Tag Archive | London

London 2018: Stratford-Upon-Avon

Day 12, Thursday, July 5, 2018

After Bibury and Bourton on the Water, we were nowhere near finished with our tour of the Cotswolds.  Shottery was our next destination – the village where Anne Hathaway grew up.  In case you were wondering, I’m not talking about the contemporary actress Anne Hathaway, but rather William Shakespeare’s wife.  The cottage where she grew up was a cute little Tudor style cottage, built beginning in 1463 by Anne’s grandfather, John Hathaway.  Anne was born in the house in 1556.

The Hathaway Cottage

The home was occupied by the Hathaway family for thirteen generations; the home was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1892, and the trust arranged for the family members to continue to take care of the cottage and tell family stories.  The last member of the family, William Baker, was there until 1911.  One admission fee included all the the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust properties, including the Hathaway Cottage, the Shakespeare Birthplace Home, the New Place (where Shakespeare lived after he married), and a couple other places we didn’t have time to see.  Taryn and I opted in for the tours; the guys decided they would rather just wander the towns and hit the pubs.

It was fun to see the home, including some of the original Hathaway belongings.  The garden was amazing!  The Hathaways were tenant sheep farmers who eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase their property, before later experiencing a decline in fortune and having to sell the property and become tenant farmers once again.  What goes around comes around.  Enjoy it while it lasts, I guess – it is all fleeting.

We went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the Shakespeare sights next.  Shakespeare was born there in 1564, and also returned there in approximately 1613, after making a name for himself in London.  Shakespeare died in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1616, and is buried there.  The bus dropped us off and set us loose upon the town.

Taryn and I stopped first at the school Shakespeare attended, The King’s New School, which was available for free for all boys in the district.  Shakespeare would have attended there from the age of seven, after grammar school ended, until the age of 14, when he likely would have entered an apprenticeship program for another seven years.  There is no record that Shakespeare ever attended university.

Shakespeare’s School

The school tour was interesting because they had an interpretative talk where the guide explained what the boys would have learned, the expected behavior and how long they would be in school each day.  As it turns out they went to school from 6 am to 5 pm, 6 days a week!  That’s a lot of learning!  The school has the original historic headmaster’s table and several original desks, where they carved their names in to memorialize their time in school.  After the interpretive talk, in the next room they had a place where you could try to write your name with a feather quill pen.  It is tougher than it looks!

The Headmaster at Shakespeare’s school

 

Original desks at Shakespeare’s school

We had a bit of extra time so we went over to the Shakespeare New Place.  It is an exhibit on the site where Shakespeare lived with Anne Hathaway after they married and came into some money.  The house is gone, but the home next door was built around the same time period – 1530, and the exhibit went through there so we could see the style of home where he lived.  They had manuscripts of Shakespeare’s work and other interesting artifacts.

We had to meet back up with the bus tour guide so he didn’t think we had gone AWOL, but he was ok with us not staying with the group (the pace of the group was annoyingly slow).  We told him that we were off to find the next museum; Shakespeare’s birthplace home.  The original home is still standing; it was built in the 1500s.  William Shakespeare’s father Jon was a glove maker and wool dealer; the home was built with his business occupying part of it.  In 1568 John became the Mayor of Stratford.  He originally rented the home, but records show he purchased it in the 1550s.  It looks modest now, but it would have been a fine home for the time!

Me at Shakespeare’s Birthplace

William Shakespeare was the third of eight children to be born here, on April 23, 1564.  When his father John died in 1601, William inherited the house (he was the oldest son), and lived there for the first five years of his marriage.  Later he leased the house, and it became an inn, and it was an inn until 1847!  According to the Trust, when Shakespeare died he left this house to his eldest daughter, who left it to her daughter, and then it was inherited by the descendants of one of Shakespeare’s sisters.  It remained in the family until it was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1847.  Other sources dispute that and say the home passed out of the hands of Shakespeare’s family in the early 1800s.  It is so incredible to know that England was thinking about historic preservation over 170 years ago!

We toured the home and saw where there were historic names etched in the glass from people who visited the home over 100 years ago – it has been a tourist attraction for a long time!  We also got to stand in the room where the bard was likely born!

After our tour, we had a little bit of time to wander around Stratford Upon Avon, so Taryn and I got some ice cream to cool down on another hot day.  We also poked around in a few of the shops in town.  It was such a fun visit, but soon it was time for pile back on the bus.

Stratford Upon Avon

 

Me and Taryn in Stratford Upon Avon

The bus dropped us off about 7:30 and we went to the Admiralty Pub near Trafalgar Square once more.  I had a mini-pie – the sweet potato and Stilton one (so good!) and some peel and eat Atlantic Prawns.  We got back to the hotel about 9 pm for some cider and British game shows.  They are fascinating, and so very different from American game shows.  It was another great day!

Mini Pie!

Tube Stations:  The bus dropped us off on Gloucester Road.  Gloucester Raod to Charing Cross (The Admiralty), to Earl’s Court (hotel).
Costs: Bus tour to the Cotwolds and Stratford Upon Avon – 59 pounds, Shakespeare admissions – 22.50 pounds, snacks for lunch, dinner at the Admiralty Pub
Fitbit Steps: 9,700 steps

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London 2018: The Cotswolds

Day 12, Thursday, July 5, 2018

During our trip, we also booked a tour to visit the Cotswolds and Stratford-Upon-Avon.  It was a bit of a last minute decision; after we so briefly visited the Cotswolds on our Stonehenge tour, Taryn and I decided we wanted to see more, so we booked online that night with the same tour company, Golden Tours.

The Cotswolds is a country area outside of London, known for its rolling hills and natural scenic beauty.  It is a general term for a collection of small villages in the scenic valley; the common interpretation of the word Cotwolds is “sheep enclosures in rolling hills.”  If you have seen the historic stone villages and cottages in movies or photo spreads, you have likely seen the Cotswolds.  Stratford-Upon-Avon a small town located on one end of the Cotswolds area – it is famous for its famous historical resident, William Shakespeare.

On our tour, we stopped first in Bibury, a historic village in the Cotswolds.  Many of the cottages there were built during the 1400s; they were so cute!  We only had about 25 minutes to wander around there though; it felt a bit rushed.

There were cute swans on a quiet stream running through the town, and a fantastic looking inn with beautiful gardens.  What a relaxing place to spend an afternoon!

Next up was Bourton on the Water, another adorable town nicknamed “The Venice of England” for its low stone bridges over the river.  We had about 45 minutes there; it was certainly someplace I would like to spend a couple of days.  There is a museum there that we didn’t have time to check out.  We wandered around, took some photos and poked around in a couple of shops. I bought a polished serpentine stone at a rock shop there too.  What a great place!

Note: When the tour guide says to be back at the bus at a certain time, be sure to be there.  One lady arrived back late – the rest of us were stuck waiting for about 15 minutes.  She got dressed down by the tour guide!  It was nice that he said something, but I do think he went overboard with the public chastising.  I’m glad it wasn’t me!

After your time in Bourton on the Water we piled back on the bus – we still had much more to see.  Next we were on our way to see the Shakespeare sites!

Tube Stations:  None – We walked to where the bus picked us up.

 

London 2018: Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

Day 11, Wednesday, July 4, 2018

After Kensington, we ended up back at the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret (remember it was closed on Monday?).  This ended up being one of my absolute favorite visits in London.  The museum is located in the garret of St. Thomas’ Church, which was originally St. Thomas’ Hospital.  The herb garret was there first, and had a long history of use drying and storing herbs for use in the hospital.  When they rediscovered the space, there were opium poppies still hanging to dry in the rafters.

The Stairs up to the Museum

About 1822, the surgical theatre was opened in part of the garret and operations on women in the adjoining women’s ward were conducted (previously the surgeries had been done on the ward).  Imagine surgery during that period.  No anesthesia, no antibiotics, surgeons didn’t wash their hands prior to operating, and germs lived in the lining of the instrument box.  There were up to 150 men watching the surgery (it was a teaching hospital).  Almost all the patients were in poverty, because if you could afford it, you were treated and had your surgery at home.  Most people died after surgery.  Makes you want to sign up right?

When St. Thomas’ Hospital moved to a new location in 1862, the operating theatre and herb garret were sealed off, with items still inside.  It was rediscovered in 1957, and opened to the public in 1962 – a space that had been untouched for 100 years!

When we visited, there was a school group there for a presentation, so we got to sit in, as long as he promised to not try to answer the questions the presenter asked the students.  It was fascinating – I really enjoyed listening and seeing the demonstration of the instruments.  It was hilarious to see the student’s faces when she passed around the tool used for removing bladder stones!  The one drawback was the heat in that space.  Imagine being in an attic with no open windows and no air conditioning on a day in the 80s.  It was roasting hot!  Several people left during the presentation because it was so hot, but I wanted to stick it out because it was so interesting.  The presenter had a couple of fans, which she kept pointed at herself!

After the presentation, we had a chance to poke around the herb garret and see what medicinal herbs they used back in the 1800s.  We also looked around the operating theatre after all the students left and saw the original operating table, surgical instruments from the time, and looked out into the gallery when men watched and learned surgical techniques.  It was really cool to see!

After our visit, we went over to the Thameside Inn for disappointing nachos, but the cider hit the spot and cooled me off!

For dinner we went to the Rock & Sole Plaice in Covent Garden for fish and chips, on the recommendation of our Stonehenge tour guide.  I really wanted the rock fish, but they were out, so I ordered the calamari appetizer.  Taryn loved her meal, but Brandon thought it was just ok.  I am sure I would have loved the rock fish more!

Then we headed back to the room for an early evening.  We had done a lot that day!

Tube Stations:  Notting Hill Gate to London Bridge (Old Operating Theatre), London Bridge to Covent Garden (Rock & Sole Plaice), Covent Garden to Earl’s Court (hotel)
Costs: Old Operating Theatre – 6.50 pounds (free with London Pass), nachos and cider, dinner at Rock & Sole Plaice
Fitbit Steps: 17,000 steps

London 2018: Kensington Palace

Day 11, Wednesday, July 4, 2018

After the Changing of the Guard we were off to find some lunch.  We stopped in at the Bag O’ Nails pub, another in the Greene King chain, but the menu was different than we had seen before.  I had the tomato and mozzarella salad topped with a balsamic drizzle.  It was good, and did some good at satisfying my craving for salad…

Then we went to Kensington Palace.  Kensington Palace was built in 1605 and expanded in 1689, after it was purchased by the royal family.  A number of royals have lived at Kensington, including Queen Victoria and Albert, Princess Diana and currently Prince William and Kate.  The state rooms are open to the public to tour, and there are several exhibits inside.

Taryn and I toured the rooms and exhibits.  The rooms were plainer than the other royal residences that we visited.  You could sit on some of the furniture in some of the rooms and take photos here (no flash), and I thought the exhibits were more interesting than the rooms themselves.  One exhibit details the life and love story of Queen Victoria and Albert; it was perhaps the best love story I have heard in awhile.  I’m a sucker for a good love story.

Another exhibit shows many of the suits and dresses that Princess Diana wore during her royal life.  There was so much 80s and 90s in that room!

 

I thought the gardens were the most impressive part of Kensington Palace.  The formal garden is beautiful, and Taryn and I spent some time wandering and checking it out.

Tube Stations:  Hyde Park Corner (Buckingham Palace) to Notting Hill Gate (Kensington Palace)
Costs: Kensington Palace – 19.50 pounds (free with London Pass)

London 2018: Changing of the Guard

Day 11, Wednesday, July 4, 2018

We started our Independence Day with a visit to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.  We got out of the hotel room at 9:15 so we could get there by 10 am to get a good spot.  The show starts at 10:45 and our 10 am arrival did get us a spot right at the fence.

The Changing of the Guard, which is officially called the Guard Mounting, originated in the late 17th century as a way to drill military troops and increase unit cohesion.  In case you were wondering, the guards are fully operational soldiers.

The show…  Wow!  What can I say?  This was something that Taryn really wanted to see and that I wasn’t too sure about, but it’s kind of a thing you have to do when you are in London, right?!

 

There is a lot of pomp and circumstance at the Guard Mounting.  The guards and the bands march in from down the street; the day we were there it was the British Beefeaters (the Queen’s Guard) and the Canadians (the gray uniforms).  It surprised me that it wasn’t all red-uniformed, Queen’s Guard soldiers.  I took a few videos; please forgive my lack of any sort of good video skill!

 

 

Then once they are inside the gates, they do a battle of the bands type of thing, which I was not expecting at all.  I was surprised by the music that they played.  They played the Incredibles theme song, and Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, in addition to some more traditional music.  How’s that for making a tradition contemporary?!  It was fascinating to watch and the bands are very talented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the battle of the bands, they formally do the changing of the Guard, where the British Beefeaters took over the guard from the Canadians.  There is a lot of fancy marching around, adjusting their rifles and swinging their arms all fancy, military like.  There are flags and salutes and turns on the heel.  It was interesting, and something I would probably never be talented enough to pull off.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Changing of the Guard and Taryn was in heaven!  I wasn’t sure at first, but it was certainly a must-see in London.  It would be interesting to see it from a different vantage point too!

The show ends about noon, but we still had a lot to see that day!

Tube Stations:  Earl’s Court to St. James’ Park
Costs: Free – enjoy the show!

 

London 2018: Day Trip to Bath

Day 10, Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Today was a big day!  We were going to visit Bath and Stonehenge, including access to the inner circle at sunset!  I was so excited!

When we were booking our trip to London, Stonehenge was the one thing we all knew in advance that we wanted to do.  It’s a no brainer, really.  You can’t go to England and not visit Stonehenge, right?  We booked a tour with Golden Tours even before we departed for England.  It would include a visit to Bath and admission to see the Roman Baths, and then the visit to Stonehenge, with access inside the inner circle, timed to coincide with sunset.

We met our bus at the main Golden Tours bus depot on Buckingham Palace Road, which meant an early wake up to make sure that we weren’t late for our morning departure time.

Go go gadget tour bracelets!

Our first stop was a tiny little village called Lacock.  It was so cute!  Apparently everybody thinks so because three Harry Potter movies, Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice (not sure which version) were all filmed here.  We only had about 20 minutes to wander around and take some photos, before it was back on the bus.  It would have been nice to have a bit more time there, as there were a few cute shops I would have liked to check out.

Our next stop was Bath.  Bath is a historic city, perhaps known best for the Roman Baths built in the 1st century (circa 60 AD) after the Romans occupied England.  I, of course, learned about Bath from reading Jane Austen novels…  The baths are built using water from the only hot spring in Britain.  They were dedicated to the goddess Sulis, a life-giving mother goddess.  The Romans believed that the waters could heal all sorts of maladies if you bathed in it and drank from it regularly.  The original baths were in ruins around the 6th century, because after the Romans left the baths were filled in with silt and erosion.  The hot spring did continue to be used over the centuries, and were used by people in the late 1700s and 1800s for their restorative powers.  The jury is still out on that though.  More recent testing has shown that the hot spring water does contain a dangerous amoeba and a girl died in 1978 after contracting meningitis from the waters.  They don’t allow visitors to swim in the waters now – makes sense.

They have done a great job stabilizing and restoring the original baths; visitors can see what it used to look like through a combination of excavation and restoration, and technology to show what it would have looked like.  They also have artifacts that were discovered during the excavation.  It was fascinating to walk through and check it out, and we spent a while there.  At the end, if you want, you can have a sip of the (treated) water to experience what people would have tasted when they visited hundreds of years ago.  I can’t understand how people managed to choke this stuff down!  In large quantities even!  It was gross; I’m not really a fan of water on my best day, but this warm, smelly, sulfuric concoction was disgusting!

If you are interested in taking in the waters, there is a modern spa nearby where you can bath in the hot springs water – after it has been treated, of course.

After we saw the baths, we had time to wander around the city before we had to get back on the bus.  We walked around and checked out the river, and saw inside the Bath Abbey.  The Abbey is another of those churches that has a history over 1,000 years old.  This one was built beginning in 1090 AD, but lay in ruins by the late 15th century.  It was repaired and rebuilt beginning about 1616, with the interior being completely renovated between 1864 and 1874, in a vision of Victorian Gothic architecture.  It is stunning and very impressive to see!

 

We also checked out a few shops, and discovered that they have a collection of owls around town!  I love that this is a trend, and apparently not just around the United States.  In my travels, I have seen bison, horses, dogs and now owls.  Everything in the historic section of Bath is adorably postcard perfect…

We also had ice cream!  I got two flavors; salted caramel and raspberry sorbet.  It was delicious!  The service was a bit lacking though.  I eat ice cream really slowly, and it was a very hot day (which is clinically proven to make ice cream melt fast), so I asked if I could have a cone and a paper dish in case it melted faster than I could eat it.  You would have thought I had asked for free ice cream by their reaction!  You only get one or the other!!  They grudgingly agreed to give me a broken cone.  Fine – whatever…

Soon enough – it was back on the bus to head to Stonehenge!

Tube Stations:  Earl’s Court to Victoria
Costs: Golden Tours day trip to Bath and Stonehenge, with an inner circle sunset viewing – $175 (note: this price is in U.S. dollars), Roman Baths – 18 pounds (included in the cost of the tour), ice cream – 3 pounds for 2 small scoops

London 2018: Millenium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral

Day 9, Monday, July 2, 2018

After lunch at the Borough Market, we walked across the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian only bridge over the River Thames.  This bridge is incredible!  It is a steel suspension bridge that was originally opened in 2000.  However, it got the nickname, the Wobbly Bridge, because of a huge swaying motion that was an issue on the opening day of the bridge.  The swaying was so bad that they had to close it down and make modifications to the design; it wasn’t opened again until 2002.  Thankfully the swaying is no longer a problem, especially since it was breezy the day we visited!

The sign says, “Someone somewhere is waiting to love you. Just not here.”  Sounds about right…

 

Millennium Bridge, St. Paul’s and the River Thames

The breeze was nice on such a hot day – I still can’t believe that we were treated to two weeks of incredible sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s while we were there.  We got great views of the river and the boats passing under the bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral’s south facade is framed in the supports of the bridge.  What a view and it is free!

 

Next we went over to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  St. Paul’s has an incredibly long history.  The first church on the site was built in 604, but burned in 675.  The second one was destroyed by the Vikings, and then a third church was built in 962.  Of course, there was a fire at the next church in 1087, but it was rebuilt by the Normans who wanted to make it the longest and tallest church in the world; another fire slowed down the work.  It was finished in 1240.  The current St. Paul’s is believed to be the fourth to have stood on the site, and it was built between 1675 and 1710.  Services at the current cathedral began in 1697.  The decor around the choir area was added in the late 1800s.  The cathedral was originally a Roman Catholic Church, but… you probably know how the Catholics fared in medieval England.  St. Paul’s is now an Anglican Cathedral.

St. Paul’s Dome

Taryn and I visited, but the guys didn’t want to, so they went and found a pub to wait out our visit.  St. Paul’s is stunning, but unfortunately, they don’t allow photos inside.  I did sneak one…  St. Paul’s also has two really interesting features.  The basement of the church is where their crypts and burials are; there are several pretty interesting burials there, as well as smaller areas to worship.  The truly impressive experience is not for the unfit…  You can climb up the steps to the tower and go outside on top!  St. Paul’s is located at the highest point in London, so the view from there is awesome.  Of course, there are 528 steps to get to the top…

Interior of St. Paul’s

Of course Taryn and I chose to climb the steps and check out the view, along with every other tourist in London.  The spiral staircase was narrow and a little nerve-wracking, and it was certainly hot!  At one spot there is a seating area above the main section of the cathedral and you can look down and see into the church.  What a neat perspective!  Then we continued up the stairs.  It took longer than we expected because we had to wait for the people in front of us, so pack your patience if you decide to go.  It was so worth it when you get to the top, step outside and see the view!  And the breeze cooled us down after all that stair climbing!  I loved it!

 

Climbing down is faster because you are heading down, and there isn’t the bottleneck of people on the stairs that you have on the way up…  We got to the bottom, took some photos of the outside of the cathedral and found the guys at the pub.

 

We walked over to check out the London Eye, but ultimately decided not to go on it.  It was really packed and I’m sure the line would have taken a while.  The cheapest ticket was 27 pounds.  Nobody really seemed that into it because we had already seen the view from the Shard, the Tower Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral…  It is pretty though!

The London Eye

We headed back to the hotel and decided to do a quick, fast food dinner at Nando’s Chicken; they are supposed to be known for their Portuguese chicken.  I didn’t think that it was anything special and was sort of annoyed because I tried to order a salad as a side, but was told that they ran out.  Next thing you know, Brandon, who ordered AFTER me, gets a salad!  Seriously?!!?

The rest of the evening, Taryn and I relaxed in the room (we didn’t want to walk anymore!) while the guys went and did their laundry and went to the pub.  We had such a busy day and were going to have another big day the next day!

Tube Stations:  St. Paul’s to Earl’s Court
Costs: Millennium Bridge – free, St. Paul’s Cathedral – 20 pounds (free with London Pass), dinner at Nando’s Chicken (fast food)
Fitbit Steps: 18,760