Home Again, Home Again

June 25th, 2012 by Sarah

Sunday, June 24th

Headed home today!  I’m actually writing this on the airplane, because… nothing better to do.  Right now, we’re over the edge of Canada (I think) and there are mountains and glaciers and icebergs.  Kevin thinks there are seals.  I think he is crazy, but it’s very pretty in any case.  We’ve already had our lunch, which was quite tasty, and now we’re just sort of riding along.

We got mostly packed and printed our boarding passes last night, and woke up nice and early this morning, so we could make sure we got to the airport in plenty of time.  Checked our email… and the flight was delayed until 12:30ish.  Since everything was packed, and since not a whole lot would be open on a Sunday morning, even in London, we went and had a lazy breakfast, and then headed for Heathrow.  We decided to take the Tube, because it’s a straight shot from our closest tube station.  We got to the airport in plenty of time, and checked our bags in (we were a little worried they’d be heavy, but no problem!).  We got there a little before 10:30, which would have been two hours before the flight, but they still had not posted our gate number yet, so we wandered around the really big shopping area, until they finally told us to head for gate 18.  When the sign finally switched, it said “Go To Gate 18”, and there was a huge flood of people from the central area, so I think there were probably a number of people who hadn’t gotten the memo that the flight was delayed.  Our delays didn’t stop there, though.  We sat around in the gate for ages, and then on the tarmac while a small but very violent little storm went past.  Kevin says we took off around 2:30, finally.

It’s been a lovely trip, and just the perfect length.  We’re starting to run out of clean clothes, and we miss the Bean, but we’ve had a great time.  Once I have a chance, I’ll go back and add pictures to all of this, because we did take them!  Stay tuned!

Flying over Greenland! The glaciers and icebergs were very pretty

A whole ocean of icebergs! Beware, Titanic!

Maybe next time =)

Kentwell Hall

June 25th, 2012 by Sarah

Saturday, June 23rd

So, we had grand plans for today, that are probably not what anyone else in their right mind would have done.  There is, out in a town called Long Melford, a Tudor Hall called Kentwell.  And while the Hall is often open to tourists, on certain dates, they also do re-enactments of different time periods, ranging from Tudor all the way through WWII.  Saturday was a Tudor day!  Now, we’d heard about Kentwell because a lot of information about the daily life, artifacts and costume of average Tudors has been coming from people involved with Kentwell in the last few years.  We have a book, for example, on Tudor costume, from a woman at Kentwell.  So we had very high expectations for the awesomeness of this re-enactment.

Getting to Kentwell was an adventure in itself!  We took a train from London, which passed right by the Olympic Park (the torch looks cool!) out into the countryside.  We switched trains at a town called Marks Tey, and the train we switched onto was 1 car long!  It also sounded like a slightly sick lawnmower.  It was a lovely ride, though, especially because for most of it, we had the train basically to ourselves.  Hint to people traveling in the UK – book things online ahead of time!  It almost always results in a discounted rate and no waiting in freakishly long line.  Also, if anyone was thinking of going to the Olympics – it is going to be CHAOS.  It was chaos-y with not all of the Olympics going on, and I do not see how they are going to make it less so in a month.  Just saying.

On the train to Marks Tey!

We went right past where they Olympics are going to be. The torch looks pretty cool

The train from Marks Tey to Long Melford. It was literally one car long

When we finally got to Kentwell, we realized we were early, so we went for a wander in Long Melford.  We found an awesome path through the fields of flowers – they have these awesome step things for getting over fences that apparently, sheep can’t do – and a beautiful little church.  We also managed to find a used book sale, and an antiques rummage sale, both of which were fun to pick through.  Then we headed back up to Kentwell.

This was just one of many of these that we found – a step to get over the fence. So clever! And walking through the fields is lovely.

See?? Bean and Bailey would have LOVED it out here.

The first thing about Kentwell is that they encourage you to change your money from modern money into pennies, tuppence and groats (four pennies).  You don’t have to, but it did make it kind of fun to see things on sale for a penny.  When you first go through, you can see the brick manor house at the end of a long driveway, surrounded by lawns and a moat.  One thing that was pretty cool was that it wasn’t all packed into one place.  All of the people and things to see were very spread out, and you had to really wander around to see everything.  We started off in the forest, and saw people working the local clay on wheels to make pots and bowls and things, near where they were stoking up the fire for the kilns.  You definitely get the sense that everything that was being done was for a purpose – they actually used the stuff they made and did.  They had a farm yard, which contained stabled horses, and a wagon, as well as a young woman doing straw plaiting, and an old woman telling stories.  There was an encampment of a noble family and their retinue, including the younger sister of Lady Jane Grey.  They were there, of course, for the wedding happening tomorrow.

Kentwell Hall

Entering the manor gates. Kentwell Hall is in the background, and they are dancing in the front.

Woodcutters. Gotta say, the guy on the left was having some serious difficulty. I totally could have done it better. Hehehe

Making clay pots! The girl on the left was very funny. She had made her pot slightly too thin, and it was getting all wobbly. “When in doubt, put a spout!”

Spotty little piggle wiggles!

An encampment of nobles near the manor. Their dresses were pretty, and the little girl was adorable.

This guy made coats of arms! They looked really cool.

Cooking. Smelled GOOD

There were people playing with swords, which of course stopped Kevin cold for a good half hour, as he discovered that one of them was willing to talk about sharp pointy things with him.  There were also these gigantic, furry donkeys in a pen; I think they were Spanish, but they looked weird.  We found some of the arts and crafts as well – there were women working on making felt hats, and others who were dyeing fabric, as well as a large complement of spinners, weavers, carders and so on in the upstairs.  They do keep a flock of sheep, and since it’s just after shearing, the loft was full to the rafters.  Mind you, this is all before we’d even set foot in the main house, and we hadn’t even gone around to the other side.

Natural dyeing! They had a couple of pots going with different things, and a rainbow of yarn hung up.

Felting hats! As a side note – I tried this when we got home. Mine came out like some sort of sea creature. Will have to try again, I suppose.

A school for the children! They were working on their sums and letters, and a table off to the side was for playing games.

All together now: AWW!

In the main house itself, one of the central features is the daily dinner (lunch), which is prepared in the huge kitchens, and then presented and eaten by the nobles in the dining room.  They have a large company of men and boys who are the footmen to the table, setting it, and waiting it (as women were cheaper labor, it was a sign of wealth if you could have men to wait your tables).  There was an adjoining parlor where musicians were playing and someone was teaching a company of young ladies the latest dances.

The manor hall itself, with the moat and all. The moat didn’t go all the way around… Don’t really know why… Maybe just is extra fancy fish pond.

In the kitchen! I like kitchens.

Dance lessons in the parlor!

She was learning that one with all the leaping and being picked up.

Attached to the main house were the brewhouse, where they were working on a batch of ale.  No one drank water, ever, so beer and ale were very important because they were safe to drink – the brewing process killed all the bacteria and so on.  Not that they knew that, but it worked, so they did it.  There was also the bake house, with the huge oven in which all of the bread for everyone on the manor would have been baked, and the dairy for milk, butter and cheeses.  Upstairs was rooms dedicated to herbs, and where people were working on needlework.  Behind the manor, there was an enormous garden.  Now, it was pretty clear that the garden had been re- done in a sort of Victorian walled garden, but they had taken the different beds, and grown herbs and things of the Tudor period.  They were also very beautiful, and there was a peacock strutting around showing off for no one in particular.

In the dairy. The hangy things are cheeses (the whole place kind of smelled like cheese)

In the bakery! The oven is that giant brick thing behind her.


The gate through to the garden

Pretty herby flowers. I forget what these were, but they’re not lavender. Hrm..

In the gardens.

Good roses! I like this one, looks like peppermint

Madder plants! The roots of these plants are used for red dye. Kevin and I are thinking of letting them take over part of the garden, just for fun.

Show off!

Around the other side, and the front, there was an alchemists’ hut, and a stall selling fruit and fresh baked biscuits (cookies).  There were a several men recently returned from trade, with a greatly improved navigational map of the world, and a man in charge of creating and regulating coats of arms.  At around 3, because it was Midsummer, they had a big parade and bonfire, and afterwards there was dancing for everyone.  They had a couple of very fun very easy dances, as well as a significantly simplified version of Peascods.  All in all, it was a very good day, and when they kicked us out, we were surprised how fast time had gone.

The noble family watching the bonfire for Midsummer

Midsummer parade and bonfire! Afterward there was dancing!

The British Museum and Library

June 25th, 2012 by Sarah

Friday, June 22nd

Happy Birthday, Kevin!  You’re OLD!  Heehee!  Today was a day that Kevin and I were really looking forward to –  the British Museum!  We chose to do it today because 1.  It was supposed to rain all day (and mostly did) and it’s inside, and 2.  They’re open late on Fridays.  We headed out bright an early, and got to the museum nice and early.  We tried to develop a bit of a plan of attack, which was immediately stricken by massive crowds, so we headed upstairs instead.  It’s a very interesting museum, for several reasons.  Some of the galleries have quite clearly been renovated to be more up to date, especially some of the really popular ones, like the Egyptian rooms, but others definitely date from times gone by.  Some, like the room dedicated to the history of the museum itself, are cool that way.  It’s a giant room with glass front shelves to the ceiling, with an truly enormous collection of natural history and artifacts from every stage of human existence.  It felt very much like some sort of Darwinian explorer- naturalist’s collection.  Others are a bit old in the “haven’t been updated since the 80’s” sort of way, but despite fading displays, the fact remains that the collection of the British Museum is amazing.

Outside the British Museum

The museum is very cool looking on the inside.

The museum about the museum. I like this room. All shelves of artifacts and other awesome stuff


Some of it is cool in that it is totally unique –  we saw the Rosetta Stone, the Lindow Man, a hand axe believed to be one of the earliest ever made from Olduvai Gorge, and so on.  Some of it is cool because it’s hard to imagine just how old it really is, like the mummies preserved so well you can tell what color their wrappings were and so on.  The mummies, btw, were pretty cool.  One of them came in 5 coffins, the largest of which was probably big enough to comfortably hold 3 or 4 people lying side by side.  HUGE!  Some of it, it’s hard to imagine how they got it there in the first place.  There are things like entire pillars out of Ancient Egyptian temples.  I can just imagine some British explorer in a pith helmet trying to get that thing loaded onto a ship – “Pish, tosh and nonsense!  It’s just a bit of souvenirs!  Something to remember the old country by.  It’ll load up a treat, there’s a good chap!”  There are also these gigantic entrance facades from some sort of Assyrian city or something, and again, I can’t imagine the truck/ boat/ plane/ people large enough to carry them.  Probably the most mind boggling is the Roman mosaics.  They are, mostly, wall mounted in these gigantic frames that take up the entirety of a stairwell.  How do you move something like that?  In pieces?  One tesserae at a time?  Must be quite the job.

Giant Lion-y city guard-y thingies!

We saw the Parthenon as well, or rather, the bits of the Parthenon Friezes.  Those were probably less impressive than they should have been, just because they built this simply enormous room to hold them all, and they’re a bit dwarfed by their surroundings.  Also, they’re pretty beat up.  They were removed to the British Museum following something that nearly destroyed the building, and the guy was given emergency permission to take what he could, so that it was not further destroyed or robbed.  Unfortunately, he could have come a little sooner, as there are plenty of friezes missing heads and things, with the little tag that says that Lord such and such, or Mr. so and so has it in their private collection since 18-whatever it was.  Which brings us to another thing Kevin and I found a bit funny about the British Museum – the stuff they stole.  The prime example of this is a bit of a stone Codex, which is a small cylinder of stone, carved with cuneiform on the outside.  It’s believed by many to be one of the first writings about the rights of man (which it’s apparently not, really) but in any case, this thing has come to be of great importance in Iran.  They put it on their coinage and such, and the tag with the Codex had an explanation of how, several years ago, it was lent to the Iranians, to be put on display, but then they took it back, and gave them a replica instead, so they could continue to care for it.  Now, some of this sort of protective attitude, I believe.  I mean, with the unrest in some of these places, who can say what will happen to some of the treasures in their museums. But there are definitely things in the British Museum whose original owners are probably more than capable of taking care of them.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the future.

The Parthenon Room

One of the Parthenon Statues

A helmet from Sutton Hoo, a very important archaeological find

Another thing that was fascinating in the Museum were the hoards.  A hoard is a very specific thing in the UK – if you find a certain amount of metal artifacts or Neolithic artifacts, you have to tell the government.  Now, that still ends very well for you, because even if you are not allowed to keep your findings, you are still paid half the value of the collection as assessed by people who are not trying to buy it from you cheap.  The other half goes to the owner of the land you found it on.  Some of the things people have found is CRAZY, and reading the ways in which people find this stuff is wild.  For example, a 9 year old was digging, and unearthed a silver platter two feet across.  Someone was plowing, and hit a sack full of metal (mostly silver) household goods from the 15th century.  People have found hundreds of Roman coins, the remains of a Roman jewelry store, Anglo Saxon arms and armor, just about anything you could think of.  There were entire rooms dedicated to hoards some no one dug up.  All I can say is, if I ever actually lived in England, I’d totally own a metal detector.

We took a break halfway through the day to get some lunch, and also to visit the British Library.  The collections at the British Library are not open to the public, much in the same way that you can’t go check anything out of the Library of Congress.  However, the British Library does have a display of rare, interesting and valuable books.  Like… the Magna Carta.  Yeah.  And one of the Gutenberg Bibles, and Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches, and original copies of “Yesterday” where the Beatles were writing in the lyrics.  There was also Shakespeare’s First Folio, and a bunch of illuminated texts and Bibles from all over the world.  Pretty cool stuff.

By the time we headed back to the British Museum, it was already well afternoon, so it’s a very good thing they were open late!  There were a few of the Greek rooms that were closed for renovation, but we did make it through the entire museum!  When we finally left, it was after 7, and we were hungry!  We decided to head back toward the tube station, and see if we could find anything along the way.  Lucky for us, right next door to the Holborn tube station was an AMAZING Korean restaurant.  At the street, it’s literally just a door; the whole restaurant is in the basement.  So good it was!  They brought burners to the table, and cooked right there, and we even got seconds on this noodle dish because we’d eaten the first one so fast.  It made a pretty perfect birthday dinner for Kevin, and both of us were stuffed to the gills, but totally happy.  Couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the day.


Literally, it’s this door, and then the tube station is out of the picture to the right. So tasty!

Riding the Bus and the Wallace Collection

June 25th, 2012 by Sarah

Thursday, June 21st

Today it POURED.  Seriously.  I saw an underground sign the other day that was like, “40 days and 40 nights of rain, and the Bible called it a flood.  The British call it summer!”  So true…  Anyway, today we decided to take the bus tour of London.  We figured it would get us around to any place we hadn’t seen yet, and let us take a bit of a break from walking for miles.  Getting on was quite easy, because there’s a stop right outside our local Underground (Gloucester Road, btw).  The bus’ upper deck is mostly open, but there is a front section that is under a cover, so we sat up there.  Lucky that we did, because pretty much as soon as the we got going, it started to rain.  We rode it for a short way to Baker Street, and then jumped off to go to the Wallace Collection.

Yes, that Baker Street. Did you really think we wouldn’t stop by?

Come, Watson! The game is afoot!

On our very first day in London, Kevin went rushing off the the Wallace Collection for a seminar thing about (you guessed it) swords, but he hadn’t had time to see everything he wanted to see, so we stopped by.  It’s an interesting place.  In the front, there are a few rooms decorated and so on with antiquities, but what Kevin was really interested in was their collection of arms and armor, including a whole thing of rapiers.  I have to admit, some of that stuff is gorgeous, and regardless of whether the aesthetics have stood the test of time, you have to admire the skill that went into making some of these things.   Even just putting together a functional suit of armor in that day and age, let alone one that is decorated is just impressive.  And wearing them!  They weigh 50,000 pounds!  I can’t imagine how a person could move around in that, let alone a horse wearing it’s own armor, and carrying a battle tank on its back.  Makes the whole jousting thing just that much more impressive.

Armor! Rar!


This was a suit of clothes made to go with a sword as part of parade dress. Both the outfit and the sword are very very pretty, but personally, I don’t think they go THAT well. I wonder if the color of the fabric has faded…

This sword! (their picture, mine was not good…)

After a short break at the Wallace Collection, we walked down Union Street to meet up with the bus again.  Nowhere in London has reminded me so much of somewhere else.  There have been a few time where I was like, oh, that looks like so and so, but Union Street could have been ripped straight out of New York City, save the very large Union Jacks strung up all over.  The same stores, the same look, everything.  Kind of weird, really.  We met up with the bus again, and got ourselves up on top again, under the awning, because it was still intermittently raining on us like crazy.  We also had a live guide, and we decided to ride the bus around the whole loop, and see where we ended up.  After a couple of stops, we were able to move to the very front!

We went over Tower Bridge, and by the houses of Parliament and Westminster, and through the newer areas of town to see the Gherkin and the Shard (buildings).  The guide was entertaining, and had a lot of fun local history to share about a lot of the stuff we passed on the way, so even though we spent a fair bit of time in traffic, it was still useful.  I have to say, I was kind of impressed with how much ground Kevin and I had actually managed to cover.  By the time we took the tour, we’d been inside a lot of the places pointed out, especially the historical buildings.  A lovely way to get out on a rainy day.

On the Bus!


The London Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral and PHANTOM!

June 22nd, 2012 by Sarah

Wednesday, June 20th

Today was awesome!  We headed first thing for Leicester Square, so we could get our tickets for Phantom of the Opera (yay!).  Then we went to the Museum of London.   We really only wanted to go to the Museum of London because they have one of Kevin’s favorite pieces of clothing – a leather jerkin from the 1600’s.  But, when we got in there, it turned out to be a really cool museum.  It was arranged chronologically, so we started out with some of the very first settlers to the area  Turns out, this particular bend in the river has been popular a long time, and they have found everything from hand axes through Bronze Age swords and Iron Age offerings.  Incidentally, Bronze Age stuff is a lot better made than I though it would be.  Partly, I think, because it holds up better over time, so it still looks all shiny and new and sharp, but their work was pretty impressive.  They’ve also found evidence of what would be the first ever London bridge, which was a length of pilings hammered into the riverbank, with a deck sort of lashed on.  Cool stuff.

Iron age swords and shields! The cool part is, all of this stuff is from London, so you’re really getting a window into one place, at that particular time.

From there, we went through the Roman period, where London (Londinium) got its name, and a lot of the infrastructure.  See, even though the Romans had basically gone when the medieval people got here,  a lot of their buildings and foundations and roads and so on remained, and the medieval people just went and built on top of a lot of it.  Some of the artifacts that they have found from these early time periods are really impressive, in that they have survived this long.  For example, they had this hairnet, essentially, from the medieval period, and it was almost totally intact.  Apparently, the London clay is really good for preserving things, because it doesn’t allow much oxygen in.  Anyway, we found Kevin’s favorite jerkin, which is a really well preserved article of clothing.  It’s punched all over with little tiny stars and hearts, and in general looks pretty cool.   They even had a reproduction of it out that you could put on and touch and things like that.

The leather jerkin!

And the version to try on. It fit Kevin surprisingly well

16th century eating and cooking stuff


I like this jug. That is all.

We continued through the time periods, ending up in Modern London, and then out the doors into actual modern London.  The museum is pretty close to St. Paul’s cathedral, so we headed there next.  St. Paul’s was built, or rather, rebuilt, after the great fire of 1666.  Christopher Wren was the architect in charge of its design and building, as well as that of some 50 odd other churches in the area.  Some of the things he did were pretty cool.  For example, he wanted an impressively tall dome on St. Paul’s, that could be seen from many different places, but he wanted the inside to look well balanced.  So there are actually two domes on St. Paul’s – a tall one on the outside, and a shorter one inside, and this weird cone thing in between holding them both up.  If someone didn’t tell you about it, you would never know.

In St. Paul’s, they let you go into a lot of places, if you are willing to climb stairs.  So we started out on the floor of the cathedral, wandered around there for a bit.  This audio guide was via iPod, which was cool, but it definitely wasn’t the best audio guide ever.  They seem to have gotten the idea that since they had lots of space, they should fill it!  The commentaries were a bit… long.  Anyway, we wandered around, saw where shrapnel in WWII had punched a hole in the wall, saw the truly awesome mosaics on the ceilings, and then headed up into the dome.  The first level, right inside the dome, is called the Whispering Gallery, because you can whisper and someone on the other side can hear it, because of the shape.

Then, we decided to head up one more level, to the outside of the outer dome.  This was achieved by yet more (increasingly narrow, stone spiral) stairs.  There is a balcony all around the outside, and you can get a really good view of the city.  But!  There was still one more level up.  This time, we were climbing a metal staircase, in that space between the upper and lower domes.  There were a couple places where the ceiling was so low, they had put plastic things to prevent you from braining yourself.  About halfway up, there was a tiny, foot square little window, that looked down into the cathedral.  Definitely vertigo inducing, if you didn’t have it already from all the spirals.  Finally, we were on the balcony surrounding the spire of the cathedral, on top of the dome.  The views were TOTALLY worth the climb, and it was cool to see all the different landmarks and things in all directions.  All told, I’m pretty sure it was in the neighborhood of 530 stairs.

Hello, London!

Looking down from the second level

Us on the tippy top!

The view across the Thames. That’s the Millennium Bridge, and the Globe is right across the river and to the left a bit. 

Downtown London, the Financial District

The rest of St. Paul’s itself.

So, most of the way up to the top of the dome, there was a tiny window in the floor. In the reflection of the glass you can see the spiral staircases we have yet to climb, and in the very middle – that’s the floor of St. Paul’s. Waaay down there.

Tiny stairs! Tiny!

And spirally. Was definitely getting dizzy on the downward journey

When we made it all the way back down, we decided to keep going down into the crypt.  The crypt is interesting because it is where all of the people are buried, unlike at Westminster where you can’t move for standing on someone’s memorial.  So Wren himself is down there, and Wellington, and Nelson and so one.  They are so comparatively modern to the ones in the other churches and things, it was weird.  Nevertheless, definitely a beautiful place to visit.

After St. Paul’s, we headed back to our little apartment, to have dinner and get ready to see Phantom!  The show is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, which is old enough to have been His Majesty’s Theatre, and Phantom is currently in its 25th year playing at this theatre.  We kind of thought that on a Wednesday night it wouldn’t be too crowded, but the theatre was TOTALLY full.  The theatre is the sort of very tall, rather shallow kind, where all of the seats are in balconies of one sort or another, practically hanging over the stage.  I think we were in the third of five levels.

Her Majesty’s Theatre

Yay for Phantom!

It was a very fun show.  Kevin had never seen it before, outside of the terrible movie that came out a few years ago.  Christine and the Phantom were very good, and the staging was excellent.  Kevin tried to buy some candy at the interval, and came back with JellyBabies, which are these extremely strange candies.  They are rather waxy on the outside, and then like soft gumdrops in the middle.  When it  was over and we left, we both had songs stuck in our heads for the rest of the night.  So fun!

Westminster and the War Rooms

June 19th, 2012 by Sarah

Tuesday, June 19th

Lots more today!  We decided to head for the center of town today, and hit some of the major sights.  We stopped by Portobello Road in the morning, but we mis- timed it, and nothing much was open, so we’re going to try again on Thursday if we have time.  Then, we went to town!  We walked by the Houses of Parliament first, but they were closed to the public, so we headed to Westminster.  Westminster Abbey is HUGE, though I must say, I think it’s bigger on the outside.   We started out with the audio tour, which is interesting, but you definitely have to make sure that you also look around, or you’ll miss things.  We didn’t get too far, though, before it was time to head to Buckingham!

The Houses of Parliament. They are… spikey.

Big Ben (from very close up) Technically it’s not actually Big Ben, either. Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the tower, not of the tower itself or of the clock.

Not so close!

Outside Westminster Abbey

It really is a very beautiful building

We wanted to see the Changing of the Guard, so we left Westminster (though definitely planning to be back) and went to Buckingham.  As we got closer, the crowds of people started to get thicker and thicker.  We saw that the guards in the nearby guardhouse thing had started to line up to be inspected and so on, so we hurried over.  Of course, the gates of Buckingham, and the statue opposite and all were about 20 people deep at this point, but we spotted a wall off to the left of the palace, about 8 feet high, and climbed up.  It was a pretty good vantage point!  We got a great view of the guards as they processed in (2 groups with a band, and then the Horse Guards).  Couldn’t see much when hey got into the gates, though, but had a great time listening to the music, sitting in the sun, and watching all the people.  Heavens, were there a lot of people.  From everywhere, too!  London in general, I think, has been the place where I’ve heard the most different languages all in one place.   After about 15 minutes, they all processed out again, and we scrambled down and off.

The guards, the guards! These are actually the replacement guards, getting inspected.

The view towards St. James Park, and the circle. The replacement guards came down this road. Interesting, except for the rather brief times when the guards were actually walking on this road, they didn’t close it.

Buckingham Palace! And 1 million people…

We made a couple of detours before heading back to Westminster.  First, the Guards had a little museum attached to the guard house, so we took a quick tour though.  It was interesting, and the guards are a lot more than I thought.  There are four or five divisions, and they not only wear large and poncy hats, but they are also part of the actual army, and their history is quite long.  Then, as we headed back toward Westminster, we decided that food was definitely in order.  That would have been great, except that apparently, food is not a thing to be had in that particular area.  I mean, I’m sure it was there somewhere, but in all our walking around, we hadn’t seen any.  Weirdly, food booths or trucks don’t seem to be a thing here, which is sort of a shame, because they have the PERFECT parks for it.  Oh well.  =).

A view of Buckingham Palace from a bridge in St. James park. It looks much prettier this way

The London Eye!

There were all of these drowned umbrellas. i thought it was funny

A stripey drowned umbrella!

This duck is all ‘My Island! Mine!” There were lots of ducks and swans and things


Wellington Arch. Interesting, used to be smack in front of Buckingham Palace, was moved to where it is now, smack in the middle of a little park. Seems like a bit of a let- down

So, instead of wandering aimlessly, we got on the Tube and went to Chinatown!  It sounded like fun to us.  It’s right by Leichester Square, which is a very cute little area (We also investigated show tickets!  More on that in days  to come!)  Anyways, we went around a bit, though the little Chinatown, and found a place to get lunch.  The Chinese food here is definitely not the best I’ve ever had, but it got us refreshed, and on our way back to Westminster Abbey.

Chinatown, near Leicester Square

In the Abbey, there were a few things we thought were particularly cool.  It was very interesting to see all of the monuments and so on, particularly the ones of Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots.  Elizabeth’s memorial is this huge thing, with an effigy and a carved canopy and gilt everywhere and so on, right?  Well, since she died childless, the throne went to James I, son of Mary Queen of Scots (whom Elizabeth had imprisoned for 19 years and then executed)  Well, when James took the throne, he wanted to make sure that the memorial to his mother was every bit as grand and spectacular as that of Elizabeth, so he had her remains moved to Westminster, and commissioned a giant memorial for her, too, opposite Elizabeth’s.  We also saw the memorials of a number of different queens and kings, including a few Henry’s, and several of the Jameses.  The poets’ corner was also pretty cool, just because there are so many.  There are ones you would expect, like Shakespeare (whose remains are actually in Stratford) and Chaucer and Dickens and Handel and so on, but then there are so many I didn’t recognize.  Makes you wonder what their great works were, curious to read some of it.  Or listen to it.  Or whatever.

Farther on, we made it into the Abbey museum, where we discovered something AWESOME – the wax effigies of royalty, including Elizabeth.  The effigies were made shortly after the monarch’s death, and their purpose was to stand in for the actual body for things like being carried on top of the coffin, for which a slightly aging corpse is unsuited.  The cool part is, they were usually dressed in the clothes that actually belonged to the person, so the one for Elizabeth includes one of the best preserved corsets from that time period in existence.  It’s cool stuff.

We also saw the memorials to a few other notables, particularly Darwin and Galileo.  Read this awesome book about Galileo recently, called Galileo’s Daughter.  It was particularly cool to see the tomb after having read the book.  After Westminster, we went on to the Churchill War Rooms, which is a museum about Churchill built into the WWII bunkers under the city, from where the war was waged.  It was interesting, especially because they have managed to re- create a lot of the rooms to how they were, and collect recordings from people who actually worked in the rooms.  The stuff about Churchill in general was slightly less interesting, but still.  It was an excellent end to a long day.


June 19th, 2012 by Sarah

Monday, June 18th

Busy day today!  Our main focus of today was the Tower of London.  We took the tube over, just a short ride, though it was crowded.  Serves us right, I suppose, for going during what is probably here peak commute.  I think that if we had gone at 9 in the US, the majority of the rush would be over.  Not here, though.  We arrived a bit too early for the Tower opening, so we decided to go for a walk while we waited.  We went over Tower Bridge, which is very pretty, and down the side of the Thames, which is less so.  We were trying to decide whether it was high or low tide (it was lowish), and happened to walk past a replica of the Golden Hinde, which was Sir Francis Drake’s ship.  It’s up on dry dock at the moment, and they were doing some mysterious but extremely loud something to it on the far side.  Kevin and I have surmised that they were blasting the barnacles off, or something.  In either case, it looked quite piratical, and at the same time, very silly, because it’s quite bulbous below the waterline.  Can’t imagine 100 people living on the ship for any length of time.  WAY too small for that kind of thing.  We wandered around a bit more, and then decided that it was time to head back towards the Tower, so we crossed back on the London Bridge, which is unspectacular, but it’s nice that there are so many bridges.  You don’t have to go far, that’s for sure.

The Tower from the river side

Looking down the river toward London Bridge.

On Tower Bridge

From Tower Bridge, you could see the walled- up entry to Traitor’s Gate (dun dun DUN!)

Tower Bridge, and a rather overly dramatic sky.


The Tower was really great.  To anyone planning a visit – buy your tickets online, and no one even asked for a student ID.  Just saying.  The one place that did ask, had no problem whatsoever with my totally out of date grad student ID.  We headed straight for the White Tower when we got inside, as there was a tour thing we were interested to catch.  There was momentary confusion as we asked for the tour meeting place (“Chapel, on the first floor”) and ran out of first floor before finding a chapel.  Luckily, we remembered that first floor does not in fact mean “the floor first to the ground” here, but “floor that is first above the ground floor”, so we got there in time.  Our tour was a mostly private tour (just because no one besides us an two other people showed up, even though there were plenty of people around), so our guide Jennifer got to show us a lot of cool stuff.

So, the White Tower is the oldest bit of the Tower of London.  It was built on top of the foundations of an existing Roman fort, and was a living space, but was also definitely defensive, as its builder had enemies foreign, domestic and related.  The tower was apparently built by people who did not speak the same language as the people they were building it for, so in the chapel there are some interesting details that scholars have interpreted as instructions to the builders – this is a chapel, make it pretty, that sort of thing.  There are also a lot of details about the building that are designed to make it more fortified.  One that Jennifer showed us were the fireplaces.  They have a very odd chimney shape, which is intended to filter the smoke through smaller and smaller channels, so that by the time it gets to the outside, it would be nearly invisible to enemies.  They would look for a sign that the king was home, see no smoke and move on, that style of thing.

Secret fireplaces of secret! oooh…

One of the other things that I thought was really interesting was the main staircase.  It was a fairly small spiral staircase, but one of the things they did to make the castle even more impenetrable was that all of the stairs are different heights.  They’re called trip stairs, because if you’re madly charging the castle, you’re probably not going to notice that one stair is 3 inches high, and the other is 8, causing much chaos.  Even now, the Tower only lets people go down them, not up, so they don’t kill themselves.  The Tower’s defenses are so good it has only been breached once – by a rabble of peasants trying to behead a bishop named Simon for an evil tax.  The guards didn’t like the tax either, so they let down the drawbridge.  Also, we learned why there are so few ravens at the Tower these days – Charles II put a royal astronomer in the top of the White Tower to try to make better maps for sailors.   But the flock of ravens, then 100 strong, was getting into his equipment, and generally making his life difficult.  So, he asked to king to get rid of them, but he couldn’t because of the curse thing that if all the ravens leave, the monarchy will fall.  So they compromised by keeping 10 ravens, and clipping their wings so they couldn’t fly up and make trouble in the astronomy tower.

One of the ravens of the Tower. Legend says that if the ravens ever leave the Tower, the monarchy will fall. Well, right after the Restoration, the king installed his royal astronomer in one of the tallest parts of the White Tower. The astronomer soon complained that the ravens, which numbered in the hundreds, were pooing on, and pecking at, and generally destroying his telescopes because they were shiny. Problem is, the newly restored king didn’t want to tempt fate by getting rid of them, so he ordered all but 8 to be chased away, and had the remaining 8 clipped so they couldn’t fly up and bug the astronomer. That’s why they don’t have many, and their wings are clipped. Though, these days apparently they keep spares. Just in case.

The White Tower has been used for various things since its construction, such as storage, housing the treasury, housing the Royal Mint, and of course, housing prisoners.  Now, it’s basically a museum.  It has some of the arms and armor from the various kings who used it, especially King Henry VIII.   It’s funny, we saw some of his armor that was at the Royal Armory at Leeds, and in his youth, he was probably a very fine figure of a man.  But the Tower has a set from his last hosted joust – heavens, but he’d gotten fat!  The armor was HUGE!  And they don’t even know that he competed in that tournament, given his health and age.

Henry the 8th I am, I am!

When we finally made our way out of the White Tower (after being let down the secret back staircase by Jennifer)  we went to see the crown jewels.  There wasn’t much of a line outside the building, and though there were lots of people, it moved along well.  The thing that really gets me about all of the collection were these little tags every now and then – “In Use”.  I mean, some of the stuff was very beautiful, and all of it was over the top crazy valuable, you can tell. And then – someone is using it!  Someone has called the place with the crown jewels and said “Hey!  Can I borrow that tiara for this dance I’ve got on Sunday?? Thanks!”  and then that is that.  That part is hard to imagine.

Outside where they keep the crown jewels. No cameras allowed inside…

We also manage to find a rather smaller collection of the crown jewels hidden away in one of the outer towers.  There were two crowns there, both very interesting.  One was a crown from like, George somebody, but Victoria (I think – maybe Elizabeth II) had had a new crown made, which used all the jewels from the old one.  So this one – all of the silver and all of the mountings are still there, but it was empty of jewels. Looked pretty cool.  The other one was a crown for I-can’t-remember-who, who first had backless jewel settings.  Well, dude apparently LOVED him some diamonds, and the crown was made to hold some 12,300 and some odd diamonds.  Well, the royal family doesn’t own that many diamonds, so they were borrowed, and given back two years later.  So the crown is like, a spiderweb of silver, into which there would have been stuffed a simply obscene quantity of diamonds.  I actually think it would have been pretty.

As we came out of the secret jewel room, we decided that it was time for food. However, our journey to food was rudely interrupted by a man and a woman in costume, carrying on about something in loud voices.  Since we are totally suckers for people in costume, we decided to stick around.  Well, they were doing a thing about  what was happening with a group called the 5th monarchists, who believed that Charles II should be replaced… by King Jesus.  In other words, they believed that in 1666, it was going to be the second coming of Christ, and everyone should be prepared.  The little gig was HILARIOUS.  There was one guy who was playing the Lord Mayor of London, and he was all pompous and silly, and then there was a Monarchist who had snuck into the Tower, and then there was a woman wrongly imprisoned for accidentally attending a 5M meeting (“But they offered me a warm place to sit down, and a piece of cake!  I didn’t know what I was doing!  I was there for the cake!”  Lord Mayor: “Hrm, sounds like my wedding…”  “What?”  “Oh!  Nothing!”)  They had us divide up, totally randomly, into people who were just visiting the Tower for no reason at all, really, and innocent prisoners, falsely accused.  We stuck with the innocent prisoners, and were told that our freedom was at hand! – as long as we were willing to spy on the 5th monarchists and report back to the Lord Mayor.  So we spied on the meeting, after having identified ourselves via secret hand sign, and found out that there was a plot, supposed to go down on October 3rd, 1666, in which we were to kill the king, murder the Lord Mayor, kill the Horse Guards in their sleep and set fire to the city (which we duly reported back).

Now here’s where it gets a bit eerie  – this is basically how it really happened, with people infiltrating the tower, and wrongly accused and imprisoned, and made to spy.  And because there were so many spies, this plot was uncovered long before anything could come of it.  HOWEVER – the great fire of London, the one that leveled some ¾ of the city, and supposedly started by a baker’s accident –  started in the wee hours of the morning on October 2nd, 1666.  Accident or plot, we’ll never know.

We got some food, and spent more time wandering around in the tower, seeing the places where various people were imprisoned, and executed and so on.  A lot of the rooms have carving in the walls, done by the various captives.  Some of them are so good that they think wealthier prisoners might have been allowed to bring in stonemasons to do their prison carvings for them!  We happened to catch the end of one of the Beefeater’s tours, which was fortuitous, as the guy was very funny.

He led us into the chapel on site (which you cannot enter without a Beefeater), wherein lie the remains of 3 of the wives of Kin Henry VIII, and which is still a working chapel today.  The beefeaters and their families live on site so that they are there at any time, because in addition to tour guides, they are also the fire brigade in charge of the Tower, and so on.

Beefeaters! Doing their guard-y thing!

The green, where they did the private beheadings for some of the more esteemed guests of the Tower.

Right next to the Tower is a little church called All Hallows.  By London church standards, it is not particularly impressive, but the cool thing about is is that down in the crypt, it has a bunch of Roman mosaics and road surfaces.  Because the Tower re-used the Roman foundations, a lot of the things nearby have Roman foundations or bits of wall as well.  In All Hallows, they just went with it, sort of a “well, this perfectly nice paved and tiled floor is already down here, so let’s go with that!”  It was pretty cool to see such nicely preserved Roman stuff, like a secret hidden away.

After we finally left the tower, we headed for the nearby reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  There have been 3 Globe theatres – the first burned down and was hastily rebuilt, the second one was shut down by Puritans and the plague (I think) and then many decades later, someone decided that they wanted to rebuild a new Globe.  It’s not on the site of the old Globe, as someone in the intervening years built a totally different, important building on top of it, but it is nearby.  Also, as they were getting ready to build the thing, they discovered the archaeological remains of the Rose, a contemporary Shakespearean Playhouse, in the basement three doors down.  So they were able to use a lot of the evidence from that, as well as things that were know about the Globe, to re-create the theatre.

It uses only period materials and techniques, so there are no nails in the entire thing, and the thatch roof is open to the outside, and you can get a ticket to stand in front of the stage as a “groundling”.  On our tour, we got to go inside and watch them rehearsing for “Taming of the Shrew” for a while, which was pretty entertaining.  It must be almost opening, because this rehearsal seemed to be mostly about “how to bow and remove your silly hat properly” and “ how to not put our props under the feet of the person coming on next”  and in one case “how to fasten one’s poofy trousers properly”.  Unfortunately, they are sold out well in advance, and in some cases, for the entire run of the show, so we won’t be able to see a full performance there, but it was fun.

Some of the costumes used in past productions. They are not, of course, actually old, but just like the Globe, they are made with as much attention to accuracy as possible.

Ooh! Pwetty!

Some period musical instruments. Music was a very important part of Shakespeare’s stage

After the Globe, we had meant to go to St. Paul’s Cathedral, over the Millennium Bridge, but by the time we got in there, they had closed most of the cathedral, and were doing some evening mass thing.  We stuck around for a bit to listen to the choir and the organ, and the building was gorgeous, but we decided that we’d have to come back on another day when it was properly open, so we headed for the nearby tube, and made our way home.

On the Millennium Bridge!

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Costume in Kensington

June 17th, 2012 by Sarah

Sunday, June 17th

Today was a lovely day in the neighborhood!  Kevin and I planned a rather low- key day, mostly because stuff is either closed (Westminster, Portobello Road, The Globe, Buckingham Palace, etc) or reputed to be massively busy (The Tower). So we decided to wander around our locale, and see what we can find.

The highlight of our day was definitely the Victoria and Albert Museum.  We wanted to go there originally because they have a very extensive costume collection.  The museum is dedicated to architecture, fashion and style, and contains a rather eclectic collection of things from different countries, all around the world, from medieval through present.    The costume collection was very interesting, and I have seen some of the things they had on display there in books and so on.  The Marie Antoinette- era court dress was probably the most dramatic, given that it was over 6 feet wide, heavily embroidered, and worn by someone no more than 5 feet tall.  There was also some very nice Victorian examples, and in general, it was very fun to look around.  In another gallery, focused on Britain in the Renaissance, there were a few ladies’ smocks, and a really beautiful embroidered jacket.   It really is amazing how well something can survive for so long.

A 17th century corset (or, pair of bodies). So pretty!

Kevin thinks I should make him these suspenders to wear at Dickens.

A wedding dress! I could have worn this! Except that it was made for someone several sizes smaller, and a solid foot shorter.

Very pretty pagoda sleeve bodice. And look! They have the fabric it was made out of it the back!

I loves this dress! It’s the brightest raspberry pink you can imagine, and it has ruffles everywhere! It would take FOREVER to make, but it would be worth it.


A Victorian corset. I don’t know why, it reminds me of the circus.

This is a 50’s dress. I likes it!

This one reminds me of Elise. I do not really know why. It’s ORANGE!

This one I like LOTS. Polka dots! Poofy! And it’s got some sort of tulle bustle- thing going on in the back, but it refused to be photographed nicely.

This is a lady’s chemise (undershirt) from the 1600’s. It’s got lace inset into the yoke and sleeves. I cannot believe how good it looks for being 400 years old. Seriously.

And a man’s set of clothes, slightly later in period.

An embroidered ladies’ jacket, in pieces. This is similar to, but not exactly the same as one I was hoping to see, which was unfortunately out for conservation.

A really awesome book showing how to make different kinds of decorative braids! 16th C, I think

This is another chemise. All of that is blackwork. This is supposed to be worn UNDER stuff, people! Can you imagine putting that much effort into something no one is going to see?? Like, ever???

One really neat thing about the V&A is that you have to look everywhere.  They have vaulted ceilings out of manor houses and chapels – up on the ceiling.  Tapestries and statues like the wall, and once, there was a section of tiled floor from a church underneath glass on the floor.  There were cool interactives, too, where you could design your own fabric patterns and so on.  In theory, you could email the design to yourself, but I haven’t gotten mine yet…  I hope it works, because I really want a couple of them.  Definitely fun times

A really really pretty backgammon board. Dad and Shaun should play on this one!

One of the galleries on the museum, complete with piece of someone else’s building.

For lunch, we wandered around until we found a fun Japanese place.  Because it’s Sunday, a lot of places were either not open, or doing some sort of Sunday Roast thing, which didn’t usually work for Kevin.  But the Japanese was tasty, and Kevin said he was dying for rice, so it worked out perfectly.

After lunch, we went back toward the museums, because Kevin got all jealous when I showed him the pictures from the Natural History museum.  We didn’t stay for too long, but it was fun to walk though, and we went to a couple of the galleries that I hadn’t made it to yesterday.  Then we took the long way home, through a corner of Chelsea and Westminster, and made ourselves some dinner.  It was a long day of walking, so I think both of us were glad to be off our feet and relaxing a bit.  Especially because there’s more tomorrow!


June 16th, 2012 by Sarah

Saturday,  June 16th


Today we arrived in London!  We left Barnsdale Hall early, because Kevin’s fencing seminar at the Wallace Collection started at 10:30.   Getting to London and returning the car was uneventful, and we got a taxi into the city because it was almost cheaper than train tickets for two, and much easier with our luggage (especially because the big bag has gotten very heavy…)

We’re staying in the Astons Apartments, which is an adorable set of buildings in Kensington.  Since we got into London earlier than their check in time, we left the luggage with them and headed for the Underground so Kevin could get to the Wallace collection.  After a bit of confusion, we found the place, and Kevin headed out.  I kept walking, and went for quite the wander around Kensington.  Now, Kevin turned on the international data plan on his phone and I did not, so I didn’t really have a clue where I was, or where I was going.

I found my way to Kensington Park, which is somehow larger than you would expect.  Like, even Central Park in NYC, standing on one side, you can see where the park ends.   Not here.  I’m not sure though, if that says more about the size of the park, or the height of the buildings.  In Kensington Park, there is Kensington Palace, a rather uninspiring brick building, though with nice gardens.  There is also a rather garish memorial to Prince Albert by Queen Victoria.  It’s huge, and very… gold- covered. It stands sort of caddy-whompus to the Royal Albert Hall, a round music hall.  I kept going, and discovered some signage which pointed me towards a clot of museums, including the V&A, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and a few other smaller ones, like one with a bunch of maps, and something about music.  Admission to most of the major museums in London is free, so I decided to check out the Museum of Natural History.  (We will be going back to the V&A, but I knew that Kevin wanted to see that stuff too.)

The Royal Albert Hall, across from Kensington Park

The Albert Memorial, put up by Queen Victoria.

The museum has a few different areas, and I managed to enter though the smaller side entrance, into the Earth section.  It was pretty cool, because the entrance hall is a giant three story escalator, through a model of the Earth.  They had a pretty cool exhibit on volcanoes, focusing on the eruption of Pinatubo, and a sort of funny one on earthquakes, focusing on an earthquake in Japan recently, but not the most recent one.  They had an earthquake simulator room, made up to look like a Japanese supermarket, but when it got going, it didn’t really feel much like an earthquake.

This was the entrance to the Geology Wing. It’s newer than the other portions of the museum, and was pretty cool. They had an earthquake simulator! Haven’t been on one of those in ages (though I’m not sure how realistic it was… Heck, not sure how realistic the old one was, either, but I remember it being a lot scarier)

The dinosaur in the main hall of the Natural History Museum. His name is Dippy.

Ok, very hard to get a picture of all of this, but they had a mammal hall, and it was PACKED to the ceiling with all different kinds of mammals, including at least 4 whale skeletons, and a model of a blue whale. Whales are big. That is all.

The main hall, looking from the top gallery. The statue in the middle of the staircase is Charles Darwin.

They also had some very neat rock specimens on display, like pieces of pillow lava, and Pelee’s Hair.  I have to say, some parts of the museum felt a bit outdated, but their specimen collection is AWESOME.  Once I’d finished in the Earth section, I made it out into what is actually the main entrance room.  What a beautiful room!  Brick, and columns and awesome staircases, and a giant dinosaur skeleton in the middle.  I took a quick trip through a few other exhibits, but it was getting close to 3:30, and it was pretty crowded.  Kevin’s seminar thing was over at 4:30, and we’d agreed to meet at our room, so I wanted to get checked in and so on.

This is where I really should have thought through the “how to get home” plan a little more thoroughly before wandering off with a phone that has no data, and a suitcase full of maps and guidebooks back in the hotel reception.  Don’t get me wrong, clearly things turned out fine, and the day was nice enough, if a little (a lot) windy.  I ended up all the way down to Harrod’s in the shopping district before I decided to turn around and find somewhere with free wifi.  Eventually, I found a café with wifi, and got myself sorted out (I was like, 4 blocks from where I needed to be, but going in the wrong direction.  Sheesh…)

Our room is fun!  It’s on the bottom story, so it’s up the outside stairs, then down the inside stairs.  It looks a little bit like Elise’s apartment on the outside, except prettier (sorry, Elise).  We have a kitchen that basically fits into a closet in the room.  When I first walked in I was like, wait a second….  And then I saw that one cabinet has dials on the outside.  There is a door through the bathroom to a little walled space outside, but we haven’t explored that yet.

Our front door! We are in there, down to the bottom, and right at the back

Inside our room! This was the “kitchen”! I am leaning on the bed headboard in this picture. Kevin is standing by our little table, and there is a bathroom with an extremely contrary toilet down a little hall behind the door to the left. It was wee!

We actually have internet in here, too!  It’s not the best internet ever, but it totally works, which is lovely.  When Kevin got home, he was starving, so we headed out to find a bite to eat.  Down the road a bit, we found a great little Irish pub.  The music was fun, the food was great (they had this fancy ketchup stuff, SO GOOD).  We went for a walk back up to Kensington Park after dinner, and then on the way home, we found a grocery store so we have provisions for the morning.  Looking forward to a full day tomorrow!

The pub! Mmm…

Little Villages and Apple Trees

June 15th, 2012 by Sarah

Friday, June 15th

We decided to stick closer to home today, so that we would have time to pack up and so on, as we’re planning to head to London pretty early tomorrow.  Good thing, too, as the weather has been decidedly unpleasant at various times throughout today.  Right now, it has stopped raining, but is still extremely windy.

We went into Oakham again this morning, and also to the nearby town of Uppington.  Both towns are very traditionally British – small, lots of leaning, brick and stone buildings, centered on a rather lopsided town square, near the church with a spire.  Uppington was having their market day, which included things that we would traditionally expect to see at a farmer’s market, like produce, a few food stalls, homemade things, but also some very different things.  For example, there was a double- wide stall selling hats.  Left was men’s, right was ladies.  I almost bought a fascinator, but then I couldn’t think of a way to get it home intact without wearing it, which might have looked a little ridiculous.

A hardware store on the corner of the market square. Not as comprehensive, but way cuter than your average Home Depot

The church in Uppington.

The church cemetery. It reminded me of Grandma. (Not like that! Just that she would have liked it, I think)

We enjoyed wandering through the antique stores, which are vastly more entertaining than the ones in the States, as they contain plenty of stuff which is more than 100 years old.  Not a lot in our price range/ that would make it home in the luggage, but still, it’s fun to look.  In Oakham, there was a market street on which we found a store selling interesting food things.  I bought some weird soda- things to try.  I say weird soda things, because I’m pretty sure two of them contain alcohol.  The Mandarin and Seville Orange Jigger was very tasty, as was the Rose Lemonade (which actually tasted like roses!).  The Dandelion & Burdock was… ok.  It’s a little odd, tasted sort of like licorice.  We also found a cool bakery, and got some rolls.

Interesting, slightly alcoholic sodas we found. I already drank the Orange one!

We also went to Sir Isaac Newton’s birthplace house today.  It’s called Woolsthorpe Manor, and was the house in which he was born and did a lot of his early work.  To be honest, the house wasn’t really much of anything special; Newton’s family were sheep farmers and it’s a farm house.  He had, however, done some drawings on the walls (much to his mother’s chagrin, I’m sure) that were found underneath layers of paint and still remain on the walls of the house.  There was also a fun little interactive area, where you could recreate some of his experiments with prisms, rolling things down hills and so on.  But the best part – the apple tree is there!  At this point, it is a quite gnarly apple tree, but still.  The real live, apple- dropping, not-really-head-whacking tree.  Fun stuff.

Issac Newton’s house!

The main room in the house, where he was born. Didn’t get a picture of his bedroom, because you weren’t supposed to take pictures in the house. Oops.

I snuck one of the kitchen. Old kitchens are cool.

Not really much of anything, when you consider the smarts of the guy who lived there. There are still some of his drawing on the walls. Just goes to show, I suppose.

THE apple tree! Like, the fabled head bonker. Although, at the house they say that he was not sitting under the tree when the apple fell, but looking at it out of his bedroom window. And indeed, you can see it out the window! Who knows?

Kevin tried it out for inspiration, just in case.