Monday, May 29, 2017

Time with Friends and Tower of London

On Friday afternoon, Gemma took me to the town of Sandwich before I had to board my train back to London. Seeing "sandwich" on so many things made me chuckle, particularly the sign for the local library. Sure, it could be just a normal library full of books, but maybe...

Although eating bread with various fillings has been around probably since humans starting making bread,  referring to it as a sandwich came about in the 18th century through John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Supposedly he frequently requested bread filled with meat so that he could eat without a fork and keep his hands free of grease, so that he could continue to play cards *cough*gamble*cough*  and others began to request "the same as Sandwich".

We stopped for a drink at The Crispin Inn, sitting in the sunshine with a view of the River Stour. The building dates back to 1491, but it didn't become a pub until 1790. 

You have been warned
I scheduled a mid-afternoon train back to London because on the last Friday of each month hundreds of cyclists gather for a Critical Mass ride. Critical Mass rides can be found in cities across the world where cyclists take over the street in a sort of protest for better cycling infrastructure. Austin has such as strong cycling scene where you can find rides every day of the week and CM rides are fairly non-existent (although Houston has a very active one!).

The CM London group recommended renting one of the Santander cycle share bikes, which was my plan. Upon arriving back in London, I took the Tube home, dropped off my luggage, grabbed the bike lights I had brought with me from Austin for extra visibility, and traveled south to Waterloo Bridge. There was a bike share station down the street from the meet-up point, and it was, luckily, full of bikes. I put in my credit card to start the rental process. When it came time to pay, the machine asked for a pin - which my cc doesn't have set up. It has a chip and has been fine with every purchase I have used it for so far. After several attempts to bypass it, the card was declined. Grrrr. So, I pulled out my debit/credit card which has a pin and which I have successfully used several times here. I re-started the rental process, clicked through all the screens, and when it came time to pay it declined my card outright before even giving me the option to enter a pin! Arrgghhhhh!!!! In a panic I started to Google for other options. All of the bike rental places that came up were closed at this point and anything else was more than 1.5 miles away. Frustration and depression set in as I realized I wouldn't be able to join the ride.

Riders gathering
I still went back to the meet-up point to mingle and see everyone off. I was particularly disappointed because I had been debating all week whether to do the ride or to attend a podcast taping with Richard Ayoade (Moss from The I.T. Crowd) that I had tickets to. By the time I realized I wouldn't be able to ride, the taping would have already started (and was ~30 mins away).

As I sulked back to Waterloo station, I treated myself to some Vicky's Donuts from the stand at the Kerb Market pop-up.
Spotted another piece by Invader
On Saturday, after my work trip to Cambridge, I met up with my friend Nicola and her fiance Josh who were in town to celebrate her birthday. Their hotel provided them with a birthday bottle of champagne, so we shared that and chatted until they had to head to a show in the West End. Nicola and I met early in my first year of college through the Spanish department. She was my most stylish friend and helped me learn valuable life skills like how to apply eye liner. 😂 

On Sunday I picked up a new group of students, who arrived in London on Saturday, from their hotel and walked them around central London. This was the day I was most nervous about because I had to be the tour guide and give them all the facts about what we were looking at. On top of that, when checking a few things before going to meet them, I saw that all around St. James' Park and Buckingham Palace there was a fun run which would be causing extra traffic, road closures, and other difficulties.
Luckily, we managed it fine with only a little bit of delay getting through the park and fighting some crowds near the palace.

After a break for lunch, I brought them to the Tower of London where they had a few hours to explore. First, we all opted to join a Yeomen Warders' tour. Popularly known as "Beefeaters", these are the ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. They have to have 22 years of honorable service in the armed forces to be eligible, and they live at the Tower (they can bring their families!). The tours last for 60 minutes and are hilarious, as well as informative.

The Tower of London originates with William the Conqueror, who built the White Tower in 1078, and it was expanded on by Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I throughout the 12th and 13th centuries. Originally it was a fortress meant to defend the city, but rather than keeping people it, it was often used as a jail, keeping people in. Other uses include a treasury, home of the Royal Mint, a menagerie, and home of the Crown Jewels - which you can still view today. Many historical figures lived or were imprisoned and executed here. Most executions were performed on nearby Tower Hill, but some nobles were beheaded within the tower itself, such as Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey.

It is hard to capture the buildings with just a cell phone camera because the buildings are so large and imposing.
White Tower
We are the watchers on the wall
Big guns

memorial for those executed in the Tower
view of Tower Bridge from the Tower of London

After accompanying the students back to their hotel, I went to meet Nicola and Josh again. We went for dinner at a pho restaurant, then they took me to Cinnamon Bazaar for cinnamon bellinis.

As we walked through Convent Garden, Nicola started to tell me about a hilarious mime street performer who they saw on a previous visit to London, then she looked to her left and he was performing right at that point! We ran over and watched the last 15 minutes of his show and it was hilarious. He also rode a 3 wheeled unicycle (tricycle??)!

Today (Monday) I finally had a chance to sleep in, lounging in bed until 10:30am. After getting up, I met Nicola and Josh in Southwark so we could do the Clink Prison museum experience. The prison operated here throughout the middle ages, housing prisoners in cruel, awful conditions. The museum has a number of medieval torture devices for you to examine and it's shocking all the things humans have invented to hurt one another.

Help! Send bail money!
Actually, it's not so bad in this day and age
Next we went for lunch at the nearby Founders Arms, which overlooks the River Thames.
Street art on the way. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is nearby.
Cider from New Zealand - fruity and delicious!

Beet and goat's cheese sandwich
Then we had to say our good-byes.

Since I was nearby, I went into the Tate Modern again to see some more exhibits.
After, as I walked back to the Tube it was drizzling and I wanted something sweet, so I stopped at Rabot 1745 which is next to Borough Market. It is known for its chocolate and cocoa-based cuisine. The restaurant was closed, but the cafe was open so I had a spiced chocolate latte with a shot of their salted caramel vodka just to try it out.
Thick, creamy, and delicious
As soon as I got home the skies opened with a fairly heavy downpour, making me glad I had called it an early night tonight.

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