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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I mean, the natives were there, but before we showed up they were like “Where are we?”

Today we started our day with a turn in Hyde Park. This area is where the Sandeman’s New Europe Free Walking Tour started, but we were there early and needed to kill some time. We did this by walking through the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland…but we will give you more details on that when we do a more complete visit (sometime in the next 2 days). For now, enjoy these photos as a teaser:
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Our Sandeman’s tour met beneath the Wellington Arch. This sits off the south-east corner of Hyde Park and Green Park and was built to commemorate British victories during the Napoleonic Wars.
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The first exciting tour moment was when we passed Buckingham Palace and caught part of the Changing of the Guards. It was crazy busy, but we maneuvered our way into an ok view. It wasn’t the most exciting thing, but we’re glad we got to see this iconic London attraction. This ceremony is performed everyday (only odd days in the off season) and lasts for about 40 minutes. But don’t worry! The guards don’t have to stand there for one or two days straight…the guards actually change every 2 hours, just without the huge spectacle. Hilariously, the band doesn’t just play marching tunes…as we were leaving the area we heard them strike up the James Bond theme. We’re told they’ve been known to do songs from a variety of movies & tv shows, including the Star Wars themes at inappropriate times (like when the Saudi president pulls up…opps!).
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We were excited when we stopped outside a palace that we hadn’t seen yet. St. James’s Palace is one of London’s oldest palaces. It was commissioned by Henry VIII. Interestingly, two of his children died here. It is still a working palace even though no monarch has lived there in over two centuries. Today the Royal Court is formally based at the palace and it forms a large complex of Court offices and officials’ apartments.
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Other than that, the tour pretty much covered things we had already seen. However, we got to hear a few new anecdotes, it was nice to walk past all of the major sites again and there were a few places that were Christmas-a-fied, such as Westminster Abbey:
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We did a post-tour break at Costa Coffee. This is actually the top coffee chain in Britian and we enjoyed a lovely hot beverage and snack while warming up.
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The afternoon activity of choice was the National Portrait Gallery. We talked about this on our first visit in the post “Fish and Chops”. We’d been rushed by closing last time and had missed the modern floor. This time that’s where we started. The gallery is really interesting in how there will be 3 portraits side by side, one of the William & Harry (aka the Princes), one of the guy who first statistically linked smoking & lung cancer, and one of Keira Knightley (the actress), and none of them gets any more or less attention. There was an interesting exhibit chronicling the progression of actresses from their beginning as ladies of questionable nature to the well publicized and much honored women they are today. This set of portraits really highlighted how amazing the cast of the Harry Potter movies was…there were probably about 50 actresses shown and at least 10 of them had acted in some part of the series. When we’d seen the modern era we moved backwards through history, re-examining the portraits of so many famous Brits (and people of other nationalities that had lived important lives in Britian). We ended with our favorite section: the Tudors.

For supper we indulged in delicious meat pies (chicken & mushroom to be exact) with mash and a beer. Justine had a Strongbow and it was a Fullers local London brew for Kristin. British pub food is just the best. And after months of having to ask & wait 8 hours for our bill it is nice to pay when you order and have it done with early…for those of you who don’t understand that, in British pubs you order at the bar and pay right away. Your food is then delivered to you when it’s cooked and you can just leave when you finish. It’s a good set up for a place that is also a bar and can have people drinking before or after they eat or not eating at all.
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The evening featured a walk through Trafalgar and a bit of souvenir shopping. Then we blog posted and planned out what was left to do in the next two days…only two days left…craziness…

And it’s question time, as this is now becoming a daily thing! Today we are looking for everyone’s favorite post title…did it make you laugh? leave you scratching your head and wishing for an explanation? Either way, which title did you like best?

What We Miss:
Justine – Having a big cup of well made coffee in the morning…and another one if I want one.
Kristin – Ordering a steamed milk and not being looked at like I’m a nut case…and not being charged for a latte (just with no coffee).
Both of Us – Tim Hortons! We are addicts in withdrawal!

Love, Luck & Last Walking Tour,
K&J