Thursday, June 27, 2013

London Day 3 In Which We Check Out some Dead Kings and Queens, Zoe Asks a Million Questions, and We Shop till we Drop.


Today we fully embraced our status as tourists, and spent as much time as possible soaking up the old (Westminster Abbey), the new (Hamley’s), and the outrageous (Harrod’s).

We tried our best to get of the house early in order to ‘miss the queue’ as my mum said, but it was still 11am by the time we walked up to the main gate. Thankfully there was only about 600 people in line so we were inside and kitted out with our audio guides in no time. At first I felt like the confused resident of an overcrowded nursing home shuffling along with a new-fangled contraption to my ear wondering what exactly Jeremy Irons was doing in my ear, but we soon fell in step with the rest of the crowd and made our way through the 19 different stations on the Abbey tour.

This is not my first time to the Abbey, but the last time was so ridiculously busy that I could barely see the ground beneath my feet and all I remember is trying to avoid being stepped on by what seemed to be the entire German School System. The time before that, however, was back in the good old days before admission charges and bossy walking tours. It was free to get in and you could wander at will, going straight to Poet’s Corner if you so desired instead of having to visit every other corner of the Abbey first.

But times have changed, and order is the order of the day, and so we all follow in one long line, snaking in and out of chapels, and between huge ornate tombs and memorials to this Lord and that Lady, Jeremy Irons going on about whatever it is he goes on about.

We loved it.

Each time I see the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I, and her half sister Queen Mary (Bloody Mary), I still can’t quite believe I am standing so close to her bones. Turn a corner and it’s Mary Queen of Scots, or Edward the Confessor, or Henry the V. Here is the grave of Anne of Cleves, Fourth Wife of my favourite slovenly Tudor King, Henry VIII. Over there is the grave of Charles Darwin (anyone else see the irony here? Just wondering…).

And so it goes. Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, Alfred Tennyson. It’s awesome.

The last time Zoe came she was 3yrs old and asleep in a push chair, oblivious to the hordes and history alike. So this time was special for her both in her awe and interest, and also the number of questions and clarifications required. We don’t call her Miss Many Questions for nothing.

Me: So this is the tomb of Elizabeth I, and her half sister Queen Mary. She…

Zoe: Wait… is that Bloody Mary?

Me: Yes, Elizabeth was Protestant and Mary was

Zoe: But why was she called Bloody Mary?

Me: I was just saying she was Roman Catholic, and felt strongly that all Protestants should be kil…

Zoe: Was she also Mary Queen of Scots?

Me: No that was the other Mary

Zoe: Why was she called Queen? Was she the Queen? Were they both Queen?

Me: She was Queen of Scotland. Sort of.

Zoe: What do you mean ‘Sort of’?

Me: Well she was very young when..

Zoe: But why did Bloody Mary want to kill the protesters?

Me: Not the protesters, the Protesta…

Zoe: Whatever, was she friends with Queen Mary?

Me: (fumbling with my Guide to the Kinds and Queens of England) No - Bloody Mary was queen befo…

Zoe: (walking off with her Audio Guide to her ear) This is way too complicated. Why did they make it so complicated?

Me: Well it all started when…

Zoe It’s ok, Mom, this man on the Audio Guide is explaining it.

Me: Oh ok well if you have any questions that he does…

Zoe: It’s ok you don’t really know it very well.

Me: I don’t?

Zoe: You should listen to the Audio Guide.

And so I did, and we soon found ourselves at the end of the tour. We were now free to explore the rest of the Abbey. There is a small Abbey Museum that houses some of the most fascinating items around. I highly recommend this place. Here, for example, are the original funeral effigies of several of the well known top-ten kings and queens, including those of Bloody Queen Mary I (“She looks like a man” said Zoe and indeed she did)


There was also one for Elizabeth I, complete with one of her original corsets. I’m not sure how she managed to breathe in that thing – Lord knows there is no way in heaven I could even fit it around my arm, let alone my waist. But as I will never have need to wear one, I guess I’ll just let that worry go.

After stopping for an exorbitant but delicious cup of tea in some ancient part of the abbey that was probably once the privy, we walked the cloisters, spotting 1000 yr old graves on our way out


Let’s hope he had a face at some point.

We also passed the ‘Oldest door in England’ which is allegedly from 955 or something like that.


Followed by the ‘Oldest Fire Escape in England’.


I’m not sure I would want to be fiddling with those old locks in the event of a fire. I guess you work with what you’ve got.

We were starving by now after breathing in all that musty old air, so we headed to Trafalgar Square to eat our lunch. I love doing this and have dragged the kids here to do this so many times that they act like they love it too.


2013 Trafalgar Square


2009 Trafalgar Square

I had promised Zoe a trip to Hamley’s Toy Store so we made our way through the throngs, only to find all the rest of the throngs were already at Hamley’s. On the way, we passed the Something Something Horse Guard where they put the horses practically on the sidewalk where everyone is trying to get by, and post this sign:


No no, please, I insist. THANK YOU! No Really. Thanks. Please kick me as I walk by. You’re welcome for kicking and biting me.

Here’s an idea: back the horses the fuck up.


Perhaps if he could see he would move his horse back. He probably has no idea he’s blocking the way.

Anyway - Back to Hamley’s. It’s got one or two redeeming features, one of which is their lego creations.

We also saw Will and Kate there.


Next on the list was Harrods. We thought we wanted to go to see the food floors, but we realized when we got there that actually we wanted to go so we could see how the other half lives. And if you are wondering, the other half are either from Brunei, Iran, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Oman or Saudi Arabia, are all drop-dead gorgeous, and dripping in money, expensive cars, and style. We sat and stared as car after car drove up, dispensed several outrageously rich and good looking women with the latest style of hijab (it looks like those towels the little old ladies wear on their heads when they get out of the pool –I kid you not. Long and flowing is out this year), then went and parked extremely illegally without anyone bothering them.


This was the shittiest car there. You can tell by how nicely they parked.


And everyone knows this dude by name. He has been here since the dawn of time.

We finally dragged ourselves away, successfully navigated our way back through the underground to our peaceful neighbourhood, and fell into bed.

Can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow!

Thanks for reading,



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