Tag Archives: london

Following the Beatles to Abbey Road + Other British Treats

Sunday, Sept 18, 2016 – Day 5 of London

<—Previously, we avoided imprisonment at the Tower of London

We only had one thing planned on Sunday, and that was the walking tour with London Walks called Magical Mystery Tour, which obviously represents the Beatles! Yep, it was Beatles time. But that wasn’t until 11am, so we were able to sleep in quite a bit, which was nice. We then headed a block or so from the hotel to a Cote Patisserie for breakfast, and it was wonderful. French, and we no longer cared about making it British. :-).

The Magical Mystery Tour London Walk

This is the route we would walk throughout central London during this tour

Another cool thing after going back to the room was realizing the meetup point was the Tottenham Court Road station, which was walking distance and one we’d been to many times. SoHo is a great place to be. We met there and immediately saw a few cute guys also in the group, and all was well. There was one who looked so much like Liam Hemsworth, but cuter. Hard to believe, but yes. There was also a hot guy that looked a bit like David Schwimmer, but way hotter. Anyway, so the tour! We immediately learned that we had been staying and walking amongst music history while being based in our SoHo hotel. We learned that as the tour first went back to SoHo Park as that’s where Paul McCartney’s music offices are. HOLY SHIT. Then around the corner from our hotel is Trident Studios, where a large part of the 60s and 70s music was recorded, including a big part of the White Album, David Bowie’s awesome stuff, Queen, Elton John, Carly Simon, Genesis….etc. Lots of awesomeness.

The tour then took us over to the Palladium where Beatlemania was born, Carnaby Street where the Swinging 60s epicenter was, Savile Row and where the previous Apple HQ was and also the site of the last Beatles performance on its Rooftop, as well as the alley area that has both the hottest club where Keith Moon asked to be in the Beatles along with the art gallery where John met Yoko. CRAZY.

Off to Abbey Road!!!!!!!

But the absolute best was yet to come, as we all then took the Jubilee line a few stops north to St John’s Wood, which is the closest Tube stop to Abbey Road!!!!!

Yep, we ended the tour at Abbey Road Studios, which of course is where most of the Beatles output was recorded as well as the location of the crosswalk best seen in the Abbey Road album cover.  So yeah, after the tour ended there, we all took pictures on the crosswalk.  Larry & I got a few good pictures solo, but I finally asked someone if they could take our picture together on the crosswalk and it turned out fantastically.   Yay!  We then went into the gift shop at Abbey Road and ended up buying most souvenirs there that we’d bought the entire trip.  It was a magical place and a great gift shop.

Tea Time!

Once ready to leave, we then returned back into London. Larry had noticed a restaurant that indicated it had afternoon tea on our walk to the Tube station, and that was one thing I’d wanted to do. So we had filed that away and so came back to it, having afternoon tea! The tea was very good, but there’s a lot to it that I’m not sure about. Finger sandwiches really weren’t to my liking and most of the cakes were not something I’d like. But happily, there was also chocolate cake and a glass of prosecco. I’m glad to have done it. May not need to do it again, although the tea was great.

Strolling to Buckingham Palace and into the Churchill War Rooms

It was a great break though. At this point, with it being our last full day in London, we only had a limited time left to do stuff. So we decided to do a swoop of Buckingham Palace, St James Palace and end it with the Imperial War Rooms. We tried to walk by the St James Palace and see the Palace Guard you can take pictures with, but the entire place was fenced off. FEH. We did stop by outside Buckingham Palace for pictures (no inside visits), then to the Queen’s Gift shop off to the side of the Palace to pick up Oliver!! We have a new Corgi puppy now. Ralphie will be pleased, I’m sure. After that, we walked through the park until we got to the War Rooms museum. It is amazing. I went there back in 2002 and remember it a little, but kind of get it confused with the Imperial War Museum, I think. So it was a lot of fun and it’s very informative of a museum. I really do want to get some WW2 books into my collection and read about it more – Churchill is such an amazing figure. There really were some ‘right people, right time, right place’ situations. It’s hard to believe.

Back through Trafalgar Square to get some Indian food at Kishoom

After that, as we were there until it closed, we walked back through town, through Trafalgar Square, and then Larry navigated us to Dishoom, a fantastic Indian restaurant in London. There was a line outside, and it’s worth it. We probably had to wait an hour or so, but again, so worth it. The first stop after getting out of the line outside was downstairs to the bar, where we did chat with a solo black woman from Bermuda. That wasn’t too long though as we then had our table back on the main level. The food was amazing, the wait staff were so helpful, there was a super hot waiter that wasn’t ours but biceps for days, and was a wonderful way to wipe out the memory of the disappointing Ippudo. Larry was happy!!!

Then it was time to walk back to the hotel through our wonderful SoHo neighborhood. We were done with bars and food at that point and it was time to go back and relax. Yay! Sleepy time and a nice and great end to a wonderful trip.

Honeymoon Picture Pages:

From Tower of London to Aladdin

Saturday, Sept 17, 2016 – Day 4 of London

<–Previously, we were shaken, not stirred

So we were able to relax that previous night and have a bit of a sleep-in although not too much on the next day, as we had a private tour to the Tower of London with Context Tours at 9:30am. We did go back to Starbucks in the morning for a quick bite and happily there wasn’t any rain going on but there was still a lot of cool (60s) temps and cloudy skies. For us, that was quite okay as we just didn’t need anymore of the sweltering heat we’d been getting those first few days.

After finishing up breakfast and going back for a potty break, we finally started heading out and almost a bit behind schedule as I finally checked the route to get to the meeting point at Tower Hill Station and realized it would take 30 minutes to get there! Gotten very used to getting to where we needed to quickly and easily from our SoHo location, that’s for sure. Happily, we trotted over to the Tottenham Court Road station and got on over to Tower Hill pretty quickly, beating the guide.

We met our charming guide Ruth at the large sundial outside the station and that was where we began our personal tour of English history and its relation to the history found within the Tower. The sundial actually has a great summation of London history around the ring of it, so she introduced us to many of the high points, which are many, including William the Conqueror, the construction of the Tower that scared the Anglo-Saxons, the plague, the great fire, the wars, etc. By the end of the tour, we both had a newfound respect for what London has managed to survive and endure for the last 2000 years since its establishment by the Romans.

The tour took us from that sundial over to the site of the execution site where many of the beheadings occurred, and we also got some of the stories about notable ones, especially the nightmarish ones like the Duke of Monmouth. UGH. His execution took at least 8 attempts due to a dull blade and an inexperienced executioner. OOF.

Private Tour of the Tower of London

We then entered the tower and went to the Crown Jewels, which are just staggering. The 2 biggest diamonds are found there, one in the scepter, one in the crown. They’re glorious, along with the other enormous jewels found there.

The White Tower interior and now armory museum was our next stop, learning a lot about Henry VIII while also seeing the wonderful displays of armor for both man and horse. Also saw 2 off-duty (?) British Royal Guards wandering around on their break or something…heeyyyy. Got to also see one of the only preserved Norman cathedrals left in Europe that hadn’t been converted to a Gothic style. On the top floor, saw some of the torture devices that had been in place during those days, including foul things to stop “gossips”. Awful.

Outside, we were on the Tower Green and saw the site where the relatively few Royal Executions would take place, including those of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard occurred (two of Henry VIII’s wives), Lady Jane Grey, and one fucking nightmarish one that required the axeman to chase the woman around the courtyard and attack her with an axe. It’s said there are ghosts there. No shit. We also saw the home of the Ravens, official birds of the Tower. There are always 6. It’s kind of awesome.

Finally on the outside of the Tower near the River, we looked at the Traitor’s Gate as well as the new skyline of London before saying goodbye to Ruth. She was a wonderful guide and delightfully full of knowledge. Before leaving, we had told her our plans to head to the Tate Modern, so she recommended that we visit the Borough Market, which was on the way fortunately.

Walking the Thames

We walked across Tower Bridge first to get to the South Bank of the river, then walked along the river bank towards the boring London Bridge, which is where you know you’re near the Market. It’s a great, big outdoor market with lots of stalls for meat, produce, alcohol, oils, etc. Very crazy on a Saturday afternoon, but fun to see. We found a restaurant, Elliot’s, right outside the market. Very hipster and pretty expensive (one beer cost 10 pounds here while at the pub the other night, it was under 10 pounds for 2 beers….so yeah), but it was still good. They served burgers with patties that were delicious, but obviously made of multiple cuts of meat mushed together. Regardless, it was quite delicious and much needed as a break.

We left our lunch place and walked back up towards the riverbank, past the Clink museum and the Archer pub, as well as the new Shakespeare’s Globe theater (saw it from the outside only), and on towards the Millennium Bridge, which is right outside the Tate Modern.

Being that it was a Saturday afternoon, it was pretty damn crowded at the museum. It was okay and understandable, so we did end up only exploring about 2 of the floors. I’m happy to have made it there finally as I’ve not made it there in any of my previous London vacations. There are a great variety of modern artists there, including a whole room of Rothko (these were those he had been commissioned to make for Seagram’s Four Seasons restaurant and reneged at the last minute – they were wonderful and RED); a few Mondrians (including those that looked a lot like what I expect him to look like); some Dali; and quite a few others. Larry & I were both tired from our morning tour though, and had enough. Note: the museum is not the most well-designed or welcoming. It’s actually kind of brutalist.. The exterior is terribly foreboding, and the interior is really not that much better. An interesting discovery, that’s for sure.

Happily, a latte at the museum cafe woke us up a bit, but we were done with the museum after our hour or so there. it’s one of those things you probably should spend a lot of time at, but that’s not what we had, nor the energy to do. I also tried to open a door at the cafe that had instructions on how to open it but was politely told not to open that door since it was cold outside by one of the staff. Of course I then see many others use and open that door. So we went out that way in proud defiance! Viva la France!!!

The way we took back to our hotel included crossing the Millennium Bridge (a pedestrian bridge that can be absolutely mobbed by people), seeing a happy anniversary party boat cross underneath playing the best wedding reception songs (including Dancing Queen!), before heading towards St. Paul’s Cathedral and it’s accompanying St. Paul’s tube station. It was then back to Tottenham Court Road station for us!

We then strolled back from the tube station through SoHo Park and a crazy amount of pigeons nearly killing us back to the hotel, where we just chilled for the next few hours as we were tired! It was actually very nice to do that. I don’t even really remember what we did to pass the time, but it was necessary. I think Larry took a bit of a disco nap.

Taking in the West End

But we weren’t done for the day though, as up next was a show in the West End, “Aladdin”!!!!!!

We headed over there a bit early, or so we thought, in order to collect our tickets, but yeah, even 40 minutes ahead of time, the theater was mobbed with people. We got our tickets, grabbed a drink, and enjoyed some time before the doors opened and we got our seats in the “Stalls” section, aka the Orchestra. We were a few rows back in Row U, but it was an amazing view nonetheless. The theater was absolutely packed. Aladdin, the Disney musical, only arrived in the West End back in June, so this is still a hot show, and rightly so. While waiting for the show to start, I realized that this was also the theater where Mamma Mia! Was playing when I saw it back in 2002. Crazy, right?

As for the musical? It’s absolutely phenomenal. I’ll give it to the actor who plays Aladdin – he has his work cut out for him to not be completely overshadowed by the performer who plays Genie. But he did amazingly, as did everyone. What was interesting was to see the inclusions made as it’s not an exact remake of the animated feature. First, Abu the monkey, Jasmine’s tiger, and Iago the Parrot are gone, replaced by actual human characters. Abu by 3 actual friends, the tiger by 3 attendants, and Iago by a guy. It’s pretty clever and not distracting. Aladdin’s 3 friends are awesome additions and the new songs are very good. The Genie though….just incredible. It’s the same actor who originated the rule in Broadway, and YAY! He’s amazing and has natural charisma for days. The show stopping number, by far, is “Friend Like Me” – oh my god, it’s just fantastic and my poor words don’t stand a chance doing it justice. The sets are sensational and do justice to the Cave of Wonders. After Act I was done, I immediately went out to the lobby and bought a program as it was just that good. Anyway, if you haven’t seen Aladdin, please do. It’s endlessly entertaining and reminds you why the movie was such a great success.

After the show, which was crazy as there’s quite a bit happening directly outside the theater in that part of the West End, we went to Ippudo in London. Larry was very excited and unfortunately got a bit disappointed as we got there around 10 and it closes at 11. That means there’s a lot not available, including alcohol (at least at first, happily they still got us drinks), appetizers (no gyoza for us!). Oh well, the ramen was pretty good, although I think I like Silver Lake Ramen better. Sometimes even Sapporo in Glendale is pretty good! I think I like thicker noodles better.

Honeymoon Picture Pages:

It was a Bond, James Bond Day

Friday, Sept 16, 2016 – Day 3 of London

<– Previously, we’d been bussed all around Southern England!

This was a fun day.  We were able to sleep in a little bit (not much), as we had tickets to the London Film Museum’s exhibit “Bond in Motion” – a collection of Bond cars and vehicles from throughout the movies.  Started at 10am, which was our window (although from having visited there now, I don’t think it was quite necessary to buy the tickets in advance; better safe than sorry).  So we got a quick breakfast in at the nearby Starbucks, then walked over to the museum.  Yeah, walked, as our hotel is so centrally located.  Walked through the West End, seeing the theaters for Aladdin and Harry Potter on the way there.  It was also raining slightly, which was about time as London is supposed to have some rain! It also was nice for it to be cool a little as it’s been pretty damn hot/warm here and in Paris!

Anyway, we got to the exhibit and it was absolutely amazing.  Everything was laid out in a great fashion and there were so many important cars to the series present, from the Aston Martins, the Rolls Royces, Jaguars, etc.  Quite amazing, and I took lots of pictures.  Larry bought lots of cool things too, including the guide book.  We also got a few shots with the life size Connery mannequin up front.  Just spectacular the whole thing.  Well worth coming to London for!!!! 

So….let’s try to break these pictures down in some kind of order…first, getting to the London Film Museum via the route shown above:

The Foyer of the Exhibit:

MI:6 Mock-up from The World Is Not Enough:

You Only Live Twice:

Heading down into the main exhibit…

Heading down into the main floor of the exhibit

The main floor of what was shown was simply spectacular.  Almost every vehicle you’d expect to see was there, seriously.

A View To A Kill:

Goldeneye / Goldfinger:

The Aston Martin DB5s shown here had a model version based off of the Goldfinger one, as well as a real car that was used in Goldeneye.

Die Another Day:

Octopussy:

The Living Daylights:

The World Is Not Enough:

Quantum of Solace:

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:

Diamonds Are Forever:

The Spy Who Loved Me:

Spectre:

For Your Eyes Only:

The Man With the Golden Gun:

Casino Royale:

Various Odds & Ends:

Just saying – this was the best collection of James Bond cars you could ever hope to see.

The James Bond Walking Tour

But that wasn’t the end of our James Bond adventures today.  So after the London Film Museum exhibition, we came back to the hotel to drop off the new goodies we’d just bought, then headed back out to Charing Cross Station as at 2pm, we were joining up for a James Bond Walking Tour!!!  Holy crap, this is quite an amazing and somewhat grueling walk, as you walk a LOT.  Starting at Charing Cross, you get some insight into how the underground sections were used quite frequently, especially for the chase scenes in Skyfall. 

We then meandered through London to various locales that were used in Spectre and Skyfall before heading to the National Gallery Museum right near Trafalgar Square.  Got a lot of backstory on the filming there as well as the use of art, especially in Skyfall.  The use of the various paintings, combined with the accounts of Admiral Nelson in the battle of Trafalgar and how those were analogous to James Bond and M’s demise….holy shit, it was amazing.  Then when in the National Gallery (didn’t know we’d be going in there!), we saw not only where Q and James Bond meet for the first time in Skyfall, but also the painting that James Bond notices in Dr. No, which at the time in the 60s had just been stolen.   AWESome.

Heading to Charing Cross for our James Bond Walking Tour

In Charing Cross’ Tube Station & Outside Rules

Off to Trafalgar Square

And Inside the National Portrait Gallery

After leaving the museum, we walked through Trafalgar Square and over to the Admiralty Gate which faces Buckingham Palace.   These were the scenes of other M:I6 locations in the movies, which was a lot of fun.  The guide was just such a great source of knowledge and energy!   

We then walked over through the Whitehall street area which is a huge place for Skyfall, passing 10 Downing Street too.  After getting a great shot in the middle of the street that matches Bond’s chase of Silva down the street, we all then hopped on a red London Bus (which I’d been wanting to do!!! Score!) and rode the route down to a station right across the Thames from where the MI:6 building actually is and what you see in the movies.  That was where the tour ended, and it was just a blast to have gone on it.  Seriously.  Amazing!!!   

Through Trafalgar Square to the Admiralty Gate