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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:

Touring the English Countryside (Stonehenge!)

Thursday, Sept 15, 2016 – Day 2 of London

<– Previously, we chunnel’d from Paris to jolly ol’ England

We had scheduled to go on a day-trip of visiting Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge. These aren’t near each other, so there’s a lot of driving between each location. The fun started immediately in just getting to the departure point. When I’d done this with Susan and Jeff before, we went over to a nearby hotel for a pickup and got dropped off at the Victoria Coach Station.  This time, we got our selves there, which involves going to Victoria Underground Station at Victoria Train Station, but then having to walk outside that Train Station in order to go to the Coach Station. And once you’re outside, the signs get a bit confusing. Anyway, we chose luckily and got to the Coach station in time….to see everyone and their mother was also going on tours. Whatever, we got there, got on a coach, and were on our way eventually.

Departure from Victoria Coach Station:

The first stop, after an hour or so of driving and listening to our charming English tour guide (who looked a little like David Attenborough) tell us about London and the upcoming Windsor Castle, was the city of Windsor.  

Captured where we were on Google Maps

There was a nice walk from the bus parking to the gates of the castle, after which we were on our own.  Alas, they ran out of audio guides a few people before us, so we were on our own for that, which was okay.  We did first wander around and then caught the Changing of the Guard, which is a lot like the big one by Buckingham.  Although that’s quite a bit bigger methinks.  After some time in the sun, and listening to the band play some of Adele’s greatest hits (no joke), we walked into the St. George Chapel, which has a couple of cool burials within, including Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, along with Queen Elizabeth II’s mother and father.   Continue reading Touring the English Countryside (Stonehenge!)

Taking the Chunnel to London

Wednesday, Sept 14, 2016 – Day 4 of Paris, Day 1 of London

<–Previously, we had our fill of Parisian sights both royal and river

And now was when we had to leave Paris.  :-(. We got up comfortably and first packed our bags, which was wise.  We then went and grabbed breakfast at the St Regis cafe down the street from our hotel, which was probably where we should have been going from the get go.  Very nice.  

Last Breakfast in Paris

We then checked out and got an Uber (yay, technology) to Gare du Nord as that’s where the Eurostar train leaves from.  I was a bit nervous as to how that whole process works, and while it is a bit of security, it’s fairly painless.  You do have to go through UK Customs there, which was somewhat overwhelming as there’s a form and everything.  A Form!!!  🙂  Whatever, we got through, and then it was time to board.  I had purchased tickets for Comfort Economy which was a nice way to do it, as the seats are comfy and you get served a meal and plenty of beverages.  And that’s what we’ve been on while I’ve been typing this recap up of the Paris journey.  We actually just emerged from the Chunnel which seemed to fly by.  We’re in England! Continue reading Taking the Chunnel to London

Snow Day?!

So it seems that NYC and the whole Northeast is about to get pounded by some snow!  About time.  I’ve been cheated now for two winters from a decent snow fall.  Heck, in Colorado Springs we’d have fantastic snows all the way from November through to May or even June.  And they were good, honest snows, full of Americana spirit.  Here?  It’s a bunch of commie liberal pink-o puff snow that has no substance.  Damn Democrats.  Yeah, I don’t know, I’m sure Democrats will get blamed for this somehow by the Republicans while Republicans will mock Democrats and their "global warming" craziness.  Or neither will happen and I’m just a shithead.  Sounds plausible

Anyways, it’s Sunday night and I’m looking out my window and while it’s nice and clear of snow now, the snow is falling pretty good and trying it’s best to stick.  I have no doubt when I wake up in the morning tomorrow there’ll be plenty of stuck snow.

Went with Larry down to the southern tip of Manhattan again to finish the walk around Battery Park up to the World Trade Center site.  It had been brutally interrupted by Work (!) a few weekends ago and now seemed as nice a day as any to do it.  It’s a ghost-town down there though on weekends.  And you know what’s disappointing?  How little work or progress seems to have been made on the Freedom Tower that is being built on the site.  Apparently it’s been built high enough to be above ground level, but you could have fooled me.  It’s nothing I could see.  I am interested to see some progress as it would seem almost reassuring.  It’s been nearly 8 years now since it happened and you’d think there’d be something there.  I look forward to its eventual state, as the final rendering looks to be very nice:
proposed wtc site

It was a nice walk to have this afternoon.  We then walked around SoHo a bit, checking out the Museum of Modern Art store where there is a LOT of really cool shit that I really wanted to buy.  All sorts of ‘modern’ takes on kitchen things and stuff that just looked cool.  Me likey.  I did end up buying a Muji business card holder for $5.  Very basic, very clean, and something I’ve wanted for a while.  We then stopped by the Design within Reach store.  YEAH RIGHT!  Whose reach????  I saw these cool modern bar stools that I had the nerve to sit on……$1700 – EACH.  W…T….F!!!!!  After casually looking around and saying eff this, it was off to the Apple Store to drool over all that cool shite.  Seriously, want lots of money to just buy all their neat computers and iPods and such.  After feeling woozy from too much coffee, we ran in and got a slice of pizza – YUM.  And finally made it back to the Upper West Side where Larry & I went to Fairway, the city’s most nuts grocery store.  Apparently it’s the best prices too, which accounts for the chaos.  But seriously, it’s nuts.  And Larry made a delicious chicken with Bells seasoning, mashed potatoes and asparagus with gravy.  IT WAS AWESOME.   How great is it to be with someone who can cook like no one’s business!?

And so now it’s Sunday night and tomorrow it’ll be interesting to see if I’m working from home because of the snow.  Yes, I could walk to work.  But if it’s like super snowy, who wants to do that?????  I bet my boss would make me come in though.  I mean, I have no real excuse not to.  But I just want to sit at my awesome windows and stare outside!  🙂 

I’ll do my best to keep up to date on this blog from now on.  In the meantime, feel free to check out my picasaweb.google.com/hobiewan site.  Lots of my recent pics are all there as it just is too much effort and time to do that photoweb stuff all myself when Google does it so much better! 

Peace!