July 3, 2011

Day 2- London: Churchill War Rooms, Camden Market, London Eye

We woke up this morning feeling much better than yesterday, thanks to NOT taking a nap yesterday.  After breakfast at the hotel, we hopped on the tube to meet our friend, Daniel.
Everyone, meet Daniel! (Allison's Note: Yay Daniel!)

Outside Westminster Abbey
I (Andrew) met Daniel in graduate school at Eastern Kentucky University.  We were both graduate assistants in the choral department, he was vocal performance and I was choral conducting.  Both of us being rather introverted and quiet individuals, it took us a good year of working together to really start our friendship.  I blame Allison :-)  (Um, here's the deal ...these guys din't talk.  Like, the entire first year they knew each other, and they worked in the same room.  Introverts!)  I think we started hanging out (talking) more after our supervising professor sent us on a campus-wide poster hanging adventure.  Good times. (Andrew came home and said, "So Daniel is really cool!") Anyway, Daniel is a voice professor and tenor extraordinaire at Kentucky Christian University (His voice is incredible!!) and has been to Houston two times just to visit us, which is a big deal because Houston a loooong way from Kentucky. 

(Sorry if I seem distracted…there is a VERY serious “define the relationship” talk going on between the couple at the table next to us at this coffee shop.  Moving on.)

Daniel was very excited for us when we told him all about this grant; in fact he really wanted to apply for his own grant, but college level teachers are not eligible.  Fresh from getting his tax return, he decided that he might like to meet us over here for part of our trip!  He will be with us off and on in London and for the whole time in York for the York Early Music Festival.  Awesome!

There wasn’t really anything at the City of London Festival today that applied, so we had a sight-seeing day.  We started at 9:30am with the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms – a bunker-looking door underneath the Royal Treasury Building.

This was pretty amazing – we did the audio tour again, but you need it more for the War Rooms than anything else.  The War Room complex was where Winston Churchill and all of the defense ministers, etc. ran the war for several years.  A lot of the people who worked there saw the sunlight for a really short time in the evening and went right back to the underground complex.  The hallways and rooms are just as they were when the place closed down in 1945, down to the wall paint, lights, and papers hanging on the walls.  It’s an interesting mix of old and new…in the middle of the building you suddenly come from authentic WWII hallways into a huge, modern looking room (it was like a giant Ipad): the Churchill Museum.  Great place – really detailed, interactive, and there were lots of artifacts around, particularly coats and jackets (The man had quite an affinity for uniforms.  And for alcohol.)  The Museum and War Rooms really make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the London bombings and Churchill’s life.
The main War Room - exactly as it was in 1945.  The rounded chair in the center was Churchill's.
Two odd-looking soldiers
Churchill has a LOT of good quotes!

Highly recommended!  After that – Camden Market!  Over to Allison!

Camden Market is a must if you visit London, especially is you’re a girl.  Or a goth.  Or have spikey hair.  Gold star for goth girls with spikey hair.  (no seriously… me and my flannel shirt were sticking out like a goth girl with spikey hair at an American Girl’s convention).  Anyway, Camden market is for shopping for stuff that you will never use again but feel strangely compelled to buy and wear while you’re there.  Spiked belts with chains that attach to your multiple face piercings?  British flag everything? (and we do mean everything…..).  Wait, you don’t have your cheek pierced?  Let’s remedy that. 

Andrew says that I’m making this sound awful, but honestly, this is one of my go-to stops in London.  I don’t think Andrew or Daniel were all that impressed (they’re too American and too preppy (Um, try too bored with shopping for 4 hours)), but I love it.  And since is the first time I’ve been to London since getting my nose pierced, I feel like I fit in quite nicely.  (She bought three more little nose thingies.)  (Selest, [band student] if you’re reading this, you would own this place!!!) 
You also get to do a fair bit of haggling here, which can be fun for a girl that grew up in Asia.  I’ve perfected the “just walk away” technique that always gets me another pound or two off the price.  Yes!  Andrew’s even better at this… I usually make him do the bargaining.  (This is an inherited trait from my Dad that I didn't know existed until I went to S.E. Asia.  Thanks, Dad!) 

The masses.  (The piercings!)

Fish who give you a foot massage!  Seriously!  (Massaging, eating your feet, whatever.)
It was like Narnia.
Camden is also awesome for food stalls (street food).  And it is delicious!!  Indian curries, Pakistani dishes, Mexican fajitas, fresh fruit juice stands, French pastries and Crepe stands galore, it is a foodie's paradise.

Daniel getting some awesomeness.
Everyone is yelling out for you to try out samples - it’s like HEB on Saturday morning... minus the shopping carts (and the SUVs...).  I had a savory crepe with cheese, mushrooms and ham for lunch, and finished it off with half of a cream filled monstrosity.  It was delectable.   (Agreed.  My lunch consisted of all the samples I could stuff my face with and the other have of that delectable cream filled monstrosity.)  

Yes folks, it merited two pictures.
After this adventure we did the London Eye.  The last time I was in London I didn’t do the Eye b/c I have an issue with heights.  My family has been really really annoying about this since so I decided that this would be a good time to get over it and just go up.  And for the record, it was pretty harmless the first third and last third of the trip.  The middle part is scary.  Like, top of the rollercoaster-about-to-dive-down-the-huge-drop-scary.  (It does drop down the other side!  At about a foot per minute :-)  I took pictures at the edge of the sphere until we got near the top, then I sat in the middle and contemplated my life.  And no kidding, thought about how many different ways I could die. 
1.        1) Our sphere thing could come loose and we’d all crash to the ground
2.        2) The lock on our sphere thing’s door would magically come loose and I’d be the one to fall.
3.       3) The floor would fall out from underneath of the place where I was taking a picture of Big Ben.
4.       4) The annoying couple on the other side of the sphere would get into a huge fight and knock the window out and I’d be sucked out the vortex.
(I have a feeling there were more than 4...she sat over there for a pretty long time.)

Yeah…. THIS is why I didn't go with my family last time.
I survived. Andrew gave me a hug.  

It's not as dark as it looks here
The pod full of hyper kids.  We just missed that one :-)
Not a bad view!

Tiny Ben!
Holding Tiny Ben!

See??   We don't lie on this blog!

We were going to have an amazing dinner, but it was closed today so we'll save it for another time.  After selecting another place and THAT being closed as well, we stopped into a pub for dinner near St. Paul's Cathedral that was started 5 years before our country was born.  How's that for history?!

Now that we are tired out, walked out, and goth-ed out, it's time for bed!  Good night!


  1. Sounds like a fun day! Now we can photoshop you into our family picture on the London Eye from out last trip!!

  2. Tyler L.7/03/2011

    hahaha!!! either i am such a blog-stalker, or you guys are hilarious (or both)!
    how convenient that the dinner place was closed..."oh well, i guess the pub will do :/"
    glad you guys are havin a great time!

  3. If you have a pic of Allison standing up on the Eye, we can photoshop it in to the 2008 family trip to London and finally bring comfort and resolution to that issue.... we even left an empty spot in the family picture for you!

  4. Oh yes, one more thing...don't forget to tell the Brits how wonderful the USA is today! Happy 4th!

  5. Brandon7/04/2011

    Great stuff! I am getting to relive last summer through your adventures so far. I'll look forward to continued updates.

  6. Your pictures are great! Attawaytogo.
    Keep up the good work. --MHP

  7. Love it!! We did the Eye at sunset when we were there, awesomeness, but I too had a few thoughts of ways to die... totally the floor falling out one. and a kid accidentally opening the door. mmhmm. There's a huuuuge building behind the Eye, that was where our hotel was! :)