A Gravy Jig Part 2 or He’s the background on my computer right now!

This morning we hit up the one major London attraction we had so far missed: St. Paul’s Cathedral. A cathedral has stood on this site since 604 AD but the current church dates from the 17th century when the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the city. The cathedral has always held a significant place in English national identity. The church was the location of Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria, peace services marking the end of the First & Second World Wars and the 80th birthday & Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Most famously, the church was the site of the Royal Wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. We would have been able to squeeze in a visit on London Stop 1, but we wanted lots of time to see everything from crypt to top balcony so we put it off till Stop 2.
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Entrance to St. Paul’s includes a handy and very informative audio guide. This guide was all on an iPod touch, which we thought was a very good but probably quite pricey idea. The guide starts by taking you across the cathedral floor (aka the church’s main floor). You enter through large wooden doors and pass by the christening basin into the nave. Here the walls and columns are finely carved white stone. There are the odd touches of gold here and there, but the focus is on the carvings. The audio commentary told us that there is such intense detail on both the interior & exterior of the church that during restorations the workers found apples in such high places that someone would never see them, but they featured detailed leaves and were carved as a 3-dimensional fruit that you could put your hand behind and hold. When you reach the end of the nave you find yourself beneath the massive dome. Here the white stone glitters with golden details and mosaics are scattered around, winking with colored glass. The dome itself is painted rather than covered in mosaics as the Protestant church was still so new at the point of construction that it didn’t want decorations so reminiscent of a Catholic cathedral. The quire is a bright mass of golden mosaics and carved dark wood. This progression is supposed to symbolize how things are grander as you get closer to God.
Next step was the dome climb…actually it was 528 steps to the top gallery. It was worth the effort for the amazing views of the city & the River Thames.
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Finally we went below ground into the crypt. Here we saw the final resting places of many well known Brits. These included the Duke of Wellington, Christopher Wren (the designer of St. Paul’s & half of London and one of Kristin’s new favorite historical figures) and Viscount Horatio Nelson (remember him from the top of the Trafalgar column?).

After leaving St. Paul’s we walked the short distance to St. Brides’s church. This church is much smaller and relatively unknown but we were inspired to make a quick visit because of it’s inspiration for one of our favorite book series. The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare used this church as inspiration for the London Institute (where the Shadowhunters and main characters all live). The first time we were in London Justine tweeted the author about the location of this little church. We were very happy to get a response from her and on our return to London we quickly stopped by.
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For the afternoon we decided to do another thing we’d missed out on our last trip: take a turn in Hyde Park (like they do in so many of our favorite novels). You may recall that last time we tried to do this we got stuck in Kensington Park and ended up just taking the tube to see Marble Arch and skipping the park. This time we took a nice stroll:
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We also returned to Winter Wonderland for a snack and some exploration. This extravaganza is a Christmas market, combined with food stalls and a midway and a skating rink and a Bavarian Village. Basically it’s a crazy, festive adventure. We had a last german sausage and sugar crepe…you could seriously get food from any place we’ve been on this trip from stalls. That’s including Hungarian! There were also lots of drinking establishments, including Santa’s Pub and a carousel turned into a bar. The midway was packed with tons of rides for both kids & thrill seekers and they were all decked out in holiday decorations. It was a really fun place to walk through!
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We had some time before we had to catch our train (we’ll explain about that later) so we hit the shops of Oxford Street, which runs along one of Hyde Park’s sides. When we say hit the shops we should really say hit a shop because we only made it to one store, Primark. This place was madness. There were people everywhere, messy piles of clothes and people striping to try things on every way you looked. But it was worth it for the prices! We each got a nice dressy jacket for £25! That’s like $40 Canadian with the current exchange rate! We also picked up a few other goodies for ridiculously low prices 🙂

This is what we had for supper:
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If you think this meal look familiar then you have a very good memory! We did have this exact meal before almost 4 months ago and we have remembered it as our favorite meal throughout the trip. It was so good that we hopped on a train and rode an hour to Cambridge just to recreate it! Yum Yum Yum Yorkshire Pudding! If you are ever in Cambridge be sure to go to The Baron of Beef and have something with Yorkshire pudding and gravy…you will not regret it!!

On the train ride home to London, while rewatching last weeks episode of Glee, we realized this was our last train ride of the trip! After boarding a train over a hundred times in the last 4 months it’s odd to think we won’t be doing it again. And, as if the universe knew this was our last hurrah, it sent us some excitement…
J: “I think the guy in the last compartment was Neville.”
K: (used to us saying this but not meaning it) “Oh yeah?”
J: “No, seriously.”
K: “Well that was the first class car…aka the kind of place a movie star would sit if they took trains…which a minor movie star might. We are in the UK going to London…” (runs out onto the platform to creepily sneak a peek of the guy)
J: “So?”
K: “It could totally be him!”
We then distrated ourselves for the duration of the train ride…well other than Justine taking this stalkeresque photo:
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When we arrived in London we might have dawdled until he came walking past. At this point it was a unanimous decision that it was entirely possible that we were seeing the actual Matthew Lewis, aka Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies! We didn’t want to bother him so we just creepily followed him…except we didn’t even follow him, we went the way we would have been going anyway and he happened to be going the same way! We did have to walk fast to keep up with him though…he was practically running through the underground station and looking around all paranoid, as if he didn’t want to be recognized…too late 😉 In the end we got this stellar photo while we were briefly on the same tube:
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Maybe it wasn’t him, but we are going with it was. It all fits! We’ve done our research too and he definitely could have been coming though Cambridge on his way from his home town to London and his twitter account didn’t disprove him being in London yesterday. And if it was him, we can now actually say that we chased Neville Longbottom through Kings Cross Station (too bad he didn’t lead us to Platform 9-3/4 😉 ).

Daily Wrap-Up Question:
We want you to know your favorite photos! Now we don’t expect you to go back and look through all of the pictures to find one…just think back on the pictures you remember, those are obviously the ones that stuck in you mind (either because they were beautiful or funny or random…). For points or for fun, please answer!

What We Miss:
Shopping at West Ed…all inside and warm and compacted together.

Love, Luck & Longbottom,
K&J

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British Invasion…Doug takes England

Dear Journal,

I realize it’s been awhile since I last wrote, I’ve been so busy! First I had to complete my tour of the United Kingdom.

I started in Cambridge. Which means I will be starting this entry with the most unbelievable story! Seriously, you will be tempted to think I am making it up…but even my imagination isn’t great enough for that! I spent my time in Cambridge doing a tour of the Universities, as most people would do. There are over 250 schools in the area, so naturally it took all day. Evening had fallen by the time I reached Sidney Sussex College. The plaque at the front gate stated that they had educated a male figure in English history: Oliver Cromwell. I knew the story of Cromwell (at least I thought I did) but in case you don’t here it is… Cromwell was the leader of the Revolution. He lead the charge that ended with King Charles I beheaded and the reign of the monarchy over. Cromwell ruled the country in a kings stead. When he passed away his body was preserved and buried in Westminster Abbey…but that’s is not where he remained. Without Cromwell as a leader the English people were lost. They turned ot the only person they could think of to take over: Charles II, son of the king they had dethroned. Charles took up the post as King, but did not forget what Cromwell had done. He had his body removed from the Abbey (a place of honor). But that wasn’t enough…no not nearly. He then had the body hung, beheaded and the head placed on a spike on the Westminster Bridge. It remained in that spot for 20 years. Quite the story, eh? I thought so…but little did I know, it was just the beginning…

After wandering the lawn & admiring the many fine structures at Sidney Sussex I decided to see the chapel. I was just going to stop for an exterior look but was surprised to find the door ajar. It seemed awfully late to still be open to visotors, but I thought I’d take advantage of my good fortune…my mistake to think I could actually have any good luck…
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I mentioned that Cromwell’s head remained on display on the bridge for 20 years…well did you wonder why it finally stopped being up there? It turns out a storm blew it down. The wind was finally too much for the suprisingly well preserved head (remember Cromwells body had been preserved before it was buried) and it toppled onto the cobblestones below. The soldier on duty saw something fall and went to investigate. Can you imagine being this man and finding the object was a severed head? What would you do? I think I might scream, or run away as fast as my legs would take me. Whatever it is I would do it would not be the same as the soldier because he picked it up, wrapped it in a scarf and brought it home with him. The next morning though, when the head was missing, the man heard of the severe punishment they had planned for when they found the great head theif. Panicked, the man shoved the head up his chimney and never told anyone about it. That is until he recounted the whole crazy story to his grand-daughter on his deathbed. She, like any sane person, didn’t really want to have a disembodied head just laying around so she put it up for sale. A surprising number of people were interested in buying Oliver Cromwell’s head. This began a stretch of hundreds of years where the head was bought and sold.

If that were the story’s conclusion I still would have been in the clear, but there I was in the middle of a Cambridge University chapel watching 2 men dressed in black digging things up from below the floor! Well I am not too proud to say it almost scared the pants right off of me! I screamed and ran out of there so fast there was almost a Doug shaped hole in the chapel door. It seemed the commotion I made aroused suspicion and the authorities were called. Suddenly I was being credited for helping catch grave robbers searching for Cromwell’s head. It seems a buyer eventually donated the head back to Cromwell’s old school and they buried it in their chapel. The men would have already have found the head if it wasn’t for the fact that the school had placed a plaque that only mentioned the head was buried somewhere within the chapel, not it’s exact location. There had been enough issues with this head in the past, they didn’t want it to go missing again!

After that insanly frightening encounter I decided I should probably Lear to better defend myself scary people…like head grave robbers. And who better ot learn from than the man who battled the rich to save the poor for years…Robin Hood. I swung by Nottingham on the way to my next destination and got a few lessons. Here we are practicing our archery:
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I thought I’d be safe in York. Their main attraction is a gorgeous cathedral called York Minster right in the center of town. I enjoyed the stained glass windows. That is always my favorite part of a church.
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Feeling much more content I went to the Jorvik Viking Experience. It turns out the first inhabitants of York ha been the Vikings. There was an exhibit about their way of life, another about the artifacts that had been found from this time period and yet another about the archeological dig that had unearthed these treasures. I find archeology fascinating and read through this part thoroughly. I was immersed in the info board that I almost missed the shadow of a child run by. At first I thought it was a stray kid who had wandered away from it’s arena…but I was alone in the room. Then I saw it again and noticed it was wearing clothes that would not have fit in this millennia, let alone this decade. It was a Viking ghost! I am not proud of it, but for a moment I froze in terror. You don’t see ghost everyday! But then I realized it was not going to hurt me. I tried to converse with it but the few faint words I could hear were in a language I could not understand. It leaves me rather curious as to what the child wanted. I made sure to tell the staff about it on my way out. Hopefully they will call in a medium that can help the poor little boy out.
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Heading south-east from York, I found myself in Chester. This is a city with a long, interesting history. It was first founded as the city fo Dewa by the Romans almost 2000 years ago as a military settlement. I repeat, 2000 years! Thats a crazy long time ago! Eventually the Romans Legionaries (which is what they called their soldiers) were told they could leave their station here, but many had married the womain the area and chose to stay. That’s when the military encampment became a town. Over time it grew, but also feel into a state of disrepair. Eventually Queen Victoria showed up and declared the place should be fixed up! She commissioned the building of countless Tudor style buildings’ those are the ones that are black & white (or two tones in neutral colors) with the exposed wood mounted right in the building walls. As I wandered about taking in the history I happened across an archealogical dig. Curious, I started talking the archeologists & volunteers’ ears off with all of my questions. Eventually, mainly because I think they wanted to quiet me down, they asked if I wanted to join them. I was thrilled and obviously jumped at the chance. I spent the rest of the afternoon digging through 3m of history, as that’s how far down the Roman ruins are located. On top of the Roman artifacts there are layers from the saxon, medieval and post-medieval eras. It was all very educational. But this was one educational experience I will never forget…definitely better than sitting in class trying not to fall asleep…
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My next stop was Startford-Upon-Avon. My new interest in acting naturally drew me to the birthplace of the bard himself, William Shakespeare. After the experiences I’ve been having lately I wondered if perhaps I’d meet the man himself…if I was going to see a ghost I wanted it to be an interesting one! I decided I’d carry out my faux-ghost hunt at Shakespeare’s birthplace. This is a big Tudor style house. It was interesting to see how people lived back then. I can safely say I like being in this century, with electricity, running water & modern plumbing!
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I didn’t run into any spirits but I did meet a nice troupe of actors. Their job is to perform scenes from Shakespearse’s vast collection of works (he wrote ????????? !) in the house’s garden by request. Kindly they let me try my hand at a few scenes. Shakespeare is not an easy thing to tackle and my memory is not as good as the professionals, but I muddled through. I even earned a few applause from the crowd, although they could have just been applauding the attempt and not the actual quality of the performance.

In the end this is as close as I got to meeting Mr. Shakespeare:
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Oh and just for fun, here’s me and Hamlet:
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Positioned coviently close ot Stratford is Warwicks Castle. It is a real medieval castle that has been converted into an almost theme park like attraction. There are exhibits and shows, and even a dragon encounter. I personally was interested in watching the castle knights at work. After a show of jousting the began to battle with swords, bows & axes. I cheered along enthusiastically with the rest of the crowd…maybe a little too enthusiastically… Before long they were asking for volunteers and I was being dragged up into the fray of the ancient style battle. My movie stunt training was not near enough to pull me through but my time training with Robin Hood helped a lot. In the end our side of the fight was victorious and I like to think that it was partially because of me. People tend to underestimate a man of my size!
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Ater all that craziness I really just needed a break…a guy can only take so much! I found some peace & relaxation in Bath. This town was founded by the Romans over 2000 years ago…yes another ancient city. They built here because of the miraculous hot water that seemed to sprout from the earth. The hot springs they discovered have been used for thousands of year. Over a thousand years after the Romans left, the Kings & Queens of England decided they wanted to sit & splash in the natural hot water (and heal…they believed the water had healing powers). And if the royals were doing it, so was everyone else….and now so am I! Although you can’t still go in the original baths today, check out the green water…
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…you can visit the Thermea Spa just down the road. After my visit I will be ready for any adventures life throws at me!

Keep Smilling,
Doug

IgPat

It was a dark and spooky night on the docks of Cambridge. It was here that our heroines first encountered The Witch. Herding them and 3 others onto a punt she bewitched a fine young fellow to push them down the river. As they glided through the water the ladies tried to master their fear enough to gaze upon the backs of the fine colleges that lined the banks. These were the same school the maidens had seen the fronts of on their turn about town earlier in the day. Drawing courage, they did hear many tales of death and spirit alike. They gazed upon many a bridge but none so important as one “Cam Bridge” for it is that fine feet of engineering that doth gave this town it’s name. One spin chilling tale told of a severed head that did change hands many a time. When The Witch was satisfied that their work on the river was done she commanded of her new young minion to dock the boat in a location most unfriendly. Then the group did wander through the streets by the faint orange glow of the streets lights. Here more storise unfolded as the fair maidens followed in an eerie trance. Past grave yard and darkened church the sinister group did travel, hearing a haunting tale of hangings and handsome suitors unable to escape the closet that did trap them. Be alas our heroines did come to escape The Witch in the end, once they had been warned that everyone’s time is slowly ticking away…..
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(To sum up, the tour was quite good. We got to ride in a punt and learn some fun historical facts about the town and the colleges, all mixed together with some good ghosts stories. It was also worth it just to walk down all of the old spooky streets at night when it was only lit by the street lamps.)
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Today our heroines learned that their first trip was not a fluke, rail riding in Britian really is that easy. We planned out our journey to Nottingham yesterday so all we had to do this morning was hop on the train and go. Getting off the train in Nottingham, there was only one thing we wanted to see: the Robin Hood statue. This was surprisingly easy to find, which was good since we carried our backpacks the entire time. In case your wondering it can be found on Maid Marion Way, just off Friar Lane 🙂 The statue was located right next to Nottingham castle so we got to check it out too. The castle was built by William the Conquerer (what else was built by William the Conquerer? Bonus point for the first person to comment with the correct answer) and looks like a REALLY old medieval building.
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Now we’re going to teach you something about train ridin’. People can reserve seats on the train or you can just get the ticket, hop on and find a free seat. We knew this and have so far chose not to reserve any seats as it costs a bit extra (like on an airplane sometimes). On all of our trains so far we’ve just found a seat with no reservations and off we went. But on our way from Nottingham to York the trains were awfully full of reservations and people who had got on and sniped the seats at stations before us. So now we know what riding the train sitting on your bag in an entry way is like. Justine found a seat halfway through the journey but Kristin found her bag was rather comfortable and just settled herself in for the ride. We spent more of our train time today writing in our journals, although we did play cards for a while. The guys seated behind Justine were trying to help Kristin cheat.
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Our hostel here is a YHA (Youth Hostel Association) hostel just like our one in Cambridge, so the two are quite similar. This one seems a bit bigger and were in a 4 person room this time (instead of 6). So far we don’t have any roommates, but we’ll see when we get home. The hostel also has a good laundry room, which is good because we decided today would be an ideal laundry day. We’re here more than one night so our sweaters can hang dry…plus we’re getting close to the end of our supply of underoos (Was that an over share?)

Tomorrow we go out to explore York! Spoiler Alert! Vikings!

Random Observations:
– There are a lot of wasps in Britain…Dylan Beware! But no mosquitos!
– Not everyone staying in hostels is a young person…over the last two days we have seen old people, middle aged people and families with small children as well.

What we Learned Today:
– Justine realized the Victorian Era would be named after Queen Victoria…*slow clapt* hey! I’d just never thought of it that way before!

Highlights of the Day:
1. Being Robin Hood 🙂
2. Kristin doing her makeup in the hallway of the hostel so she could sit by Ignatius Patrick (aka IgPat) (aka iPad) could charge…as we had no outlets in our room…

Love, Luck & Laundry
K&J