Michael's Europe 2000 Tour - Week 4


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    Mon, 21-Aug-2000

Today is the day we have to return to London, but not until later in the afternoon. For some reason we're both pretty slow getting up, and by the time we finish our breakfast it's too late to go on a bus tour. Since we have to check out by lunchtime anyway, we do our packing and then head out into Dublin, to check out some more sights in detail.

Our first stop is Dublin Castle, which we had already had a wander around on Saturday afternoon, but today we have time to do the tour. The castle is still being used as the seat of parliament, and has been vastly refurbished from it's original use. Despite this, the furnishings and rooms were very impressive.
The castle has also been very much rebuilt from the original fortress which stood at the site, only 1 tower really having remained intact. During some renovation work a few years ago, the foundations of another tower were unearthed, and they have now been kept intact underneath part of the new castle, which was very interesting.

From the castle we headed to Trinity College, the oldest college in Dublin, and home to the Book of Kell, a very nicely detailed and decorated version of the four gospels, written hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures here, and one I very much wanted to take was of the Long Room in the library - a room 2 stories tall and 65 feet long, with floor-to-ceiling shelves of books along both sides. Paradise!

From Trinity College we headed to the Guinness Hop Shop via the Stag's Head pub where we had quite a nice lunch. True to our luck so far, it poured down rain while we ate and only had to wait a short while before it stopped and we could go out again. Once at the Guiness shop we didn't actually go on the tour as I wasn't really interested, and time was starting to get a bit on the short side anyways. We still had to return to the hotel to pick up the Richard's luggage before heading to the airport.

Lucky we didn't take the tour as it turned out - by the time we caught the bus to the airport it was time to check in, and not long after that time to board, we certainly didn't have much spare time at all.

Another short flight followed by a cab ride later and we're back at Richards apartment in London. The night went quietly, me catching up on email and diary, and Richard and Melissa watching TV. Seems that everybody is tired...

    Tue, 22-Aug-2000

By the time I got up, Mel had already left for work, so I had a quick breakfast and we put on a load of washing before heading out into town.

We bought an all-day travel card which allows unlimited travel on the Tube (underground train) and buses throughout the inner city, and we made good use of it. Our first stop was Kensington Gardens, containing lots of statues including the Prince Charles monument. Also near the gardens is the Kensington Palace, which didn't look like much of a palace to me. The best thing about the gardens was a little well-kept area where lots of squirrels run around, so tame that they take food right out of your hand.

From Kensington we caught a Tube to Trafalgar Square. The square itself wasn't all that impressive, but it contains Nelson's Column, which was. Also on one side is the National Gallery housed in an impressive building. Around Nelson's Column are 4 large bronze lions, and I climbed onto one of those for pictures. Ride 'em, cowboy!

From the square we headed in the direction of Buckingham Palace, but stopped off at a pub for some nash. We both had Yorkshire Puddings to try some of the English fare, and they were pretty good.

From the pub we walked through St. James' Park to get to the palace. This park is very beautifully laid out, and the stream running through it is home to a large variety of water birds.
Finally we reached Buckingham Palace. Again, it didn't look all that much like what I think of when I imagine palaces, but it was still very impressive, especially with the guilded gates and guards in front of it. One of the guards was strutting around, and he looked funny as anything whenever he did an about-turn. Must be a real bummer to have to work there..

From the palace we walked towards Big Ben. Big Ben is actually the name of the bell built into the clock tower, not the clock or the tower itself. The tower is part of a larger complex containing the Houses of Parliament. Across the road is Westminster Abbey.

After walking all around Big Ben and across the river to get a good picture we caught the tube to where Richard works to pick up a disk drive for the laptop. By this time we had been on the go all day, and caught a bus back home to a quiet evening.

Melissa arrived shortly after we did, and she made us a nice dinner. After dinner I soaked in the tub for a couple of hours, and afterwards kept going with my diary. There's another day tomorrow.

    Wed, 23-Aug-2000

Today was a rather slow start to the day - I had gotten up moderately early, and spent the morning watching cartoons and catching up writing my diary. After Richard got up, we had a bit of breakfast and got ready to go out into London.

We bought another day-trip ticket allowing unlimited travel, although we didn't have all that much planned for today. Mostly what we ended up doing was going to the shopping district of London - Tottenham Court, Oxford Street, and Leicester Square. We also tried to go and watch Chicken Run, but couldn't find a cinema which still showed it.

After shopping we headed towards the Thames to walk back home, stopping at a floating pub for a drink and a look at the Millenium Wheel. On the walk back we took in a few more of the sights of London, including a replica of Shakespeare's Globe, Clink prison, and The Anchor where Shakespeare used to go for drinks. It was quite a walk, and hence we were quite happy to finally get home, but that didn't last long as we were going out for dinner with Jason, a backpacker Melissa had met in Ireland.

Dinner was quite good at a pub underneath the Tower Bridge, Jason having also brough a friend Andrew along. We had a few drinks and a good chat.

    Thu, 25-Aug-2000

Today was yet another slow start even though I was up and about by 8am already. Richard slept in a little longer, so I watched cartoons and read my book while I waited. It's quite good at this stage to have some rest and relaxation time as I've been on my feet pretty much non-stop so far.

After breakfast we headed out towards the Tower of London, where we spent most of the day, looking at various things. The Tower itself is still in very good condition, the White Tower being more or less the original fortress. Unfortunately for me, the part open to the public largely looks like a museum, with display cases and information plaques all over the place. Still very interesting, but not really an environment conducive to lots of picture taking. Also, quite a few areas within the Tower don't allow picture taking.

Some of the highlights included the armory which had a lot of armor and weapons on display, including the armors of the past kings of England. We also saw the crown jewels of England, again, very impressive. All up, one could easily spend a couple of days looking at everything in the Tower.

After the Tower we headed to St. Pauls Cathedral, but unfortunately got there too late for the tours which go on the upper levels and stuff. I still took pictures of the outside of the Cathedral, again, like the Tower, picture taking of the inside is not allowed.

From here we started a long trek to find some nice icecream. Originally we were going to catch a Tube back to the Tower of London, near which is a nice icecream place, but due to signal problems the train was stopped for an indefinite amount of time. Hence we headed back up to the surface and walked. And walked. And walked. But when we finally got there it was all worth it.

From the Tower it's only a bit of a walk across the Tower Bridge to get back to Richard's apartment. The highlight of that was that the Bridge openend to let a sailing ship through just as we were crossing, which doesn't happen very often these days. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to get to a position from which I could take a good picture, but it was still interesting to see the Bridge getting lifted up.

    Fri, 25-Aug-2000

Today, after yet another late start, we returned to St. Paul's Cathedral, this time during visiting hours. We had a good if somewhat quick poke around the lower level and the crypt. What struck me most about the ground level was how similar in design it was to the Cathedral in Koeln. All the furnishings and decorations were of course different, but the basic shape was very similar. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take any pictures, so it'll be hard to compare.

From there we climbed up into the tower - well over 500 steps to the top. There's a couple of different levels - the first is a large rotunda inside the dome from which you can look down onto the ground floor, and up at the painted ceiling. This is reached by a wide spiral staircase with very low steps, so it almost feels like a ramp rather than a staircase.

Pretty much on the same level is a verandah on the outside, which goes all the way around the dome and offers quite good views of London through a high balustrade. The balustrade is made out of sandstone and some of the pillars and railings have embedded fossils, quite interesting.

To reach the top level there's a series of tiny iron spiral staircases built into the structure of the dome. But the extra climb is well worth it, offering a very high vantage point onto the city of London. It's just as well that the climb is so daunting, as there isn't much room on the top balcony at all.

After we had reached ground level again, no mean feat!, we caught a Tube back to Liverpool Street station where we first had lunch in a park. Then Richard went to get a haircut and uring this time I wandered around the area surrounding the station. Richard had given me directions to a nice, albeit somewhat overcrowded park, so I didn't stay there. I wandered back and waited on some steps listening to music and watching passers-by.

From here we more or less became aimless wanderers through London. Originally we had thought to go to Greenwich, but it had gotten a bit late. Then we were going to go on a short river cruise, but a huge line-up of Italians at the ticket-office deterred us there. Finally we started retracing our steps back in the direction of the Tower Bridge and home, a route we had previously walked, so it held little in the way of surprises.

We did pop in to The Clink prison though, which is a small attraction depicting the lives of prisoners incarcerated in the prison a hundred years and more ago. It was interesting, although not really worth the entrance fee.

Finally our weary steps led us home, where Richard got ready for the big party planned for tonight - drinks and dinner, followed by clubbing. I was dead-tired, and fell asleep while Richard was in the shower, so he decided that I should wait for Melissa, and follow after with her, which is what I did, managing to squeeze in a quick bath in the meantime.

The great night out turned out to just be a few drinks at a pub, followed by dinner at an indian restaurant. I had Chicken Phal, a _very_ spicy curry dinner, which was nevertheless quite nice. After dinner everybody seemed to get tired, and we headed home with some of the people who had come along. A bit more chatting, and that was that.

    Sat, 26-Aug-2000

I got up earlyish for some reason this morning, and since it was weekend I could jump online. Surprisingly, Nadine was online, so we had our first chat since I started on my holidays. I also spent the morning catching up on email and stuff.

Richard and Melissa went to Cambridge today, but I was more interested in going to Greenwich. It was also one of the first drizzly overcast icky wet days of my holiday so far, and I was seriously contemplating just making it a quiet day in front of the computer or with a book.

Finally I did tear myself away though, had a shower, and headed out to Greenwich. This was my first experience of navigating through London by myself, but it went without a hitch. Greenwich itself is quite a nice little suburb, but I didn't have eyes for much of it, being more interested in heading to the Old Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian, on which all time is based.

Interestingly enough, there have been 3 prior Prime Meridians - each Royal Astronomer had his own instrument over the years, each one being larger than the one before, and so the meridian shifted by a couple of meters every time. The rest of the observatory now servers as a museum containing a lot of astronomical and chronological exhibits, including Britains largest refracting telescope - it's well worth a visit even for non-astronomy buffs.

I had purchased an entry ticket combining the observatory with 'The History of Time' exhibition which was on display in the Queen's House. Unfortunately I had either made a mistake or been given the wrong information, but by the time I got there (after rushing my tour of the observatory too) I had only about half an hour to get through the exhibit. This was nowhere near enough time, but since I had already paid for it I made a valiant attempt nevertheless. Again, very interesting and well worth it, given more time!

Since it was still drizzling when I got outside again, I decided to just head straight back home. I wasn't particularly feeling like wandering around Greenwich by myself in the rain. Back home I jumped back on the internet, awaiting Richard and Melissa's return from Cambridge.

Now they're here, I think it's time for some cards, some nibblies for dinner, and sleep. Tomorrow will be a big day, I'll be going to Hampton Court palace and from there to Salisbury.

    Sun, 27-Aug-2000

Well, Hampton Court didn't pan out. Instead Richy, Mel, and myself headed into town again to the London Planetarium and Madame Tussoud's Waxworks museum, where we spent a happy few hours. To my surprise I found the waxworks to be more interesting than the planetarium, although both are well worth a visit. Embarrasingly enough I fell for the old trick, and actually tried to get my backpack from the cloackroom off a waxwork dummy called Maude. Grumble. Richard is still laughing about this.

After the morning's entertainment we headed to a nice pub for lunch and took our time eating. After lunch we went our separate ways, Richy and Mel heading to a carribean parade, and I headed towards Waterloo station to catch a train to Salisbury.

Soon I was headed out on the train, watching the English countryside slide by. An hour and a half later the train pulled into Salisbury from where I phoned Anita to let her know that I had arrived. She turned up true to word in a few minutes, and we walked back to where she was staying, where I met the rest of the crew. An adventurous cooking session followed, during which I found a red wine I liked, interestingly enough an Australian one. Dinner followed not long after, and I had quite a time getting through my portion after the huge pub-lunch from earlier in the day.

After lunch we lounged around chatting for a while until Gulli arrived, another member of the group, and soon we were all in a game of Monopoly. This lasted a few hours, me coming second through sheer luck. Following this, everybody headed to bed.

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Last updated: 28-Aug-2000