Archive for May, 2009

So, you’ve sauntered into the heart of London with a gleam of mischief in your eye and wallet full of pounds. While the sun is in the sky, oh why oh why would I want to be anywhere else? What to do, what to do…here’s a few things…

2nd Annual Stag & Dagger Festival – 100 bands in 20 venues! Oh the humanity! The first night in London we spent checking out some bands and wandering around the East side of the city. The Filthy Dukes at the Vibe Bar kept us entertained for a bit.

Tower of London – after multiple visits to London, the Tower had never made my excursion list. Until now. We had a right jolly Beefeater (a Yeoman Warder of the Tower) give us a tour and clue us in on bits of the sordid history of England. Best story was when Jack Ketch, the executioner, gave James Scott 5 blows with his axe before having to use a carving knife to finish the gruesome beheading. Or the time where two princes went missing in 1483, leaving Richard III as the king. The princes were found 180 years later in a wooden box behind one of the White Tower walls as it was knocked down for renovation. We also saw the Crown Jewels…

Westminster Abbey – pretty much where everyone to ever live in England is buried…even with the copious number of graves and memorials, still a beautiful and reverent place.

O2 Academy Brixton – seems to be the happening spot to see live music in London. We saw The Tings Tings one night in this cavernous and well appointed venue.

Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms – the underground bunker where Winston Churchill and his cabinet planned and executed their World War II plans against the Nazis. Churchill would often go outside and watch the Luftwaffe destroy London with their biltzkrieg.  While smoking his cigar.


What to eat and drink…

Caipirihnas in a fishbowl – exactly what it sounds like, with exactly the effect you would expect. Fish not included.

Salt Beef Bagel – late night eating, especially when everything else is closed early on Sunday for the Bank holiday, deserves a stop for salt beef slapped on a bagel with a dollop of nasal cavity burning mustard.

Cream Tea– a spot of tea and a couple scones, with jam and clotted cream on the side. Oiy.

Indian food on Brick Lane– everywhere you walk, hawkers try to entice you into their restaurant. But choices abound. We let a Londoner pick for us.  Try the Balti lamb korma.


What not to do…

Tate Modern– ummmm, yes… if you like modern art in all its various motiffs, then this is certainly the place for you. But if you can do without strange movies (Blood and Feathers anyone?) and randomly weird artistic expression, than there is plenty else to do in London.

LDN out


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Jonesing for some historical knowledge that will impress your friends at the next dinner party? Say no more. You’ve come to the exact right place at the exact right time.

Not interested in history? Don’t have any friends? Sigh…I think American Idol is on now…

Read these books at your own peril. You might learn something. Which in your case, might be a first.

The Pirate Coast (Richard Zacks, 2006)  This tells of the United States’ involvement in the Barbary Coast and the shores of Tripoli in the early 1800’s. A man leads the country’s first marines to depose the pasha of Tripoli by putting the less than deserving brother in his place. Covert affairs, the US begins. Also, it tells of the war against the Barbary pirates and the primary rationale for the early US navy.

Ghost Soldiers (Hampton Sides, 2002)  Made into an decent but not great movie (The Great Raid), this is an excellent story detailing the rescue of the surviving prisoners of war from the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. If you even remotely like epic, incredible stories or anything about World War II, make sure you read this book.

Isaac’s Storm (Erik Larson, 2000)  Even worse than Hurricane Katrina, this hurricane in 1900 rips through Galveston, Texas and kills 6000 people. The tale is recounted from the perspective of one meteorologist who didn’t know what he was dealing with.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Alfred Lansing, 1999) Ernest Shackleton went to the the South Pole and got stuck. This is the epic tale of how he and his crew survived for 1-1/2 years and what they had to do.

Under the Banner of Heaven (Jon Krakauer, 2004)  Explores how religious fundamentalism can poison the human condition through the eyes of the Mormon faith and two brothers that killed their sister-in-law and niece because God told them to. Scary and yet true.

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