London, Part 5

Today was a short if not very fun day. Since we both were sick, we stayed in bed until like 1 in the afternoon. We really needed it, since living in the midwest we don’t walk enough, and our colds really kicked us in the ass. I still have mine, dammit. But since we had set aside a lot more time than we actually used for shopping, we were able to see more than we had planned in the days prior so getting a late start was no real tragedy. It was actually necessary-like I said, ass-kicking colds.

Our hotel was very near Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, which are adjacent. London has such beautiful parks and gardens. We walked to the other side of the park and came upon another very gaudy statue, this one of Prince Albert. And across from his statue was the Royal Albert Hall. It was quite neat, but nothing was going on at the time so we didn’t go inside. There were no posted facts about how many holes fill it, so that is still a mystery. That’s me in the photo below, outside of the Royal Albert Hall trying to keep the evil “Keep Left” sign at bay. I think every American nerd’s first trip to London is full of Monty Python references. As geeky as that is, I’d rather listen to bad Python jokes and references than listen to one more person sing the Spam song.

After we saw the Hall, we walked to Harrods. My goodness, Harrods-what an experience. Imagine what you remember from your childhood about being taken to that one upscale department store. The one where your mom bought you that special occasion dress or where your cool aunt took you for lunch during a trip into the big city. Imagine that feeling, and multiply it by like a thousand. It is huge, and has everything. I think half of the first floor just sells Harrods trinkets and souvenir bags and bears. They have a food floor that not only has tea and chocolates like all department stores, but a huge deli, cheese shop, sushi bar, meats and fish, and just about everything else you can think of, from small bottles of sparkling water (Harrods brand, of course) to prepared samosas. Their displays are more than eye catching, and their toy department is nothing short of fantastical. It is quite a place. A little gaudy, but it works for Harrods. You will pay for the experience. Lunch at the Bar Fromage (macaroni cheese, a ham and gruyere sandwich, lemonade and sparkling water) was 35 pounds, and to get a gift in a Harrods gift box starts at 3 pounds based on size. But, we ate at Harrods. And this was a vacation after all.

After Harrods, we took the tube to the Aldgate station to meet up with Paul, our tour guide for a walking tour of Whitechapel. The tour started at 7pm, so it was not so late that we were walking on deserted streets, but dark enough for the spook factor. He was quite the sarcastic jerk, so he was of course, fantastic. He was very funny and gave us not only facts about Jack the Ripper, but historical info about the area and the time period. While a lot of the murder sites are no longer the original facades (the murder site of final victim Mary Kelley is now a parking garage) there were some original buildings and alleyways. The Ten Bells pub where the victims drank still stands next to Christ Church, which is what puts the white chapel in Whitechapel. I will say as guided tours go, this one was great. Everyone just met at the tube station at the advertised time, and everyone kept up the pace. We did find it rather ironic that Paul made terrible fun of the movie From Hell, but then presented what he considered to be the most plausible theory of who Jack the Ripper was and why he killed those specific women-the exact theory from the book, From Hell. Not that the movie was at all faithful to the book (or a particulary good movie for that matter), but we still found it spitefully amusing. Especially considering he didn’t even mention the book. Maybe there are some people out there who don’t read everything Alan Moore writes. Just with Chris’ job, we don’t meet many of those people.

The tour ended a few minutes after 9, and as usual we took the tube back to the hotel on the Circle line. The Circle line trains were never all that crowded. I just assumed that this was because the Circle line is a lot like 270-just a circle that never really goes anywhere except towards where you really want to go. It could be this, or it could be that were were never on it during the major rush hours. Either way, at half past nine on a Friday our train was empty except for the two of us, so we were able to set the timer on the camera and snap that smooching photo. I think we were alone on the train the entire ride.

Dinner that night was more British Cheese selection and crackers. Really good idea for people with colds, huh? Again, vacation. I think I also ate like 4 bags of crisps, including prawn cocktail flavored. Not bad, actually. More cocktail sauce than prawn flavor, actually. We also tried to get as much packing done as possible, so our last day could be all fun and no frantic suitcase stuffing.

From top:
1) Stop! The sketch is getting silly!
2) Harrods, the emporium of excess
3) Check out the stained-glass ceiling!
4) Christ Church in Whitechapel–ooh–pretty scary, eh, kids?
5) Aww…maybe this was my favorite part of the trip…

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