I'm back from several days of training in London. Giving, not receiving. One of the other consultants ran into a personal event, so with just a few days notice I agreed to jet off to our London affiliate as a substitute. Do you know what a 350 pound per night hotel looks like near Piccadilly? If you guessed a pool, pay channels on television, wifi, or breakfast included, you'd be wrong. If you guessed you could get half a grapefruit delivered to your room for 5 pound 50 pence, you'd be right. I didn't do that, as I knew there was one available two blocks down the street at the grocery store for 50 p.
We did three days of training, and then had most of the fourth day to ourselves, although we met up with a bunch of developers and business people in the evening to go bar hopping from Swiss Cottage (a tube station and a nearby bar), to the Lamb and Flag (not the one in Oxford where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis met), to a burger joint, to yet another bar. My birthday had been the day before, and I hadn't really done anything exciting, so going out on the town to drink a day later cheered me up. We spent almost seven hours drinking, eating, and talking about the whole "there's always a rat within 6' in London", soccer moms, and being tut-tutted on the Tube.
The first day we were in London, we wandered downtown to the river and got stuck in a Remembrance Day parade. There were bands, soldiers and people everywhere. I guess if we had followed a few of the bands (they were actually going in multiple directions) as far as Whitehall, we could have seen Prince Harry doing some sort of commemoration. In addition to missing Harry, we also barely missed Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, in town for a Beowulf premier at Piccadilly. When I got back to the hotel, they were standing in front of the same Burger King we'd passed recently.
Here's a picture of the Eye, from beneath. It looks like a great big bicycle wheel from this angle.
I pictured being just above the towers when you were at the top of the Eye. I wasn't aware that you'd be approaching a low orbit. That thing is enormous.
A picture from late at night on my birthday. I wandered down toward London Bridge, the Tower and the Tower Bridge to look for a pub. It's a nice area down there, and if you're looking for an upscale beer or meal, that seems to be a good place. If you want to go pubbing in a less-classy, but better place, Covent Gardens was a better choice.
Westminster Abbey. You can't take pictures inside. All the little flags are from Remembrance Day earlier in the week, and each grouping is a different regiment, branch, etc. I had been to Westminster 19 years ago when I was in London, primarily because it's the resting place of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (his wife, mother of Henry VIII) and Henry was sort of my major in college. I didn't expect much to change - after all, it's been there for many hundreds of years - but there was a difference. The Stone of Scone (not the Scone of Stone, Klund) was gone! They returned it to Scotland in 1996, so it was no longer under the coronation chair. I also had the pleasure of being able to send Eryn an email that I had stood on the grave of Rudyard Kipling, in poet's corner, knowing that she was at home watching The Jungle Book.
The Eye is guarded by storm troopers. This leads me to believe that it's actually the center of a new Death Star. They just haven't gotten the funding to proceed past that initial stage.
The Globe Theatre, Shakespeare's Theatre. I didn't go in, because I wasn't keen on the entry price for what I know is a very small theater that has a history I can read on line. I know it's exciting to stand inside the buildings - full of history, yada yada yada and all - but at the time I was more interested in just wandering around and looking at the architecture from the outside. Not too long before this I was at the changing of the guard at Buckingham. When I went to England last time, the first thing the hotel told me when I checked in was when the guard changed. I told them I didn't care, I wanted to know the hours for Hampton Court and the National Portrait Museum. The changing of the guard is for tourists. And it still is. Everyone who lives in London dresses nice, in black or grays, with dress shoes and trench coats. Everyone at the changing of the guard was dressed in jeans and tennies, except for an Asian college-aged girl who was dressed in ripped up denim shorts and tights. The bands marched up playing the theme from James Bond and Manilow's Copacabana. Ugh. But I did get a very nice picture of the statue in the middle of the circle that features a woman breastfeeding. I'm going to make LissyJo a framed version for whatever the next gift-giving event is.
The gates outside the Globe. They're very cool, with all sorts of little animals and faces and things.
Near my hotel room. Man standing on own head.
This bird was in the park near Buckingham. He's huge! Over four feet for sure, maybe closer to five. He had a pretty big audience.
Tower of the Parliament building, as viewed from the Westminster Abbey gardens. There was a priest eating a sandwich in the gardens, all by himself. If I was to be a priest, I'd really hope some other priest would eat lunch with me. It was pretty in the gardens, but it looked sad to be sitting there alone - it wasn't at all funny like the Mr. Bean sandwich eating sketch.
Some columns by the Ministry of Defense. There were holding Remembrance Day activities not too far from here.
By the Eye, there were many street performers along the Thames. This one is scary. Really scary. I wouldn't touch his bowl - he might bite. Eryn refuses to believe it's a dog, and she even seems a little worried that it might just be a head in a box with no accompanying body.
This one was just outright weird. He beeped instead of talking, and biked when you dropped a coin in his plate. A strange career choice.
This guy was the best of the living statues. He kept bird seed on him to attract the pigeons. I saw him standing a few days later and people would get very close to check him out, not sure if he was real or not.
A spider statute at the Tate museum. It was late when I walked by and I was due to meet up for the pub (and I knew there'd been a man on the tracks earlier - a piss poor job of minding the gap), or I'd have definitely visited. Next time I'm in London, this is high on my list. That tower is very tall - you can see it in the picture of the Globe Theatre above.
I don't know why. It was in a courtyard for some office building right across the building where they keep track of all the Coats of Arms. If I had to look out my window at this head on a totem pole every workday, I think I'd be figuring out how to cut it down with a chainsaw.