been Indian and Bangladeshi, so there are loads of restaurants serving curries and tandoori meats. Literally, as you walk along the road, workers from all the restaurants try to tempt you inside with deals offering free drinks, discounts, set meals, etc.

We didn't have to walk long to find a good deal - 2 free drinks each (including beer or wine) plus 30% off our entire meal. We each ordered a different curry, ranging in spices from virtually no spice (Jonathan the Brit), moderate spice (me), and extremely spicy (Romeo). We shared naan bread as well as some rice. It was very good, but poor Romeo had a tough time; his curry was insanely spicy!!! I could barely stand to smell it. I don't know how he managed to eat as much as he did.

After dinner, we headed to a pub near the subway to have some more drinks. By then I was pretty exhausted, so I only had one. To allow time for Jonathan to catch his train home (in the suburbs), we parted ways around 10:30pm. Luckily there was a bus heading straight for our hostel. The subway, we learned, had closures on our line, so it would have been a huge hassle had we decided to take the Tube.

We turned in pretty early once we got home, although I think Romeo grabbed my iPad after I passed out and played Plants vs. Zombies for a few hours. He is addicted now!! We enjoyed our tourist-Saturday and recharged our batteries for a relaxing Sunday.

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