London 2018: The Globe Theatre

Day 9, Monday, July 2, 2018

Next we wandered over to the Globe Theatre.  The Globe is a replica of the original theatre that was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s theatrical company.  It opened in 1997 only 750 feet from the location of the original theatre, and is as historically accurate as they could make it, accounting for the fact that they only have incomplete information about what the original theatre looked like, and of course, modern building codes.  They had to get a special exception to top the open-air theatre with a thatched roof.  The theatre once again features Shakespeare’s plays, and you can either get a seat in the gallery, a box seat, or one of the “cheap seats,” in the standing room only section.

Outside of the Globe

The original Globe Theatre was only standing from 1599 to 1613, when it was destroyed by fire.  A second version was built in 1614 and was dismantled after a City ordinance in 1642 banned theatres because of the “inappropriate” content in plays.  It was the Puritans, you know…

We went on the tour of the theatre, and had a bit of time before our tour to check out the exhibits below the theatre.  They have an exhibit on the recreation of the theatre, and the research that went into creating a theatre that was as close as possible to the original.  They also had several artifacts on display that were unearthed from the original theatre, where a partial excavation was done in the late 1980s.  There were also a number of costumes and set display items from the various plays that have been put on at the new Globe Theatre, as well as costumes from Hollywood versions of Shakespeare’s plays.

The tour explained how the theatre would have worked back in the 1600s.  First of all, women wouldn’t be there, neither as actors nor as spectators.  It was not considered acceptable for women to go to the theatre, which was essentially located in the red light district of London.  Additionally, the place would have stank to high heaven!  Bathing wasn’t much of a thing back then, and there weren’t any restrooms in the theatre.  If you had to go to the bathroom, there were buckets.  When you consider that the men watching the show would likely have been drinking a lot of beer, and the buckets were probably getting knocked over by drunk men, ewww…  There was a reason the people in the standing area in front of the stage were called Penny Stinkers.  That area cost a penny.  Only the rich men could afford the box seats.

After our theatre tour, we headed back over to the Borough Market to get lunch.  We all split up and checked out the options; I wanted to try something English, so I looked around and settled on a Scotch Egg.  If you don’t know what a Scotch Egg is, here’s the scoop.  It is a soft boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat (you can skip the sausage if you are vegetarian) and then wrapped in bread crumbs and deep fried.  Oh my, it was sooo delicious!  My egg came with some salad greens and I bought a Ceylon Earl Grey iced tea to round out my meal.  Street food at it’s finest!  We found a spot on a curb to sit and eat our lunch, and spent some time people watching.  A nice break in the middle of the day!

Costs: Globe Theatre – 17 pounds (free with London Pass), lunch at the Borough Market


London 2018: Southwark Cathedral and The Golden Hinde

Day 9, Monday, July 2, 2018

We started our morning early and headed down to the London Bridge area of London.  We had only a few days left on our London Pass, and we wanted to get our money’s worth!  We did so much that day that I will be doing several posts!

Our first stop was the Old Operating Theatre Museum.  I really wanted to see it, because it is such an eclectic and kind of morbid museum.  Of course, I forgot that it was closed on Mondays – oops!  Don’t worry though, we did manage to get back there a few days later…

We then decided to wander over towards the Globe Theatre.  On our way, we ran into the Borough Market as they were setting up.  What a great market!  They had fruits, tarts, cakes, and all sorts of seafood, plus every kind of street food imaginable.  We decided to come back for lunch and continued on our way, so I’ll save the photos for our return visit.

Taryn and I stopped in at the Southwark Cathedral for a few minutes.  The Southwark Cathedral was built beginning in 1106 and up until 1538 it was the church of an Augustinian priory; a priory is a monastery.  Then came that period in English history when the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII, and the priory became a regular parish church.  In 1905, the Southwark Diocese was established in the Anglican church and the Southwark Cathedral officially became a cathedral.  Like most of the buildings in London that are almost 1,000 years old, the cathedral was built in stages and experienced a few fires along the way.

Southwark Cathedral

Excavations at the Southwark Cathedral – that’s a coffin (bottom L)!

The cathedral is largely built in the Gothic style, with flying buttresses and other Gothic features.  It is stunning!  Unfortunately there are no photos permitted inside, and the narrow streets make it impossible to get a good view outside, but you can get a free guidebook with the London Pass.

London has so much incredible history, so while we were walking we passed the ruins of Winchester Palace, which at one time was the home of the Bishop of Winchester.  Yes, please, I would live there…

The ruins of Winchester Palace, a bishop’s house

Our next stop was the Golden Hinde.  The Golden Hinde is an English galleon that became famous for circumnavigating the globe between 1577 and 1580, while captained by Sir Francis Drake.  Surely you have heard of Sir Francis Drake.  The ship was originally named the Pelican, but Drake renamed her the Golden Hinde to honor his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton.  Hatton’s family crest was a golden hind (a red deer).  Apparently hinde is spelled both ways, with the “e” and without, but the ship in London has the “e” on her name.  The original Golden Hinde was broken up in the late 1600s; the ship that is now dry-docked in London was launched in 1973.  Although it is a replica, it is sea-worthy and sails from time to time.

The bow of the Golden Hinde

As for Drake, the expedition made him a rich man.  It wasn’t without its disasters though.  Only the Golden Hinde completed the entire voyage out of the five ships that originally started it; the others either turned back or were lost.  That isn’t very good odds!  Drake did make it all the way around the world though, crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific at the Straight of Magellan in what is now Chile, docking near what is now San Francisco to complete repairs to the ship, and sailing across the Pacific and around the Cape of Good Hope.  He was even knighted for his accomplishment.

The ship was interesting – we got to climb up and down the ladders, see the replica guns, experience the low ceilings and imagine what it would have been like to sail in the 1500s!

Tube Stations:  Earl’s Court to London Bridge
Costs: Southwark Cathedral – free (free guidebook with London Pass), Golden Hinde – 5.00 pounds (free with London Pass)


London 2018: Abbey Road and Cartoons

Day 8, Sunday, July 1, 2018

That morning, we slept in a little later, because we had been up so late the night before.  We were up at 8:40 and out the door around 10:30 am.  What can I say; it was Sunday…

Our first destination of the day was to fulfill a dream of Taryn’s.  To walk across Abbey Road and depict the famous Beatles album cover.  Of course, I have seen the cover, but I’m not a huge Beatles fan.  It did seem like fun to go do though!

Once we found the place, we set up our shot and tried to quickly get our pictures while pissing off the local drivers as little as possible.  No one honked at us; I’m sure if you live and drive near Abbey Road, you are used to it, but it was still nice to not get honked at.  In the US, you would definitely get honked at…  I do have to admit it was pretty entertaining playing the tourist in this way.  Taryn even took her shoes off to fully re-create it!  Lia offered to take the photos, which was so nice!

Our attempt at Abbey Road

Abbey Road is also the location of Abbey Road Studios, which was the recording studio that the Beatles were recording at.  Obviously, that’s why the album cover was shot right there – convenience!  The studio is closed to the public, but the wall outside has become a mecca for Beatles’ fans, well-wishers and people looking for some inspiration.  Next door to the studio is a gift shop, where you can buy Beatles items, and also sharpies for writing on the wall.  Taryn really wanted to do it, so we did…  What I wrote was truly inspirational, deep, and thought provoking – haha!

I needed some caffeine, so we headed over to a pub for a pick-me-up.  I had a Diet Coke and some avocado toast.  It was so yummy – I do love avocado toast!  At that point we got back on the Tube and headed over to the Oxford Circus neighborhood; the guys and Lia wanted to spend some more time checking it out.  Taryn and I were more interested in seeing the British Museum nearby, so we said our goodbyes to Lia and split up.

Taryn and I weren’t exactly sure where the British Museum was, but we figured that if we just wandered “that way”, we would run into it.  It is a very large building after all.  During our wanders, we saw the Cartoon Museum tucked down a side street and decided to take a few minutes to check it out, since it was included in our London Pass.  It was not a museum that I would have chosen otherwise, but it was interesting to see the cartoon art.  There was a lot of political art, and a bit surprisingly, a lot of cartoons from the World Wars.  I enjoyed checking it out!  It was a small museum, so it only took about 30 minutes to feel like we had seen everything.

On to the British Museum!

Tube Stations:  Earl’s Court (hotel) to St. John’s Wood to Oxford Circus
Costs: Abbey Road – free, Cartoon Museum – 7 pounds (free with London Pass)


Road Trip Photo Faves: Bighorn Sheep

Here is another of my favorite photos from my road trip.

I was in Zion National Park in October looking for Bighorn Sheep, and I found them!  This young one looked so at home on his slick rock perch.


London 2018: A Literary Day

Day 7, Saturday, June 30, 2018

Our first destination of the day was the British Library.  They have a ton of historic books and documents on display, including the Magna Carta, Jane Austin’s writing desk and a letter she wrote to her brother-in-law.  They also have several of Shakespeare’s sonnets in handwritten form.  There is music written by Mozart and Beethoven.  Some of my favorites were the antique maps and old bibles, including a bible from the 8th century!  In the entryway, they have a bench that looks like a book too!

After the library we went to King’s Cross Station.  Taryn was super-excited about getting Harry Potter 9 3/4’s platform photos.  The line to have them taken was soooo long!  Fortunately, even though they take professional photos that you can buy, you can take your own photos too for free if you don’t want to purchase theirs.  I wasn’t interested in having Harry Potter photos taken, and we were meeting my friend Lia, who was coming in from York to spend some time with me.  Once Lia met us, Brandon, Lia and I went to pub to have a cider while Taryn finished waiting in line for her photos.

Lia, Me, and Taryn

With Lia on board, we were off to the Camden Market.  What a crazy eclectic market it was!  It is located in what used to be a horse stable for the area.  The building was amazing, with brick arches and uneven cobblestone floors.  You could easily get lost in all the curved passageways.  There were so many shops, some with the standard tourist fare, but also stalls that had leather journals, cool lamps, and artwork.  I didn’t buy anything, as I was trying to save my money for my upcoming road-trip, but it was hard!

We had lunch at the market, and I had a delicious lamb gyro from the Greek food stall.  It was so yummy!

My gyro at the Camden Market

We walked for a bit upon leaving the market, checking out the architecture of London and catching up with Lia.  Eventually we got on the tube back to the hotel so we could get refreshed and dressed up for a fancy dinner.

Interesting sights on our walk


Brandon gets major points – he found online a speakeasy style restaurant in our neighborhood called Evans & Peel Detective Agency, and we went there for dinner.  The restaurant is very unmarked, going along with the theme of speakeasies during Prohibition.  When we found it, we rang the bell and a voice came over the intercom asking us why we were there.  Brandon made up a story about how we were looking for our Aunt Mabel’s cat, and needed to hire a private detective to help.  We were let into an office, and questioned more about why we wanted to hire them to take our case.  Clearly, we passed the test, because we were let through the secret door in the bookcase into the restaurant!

The speakeasy served American BBQ food.  I had Texas sausages, mashed potatoes, beans and pickles.  It was so delicious and a lot of food!  Lia and I split a bottle of wine, and caught up on life – she is so much fun to hang out with!  The speakeasy experience was certainly a highlight of the trip, and so was hanging out with Lia!

Tube Stations:  Earl’s Court (hotel) to King’s Cross Station
Costs: British Library – free, Harry Potter 9 3/4’s Platform Photos – free unless you want to buy the professional photos, dinner at Evans & Peel
Fitbit Steps: 15,000 (5.6 miles)

London 2018: Trafalgar and some Pie

Day 6, Friday, June 29, 2018

After our tour of the Ben Franklin House, we walked over to Trafalgar Square.  We checked out the buskers and the chalk artists.  Some of them had a lot of talent and creativity!

We wandered through the National Gallery for a bit; I loved that London has so many free art and culture museums.  It was so cool.  We barely scratched the surface, spending about an hour wandering the galleries and checking out the art.  You could easily spend days there, but we were there at the end of the day, and you can only do so much museum wandering before you get worn out.

The National Gallery


A tiger at the National Gallery

After the National Gallery, we found the Admiralty Pub, where Brandon was waiting for us because he got museumed out before the rest of us.  The Admiralty had an awesome special, where you could get three sample sized beers and three pies for 18.95 pounds!  All four of us got the same special and then we all decided which beer and which pie were our favorites.  One thing is clear.  I am not a fan of English beer.  It’s too flat and generally too warm for my taste.  Mostly on this trip, I drank cider.  The pies were excellent though!

The pie trio included Steak and London Pride, with carmelized shallots, button mushrooms and thyme, Sweet Potato and Mature Stilton with wilted spinach, nutmeg, baby onions and rosemary, and Chicken Tikka Masala, with coconut, coriander and toasted almonds.  The beers were London Pride, ESB and Frontier.  My favorite was the sweet potato pie, with the steak pie coming in second.  The others favored the Chicken Tikka Masala pie. It was cool to be able to try different styles and flavors, instead of committing to just one.  It was a great meal!

My pie and beer trio at the Admiralty Pub

We headed back to the hotel on the tube and got there a little after 9; it was another good day.

Tube Stations:  Charing Cross to Earl’s Court (hotel)
Costs: The National Gallery – free, dinner at the Admiralty Pub – beer and pie trio 18.95 pounds, plus a cider.
Fitbit Steps: 14,550 (5.56 miles)


London 2018: Royal Guards and Ben Franklin

Day 6, Friday, June 29, 2018

Nearby St. James’ Park, we found the Royal Guards Museum.  It displays artifacts of the five regiments of the Foot Guards, the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, and Welsh Guards, which together with the Household Cavalry, make up the Household division which protects the Queen and her residences.

In addition to their duties protecting the Royal Family, the Royal Guards are also combat soldiers, serving in all of the campaigns that the British Army participates in.  In case you were wondering, when they are completing combat service, they have a completely different uniform, without the funny hat.

The museum has artifacts discussing the service of the guards from their creation in the 17th century through present day.  The collection includes uniforms, service medals, items owned by various Royal Guard members, artwork depicting the Guards and other assorted items.  It was interesting.

There are no photos allowed inside the museum, but the man at the entrance said with a wink that if he didn’t catch me, it didn’t happen.  Ok!

As we were leaving they were just beginning a concert by the Guards band, so we took a few minutes to sit and watch.  I’m not generally one for bands, but a good military band is fun to watch.

At that point it was time to head back over to the Ben Franklin House for our tour.  The house was built around 1730 and is the only surviving residence of Benjamin Franklin; it was a boarding house that he lived in during his 16 years in England.  It is interesting that there are no surviving Franklin homes in the United States, but there you go.

Brandon with the Ben Franklin House -pardon my dirty lens!

Franklin was sent to London as a representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly, and ended up staying 16 years, as relationships gradually deteriorated towards the Revolutionary War. Despite that, Franklin enjoyed his time in London, acting as an ambassador, working on his experiments, and enjoying the city.

The house is largely restored to the way it looked when Franklin lived there.  There is original woodwork, doors, floors, fireplaces, etc.  The floors slope in the rooms, as you might expect from a house that is almost 300 years old.  The story is told through a combination of period-dressed docent and audio-visual projected on the wall in certain rooms.  The docent follows a script, and although she allows questions, she didn’t seem very comfortable going off the script.  It was an interesting format that I haven’t seen in other historic house tours.

The house is also interesting because of its history as a place where dissections occurred, likely during Franklin’s time in the house.  Margaret Stevenson was Franklin’s landlady, and her son-in-law William Hewson ran an anatomy school from the house.  The bones from more than 15 individuals, including children, were found when restoration on the house began in 1998; they were buried in what was then the garden.  The bones showed evidence of surgical cuts and various medical procedures.

Interestingly, given the time when the anatomy school was operating, some of the cadavers were likely obtained by resurrectionists, men who stole bodies from cemeteries and sold them to the anatomy schools.  What a seedy story – that Franklin likely knew about!

Costs: The Royal Guards Museum – 8 pounds (free with London Pass), Ben Franklin House – 8 pounds (free with London pass)