Living London, England (July 7th and 8th, 2011)

July 7th, 2011

Our London adventure began with Lisa, Brad, Terri, Kris, and me leaving to pick up the London passes we'd purchased for two days. The sky was leaking on us pretty heavily, so we took the tube over to the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey.

We toured the inside of Westminster Abbey, and, when we were done, I asked a local bobby where we should eat lunch. He recommended the Albert pub (named after Prince Albert back in 1864) at 52 Victoria Street.  The pub was filled with mostly locals, and the food was worth going.  You order at the bar.
Inside of the Westminster Abbey - courtesy of Carol
I got a chicken dish, Kris and Brad got the Steak and Guinness pie, and Lisa and Terri (shocker of all shocks) got fish and chips.  I think Terri might start growing scales pretty soon.

After lunch we figured out how to ride the tube to see Abbey Road. (Notice they are walking across on the correct side and Kris is barefoot and third.)
From left to right:  Lisa, Kris, Terri, random stranger.  I walked the road, but I didn't make a photo.
We found out it was Ringo's birthday due to two friendly young British guys who venture forth to Abbey Road every year on Ringo's birthday.
Ringo's birthday is also the birthday of the guy on the right in the purple shirt.  Needless to say, they are huge Ringo fans.
After Abbey Road, we toured the pier area. We got chocolate from the Bourough Market (a really neat area if you ever have the chance to go). We passed the Old Operating Theatre.

We attempted to go to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, but it closed at 5. We got there at 5:04. We were able to see the outside though.

We went back to the subway and, after several unsuccessful attempts to get on to ride into town, we went the other direction on the tube to get to the East End for our Alternative London tour with our guide Gary.

(You should see the tube during rush hour. It is so crammed with people, it is simply unbelievable.)
Subway Sleeper - courtesy of Carol
I had found the Alternative London Street Art tour online on TripAdvisor. It was a two hour, free walking tour of the East End to view street art and listen to the history of the area. Gary does a phenomenal job of this tour, and I can see why it is now the number one tour in London. (It was third whenever I found it.)

You learn about the local area, and he has a great sense of humor. For instance, in the photo below Gary is wearing a blue coat.  The guy behind him was altering someone else's artwork by adding little stickers next to it (basically to claim it as their own). Gary completely called them out on it saying he was defacing -er- updating it. (I think you had to be there.)

Regardless, the street art was incredible! It was also a great bustling area to people watch. I don't think I would have ever ventured in the East End had it not been for this tour, so I am really glad we went. My favorite thing in London.

I took this one for my cousin Danny.
We saw this giant stork from outside of a hookah bar. (That was definitely a first for me. I wanted out of that courtyard as soon as possible.)

Gary told us he saw some people dressed up like the British Council one day painting on parking spaces. He asked who they were, and they said the were part of the council. Gary said he responded, "Well I know that isn't true...the council doesn't paint pigeons pooing on cars on a parking spot." He still doesn't know the artist of these quirky motorcycle spots.

One person in our 20 person group needed to use the public loo - outside!
Ew!  Outdoor public loos.

It isn't just paintings out there...this is glued on.

Some art is so vivid!

My favorite piece...almost pointillism. 

While we were on the tour, the Harry Potter premiere was taking place.  The crowds were ridiculous.
Photo of Harry Potter crowds courtesy of Carol.
After the tour, we all went to a Thai/English restaurant for dinner. (Can you guess what Terri ate...check out the handwritten receipt.)

July 8th, 2011

We got breakfast from Pret a Mager by the apartment before meeting Carol and Clark at the Westminster pier for a Thames River cruise. All seven of us (Carol, Clark, Brad, Lisa, Kris, Terri, and I) were finally back together.

It was really amazing to see everyone again. We headed over to Tower Bridge and also saw London Bridge.

We did a large tour of the Tower of London.

We saw some crazy old time torture devices.

We also saw this section of the St. Thomas Tower that was installed for Anne Boleyn's coronation. Only 14 years later, she passed through the lower section (traitor's gate) after being arrested for adultery.

Terri, Kris, and Kristy courtesy of Carol
They had lots of old armory for horses, kings, and kids.
I think this king was a bit full of himself.
Seems too small to need armor to me...

Saw an old loo...

Carol on the loo

and cool art...

Prisoner art at the Tower of London courtesy of Carol
some Royal Guards...

ravens, Beefeaters, and the Queen's Tudor houses (Tower Green)...

and even the changing of the guards at Tower Green.

Lisa, Flat Marlene, and a Beefeater courtesy of Carol
After lunch, we split off on a mission to find a fleece sweater for Terri and I. We headed back on the tube to Covent Gardens to drop off stuff at the apartment, and spent a lot of the afternoon and evening just exploring the Covent Gardens. It was an incredible area...and we found our fleece and Terri's charm.

We wound up seeing a street performance where a funny guy undressed to his tight pink underwear, climbed up an unfortunate audience volunteer who had to push his butt up to a 6 foot unicycle, where the guy proceeded to juggle. He also juggled a chainsaw (but it was a bit of a cheat).

We had dinner at Porter's restaurant, where Kris had a Pieday sampler (Shepherd's pie, Gamekeeper's pie, and Chicken, mushroom, and leek pie). I got bubble and squeak (mashed potatoes and cabbage with herbs) and pea and bacon soup (called the London Particular), and Terri got...wait for (no chips this time).

We grabbed dessert from a local pastry shop, went to the grocery store, explored a local arts and crafts market, and headed back to the apartment for some photo editing and packing.
London statue courtesy of Carol
Later, I went out by myself to buy some postcards, soda, and coffee to go with our dessert. That was liberating and fun!

To be continued...

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