And so we come to the last full day we’ll spend in London this trip. (I say ‘this trip’ because I may have successfully gotten into Dad, Interrupted’s head and at this stage he is already talking about ‘next trip.’ History: it’ll get ya every. single. time.)
We have several places still to hit, chief among them Churchill’s War Rooms, which has been surprisingly and may I say, gratifyingly difficult to get into. I’m impressed that there are so many people who want to see where Winston hunkered down to fight the Nazis. We’ve already been turned away once because of crowds, and this was Must See TV for us, so we head off into the gray, misty morning to get what is billed as an authentic English breakfast nearby.
Sidebar: “Authentic English breakfast” has always included beans on toast. We suspect that this apparently iconic item is a leftover from war rationing, or at least we’re gonna pretend that it is. DI has enthusiastically downed this a few times already this trip, so we’re good.
This is the only really rainy day we’ve encountered so far, and hey, we’re from Phoenix, so we consider rain an amusing novelty, even when it’s driving down hard and we have to walk in it. And we’re even prepared, I with my hood buttoned onto my trench coat and DI has an umbrella. So we walk over to the War Rooms to discover:
- there’s already a line threatening to snake around the corner, and this is a big block
- DI thought that I bought tickets on line the night before
- I don’t have any recollection of anyone saying ‘hey, buy tickets so we get priority entrance into the most exciting thing we’ll see this trip, or better yet, so we don’t run the risk of missing it completely’
- so there are no pre-purchased, priority-entrance tickets
- which means we’re gonna stand in that novel, misty rain for awhile listening to an obnoxious woman go on about her trip thus far
- this will go on for about an hour, while I simultaneously worry that I am sinking into dementia because I have no recollection of DI saying, hey: buy tickets and then realize that I am just like Obnoxious Tourist Woman and try to calculate how many people I have tortured while I gabbled on while standing in lines
- Hint: I can’t count that high. I am truly sorry. Thank you, everyone, for not killing me over the years. I did not deserve your forbearance.
Finally, we are admitted. To our relief, we are not stuck in a tour with Obnoxious Tourist Woman. We’re set loose through the bunker to see what we’d like, and it’s a doozy.
I have one picture from this excursion, and it’s Typical Analyst Fodder:
This is Informatics, circa The Blitz, as they kept track of bombs raining down on the city. Fascinating stuff.
Next up after Winston is Victoria, and the last punch on our Palace Pass at Kensington Palace. Spoiler Alert: we don’t get to go anywhere near where a Modern Royal bunks, so don’t even ask.
But we do get to see where Queen Victoria grew up, and where other monarchs lived. We wind up seeing a collection of Princess Diana’s clothes, but we get wedged into the line only because we didn’t have the heart to tell the earnest young docent that we really didn’t give a fig about clothes.
Moving on, we learn things, mostly that Victoria had the Flaming Hots for Albert. She embroidered all manner of lovey-dovey sayings into the clothes he wore at their wedding, and I’m guessing that had they lived in the 21st century they would have had some dandy tattoos.
To say that she was upset when Albert died an untimely death would be an understatement.
We press on, into the rain.
At some point we wandered past the most iconic British icon of all: Big Ben, It’s undergoing renovation, so it’s hardly recognizable:
We eat lunch at a wonderful restaurant just off the Palace: Aubaine. I encounter a world of trouble checking in for our flight the next day (we later discover that the app wasn’t going to work for anyone, anywhere, any time, so the frustrating hour or so we spent over lunch trying every combination of phone, app, website, and positioning was for naught), but the food and service more than made up for that.
But no time to linger! No time to linger! Vickie Eydie gets preposterous on the Bosporus, so it’s off, off, off, to…not Brazil, but the Temple Church, and the only serious misfire of the trip.
We’re absolute old hands on the Underground by now, so we head off into the maze and emerge near Fleet Street, with a fair amount of walking to do because it appears that the Temple Church is positioned at the outer edge of the reach of any nearby station. That’s okay! Yes, it’s raining a little harder, and my feet are getting wet, but I really want to see this church, and the website says it’s open during the afternoon for an open house.
Ruddy convenient, that, because it’s normally closed on a Saturday.
Except we have walked a really long way for naught, because I have navigated a lot of British idiosyncrasy this trip but now get busted with a calendar. Because the church isn’t going to be open on Saturday, it’s gonna be open on Sunday, and I misread the little bitty calendar on my phone and didn’t see that it wasn’t a calendar that started with Sunday. No, it was a calendar that started with Monday, and ended with Sunday, so what I thought was Saturday was really Sunday and dammit.
I mean, did you know you can see a copy of the Magna Carta there? DAMMIT.
No amount of pounding is gonna get that massive door to open on this rainy Saturday afternoon, so we have to do something different, and that something is buy chocolate, because that makes a decent souvenir for a lot of people.
Like everything else I have done this trip, a fair amount of research has gone into this topic, but not enough as it turns out, much to my very damp dismay and feet. Savvy travelers will twig to this immediately, but hang on.
I know that I can’t just wander into Waitrose and come out with the classy British chocolate I had my heart set on. No, my cursory research has revealed that we want a place called Choccywoccadoodah. This is a real place and it is highly rated. It is also another subway ride and a significant hike in wet sneakers. My mood is not in a good place at this time, and it is not improved as we wade through thousands of theater goers on our trek.
Dad, Interrupted is undaunted, and when we arrive I am in a foul mood, even though this place has a secret Chocolate Room that is like invitation-only. I don’t care. I’m hungry for real food (it is a testament to my burgeoning temper tantrum that I actually refuse chocolate at this point [you may want to check for my pod person under my bed]) and I just want to get back to the flat and get some dinner.
We make our purchases, we refuse the secret Chocolate Room, and head back into the rain. Spoiler Alert: I get some more fish and chips at Monkey Puzzle, because I can. And I live to hike another day.
More Spoiler Alert: the next day I will learn about Duty Free, and I will learn that I did not need to slog through the muck and the dark and the rain to get good British chocolate.
© E. Stocking Evans 2018