Somewhere (well, everywhere, really) I had read/heard that England was dreary and cold most of the year. I guess that it’s a little like Japan’s reputation for being really modern and full of new technology. Every once in a while, you walk into a bathroom stall and find a squat toilet. So in other words, it’s not always true.
In Miho and my case, our first day sightseeing together started with lovely blue skies, the opposite of what we expected! The temperature, too, was opposite of what we expected. It was biting cold and I was frozen to the bone, having arrived from a Tokyo where I was still wearing sundresses (To me, Tokyo is very cold most of the time, so I had expected that London was similar. Oops!). I don’t know if London was going through a cold snap at the time, or if nearly freezing temperatures are normal for early October in England. I was very glad that I’d grabbed a heavy jacket “just in case”!
After we were finished with the Tower of London and next door churchiness, we decided that the best course of action would be to walk up the neighboring Thames river toward Shakespeare’s theater and the Tate Modern. We are Tokyoites- used to walking to get anywhere.
And it was beautiful! At least, until it started to rain…
Here is the Tower of London (again, not a tower, although it is in London, so appropos there) as it looked from across the street.
On the other side of the river, behind the Tower, there was a really pretty pointy mirrored building in the midst of construction. Anybody know what it’s called?
The Thames river was quite muddy, so you could not see very far into it. But as it’s used for a lot of commercial shipping, so I was not surprised. Also, London is a very old city (it has castles in it, for crying out loud), so the river was sure to have seen its share of dirty times.
Oh, but anyways! Loon down! Do you see that boring little bridge?
THAT IS LONDON BRIDGE!
Not this gorgeous, statuesque bridge spanning the river that everybody was going on about. Nooooo.
This is Tower Bridge.
No, this is the flat ugly bridge that we learn songs about as little kids. No wonder London Bridge is falling down!
It actually has a lot of history, but as far as awesome bridges go, it was not very awesome to look at. (Sort of like a mango? Nothing much to look at, but OH, is it ever full of magic!)
What did I mean by full of magic? THIS.
Okay, it looks really lame, I know. This is just one of those photos that you get taken in touristy areas. In this case, the touristy area that we went to sort of on a whim (because we were nearby and tickets were included) was called The London Bridge Experience.
The London Bridge Experience entrance fee was included with our London Passes, and I love scary haunted houses, so I was looking forward to going while simultaneously not expecting too much.
I’m a veteran of Scary Haunted Houses. I’ve been through a gajillion of the things- I always go when I get the chance, and the thing is that they are never, ever scary. Like, ever. When I was a little girl, my mom took me to a Halloween haunted house set up in an abandoned hospital across the river, and that was so real, so immersive, that I was scared nearly to death. Everything since then has been weak tea at best.
This one was different, though. It started off fairly lame with some overscripted and overacted history lessons that I was trying to quietly translate for Miho in a way that wouldn’t cause problems for the people around us. But after the history lesson, we and a small group of other tourists were led deep underground. Our guide put us in lines and each person put his/her hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. I was the first in my line, so my hands were free, though. She told us not to let go and that from now on it was our job to find our way out.
Then she put us through a door and left us.
She left us to find our way out in what turned out to be the SINGLE MOST TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. It could have been made worse because I was the one responsible for leading this group out and there were places when I could not see anything, so I had to blindly grope my way through a maze while wondering if anything was going to come out at us or if I was going to touch something nasty. There were all kinds of different places to walk where not only was the envirnment realistic, it was hard to get through for one reason or another. I am not claustrophobic, but at one point there was a pathway called, “The Squeeze,” and to get through I had to literally man-shove-force-push with all my might in order to just take step after step through a tunnel of pressurized foam mats. It pressed in on us from both sides so harshly that I would advise people who have weak lungs not experience. Miho lost her grip on me and I had to yank my bag out forcefully, then bodily haul her from the tunnel and wait for other people to make their ways through and help them out. Claustrophobia or no, it must have hit upon a primal fear button because my heart was RACING, and my panic meter was off the charts. When we finally made it out of the tombs, we had to take a minute to catch our breaths, and agreed to buy these photos, which had been taken at the start. Had they been taken at the end, we would have been as pale as ghosts.
My rating for the London Bridge Experience/London Tombs? 15 out of 10 really scary things. Skulls, vampires, bats, whatever. IT. WAS. SCARY. I’ll never forget it. Tickets are ￡21, and that might sound like a lot, but if you are like me and like to do things that make your pulse race, IT IS SO WORTH IT.
It is seriously worth it. I cannot even describe how scared I was. I don’t think that I have ever been that frightened in my entire life. At least not in a good way, and I am always the one whom friends hang onto when we go into Haunted Houses. The one who is always like, “let me lead!”
I don’t know if I want to lead next time… (Okay, yes I do.)
If photography was allowed, I would show you some, but that one photo is the best that I could do. And really, it is not the kind of place that you want to remove yourself from in order to take photos. It’s best as an immersive experience. Holy cow. I’m still getting chills remembering it, and feeling an extreme desire to go back to London RIGHT NOW.
Everything that I am going to tell you after this is going rather tame in comparison, and I’m sorry for that.
For example, here are some cool benches that we saw:
And a crosswalk sign. Whoa nellie!
We passed this shopping center after this, where I found a Starbucks and bought a mug with the Cityscape of London on it. I use it almost every day because it’s both huge and really gorgeous, and drawing manga requires a large amount of coffee to stay awake. (This is the mug that I got, although that page is not mine: http://starbucks…)
Here are some pretty boats on the River Thames (I’ll never get tired saying The River Thames).
Here’s a pirate ship which seems to host parties!
Who knew that the Winchesters had a palace of their own?
This is it. Or, what is left of it. It figures. I guess Satan wins the war, after all.
This bridge, the one next to the London Bridge, is called the Southwark Bridge according to Google maps. So the London Bridge is the famous one, but it’s really boring, and is flanked on the sides by this cool bridge and the far cooler Tower Bridge (which I understandably thought was the London Bridge). The London Bridge obviously wins by having the scariest basement EVER, I mean, but at least try to make it look half as cool as it used to. It used to have houses on it and stuff. Come on, London.
That is St. Paul’s Cathedral back there. Oh, we went there. Of course we went there. But not on this day.
Miho and I walked by the Shakespeare Theater, but we didn’t go in because there were no more tours for the day. Oops. We should have planned better. About two blocks away is the giant industrial museum known as the Tate, which was our real destination anyway.
The Tate was AWESOME. Well, what of it we saw, anyway. We arrived about 30 minutes before closing, so we sort of shuffled quickly through the floors. It had also started sprinkling, we had no umbrellas, and it was a few degrees above freezing at best, even indoors. Plus, we were tired and had had enough excitement to knock out a two year old on sugar babies. And I was really regretting wearing a skirt.
But we did find the Picasso paintings.
Miho took this picture of me in front of one of Picasso’s paintings, trying to blend in. You see, for me, an artist, being in the presence of a Picasso for the first time ever was like a devout catholic being in the presence of the Pope. ♡ Picasso.
After the museum spit us back out, we figured that it was just sprinkling, so we would be okay walking back to the subway. It was cold and miserable- that sort of rain that sort of wafts down from the clouds in little feathery bits and seeps in everywhere. So we ran, and ran, and ran. It’s a good thing that I like running, sometimes.
We made it back to the hotel and were so wet and cold, and the supermarket closed before we got there, that we just sort of sat around eating cold sandwiches and defrosting. But it was worth it. It was all so worth it, and we had a few more days of adventures to go!! I can’t even tell you how many cool things we saw during the rest of our visit… YET!
Stay tuned!! Please give me lots of comments and make me happy!ﾟ+.( *≧∇)ﾉﾉﾉ*.ｵｵｫｫ☆ﾟ･:*☆