Thursday, September 10, 2009

London, Day 7: Batting cleanup

On our last day in London, we had quite a bit to do in order to mop up our itinerary and make sure we saw the most of what we had missed. Our last day brought us all around the city, from Hampstead Heath to Temple Church to the British Museum to a show in the West End!

First, we wanted to look our last on Trafalgar Square from our rooftop terrace.

Above, you can see the National Gallery (the dome building) and St. Mart
in-in-the-Fields, the church where we ate in the crypt.

From there, we split ways again. Rob and Diane went to see the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, whereas I went with Dave to Hampstead Heath. Dave had already seen changing of the guard many times, and I was also kind of sick of the crowds, so a visit to the park, the largest and wildest of London, seemed a welcome respite.

Let's Go highly recommended a visit to Hampstead Heath, and especially to the Hill Garden, a small, well-manicured garden with an Italian pergola. I have to say, it blew me away.

The Hill Garden was formerly the private garden of a very rich Londoner, but now it's open to the public, and quite lovely. It reminded me of Capri.

We walked along the length of the pergola
, which was quite long and beautiful, with tons of vines and flowers throughout. At the end of the pergola, we found a nice park where we could write our postcards. If you received a postcard from me, this is where I wrote it:

Then we wrenched ourselves out of the garden and headed back to our hotel to send the cards, then to Holborn for lunch at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. We descended into a basement cellar pub once more to have wonderful pub food and pints. This is another famous pub, having been frequented by the likes of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We had a London ale with meat pies and chips, which were very tasty.

Then we ascended back to street level for a visit to the Temple Church, which was actually kind of hard to find, but well worth the effort.

The church is a very old Gothic structure and is famous for displaying in its floor the effigies of a handful of medieval knights. The church makes an appearance in The Da Vinci Code, which only served to increase its fame. It was a very beautiful church, and pleasantly simple.

Next we walked a few blocks up to the British Museum, which is the most fantastic collection of antiquities in the world. It is home to many Parthenon friezes, the Rosetta Stone, piles of mummies, and even an Easter Island statue.

Because of my Dad's fascination with these, I was really excited to see this guy. He is about the size of the Easter Island snowman we made when we lived at the house on Central Road!

I have to say, I was totally blown away by the British Museum. Being near Chicago's Field Museum, I feel pretty spoiled, but the British Museum's collection simply blows away any antiquities museum that I've ever seen. It's a little humbling to walk in the door and see a sign that says, "Welcome to the British Museum. Free to the public since 1753." Damn.

After the British Museum, we had dinner and then pints at The Dog and Duck - yes, yet another famous British pub, this one with a connection to George Orwell. We definitely went out of our way to go to awesome pubs with long histories on this trip.

From the Dog and Duck, we were a short walk to Her Majesty's Theatre in the West End for The Phantom of the Opera, which has been playing there since its beginning run in 1986. My favorite version of the "Phantom" music is from its initial run here in London, so I was excited to come to this theater, which made the play famous.

I have to say, it was a pretty creepy show. I don't know if I caught all the icky, obsessive, creep-o stuff the last time I watched it, or maybe this Phantom was just creepier than others, but we all left feeling kind of strange. Nonetheless, we were happy to have seen this play at its longest-running location, and it was cool to see it again. The staging and costumes are really beautiful.

We made it back to our hotel rooms in time to pack, get some sleep, and reflect a bit on our London experience, which was obviously pretty amazing. Looking back now on all the delicious meals we ate, imposing sites we visited, and fun pubs we drank at, it is pretty impressive to have fit into a week.

On to Paris!

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