Monday, July 28, 2014

London - 7/27/14

Time adjustments are a a tricky thing.  Just when you think you've got 'em licked, you find yourself lying awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering why you aren't sitting down at the dinner table at 2AM.

Sleep, for whatever reason, decided not to show its pretty head until after sunrise.  Lost the entire freakin' morning, which not how I like to spend my full-contact, pedal-to-the-metal vacations.  But I did eventually drag myself out of bed and into the showers because I had a ticket for Mummenschanz!


Now, for those of you who didn't grow up on children's programming of the 1970s or the Muppet Show, Mummenschanz is an experimental dance troupe that uses props and puppetry in unusual ways.


The theater was barely half full.  Most of it was filled with children.  But as I sat there watching this performance, I heard all the kids around me asking their parents, "Mum?  What is that?  Is that a human?  What is that?  WHAT IS THAT?"  Their little video-game-fed, television-watching minds were being obliterated.  Up was down!  Down was up!  Is there an actual person inside that yellow springy-thingie with... wait... is that a red weather balloon?  And did the performers actually just push it out into the audience?  Are they allowed to do that?  And what is that green sphere with a tongue supposed to be?  Just a sphere?  Doesn't it have to BE something?  Did that giant twenty-five foot balloon person just knock the block off of the other twenty-five foot balloon person?

I came to the conclusion it is good for kids to see weird stuff.

I continued on down to London city, which is a one square mile district built in the exact same spot where the Romans originally built it 2000 years ago.  It is mainly a business district, so most places were closed on a Sunday.  But that was perfect for my tourist tastes!  No people to get in the way and ruin everything!
It started off with a stroll down Fleet Street and the GORGEOUS Royal Courts of Justice.



Isn't it lovely?  Right across the street was the original Twinings Tea Shop, so I stopped in.


Not just something in the grocery aisle!  I continued on down past a column with a big ol' dragon at the top of it...


And the sign for the eyeglasses person...


To make it just in time to hear these lovely gents ring out the hour by whacking the bells with their clubs...


A little further down was Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, the stomping grounds of such luminaries as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens.


Alas, it was closed, but I think I will need to make a pilgrimage to see if any of their muses still haunt the walls.

It was time for me to catch my walking tour of London with... wait for it... London Walks!  


The theme of this evenings' tour would be ghosts.  We started off at The Monument, which memorializes the Great Fire of 1666 that destroyed 90% of the buildings in London.  The number of lives taken because of that fire has increased over the years, though, due to the people flinging themselves off the top of this monument.  It is said there is the ghost of one such person who haunts the square.


We then headed over for a glorious view of the Thames...


...and to hear about the ferryman who haunts the shores.  He faked his death, was laid out for his wake, but decided to come downstairs to tell his servants to stop having such a great time.  They were so startled, they accidentally brained him.  Then they decided to toss his body into the river.  The first written account of his appearance was in 1830 and he's been sighted a bunch of times since.

His daughter built a nunnery, which became the church Shakespeare worshiped at, which later became the lovely church you see in the background here.  The ghost shows up under the bridge in this picture (London Bridge) from time to time, rising out of the water. 


We then continued on passed Lovetts Lane...which used to be "Lovers Lane"... which was where all the prostitutes hung out...


This skull and crossbones do not indicate pirates.  It is a church door and signifies this is where you should drop off all your plague ridden bodies.


If you look closely, you will see that there are some stairs and an elevated courtyard.  It is because they would toss the bodies into these mass graves and needed to raise the floor over them.  The bodies have been removed since then, but the floor height remained so as not to disturb the building's foundations.


We then headed over to an absolutely gorgeous outdoor market

 



Now, it is said the Lamb Tavern is haunted by a jilted groom. When he passed away, his next of kin went upstairs to clear out the upper floors, and they found his reception from all those years ago still set up (there is a pub somewhere else... that I don't remember... that has the items on display).  It is said that this was the inspiration for Great Expectations.  The ghost is said to be wandering the upper floors at night with a candle, and the shop owners say that regularly they hear footsteps that should not be there and see his light.


Did I capture a ghostly figure in the window?  Or is the night just playing tricks with the mind?



But now off to less haunted haunts... here's the entrance to Diagon Alley from Harry Potter!  Painted black in the movie and sans optometry signs.


And I felt like I should have brought a gift of homage to this site... home of the very first coffee shop in London!  Opened in 1652!


We found out about a bunch more ghosts.  Too many to tell you!  Haunted organs!  Gas mask wearing ladies!  Ghosts caught on CCTV!  You should catch the tour!  It is only £9 and worth every pence!

But the final stop which really hit a lovely place in my heart... So, Charles Dickens based his books in real places in London.  This pub, Simpsons, is the spot where Scrooge had dinner the night before his visit from the ghosts. 


And so, in the words of Tiny Tim, I send you off!  God bless us! Every one!

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