October 17, 2011

October 17, 2011

London, Day 4: St. Paul’s, More Museums, and Another Round with the Beefeaters

(Day 3 can be found here.)

Day 4: Wednesday, October 5

Our day began with a guided tour (by a friend of Gillian’s named Brian) of St. Paul’s Cathedral. As a great fan of Mary Poppins, I searched high and low for the birdwoman selling feed for tuppence a bag. Alas, I found neither birdwoman nor birds. As I later learned regarding Trefalgar Square’s lack of pigeons, the birds have been ushered out of a great many parts of London. Sanitary concerns or some such. Bah, I say! Bah!

I preferred St. Paul’s (no interior pictures allowed) to Westminster Abbey. Though it had fewer famous burials and shrines, it was brighter, more colorful, and calmer. When I learned that Queen Victoria had once ordered the altar painted pink, its status as my church of choice was cemented.

Lunch was with the group, at a bank-cum-restaurant called The Counting House. On the way, Brian walked us through the financial district. Think Wall Street, but sans bull statue.

I had bangers and mash. Bangers were no good; mash was fantastic.

The afternoon was free, so we went to the History Museum and the Science Museum. They are conveniently located next to each other.

The History Museum, as with any natural history museum, holds one main attraction for each of us. TheBoy goes for the dinosaurs. I go for the sparkly rocks.

The Science Museum was a hodgepodge of interactive exhibits and weird memorabilia (Thomson’s brain, apparently). I enjoyed learning that the UK once had a lottery whose numbers were chosen by a robot named ERNIE. Those crazy Brits.

Now here’s where I brag a little. During my studious research for this trip, I learned that you can get tickets to watch the nightly Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. The Beefeaters make a bit of a show of locking up the Tower and handing over the keys. There are bugles, and rifles, and so on. The catch is that you have to write at least 6 weeks in advance, and enclose two international reply coupons—the global equivalent of a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Well, I did it, and we went (no pictures allowed once the Ceremony started), and it was pretty cool. Except the bugler who had obviously learned to play only for this assignment. As a lifelong band member, it was pretty painful to hear. Here is someone else's video:

I proudly note that OUR Ceremony of the Keys was presided over by the world's tiniest Yeoman Warder. I was at least a head taller. Pocket size!

Also on the plus side: we did not get mugged despite being near the East End after dark!

Tomorrow: Windsor and war.

1 Fish in a Sea of Diet Coke:

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT475.
The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it.