Sugar and spice — and everything nice

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Know what sucks when you have a bum knee? Stairs. Know what has a whole ton of stairs? The London Underground.

Suffice it to say, my injured knee does make getting around London a bit difficult. I can only walk so fast, which can be hard since Clare’s “slow” pace is pretty much my normal fast-walk. I still have zero idea what’s wrong with my knee, especially because the problem came on so suddenly the other day, but I’m hoping it will go away just as suddenly. Fingers crossed extra tight.

But even the weird knee problems weren’t going to keep me from walking around London on our last day here. I really can’t believe we’re already heading off to a new city. It kind of sucks because I’ve just started to get the whole London thing down (I’m a master at all the different Tube lines), but I can’t wait for the rest of the trip!

So, Clare and I made sure our last day would be a great one. (We even took the time to straighten our hair. Of course, it rained later in the day, but, hey, we tried.) We started the day off walking to the Notting Hill area (sadly, no Hugh Grant sightings) and made our way over to Hummingbird Bakery.

My stomach wants it all.

Hummingbird Bakery is the British bakery that has a cupcake/desserts cookbook that Clare has used for the past couple of years. We ordered one of the recipes we’ve made from the book (when I say “we,” I mean Clare made, I ate), the Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie, just so we could compare. (Of course, Clare’s was better!) We also ordered a Chocolate Malt Cupcake because, well, why not? Calories don’t count when you’re on vacation, right?


Her cupcakes are still better.

I don’t think I’ve seen Clare that excited before. She was a kid in a literal candy store. Plus, she picked up Hummingbird Bakery’s new cookbook, so when we get home our kitchen is going to be loaded up with baked goods — feel free to stop by, or I’ll feel obligated to eat everything. It’ll be pretty interesting to see her use the cookbook — it’s filled with phrases like “wiz the digestive biscuits in the mixer.” I’m sorry, what? Is that English?

Our final day was our busiest, and there were even more time constraints given the fact that the USA-Germany soccer game was on at 17:00 London time. And you know how Americans get about soccer during the one month every four years that we actually care. (I mean, I’m also an Arsenal fan, but it’s a tortured experience, so I don’t want to talk about it.)

We took the Tube into the heart of London, but we got to the station right as the doors were closing, so I played sacrificial lamb and shoved my body between the doors. (I definitely don’t recommend trying that!)

While we’d originally planned to go to the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, we decided the time was too restrictive and that it’d likely be too hard to see anyway. So we just walked around the area. If I lived in the palace, I’d need to use my iPhone for directions just to walk around. Goodness gracious!

Hey, MTV, welcome to our crib.

Next, we went over and checked out the magnificent Westminster Abbey. We wanted to go to the Evensong service at the Abbey so that we could get in for free (we’re on a budget!), but there was a slight hiccup in that plan: The service was at the same time as the soccer game. But because, over here, football pretty much is the English religion, we were close to God in a whole different way: with a bunch of drunk Englishmen, praying for a goal for our team.

I remembered walking around Westminster from our previous time here, so I didn’t feel like I was missing all that much.

Grey skies = grey editing.

Because we were in the area, we also snapped a few shots of the Parliament building and Big Ben. Both are glorious but didn’t really have much for us to do other than just stand near them and marvel, which we most certainly did.

Next, we trekked all the way back across London because we still wanted to check out that Indian restaurant from the other night, Dishoom. A fellow American traveler recommended it to us when we were looking for a place to eat before the play, but there was too long a wait that night, as was the case the next night when we tried to come back. (Clare was told to join the queue, and it just about made her year.)

Luckily, it wasn’t as crowded today at lunchtime, and, man alive, the food was worth it. I need to try to figure out how to make these “gunpowder potatoes” when I get home. They had such a complex and smoky flavor — I probably could have eaten my weight in them. (Maybe I even did…)

A case of our eyes being bigger than our  stomachs — but no regrets.

Plus, I found an alcoholic substance that Clare actually deemed “pretty good”: Proseco. I figured I should continue to take advantage of the whole old-enough-to-drink-legally thing, so I ordered a Bollybellini — raspberries, lychees, rose and cardamom sparkling with first-class Proseco — and felt so very sophisticated and grown-up.

Clare had never had Indian food before, and based on the effusiveness with which she spoke of the meal, I’d say she likes it. A lot. A whole lot.

We then decided to be super touristy and head over to King’s Cross so we could find Platform 9 ¾. I kid you not, it took us 20 minutes to find. As Clare said, “It’s taking us longer to find it than it took Harry Potter.” We were literally looking between Platforms 9 and 10, while it turned out that it has its own touristy section in an unrelated area. There was too long a line to get a souvenir photo and we were in a time crunch, but it was fun to see, especially because we both just re-read the first book. (In case anyone is curious, I’m a Gryffindor, Clare’s a Ravenclaw!)

“Don’t talk rubbish. There is no platform nine and three-quarters.” –Vernon Dursley.

By the way, to however sends out the Hogwarts letters, I’m still waiting for mine…

Because we didn’t plan the day out all that well, we then went back across the city to head to the British Museum, which was absolutely incredible. I’ve always been a huge history nerd, and the sheer amount of stuff housed at the museum was mind-boggling.

We didn’t have time to see everything, which sucked. And, of course, Clare and I were interested in different things. I was desperate to go see the statues from Ancient Greece and Rome, but because we started on the top floors, our time got squeezed. Instead, we spent a good chunk of time in an exhibit about the progress of currency over the ages. (It was a lot cooler than it sounds!)

Actual pieces of the Parthenon. I feel like Greece might miss these…

Even with our limited time, we did manage to head downstairs and hit some of the museum’s biggest attractions, including the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone and some statues from the Parthenon, which were beyond cool! It was very cool to see everything in one place, but I couldn’t help but feel they belonged elsewhere and not in London as a reminder of British imperialism…



Are you our Mummy?

But putting those feelings aside, it was unreal to see all these different artifacts from all these different cultures in one place. (Although their North America exhibit was a little small and weak. Lame.) The sheer magnitude of all that is in the museum was just unbelievable. I mean, upstairs we were admiring a collection of Japanese samurai armor, and downstairs we were chillin’ with Egyptian mummies. There were vases from the Etruscans and vases from the Chinese. We saw marble statues made by the Romans and folkloric statues made by the Aztecs.

Some seriously cool stuff.

I just still can’t even grasp the idea of having so much of the world’s history at my fingertips. It really makes you think about how tiny and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. It also begs the question of what stuff from our generation will be in museums in a hundred years. Miley Cyrus’ tongue?

We hurriedly left the museum to find a pub to watch the soccer game, but there wasn’t one in sight. So, we scrambled and started walking around wildly before we managed to find the game on after about 20 minutes had already passed.

These map things saved our butts more than a time or two.

I grabbed a pint of Stella Artois, Clare and I shared a stool because it was the only available one and our feet were killing us (I offered to share the beer, too, but was rejected), and we hunkered down to watch the game. It was hard because Germany is one of my favorite teams (sorry, Daddio!), but there was no question of my allegiances tonight: I was bleeding red, white and blue. (And I do literally mean bleeding… I accidentally nicked myself as I let out a cry of frustration after Germany’s goal.)

I’ve never been so excited to lose a game before in my life.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know Belgium is considered a kind of sleeper to win the whole thing, but for most of the team’s games, it’s looked like it’s been doing just that: sleeping. I think if the U.S. can get off to a fast start like we did against Portugal, we’ve got this thing.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Perhaps one where it’s not raining and I remembered the umbrella?

Because we had a pretty big lunch, we did a bit more sightseeing, hitting up Blackfriars Bridge because of the macabre story of a man with mob connections who was found hanging from the bridge with about $14,000 (in three different currencies) and bricks in his pocket. The crime has never been solved. We then passed by the Globe Theatre and moseyed on over to Millennium Bridge, largely because a scene in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” was filmed there. We’re not obsessed or anything…

And that brings our London journey to a close.

A couple of observations about Londoners:

1) Everyone in Hyde Park runs with backpacks on. Not really sure why or what they need on a run, but you do you, ladies and gents.

2) The wooden forks Londoners use instead of plastic forks is the coolest thing ever. We need to adopt this pronto. (Clare wants me to note this was her observation. I told her to get her own blog, but it was a good observation, so…)

3) Every Tube station that has an outdoor platform seems to be covered in purple butterfly bush.

4) People here do not chew gum. Anywhere.

5) There are also no trash cans. We had to walk around for about 10 minutes looking for one at one point.

6) But, there are Subway restaurants everywhere — with lines out the door. Although, I’m not sure how they have a $5 footlong if the pound is almost double the dollar. $10 footlong just doesn’t have the same ring.

7) Oh, and there are Chipotles in London.

I’ll miss you, London <3. Paris, here we come!

More photos from the day:

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