A Travellerspoint blog

A day with 'Lizzy' and a night with 'Billy'!

rain 9 °C

"Mrs. Wilkinson: This'll sound strange, Billy, but for some time now I've been thinkin' of the Royal Ballet School.
Billy: Aren't you a bit old, miss?
Mrs. Wilkinson: No, not me... you! I'm the bloody teacher!"
-Billy Elliot - The Musical

Foodie moment

Grabbing a quick bite to eat before seeing 'Billy Elliot' we chose a random Italian restaurant near the theatre in Victoria. Although the staff were not the best (The owner rushed us through to start with to get more customers in, but then hesitated to give us our bill when his restaurant started to look unattractively empty as everyone headed to the nearby theatres!) the food was good!


Cultural moment

Tonight we went to see 'Billy Elliot' in the West End. It was a fantastic show, all of us loved it! The swearing was frequent so the group of children (they recommended it for 8yrs up!!) near us thought it was hilarious!! Our resident theatre expert, Wendy, pointed out a cultural difference between the audience in the UK and Melbourne. The audience at Billy Elliot were really involved in the show, cheering, laughing, clapping throughout the whole thing. Apparently the Melbourne Audiences are a little more restrained, or perhaps unsure of how they should act. Also it really is amazing the number of English that attend the theatre regularly, Each night there are at least 15 shows on in the West End and each is filled (and not by solely tourists). Many of the theatre goers were talking about other shows they had seen, and even comparing this performance to the other times they had come to see the show.


Wow moment

Windsor Castle is the Queens weekend residence; and with its size, massive stone walls and beautiful gardens this is not a surprise! With the heavens well and truly opening their floodgates, it was a good time to check out the State Apartments. These were well worth a look, particularly the room full of items the British had 'attained' during various battles, such as a gold tiger with crystal eyes and teeth, an Ethiopian crown and countless swords and guns from all over the world. St Georges hall was also spectacular, a long hall that is still used for elaborate banquets. The walls and ceiling are covered with the multi coloured shields of every Knight of Windsor there has ever been, however every now and then there is a plain white shield which represents a knight who acted dishonourably and lost his position. They are left in their position but painted white as a reminder of the oaths you take as a Knight of Windsor.


Posted by travellinglise 11:08 Archived in England Tagged london musical windsor_castle billy_elliot_the_musical Comments (0)

Sunny Days (And Murder) Around London Town

sunny 20 °C

"I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too." - Elizabeth I

"It is eerie being all but alone in Westminster Abbey. Without the tourists, there are only the dead, many of them kings and queens. They speak powerfully and put my thoughts into vivid perspective." - A. N. Wilson

Foodie moment

Nothing like a Big English Breakfast to fill you up in the morning... and for the most of the day as well!


When in London you have to go down to Brick lane to have an Indian meal. Then again if you do, you need to be prepared for harassment galore from the touts out the front of each restaurant. It's not all bad though, play your cards right and the touts will give you a great deal! Lucky for us we didn't have to put up with much harassment.....that's because we gave in at the first restaurant!! We did get a great deal though (10 pounds per person for a starter, main, any type of rice, any type of naan and two bottles of wine for the table!) and the food was plentiful and delicious!


Wow moment

First up today was Westminster Abbey. Although we had all seen many (too many?) cathedrals already in our various trips, this was not just another cathedral, it was THE cathedral.


A really interesting audio tour narrated by actor Jeremy Irons (For other 'Borgias' fans you can understand how bizarre it was to be guided around a church by 'the Pope'!) led us through the Nave, Quire, Shrines, Chapels and Poet's corner. We learnt so much during the tour i couldn't possibly write about it all but some of my favourite bits were: Seeing the location of the royal coronations and royal weddings, and exploring the graves and memorials of famous poets and writers including Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, CS Lewis, Keats and Robert Burns.


The most memorable part for me though was hearing the stories involved with Elizabeth I. She is buried in one of the chapels on the side of the Abbey with her half sister Mary. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII second wife Anne Boleyn and Mary was the daughter of his first wife Catherine of Aragon (whom he divorced), and I found it strange that Elizabeth was buried on top of Mary as in life they did not get along at all due to their differences in religious opinions, I'm not sure if either would have been happy with the situation! The other great story of the Abbey also involves Elizabeth I. Her arch enemy whilst Queen was Mary Queen of Scots, once again due to religious differences (Catholic vs Protestant). Elizabeth imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots for 19 years and then had her executed. The ironic thing is that due to the fact the Elizabeth I never had any children, when she died her successor was Mary Queen of Scots son, James I. Once he was in power he had his mothers remains reburied in Westminster Abbey in the chapel directly opposite the one Elizabeth I was buried in, he then created a tomb and monument above it to rival the one covering his mother's enemies grave! Another great example of the British thirst for revenge and justice!


It wouldn't be a trip to London without taking a river cruise, and we had the perfect weather for it!


A canal cruise from Little Venice to Camden is something I haven't done before but it was on our 'London Pass' so we decided to give it a go, and we were glad we did! It's lovely and calm floating down the canals, cruising past amazing houses in Primrose hill and the London zoo. We learnt all about the days when the barges were horse drawn, and the horse used to walk along the tow path next to the canal with the barge pulling behind. On the bridges we went through you could still see the dents on the edges of the bridge caused by the thick ropes as they wore away at the brick when the horse pulled the barge around the corners. Some of the bridges were very long and didn't have a tow path next to it. When the horse got to these, the barge would be detached and the horse walked above ground over the bridge - this left the barge crew one option - 'legging' it! This is when they would lie on the top of the barge and move the barge through the tunnel by 'walking' their feet along the roof of the tunnel, it could take them over an hour to get through!!


What we learnt today

Tonight we delved into one of London's most famous mysteries on a Jack the Ripper tour. Although we were all hoping for a bit more of a theatrical experience, the tour was very informative and detailed. We learnt about his victims, the letters sent to the police and the evidence that was lost or purposely removed. We also heard the theories about who Jack really was, and what happened to him when he just disappeared after his final kill. Unfortunately they will only be theories as we will never know who Jack the ripper was (Or my theory - who THEY were as i don't believe all the killings were done by the same guy).

Posted by travellinglise 12:04 Archived in England Tagged london westminster_abbey jack_the_ripper jasons_canal_tours Comments (1)

Don't lose your head, it's just the Tower of London!

sunny 19 °C

"Who comes there?", "The keys.", "Whose keys?", "Queen Elizabeth's keys.", "Pass Queen Elizabeth's Keys. All's well.", "God preserve Queen Elizabeth.", "Amen!" - The ceremony of the keys conducted each night at 10pm at the Tower of London

Cultural moment

The English were a brutal group. Not only were they vicious in battle and war but they were also incredibly thorough and brutal when they felt they had been wronged. The public and private executions at the tower were an example of this - often done with no trial, no evidence and sometimes no guilt! After being beheaded the heads were then displayed on spikes on the Bridge to discourage any other wrong doing!! Some unlucky prisoners (such as William Wallace) were hung, drawn and quartered for their crimes against the throne - and the removing of the heart was done while the prisoner was still alive!

Perhaps the best example of the British thirst for revenge is the story of Thomas Cromwell - he overthrew King Charles I (and executed him) to take charge of the country. When Cromwell died he was buried in Westminster Abbey but when Charles II was brought back to the throne he had Cromwell dug up and then hung, drawn and quartered for his Treason against his father.


Wow moment

The Tower of London has had many uses; a fortress, a zoo, the royal mint, a royal residence but most interestingly a prison. Only the most important people were held (and sometimes executed) at a private execution at the Tower. These included Henry VIII's second and fifth wives, Queen Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. In fact poor falsely accused Anne Boleyn had both her coronation and execution at the Tower of London! The prisoners were always brought in from the river through 'Traitors Gate'.


The tower is also home to the ravens. Legend has it that failing to keep ravens at the Tower of London will mean the great White Tower will crumble and a terrible disaster shall befall England. The legend says there needs to be 6 ravens so they keep 8 at the tower just in case, they have also clipped the wings of the raven - just to be safe!


Although London bridge is the more well known bridge, it is actually Tower Bridge that is the most spectacular. The brightly coloured bridge mean it can be spotted from many parts of London, and an elevator ride to the top gives you views down the river in both directions.


What we learnt today

The London Bridge experience is terrifying!! I'm still not really sure what the historical or educational benefits of this tourist attraction were. There were small snippets of information on London gory history, but with only very tenuous links to the London bridge! Part 2 of the 'experience' was just room after room of everyone's worst nightmares - blood streaked walls, zombies grabbing at you, chainsaw massacres, squeezing through small spaces, people jumping out at you and hissing and screaming, heads dangling from the ceiling and a scary circus. Needless to say, it wasn't one of the most pleasurable experiences I've ever had, but Mark seemed to enjoy it! (No photos inside allowed)


Posted by travellinglise 09:38 Archived in England Tagged london tower_of_london tower_bridge Comments (0)

'Meet the Fosters' in London

overcast 16 °C

Please Mind the Gap!


Foodie moment

We felt like a quiet night in so hit up the local Tescos for some food. In England, there is a massive range of ready made meals in the supermarkets which are really well priced. Tonight's meal was an example of that, bags of ready made Indian food - each bag containing a container of rice, naan and 2 curries - 3 bags for the price of 2 which came to only 12 pounds! Plus we only got through half of it!


Cultural moment

The underground subway system, 'The Tube', may be one of London's most iconic features, but the people that use it daily see it as simply a way to get from point A to point B in the fastest way possible. This means storm walking along platforms and escalators, pushing people out of the way and cutting in front of ticket gates and elevators. Don't even think about standing still on an escalator on the left hand side! As much as you try to stay out of peoples way, you may still find yourself accidentally blocking people from the way they want to go, potentially delaying them a second or two, oh golly gosh oh my!


Wow moment

The National History Museum is an amazing, informative FREE museum housed in one of the most architectural beautiful buildings I have seen, it almost distracts you from the exhibitions. It has a fantastic display of dinosaurs, including a life size moving T-rex. There is also a room full of models of some of the largest mammals in the world, including a massive Blue whale (something i still remember from when I visited when I was 7!)


What we learnt today

The location of the UEFA Champions League Final of the soccer is pre-decided, long before the teams have been determined. This means that this year (today) it was played in London even though it was 2 German teams competing for the title!! Great for London tourism, but I wouldn't have been so pumped to travel across Europe to see my team play another team from my country!!

Posted by travellinglise 08:17 Archived in England Tagged london museum underground natural_history_museum Comments (0)

Chiling in Colchester

rain 12 °C

"No Man Needs a Vacation so Much as the Man Who Has Just Had One" - Elbert Hubbard

Foodie moment

Mark's first pub meal in England at Wetherspoons Playhouse. As usual he couldn't resist a burger - while i dug into my English favourite - Scampi and Chips (and helped myself to handfuls of mint and HP sauce packets!!)


Delicious meal from Barbara - Lime and Parsley prawns, Fried Chorizo and Spiced Salmon (Sorry Barbara, couldn't remember the proper names


Unfortunately the cheese we bought Barbara from France was a non-foody moment as it was unbelievably stinky and strong and unfortunately inedible!!


Cultural moment

People in England still do a lot of their shopping on the 'High street' - small shops catering for all your different needs (chemist, greengrocer, clothing, bank, newsagent). There are very, very few 'shopping centres' as we have in Australia, in fact we have only seen one, just outside London (Westfield Stratford) which seems to be a tourist attraction. There is a decline starting in the use of high street shops though so perhaps these small shops are starting to lose out to the big commercial chains.


Wow moment

Cold weather, tiredness and the impulse to just stop after being 'go go go' in France meant we spent a lot of time relaxing and not much time out of the house so not many touristy moments.

We went to Whetherspoons pub, which is part of a chain, but this one was built in an old playhouse. It was quite cool, with some of the seating up on the 'stage'. When you looked back from the stage the upper dress circle was still there and they had set up an 'audience' to watch you eat!!


What we learnt today

Spring in Europe means rain, rain, rain (Not that we haven't already learnt that a few times this trip!!)

Posted by travellinglise 06:29 Archived in England Comments (0)

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