Sunday, 21 April 2013

Update and a trip report of London! :D

Dear readers,
I solemnly swear that I will NEVER EVER write that things are starting to calm down in my life EVER again. My gosh, the past couple of months have just simply been insane (hence the lack of updates). In February my aunt had a heart attack, causing us to have to travel to the other side of the Netherlands to visit her. She had a bypass operation and everything seemed to be going well, until two weeks after the operation. She was hospitalized again and the doctors were not sure if she would make it… So we ended up traveling back and forward a while as we were of course very anxious about her health. Thankfully, though everything is going really well with her. She is currently going through rehabilitation and is doing just fine.
Well a lot of other things have happened in the meantime, but for today I will be focusing on my trip to London.

Day 1:
Last week on Saturday (April 13) I left for London with my parents for one week. We were staying in the same bed and breakfast I had stayed in during my previous trip to London, the Cherry Court Hotel. For a description of our hotel + pictures please see my previous London trip report:
The hotel was just as wonderful as it had been two years ago. Although the rooms are rather small, they are very clean and tidy, so I really recommend this B&B to everyone!
We arrived rather late on the day so we were not able to do anything apart from having dinner at the amazing pup at the corner of the street called St. George’s Tavern. The food there is reasonably priced and simply delicious, the staff is attentive and kind… what more can you want?! We ate there three times in total. So if you are ever near Victoria station, I really recommend that you try this gem :D.
Day 2:
On our first day in London I dragged my poor parents to an exhibition in the museum of London. It was called “Doctors, dissection and resurrection men”. As my research is currently focusing on murder in the Victorian era, the exhibition seemed to be very relevant, as Victorian body snatchers such as Burke and Hare are known to have murdered people in order to supply the anatomical theatres with bodies. I did not gain a lot of information on either Burke or Hare from the exhibition, but did gain some other information which is relevant to another part of my research. It occurred to me that the anatomical sketches and illustrations often portray the face of a really beautiful man (resembling Michelangelo’s David), even though most of the people which the anatomists were able to cut open to practice on would have been poor (especially during the second half of the Victorian era) and therefore not likely to look so well fed and handsome. At the museum store I bought a book entitled Death, Dissection and the Poor (^__^” which I of course bought for research purposes).  
Afterwards we went to a large store named Fortnum and Mason for a very, very extravagant (and rather expensive) high tea, as it was their anniversary (o.o I know… my poor parents being forced to go to such a horrid exhibition right before a high tea!!!). The restaurant is very, very fancy (the type where the waiter pushes your chair behind you when you sit down) and the service is simply immaculate. The scones, finger sandwiches and pastries were absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures for you at the moment. I will try to add them later. It was a truly magnificent experience though, so if you are going to London and just received a bonus, make sure to book a high tea here. It was also really fun to browse the story afterwards.
Day 3:
On Monday we first went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. You get a free audio tour at the entrance, which just makes the entire visit just so much more interesting! The tour explains the use of the church, the decorations, the paintings etc. The whispering gallery is definitely worth visiting (although you have to climb exactly 259 steps to get there). This is a circular area situated in the dome, which allows you to communicate with another person on the other side of the room by speaking towards the wall! I tried it myself and it really works! Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures in the church itself, so no pics guys!
Afterwards we visited Shakespeare’s The Globe theatre. This was my third visit to the theatre, so the exhibition itself was not very interesting to me. The information given us during the tour by the guide differed from what I heard before so I enjoyed the tour thoroughly.
Afterwards we took a small walk along the Thames and ate at one of the restaurants there.
Day 4:
On Tuesday we went to Harrods, which was awesome as always. We had some real English crumpets in the tea room there, which were simply delicious. I had never had an actual crumpet before, but I can honestly say that I loved them. They look similar to pancakes, though small and a little spongy (they soak the jam which you put on top of them right up). They do not taste like pancakes at all though…. So I suppose it is just something you have to experience yourself, if you have never tried them.
Although I had intended not to buy anything, my parents got me this really, really awesome replica of the time traveling necklace worn by Hermione in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
You can actually move the necklace and it comes with a small display cabinet (how awesome is that?!).
I myself ended up purchasing a little booklet called Dear Peter: Miniature Letters by Beatrix Potter, which contains reproductions of the letters by Beatrix Potter on Peter rabbit and his friends. These letters also contain small drawings, which makes it even more wonderful!
After having spent quite some time at Harrods we decided to go for a stroll in Hyde Park. When sitting upon a bench a squirrel suddenly made its way up to me and came so close that I almost was able to pet it. Later on, it became clear that the squirrels in the park are actually quite tame and approach people to beg for food. As I had some dry biscuits in my bag I ended up feeding two of them. They were soooo cute! One of the actually was so gutsy as to walk up to my leg and attach itself to my trouser leg! My dad tried to make pictures and to film it, but I am not sure how these turned out. I will make sure to upload them, along with the high tea pictures, later on in a separate post…  Next time I will make sure to bring a whole hoist of biscuits with me. I really could have fed those cute little animals all day long!
In the evening I treated my parents to dinner at the Rain Forest Café. The wonderful thing of the London version of this café is that the waiters really do take their time to have a chat with their customers. Our waiter (or rather safari guide :D) for the evening was Arjan. He was super friendly and took really good care of us. Hopefully, next time when I return there he will be there to serve me again.
Day 5:
On Wednesday we went on a day trip to Oxford. Near Victoria station you can take a bus which will get you directly to Oxford within approximately 2 hours. Although it is faster to go by train, it is a heck of a lot cheaper by bus, as a return fare only costs 16,- euros!
In Oxford we took a tour of the Bodleian library. In this library the library scenes from Harry Potter were filmed!  Unless you are a researcher there, you are not allowed to enter the library on your own, so you are required to take a tour. The tour takes about an hour and is well worth your time! You will hear all sorts of facts on the founding and development of the library and will be able to see where the Harry Potter scene was being filmed. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take any pictures in the library itself (*sobs*).
Afterwards we walked around Oxford a bit and looked at Christ Church College from the outside (the place where they have filmed the Great Hall in Harry Potter… T_T It closed at 4.30 so we couldn’t enter it anymore) and did some shopping. There is an Alice in Wonderland store along one of the main streets, which is well worth a visit! :D
Day 6:
On Thursday I woke up with a cold which was bordering on the flu, but that didn’t stop me from visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum! This definitely is one of my favourite London museums as there is soooo much to see. Especially the jewelry collection is amazing (and very interesting for a scholar of Victorian death and mourning!).
We had booked a Phantom of the Opera meal package for the evening. This is going to be my top tip of this post. If you book the Phantom and Brummer meal package you pay 65 pounds per person. For this price you get top seats (i.e. the best seats) plus a two course dinner at Brummers, a restaurant situated across the theatre, including a free glass of wine. This is actually cheaper than when you buy tickets for just the top seats, as just the ticket will cost you 75 pounds… So you save 10 pounds and get a free meal! I know, I don’t get it either. I guess the English are weird in this way? O.o?
Although I was not expecting much of the restaurant (as it was cheaper to get a ticket with dinner than it was without), I was very, very pleasantly surprised. Brummers is a very classy restaurant, the staff is really nice (they treat you like all the other customers and not like “one of those meal package people”) and the food was superb! You get to choose whether you wish a starter and a main, or a main and a desert. For the starter and main you can decide out of three different dishes. For the desert you can chose between four different types of cakes. You can add a side dish to your main for an extra 3 pounds, but this is really not necessary… Trust me, none of us were able to finish the side dish and the main haha. And if you are lucky, you get a miniature ice cream cone in between (with either a tiny scoop of peer or mango flavoured ice-cream :D)
I just want to briefly mention Victor, our waiter for the evening, who really made sure that everything was ok.  He even arranged for me to get a free coke, rather than a glass of wine as I don’t drink! :D I will definitely be returning there again.
The Phantom will always be a truly wonderful musical! The décor is just splendid… and I just love the story line. The actor performing the phantom himself, however, was not as good as the one I saw two years ago, which was a real pity. But I really enjoyed myself never the less!
Day 7:
On Friday we went to Kensington Palace Gardens. I have to say that I was not very impressed by the house itself nor by the garden (which is just like a large park). Compared to Chatsworth house in Sheffield both the house and the garden were horribly dull. The exhibition “Victoria Revealed”, however, was really wonderful. It gives the visitor an insight in what type of personality queen Victoria had, which is partly realized by excerpts of her diaries which are either painted on the wall or engraved on mirrors or glass cases (a truly fantastic idea!), and really makes it clear just how much she loved her husband Albert. One room in particular was like Walhalla for me, as this room was entirely dedicated to her mourning. It even displayed the marble bust she had made of Albert shortly after he had died.
Day 8:
On Saturday we just went straight to the airport and shopped around a bit before boarding the plane. They have some amazing shops there (it’s like one huge shopping mall)!
Well then, I had a wonderful time in London, but it’s really good to be back home… Tomorrow it back to work. J I am facing a very hectic month again, but I hope I will be able to update again soon (cannot make any promises though! >.<)