Friday, July 29, 2011

Tower of London

The Tower of London is a highlight of the city.  For nearly 900 years traitors, kings, queens, saints and sinners have been held here against their will. Beefeaters were responsible for looking after the prisoners, and watching over the Crown Jewels.
Once an hour there is a free tour with a Beefeater as your guide.  Although their name and uniform seems comical it is a very prestigious position. One must have at least 25 years of an unblemished military career in order to just apply for the position.
The Beefeaters and their families live at the Tower where they have their own church, doctor, and pub.  It is tiny community.

The Tower of London is protected by royal guards.  I was surprised to see them at first but it makes sense considering it is the location of the Crown Jewels, one of the diamonds alone is 530 carats.

Is it just me, or is something not right here?

So long London; until next time!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

High Tea and a Seafood Surprise

Ian told us we can't do London without experiencing high tea.  We were treated to an afternoon of tea and clotted cream with scones. 
Clotted cream achieves its thick clotted texture by heating cream from a high-fat breed of  cows and then allowed to cool slowly. It is similar to butter but richer and more sweet.

The clotted cream was served on spoons next to the scones.

We also had the 'pleasure' of eating a seafood platter for two. Between the four of us we shared two of these platters, although I KNOW I did not eat half. I am certain some of these things were not meant to be eaten.

Nothing like eating with fear in your eyes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Buckingham Palace

I realize it is such a touristy thing to do but Fred and I waited an hour and a half with a crowd of people to view the ceremony of Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. It was a good thing we got there when we did because it filled up quickly and there weren't very many places to stand with a decent view. We stood on the top step of the Victoria Monument***.
***If you think you can climb on top of the monument to sit, or sit any part of the monument that is not a step or the ground it is only a matter of time before you get kicked off by an unhappy officer.  We saw many people elated with joy of their awesome view and ingenious idea, followed moments later by extreme frustration when asked to get down.

Here come the bearskin hats!  It is unbelievable that this ceremony takes place just about every day. It is so elaborate. The Guards band played 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' among other songs.

A fresh guard on duty at Buckingham. 
Doesn't the chain look uncomfortable?
And how could they possibly see well with a hat covering their eyes?!

Two and a half hours later we were glad to see this changeover of guards which dates back to 1660, touristy or not.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Football at Crystal Palace

A football game in the U.K... what a great way to wrap up our tour through Europe. We went to a preseason game at Crystal Palace, just minutes away from the pub by bus.  I have never been to a professional soccer football game before. It was very entertaining, especially since the Eagles (Crystal Palace) won during the last few minutes of the game.

I think there are two boys who are more happy than Tavis about this player's signature.

After the game we had some celebratory drinks at a nearby pub. When I saw this game I asked some regulars what it was called. They looked at me like I was from Mars, responding with 'it is pool'. 
I thought it would have a different name since the balls are different and the pockets are smaller, but apparently I was wrong.

In London you don't have to be 18 to hang out in a pub as long as there is parental supervision.  It is as though they are being groomed to become regulars.

A great end to a great evening; we rode a double decker bus home.

The Conquering Hero

 Ian, Vicky, and the kids live above their pub, The Conquering Hero. Drinking is much too easy when you are staying above a pub. There were too many late nights (for Fred and Ian at least, I was fast asleep). The pub has been in this location for about 100 years. It was fun to have a drink with the locals, and try to interpret what they were saying in my native tongue.

Vicky cooked almost every meal for us. We had this potato dish on the day of our arrival, I think Fred ate the whole thing by himself.

The round object on the left is black pudding (aka blood pudding). Black pudding can be considered a delicacy and has been made for hundreds of years. It is a blend of onions, pork fat, oatmeal, and blood (usually from a pig) cooked until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled.  Mmmm mmmmm. I actually tried a bite of Fred's, it tastes like oatmeal.

Francis Bacon! This is the family's pet pig. He is a handful. 
I am not sure how he feels about having bacon cooked in the house.

Thank you Ian and Vicky for a marvelous London experience!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Broadstairs is a coastal town 80 miles southeast of London. I couldn't help but think what a strange name the town has so I wasn't surprised when I discovered that the name has changed throughout history. Bradstow (1350), Brodsteyr Lynch (1434), Brodestyr (1479), Broadstayer (1565) and Brod stayrs  (1610).  I like Bradstow the best, are they taking votes?
Charles Dickens loved this town and used it as a base while he wrote his first book, The Pickwick Papers.  Several of his characters were inspired by Broadstairs residents.

Broadstairs is a great place to get fresh seafood.

We enjoyed the nice weather on the beach. Although there are people swimming in the water it is actually FREEZING! 

Ruby and Tavis were so excited about the ocean. All they wanted to do was play in the sand.

Clothes are on, clothes are off!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Canterbury Tales

Our new British family took us on a roadtrip to Canterbury, the name is wellknown because of the book 'Canterbury Tales'.

The Cathedral's history goes back to 597AD when St Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory the Great as a missionary, established his seat (or 'Cathedra') in Canterbury. In 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral and ever since, the Cathedral has attracted thousands of pilgrims, as told famously in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Light, as the first act of God’s creation, was seen as the purest manifestation of God’s presence, and stained glass windows come to life only when illuminated by light.

Ruby had no moral dilemas with having a snack on a tomb. 
(And she looks cute doing it.)  :)