Why should you not eat gelato for dinner? Because you will wake up at 3am with a small voracious badger gnawing at your stomach lining, that’s why. I tried comforting myself with thoughts of the leftover steak and potatoes I could have for breakfast in just five short, short hours (I had this plan of getting up early-ish). But the badger was not having it. I wanted to go back to sleep, so to shut him up, I got up and ate a handful of macadamia nuts I had smuggl – um, forgotten to declare at customs. He rolled over and went to sleep, and so did I.
Unfortunately, when given its way, my body clock resets to a default of ‘sleep twelve hours.’ Which I did, until my mother woke me up at 11.
Steak and eggs takes a while to eat, especially when you are stumbling around a strange place in a blurry stupor, and my mother wanted to use my computer to email my dad, which always take about ten times longer than you think it ought to. So it was around one o’clock (or I should say, 1300 hours) when we set out in search of the Visitor’s Center on Cockspur Road. We needed to exchange the receipt for the tour tickets we’d bought online for the proper vouchers. We are tourists, after all, so it seemed like we ought to do at least one unapologetically touristy thing.
Actually, I am not sure if there is anyone around who is not a tourist. Cameras were much in evidence, even in places that were not specifically tourist spots. And are there any real Londoners who wear clothes or bags printed with ‘I heart London’? I hope not.
I eavesdrop prodigiously (where better to get ideas?) but was foiled by the fact that only about a quarter of the conversations I heard were in English. A visiting extraterrestrial might be forgiven for thinking that the majority language of the city is in fact German.
On our way towards the Visitor Center – sorry, I mean Centre – we passed through Trafalgar Square. Having my picture taken at the base of Nelson’s column has been my major touristy desire since my teens, when I discovered and devoured C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower novels.
But the blinking thing was WALLED OFF. Because there was a St. Paddy’s Day concert in the square. **** that!
I had to satisfy myself by paying my respects to the great man from across the street:
We got lost only about four or five times – which included a pleasant excursion down Whitehall Street. I’d wanted to see it anyway, being as so many novels I’ve read take place there. All that government running-around, you know.
|Something important, I’m sure.
|A picturesque side street.
Eventually, with the questionable but better-than-nothing help of Google Maps on my phone, we located the Visitor Centre. ‘It took us about half an hour to find you,’ we said to the clerk.
‘Oh, that’s good time,’ he said cheerily.
Vouchers duly acquired, we hopped on the bus. And it’s all tourist’s paradise from then on out:
|The gates of Buckingham Palace.
I don’t have any photos of the Palace in whole that I care to share, as it was impossible to get one that wasn’t crowded with tourists.
|We missed the changing of the guard, but I am satisfied by the sight of this fellow’s hat.
|‘Victory.’ Except not for me, because I didn’t see that guy’s head until after I’d uploaded the photo. You shall be AIRBRUSHED! Do you hear me?
At this point we were so thirsty we were ready to lick the water out of the puddles.
On the next bus, we went down to the River Thames to catch the tour boat….
Wait. Those two things are completely unrelated.
|I had to get a picture of the Millennium Wheel, since, after all, it was in a Doctor Who episode. Also, it’s cool. (Like bowties.)
|Grabbed a snap of Boudicca very quickly.
‘The Tate Modern has got…an unmade bed. And there’s a pile of bricks. And a white room. With a lightbulb that goes on and off…all day. If you want to see that, you can visit the estate where I grew up.’
|Going under London Bridge (the fourth).
|The captain turned the boat sideways so we could take straight-on pictures of Tower Bridge. I guess it was obligatory.
|You have NO IDEA how jealous I am of how many buses London has. NO IDEA.
|Big Ben again from the roof of the next tour bus.
All in all, I think my favorite single sight of the tour was the glimpse of J. K. Rowling’s house. She has a dog made of privet on her bitty little balcony. (It was gone when we looped around again, so perhaps she’d just put it out to do its business.)
Margaret Thatcher lives down the street. She gets a policeman out front.
I think Rowling’s got the better deal.
We’d skipped lunch, so by six, we were famished. I looked at Yelp reviews and found a place near us with an excellent rating – Terroirs.
We only got lost two or three times looking for it. Damn those Brits and their inability to build streets in a straight line.
Or shall we blame the Romans? I’m all in favor of blaming the Romans.
I will, however, praise the French extensively for this little gem:
|Terroirs Wine Bar and Restaraunt
We shared duck rillette that came with teeny gherkins, the perfect combination of rich-savory and tart-sweet. My mother had the red mullet with braised fennel, and I had boudin noir with vegetables. Yes, my dear, food-impaired American friends, that’s black or ‘blood’ pudding. And before you ask, both descriptions are accurate.
And it was freaking amazing. If I had another piece right now…well, I wouldn’t, because I’d have eaten it already.
Dessert was ‘bitter chocolate pots’ which in the low light looked a bit like tar, but they tasted like the most luscious chocolate pudding ever. (That being the American definition of ‘pudding,’ right?)
Sorry for the lack of food photos, but…the atmosphere of French restaurants, even rustic wine bars, puts a damper on my photographic desires.
Now, it’s much too late, so I’m off to bed. More tomorrow.
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