Monday, October 11, 2010


One of my favorite things through-out the trip was the signs -- the design of signs, the funny names, the interesting grammar -- all of it.

Through-out London, there were these black signs directing you to tourist attractions and important buildings.

McDonald's in Windsor.  The options on the menu are much more limited than in the U.S.

Uncle Vernon was right:  there is no Platform 9 3/4!

Red Lion pub, which used to be a coaching inn back in the day when people traveled by coach.

This was just too cool for words.

A lot of the pubs and shops have signs that advertise their wares without having to use words.

One of my favorite pub names:  Hung Drawn and Quartered -- located near the Tower of London and Tower Green where all of the beheadings took place in the 16th century.

The street signs are all located on the sides of buildings at the intersections.  Makes it very easy to see where you are.

More of the "signs" that are simply pictures hanging on the outside of the buildings.  Not sure what the cricket is supposed to represent.

 This is in St. Pancras rail station.  It's one of those signs with the flippy numbers and letters like you see in all of the movies.  While we were standing there, all of the letters and numbers started flipping around.  It was cool!

Probably never going to see this particular business putting up a sign in the U.S.!  This was in Paris.

I almost feel like Napoleon put this up himself!

This totally summed up my feeling for Paris.  One of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.

Some Cool Things

 This is the inside of an old church (or vicarage) and I hope I can explain it well.  In this first picture, I'm standing at the doorway facing the altar to take the picture.  You can see that the pews face each other like the seats in the Houses of Parliament.  As a matter of fact, this church has been used in movies as though it were Parliament back in the Regency days.

In this next picture, I'm standing up near the altar and taking the picture back toward the door (in the middle near the bottom of the picture).  Note the pretty ceiling in this little vicarage.  Above the door is the pulpit where the vicar reads his sermon to those assembled in the facing pews.  The area around the pulpit is a painting to it looks like it's up against a window.  Outside was the cemetery just like in all of the old Agatha Christie novels.

Five of us spent the night in the old vicarage and it was surprisingly large.  My room was up on the third floor (narrow, twisty stairs) and I had to drag my suitcase up there.  I chose the orange bedroom because it had it's own bathroom, but the fire escape left a little something to be desired!
 Next to the vicarage was a farm (with sheep, of course) with a really interesting basket-weave fence.

Not surprisingly, this is the red drawing room.
On the tour that I took from Bath up to Manchester, we visited many large estates and huge homes.  Some are still privately owned, but most have been turned over to the National Trust (probably because no one could afford to keep them up).  The exteriors have beautiful manicured gardens and the insides are jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Almost all of the ceilings had this beautiful painting and plaster work.

This is the portrait gallery.

On the last day of the tour, we took a buggy ride.  Can't go on a proper buggy ride without a hat, though.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Well, I've had a very busy couple of weeks and I've been traveling extensively (yes, I promise to sort out and post more pictures very soon).  I suppose it was just a matter of time before I got sick.  When I woke up this morning, my eyes were kind of glued shut and my throat hurt.  As the day progressed, my throat kept getting worse until it felt like it was completely closed.  I changed hotels today as Steve is coming in tonight and this is where we'll be for the rest of the time.  It's a completely different area of London called South Bank or Southwark (pronounced Suth-ick), and has a totally different feel.  I was in an older, more upscale residential area before whereas this is closer to the heart of London and is a bit livelier.

Anyway, I went to Westminster Abbey today, which was totally beautiful (and doesn't allow picture taking, although I sneaked in a few) but then came back to the hotel to rest.  Since my room wasn't ready yet, I sat in the pub all afternoon updating my journals.  Now, I'm in my room with some nice hot (very hot because it makes my throat feel better) cup of tea.

My room faces a back courtyard shared by several buildings and should, theoretically, be quiet.  However, there has been noise all afternoon and, at first, I thought they were setting up for a party or doing some construction.,  However, now I'm hearing someone say "And,,,action" so I'm wondering if it's a filming set for some tv show or something.  It's off to the side so I can't really get a great view -- just a bunch of lights and it looks like people dancing.

Ok, so I just called down to the desk to see if anyone could tell me what's going on.  Turns out that they're filming a Guinness commercial that will air in the U.S. in December.  Since it's not Johnny Depp or Colin Firth or anybody like that, I probably won't go check it out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Interesting Signs

These blue discs appear on the sides of buildings of note.  Generally, it's because someone famous lived there, but sometimes it's because a society was started in the building or something similar.

Pub where Charles Dickens used to hang out.

This was at Kensington Palace and the squirrel was just gnawing away at the metal leg of this sign.  You could hear his little teeth just grinding.

The entire city of London is monitored by closed circuit cameras.  They're at every intersection, on the corners of buildings, in hallways and the subways -- only the bathrooms are spared (I think).

The subway system is really old and most of the stations have no elevators or escalators, so you get used to going up and down a lot of stairs (a real pain with a lot of luggage, by the way).  In this case, though, the tracks were so far underground that there were warnings posted against trying to climb up to street level.  There is construction beginning for some of the stations to install "lifts" in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics.

Another of those blue discs -- this one commemorating the long-running play by Agatha Christie "'The Mousetrap".  It's now in it's 58th year.

Lots of public toilets over here, but it costs 30 pence (about 47 cents) to use them.  Pubs, restaurants, etc all have bathrooms available to customers, and I guess it's great that there are so many facilities available but 30p just to pee?!

My first thought, when I read this sign, was "what could have frightened the door?"  The English language cracks me up sometimes.  As Homer Simpson would say, "Why do I have to learn English?  I'm not going to England."

Another favorite pub of Charles Dickens (it's a wonder that he got any writing done at all!).  This one is tucked away down an alley in an area that, reportedly, he used as the inspiration for the counting house owned by Ebenezer Scrooge.

Some pictures with me in them (incl some repeats)

Relying on the kindness of strangers, as Tennessee Williams would say, doesn't always work well and it isn't necessarily easy to find a perch for the camera but I have managed to get a few shots with me in them.  These are from my first few days here (Wednesday the 8th thru Sunday the 12th).  I still need to sort out the ones taken last week and over this past weekend in York.

Having my first "high tea" at Kensington Palace.

A chilly day outside the Tower of London.

At The Grenardier pub

At Windsor Castle
Also at Windsor Castle

At Hampton Court Palace

Some Interesting Photos

This is the office building for the Mayor of London.  It's situated on the southern bank of the Thames in the area known as Southwark and is adjacent to the Tower Bridge.  This photo was taken from the Tower of London, so it's quite jarring to be in a structure dating back 1000 years looking across the river at a structure that has been dubbed "Darth Vader's helmet" by the locals.

This is the British Airways London Eye, or "eyesore" as our tour guide called it.  It was openned in 2000 for the celebration of the Millenium and has 32 pods, with each pod making a complete revolution in 30 minutes.  Right now, they're replacing the pods one by one -- you can see that one is missing at the 2 o'clock position.  I didn't go up in it, but I understand that you can see for up to 25 miles if the weather is clear.  It also sits on the southern side of the Thames near the new Globe Theatre (built to replicate the one from Shakespeare's day).

The subway system here is amazing.  There are a large number of trains running in every direction within London and the Greater London area.  I can't imagine anywhere that you'd want to go that you can't reach by train here.  The Underground also runs into the rail stations so you can connect with the trains that go elsewhere in the country and to France.   Sometimes there is a healthy space between the train and the platform, though, so you're constantly being reminded to "Mind the Gap".  There are even t-shirts printed with "Mind the Gap" on them.

There are a lot of parks scattered throughout London (like there are in New York), many of which were originally there for the king to use to hunt deer.  The really nice part is the fact that there are all kinds of chairs -- either stacked or already sitting out -- that are provided for people to use to enjoy the park.

I love these red phone booths -- it's one of the symbols of England, really.  This particular one reminds me of the secret entrance to the Ministry of Magic when Mr. Weasley takes Harry Potter for his hearing with the Wizengamot in "HP and the Order of the Phoenix."

In front of St. Paul's Cathedral is a statue of Queen Anne, who was a bit of a tippler.  A children's rhyme after this statue was erected:

Poor Queen Anne, left in the lurch;
Facing toward a pub with her back to the church.

Even now she gets no respect as the birds perch on her head!