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Whenever you visit England, it’s good to have a goal. Maybe you want to get a glimpse of the Queen. Maybe you want to eat a heaping plate of bubble and squeak. Maybe you want to frolic in the fountains of Trafalger Square. Maybe you simply want to get rapped in the cakehole by a bobby brandishing a truncheon after a ruck with a pack of hooligans who have lost the plot. Whatever the goal, make it count. Make it your own.

My goal was to have cream tea. Simple. Elegant. Sophisticated. I failed (sort of). Let’s find out why.

After soaking up the British culture in Newport Pagnell for a week doing work, I hopped on a train to London. The plan: spend a few days, see some places I hadn’t been to, eat some proper British food and down a pint or three.

The first full day was to meet up with friends and explore Hampstead in North London.

Fenton House – after a late lunch off the high street of Hampstead, we peeked into a historic house (turned museum) with a large garden and orchid. The owner had collected harpsichords and clavichords like they were going out of style. Actually they were, because do you even know what a harpsichord is?

The house was also full of paintings and other such things that accumulate in old houses over hundreds of years. A small deck on the top floor overlooked downtown London. The garden and orchid were quite nice for a stroll. Cream tea sightings = 0.

Hampstead Heath – you could call it a massive park full of rolling fields of grass and shrubbery, clear lakes, and walking paths lined with weeping willows. Or you could call it heath. Either way, after cavorting on an oddly fallen tree and using the heathland as my stage for a Julie Andrews (a la The Sound of Music) impression, we spied a singular looking mansion in the distance. Luring us. Beckoning us. Tea or not to tea.

Kenwood House & Estate – a set location for the movie Notting Hill (which is not that impressive unless you like Hugh Grant), this gigantic house is surrounded by more idyllic lawns, pathways and lakes.

The house itself boasts an imperial number of paintings and other things snobby, rich people revel in. Such as ballrooms and candlesticks and beauties in gowns and beasts in ruffled suits. After wandering about the museum part aimlessly; maybe perusing the china and baubles, gazing at the portraits of stuffy, unamused people and admiring the art with snobby aloofness; one could be tempted to visit the garden café on the ground level. Maybe something teaish or creamish will be on offer.

Walking along the outside, you soon come to a stone gateway and stairs. The sign on the inside of the gateway says ‘Flask Walk’. My kind of place. You take the stairs down and then walk to the café and the large, spacious outdoor seating areas. This place must have cream tea. It’s gonna happen!

The café boasted a British line-up of options. I darted between the various refrigerated displays…seeking, searching. I spied a scone and suddenly stopped. Cut in half with jam and some light, frothy cream (not clotted) inside. Arrggghhhh! So close, but not proper cream tea at all! I bought one anyway, cursing under my breath. I ate it but my quest was in shambles. Time to move on.

Rose Hill – it was time to head over for some evening activities and our lengthy walk passed through Rose Hill, with a nice view of the London Zoo and other things. As the evening dusk began to settle, we continued our quest to…

Camden Town – where we learned upon arrival at the first bar that Amy Winehouse was dead. Her house was mere blocks away. We could have walked over. But that just seemed way too depressing, so we headed over to Hawley Arms Pub, where she was a regular, and had a number of pints that totaled more than one. Some may have been in her honor.

Tea requiem – other things happened in London, that’s another story, but my quest for cream tea did come full circle, in a surprising way. As I was waiting in Heathrow Airport to board my flight home to DC, the customer service desk announced my name. I walked up and they proceeded to upgrade me to FIRST CLASS for FREE. Yes, read that again. Because that’s how I roll. With a cheesy grin on my face, I tested all the various doodads and whatchamacallits and entertainment options that make up the 5% of the plane my lavish seat occupied. Then shortly after take off, the flight attendant brought me…wait for it…CREAM TEA! Warm scones, strawberry jam, clotted cream and a spot of tea.

The End

Happy harpsichord

A Fenton rose by any other name...

Fenton House Garden

Apple Orchid

 

London, there it is

Heath 2

Hampstead Heath

That looks like some heath over there

Oops, it fell down

Take a walk on the wild side

Not Cream Tea

View from Rose Hill

Camden Town

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(Originally sent via email January 2, 2008)

I trust you had a fantastic year and are just about ready to wrestle this new year, 2008, into submission. I simply ask that you keep your New Year’s resolutions child-friendly. Forget it, no one ever listens anyway.

Once again, I give you exactly what you didn’t want, another biased, self-absorbed Christmas Letter (albeit now after the fact). You can run, you can hide, but why bother? Like a scab, you just have to pick at it. Since you probably have a ridiculously short attention span and more interesting things to do, I have used bold letters and words a 5th grader can follow (no research went into this claim). So here it is, a graphic, untamed sampling of my experience that was the year 2007. No minors allowed.

Butterfly Farm (Georgetown, Malaysia)
Hot and steamy… this is not the opening of a romance novel, it is simply the environment butterflies like to pupate, grow and burst forth from their cocoons. They seem to be quite happy flitting about their flower gardens, babbling brooks and koi ponds, that is until a net flashes from below and they find themselves pinned behind a framed pane of glass in your plastic shopping bag. You just had to ruin it, didn’t you? A writhing pit of large, obsidian scorpions stabbing each other with mammoth stingers is also a good way to enjoy the wonders of nature.

Northern Virginia Wineries (USA)
On two occasions I spent the day touring wineries and quaffing the various offerings. My pretentious wine awards go to:

  • Best winery name: Naked Mountain
  • Best hot tub wine: Moonrise (from Gadino Cellars)
  • Best use of fake guns and fake beards: Civil War Re-enactment (at Gray Ghost winery)
  • Best T-shirt slogan: Drink Naked (from Naked Mountain)
  • Best wine: Mediterranean Cellars’ Sweet Lucia
  • Best documentary: My thrilling, timeless expose of an inchworm’s quest for the meaning of life (42)
  • Best view: Rolling farmlands – everywhere
  • Best Sommelier: Me

Top Songs
The best songs I heard this year…..drum roll please…….. “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillet, “Starts With One” by Shiny Toy Guns, “Time” by Chantal Kreviazuk, “LDN” by Lily Allen, “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles, “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” by Fall Out Boy, and “Champagne From a Straw” by Andrea Corr. If you haven’t heard any of these songs, hmmmmmm – why do I even bother

Cliffs of Bandiagara (Mali)
Intertwined within a dusty, heat drenched cliff face, village ruins (former home of the Dogon people) overlook a tree-scattered landscape that almost touches the Sahara Desert. Climbing up and around narrow paths, ladders, random paintings and dark rooms passing off as homes, you finally reach the town meeting place, a narrow, cave-like hollow that one cannot stand in – so one cannot jump up in anger during the tumultuous town meetings.  No women allowed. Why didn’t corporate America think of this? (well, the first part)

McMenamins Kennedy School (Portland, Oregon, USA)
McMenamins has a tendency to convert old buildings, theaters, schools, frankly whatever they can get their hands on, into brewpubs serving their various beers on tap. The Kennedy School just so happened to have been an elementary school early in its existence. Now it is a busy brewery, restaurant, theater, hotel, art gallery, pub and whatever else they managed to cram into the former classrooms and locker rooms (yes the showers still work). The only thing that’s missing right now is me.

European Champions League Match (London, England)
In an epic match between football clubs from England and Portugal, titan Chelsea (England) took on FC Porto (Portugal) at Stamford Bridge in London. The stadium was electric with blue and fans hoarsely and enthusiastically singing “Blue Flag” and “Blue is the Colour” as Chelsea handed Porto a devastating 2-1 defeat to advance to the Champions league semi-finals against Liverpool. Me, I just tried not to provoke any hooligans. Go Chelsea

Pet Photo Contest (Capital Hill, Washington, D.C.)
My wiener dog became famous for one month during Capital Hill’s Hill Rag annual Pet Photo Contest. He didn’t win anything, but he was pictured under the “Best of the Rest” section, looking so cute carrying an oversized bone. At least I didn’t dress him up in a stupid costume! Those people should get acquainted with the inside of a padded room. You know who you are.

Facebook.com (website)
Oh man, last year I got on MySpace and this year I added Facebook to my repertoire of extreme time-wasting activities. I’ve “superpoked” so many people that I think the police are looking for me.

Fish (Key Largo, Florida)
In the Florida Keys, I saw fish from all angles, inside and out. First, we went to the Fishhouse, a busy little restaurant that served great Mahi-Mahi stuffed with blue crabmeat. Fried Conch, although it sounds interesting, is just not. Then I did four (scuba) dives off French Reef and played with the inquisitive lobsters and tried to tickle the clown fish (apparently they don’t find that very funny – false advertising!)

Planet Earth (DVD)
This 11-part epic mini-series exhibits our little planet through breathtaking cinematography and stunning, never before captured live action. Wait, do I sound like I’m writing the back of the DVD jacket? Crap, well, if you want to see lions kill an elephant, or crystal caves that are off-limits to preserve their beauty (except the film crew and only for this series), or a desperate polar bear try to kill an elephant seal bull (not a good idea really), or the lovely ecosystem that lives in a pile of bat guano the size of your house, then this is the DVD for you.

U.S. and A
Over the last few years, I’ve been traveling to quite of range of countries. This year, I actually took some time to poke around my home country a bit. So I had a look see of Boston (no tea party but plenty of Harvard talent), Atlanta (home of the Braves), the Florida Keys (where else can you get key lime pie on-a-stick?), St. Petersburg (it’s silly to expect much), New York (those damn Yankees want how much for a ticket?), Seattle (still sore from too much sports and coffee), Portland (good for drowning oneself in beer) and Miami (South Beach!).

Canadian Rocky Mountains (Alberta, Canada)
If only to stroll the picturesque Banff in minus 13 (Celsius) weather, to sip hot cocoa at Banff Springs Hotel or to ski much too fast down the Lake Louise ski slopes. Or to be overwhelmed by the imposing blue mountains as the sun begins its descent. Or to spy a bald eagle at dusk making short work of a frozen deer. Or to…but I digress.

Beaches and Tsunamis (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Outside our hotel, south of Dar es Salaam, was a beach granting uninhibited access to the Indian Ocean. With just a 20-minute boat ride, you could land on a small island and stroll up from the cobalt blue water and small patches of coral and park yourself in the sand. Or you can wait out a tsunami warning after an 8.2 earthquake rocked Indonesia. Sadly, it petered out and didn’t wash us all away. Though harder to write about when dead, it probably makes for a more interesting story.

Top Books
The best books I read this year….”The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, “Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer” by James L. Swanson, “Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning” by George Monbiot, “Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, and  “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond.

Spice Farm (Zanzibar)
If you want to know where nutmeg, cinnamon, peppercorn, cocoa beans, lanolin, vanilla and other spices come from, then your next adventure should be a trek through a spice farm. Smell, taste, touch and guess what each plant grows. Then eat all manner of fruit until the juices can’t help but drip from your chin. If you also want some guy to make hats, ties, bags and jewelry out of banana leaves (you heard me), then my work here is done.

Blogging
Yikes, I started a blog this year. Noooooo! Although it is the last thing the world needs, I feel compelled to infect the unsuspecting masses with my unnecessarily lazy prose. Dark, disturbing and beyond redemption, it can only get worse. Read more: (Myspace link removed – A Random Journey is now my blog which you are on…)

Top Movies
Some of the best movies I saw this year, even if they weren’t all released this year were….”Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Lives of Others”, “Superbad”, “American Gangster”, and “No Country for Old Men”.

Wicked (Musical in Baltimore, Maryland, USA)
As you may not know, the Wicked Witch of the West was actually good, just misunderstood. This is a great bit of revisionist history about the classic tale ‘The Wizard of Oz” set to music. Green is good!

Flowering Balconies (Cartagena, Colombia)
Ahh, perchance to stroll aimlessly about the walled city of Cartagena de Indias, spying the spectacular hanging flowers exploding from balconies, plazas, and gardens only to be tempered by the pulsating colors and architecture of the myriad of edifices densely packed into narrow cobblestone streets. (Would you rather I wrote it in Spanish?) You can gaze out onto the Caribbean watching (hoping) for pirate ships to attack the impregnable Castillo de San Felipe. Wishful thinking, once they built that sucker, no one ever took the city or made off with boatloads of booty again.
 
Speaking of booty, this is the end of the Christmas Letter. Get back to whatever you were doing before this unwelcome intrusion. Or do something interesting.
 
Bonus Entry!
For anyone just not sure how to handle 2008 yet, let me give you some options. Baseball games at Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees) and Shea Stadium (New York Mets). They are tearing down the stadiums after the 2008 season and I have to go before it happens. Mark your calendars.

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This, I promise, is my last shout out to 2009. Before we close out the year that was, I give you a list of some of the better albums I listened to. A couple were released in 2008, but who’s complaining? I admit I didn’t buy a whole lot of albums this year (thank you library), but I did listen to quite a few. At least enough to pick five good ones.  In no particular order:

  • Backspacer by Pearl Jam
  • It’s Blitz by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Ladyhawke by Ladyhawke
  • 21st Century Breakdown by Green Day
  • Hook Me Up by The Veronicas

 

Bonus #1: Five Best Concerts of 2009

  1. Chris Cornell (at 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.)
  2. Green Day (at Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.)
  3. No Doubt (at Nissan Pavilion, Virginia)
  4. The Ting Tings (at O2 Academy Brixton, London)
  5. Jimmy Buffett (at Nissan Pavilion, Virgina)

 

Bonus #2: Ten Most Listened to Songs of 2009

  1. This Love“, The Veronicas
  2. Let Go“, Frou Frou
  3. My Delirium“, Ladyhawke
  4. Crazy World“, Ladyhawke
  5. Love Gives Love Takes“, The Corrs
  6. Softshock“, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  7. Great DJ“, The Ting Tings
  8. Let Me Go“, Cake
  9. Never Miss A Beat“, Kaiser Chiefs
  10. Messages“, Filthy Dukes

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Let’s be clear, this letter is all about me, me, me. There’s no need to deny it or pretend otherwise. This is my chance to brag about what I’ve done, what I know, and how awesome I truly am. It’s where I yell “LOOK MA!” as I hit that bulging hornet’s nest with a big stick. In other words, I speak before I think. And I never expect to get stung.

But since this is after all, the season of giving, I’m willing to cut you in on my conceit. At least once a year, I’m willing to take the focus slightly off me, and give you some attention as well. I’m sure you deserve it. So if you send me your ‘me, me, me’ letters, I will read them (as far as you know). I’m also willing to go a step further and thank you for your attention now, even if, deservedly, it lasts but briefly. So, I am humbled by those that read every word of this letter, grateful to those that skim through it (looking for juicy parts), and wholly forgiving of those that press delete before opening it (even though they won’t know it). Let’s get started.

2009 was a year. Profound. But what type of year was it?

Was it an up year? Or a down year?

Was it a smack you in the face year? Was it a lay quietly in your snuggie in front of the TV year? Was it a throw down your top and drive off into the sunset year?

Did it make you laugh? Did you make you cry? Did it make you sing karaoke against your will? Did it throw caution to the wind? Did it excel in every way?

Who cares. 2009 was what it was. Don’t over think it. Let’s pause here to look at a few of the non-required highlights.

Breweries – Let’s all shout an ode to beer, the joyous liquid. In my questionable wisdom, I made a point to check out a barrel-full of beer making places. In Maryland, the District of Columbia, Ohio, Michigan and Washington. The real question is, why am I writing this drivel instead of sitting at the local brewpub? Hmmm, this letter may end up shorter than usual…see ya!

London, England – Okay, I’m still here. You lucked out. I’ve been to London a number of times over the past few years, but this was the first time I’ve stayed on the East side, in the Shoreditch district. Nearby is Brick Lane, with its overabundance of tasty Bengali Indian cuisine and curry restaurants. Conveniently, the 2nd Annual Stag & Dagger music festival thumped on the first night we arrived. 100 bands in 20 venues, all within spitting distance of the hotel. Of course, we also had to lay waste to messy shwarmas and salt beef bagels (liberally slathered in sinus clearing mustard) sold in the late night walk-up stands. And we drank caipirinha from fishbowls for good measure. Somehow we also managed to visit the Westminster Abbey and Winston Churchill’s Cabinet War Room (the underground command bunkers during World War II).

Baseball – In my quest to see a baseball game in every Major League stadium, I added three new stadiums in 2009, in Cincinnati, Detroit and Cleveland. Each stadium had its own charm (like gigantic tiger statues in Comerica Park). In two of the games my team, the Seattle Mariners, lost badly. Crap. The M’s lone highlight was Ken Griffey, Jr jacking a solo homerun. Also on the agenda was watching the ground crew making the field playable after a rain delay, feasting on hot dogs, and other impressive things. Next year…maybe a visit to Chicago?

Leavenworth (Washington state, USA) – It’s a small Bavarian village on the other side of the Cascades. A good place to enjoy Oktoberfest, a bit of bratwurst, the fall foliage, and visit a few vineyards and wine tasting rooms.

Books – Instead of this letter, please read “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson and “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell.

Paphos, Cyprus – First, rent a car in Larnaca. Second, learn to drive on the wrong (left) side of the road. Third, enjoy. We took a leisurely drive from Larnaca to Paphos, through a few quaint villages along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We sat on the waterfront and enjoyed a lunch infused with seafood and beer. Then we drove around with no particular destination and no goal. Scenic and refreshing.

Icicle Ridge Winery – Not to be outdone by its sudsier cousin (our good friend beer), I also managed to raise my pinky finger during tastings at 13 different wineries in Northern Virginia and Washington state. Yes, that’s right. I may now qualify as something of an expert wino, even though I retained none of the possible knowledge that I could have attained. Icicle Ridge Winery (WA) was the best of the lot, with a free tasting (11 wines!) and a great setting. Also good were Village Winery and Vineyards (VA) and Chrysalis Vineyards (VA).

Music – I rocked out to a load of concerts (18), listened to a few dozen new albums and used my airline miles to buy a new iPod Touch to keep them all at my fingertips. Of the concerts, I enjoyed Green Day and Chris Cornell. The Barack Obama inauguration concert with a ‘yes we can’ variety of artists on the National Mall was also worth noting. Garth Brooks played three songs and proved why he is still a great entertainer. Of the albums, I enjoyed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘It’s Blitz! and Pearl Jam ‘Backspacer’.

Road Trip (Ohio and Michigan, USA) – Traveling a hefty 2,197 miles through the states of Ohio and Michigan, with your wiener dog as a co-pilot, while blaring CDs over and over, is a fine way to spend a week or so. I managed to attend some ball games, nosh good food, sip some beer, take in a few sights and generally make a nuisance of myself. Especially interesting were slipping about the University of Michigan campus, gaining potential music knowledge at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (none retained), and sifting sand between my toes along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Hiking – I’ve been missing out on hiking over the past few years, mostly because I’d be off traveling or because I’m just flat lazy. So one of my 2009 New Year’s resolutions was to do more day hikes. And lo! I succeeded! I joined the local Capital Hiking Club and managed to trek about Virginia and Pennsylvania. I also did a hike in Washington making about 12 day hikes in all. A majority of the hikes were along portions of the Appalachian Trail that runs from Maine to Georgia. One day I might have to tackle that whole beast.

US Open Cup Championship (soccer) game (Washington, D.C., USA) – The expansion Major League Soccer team, Seattle Sounders FC, enjoyed a fine first year of existence. They played well, made the playoffs, and broke multiple attendance records. Additionally, all US soccer teams at all levels of play participate in an annual domestic tournament called the US Open Cup. The Sounders advanced to the championship game against DC United and pulled out an incredible victory on DC’s home pitch. We came adorned in blue and green to witness an energetic game and proved that US soccer fans can have a bit of passion for the game. Case in point, over 100 Sounders fans traveled all the way from Seattle to attend the game, while singing songs and shouting like only hooligans can. Oy! Now bring on the World Cup!

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia, USA) – Whether is was camping in the rain or hiking among trillium flowers or standing still to escape notice of that bear or swimming underneath freezing waterfalls or pausing dramatically to allow that rattlesnake to get the heck out of my way or scrambling over rock formations to see the incredible view, I spent a good amount of time in Shenandoah National Park. Thought you should know.

Television – Surprisingly there are quite a number of decent new shows to look out for, including Community and FlashForward. Others to either keep watching or start watching at all cost are:  Fringe, Dexter and Lost.

Truck Bed Sledding – If you think that using a black inner tube or a regular sled are the correct ways to careen crazily downhill, then you are wrong. The actual correct way is to find a cast-off truck bed liner in the woods, pull it to the top of a precipitous drop and then on the count of three, have six or so screaming diehards jump in and hold on for dear life. Sanity and medical insurance not included.

Tower of London (London, England) – The Tower is a sprawling fortress bursting with historical intrigue, death and Beefeaters. It consists of 20 total towers, with the largest, the White Tower as the most famous. Our Beefeater gave us a rousing tour of the grounds and told of horrific beheadings, disappearing young princes whose bodies turned up hundreds of years later in the tower wall, wars, and crazy kings. Basically the history of England could almost be summed up within these walls.

Kruger Park (South Africa) – If you like near death lions, lithely trotting leopards, angrily charging elephants, curious rhinos, trapped in your room bats, baby giraffes extending their necks for food, muddy snorting hippopotamus’, racing zebras, suspicious buffaloes, bashful bushbucks and more impalas then you can shake a stick at, then you’d do well to book a three-day safari through Kruger Park. If you like breathtaking sunrises, curious rock formations, sparse forests, post-wildfire plains, high bluffs with views forever, gigantic baobab trees, dusty scrub brush, flowing rivers, darkness illuminated with spotlights, and an occasional camp or lodge in the distance, then drive around in your white 4-wheel drive for hours on end. If none of this appeals you? All the more for me.

peace and merriment to you and yours

View the Wordle version: http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/1507817/2009

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There is only one simple criterion for this playlist. It must be a song from a band or artist that I’ve seen in concert so far in 2009.

  1. “American Pie” (Don McLean) covered by Garth Brooks* (at National Mall)
  2. “Pride (In the Name of Love)” by U2* (at National Mall)
  3. “Higher Ground” (Stevie Wonder) covered by Stevie Wonder, Shakira and Usher* (at National Mall)
  4. “One Love” (Bob Marley) covered by Herbie Hancock, will.i.am and Sheryl Crow* (at National Mall)
  5. “Listen to the Math” by Tokyo Police Club (at Black Cat)
  6. “Stop the Show” by Scythian (at RFK Stadium – Shamrock Fest 2009)
  7. “What About Everything?” by Carbon Leaf (at RFK Stadium – Shamrock Fest 2009)
  8. “Great DJ” by the Ting Tings (at 9:30 Club)
  9. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (Pat Benatar) covered by The Reflex (at 9:30 Club)
  10. “I Am, I Said” (Neil Diamond) covered by Super Diamond (at 9:30 Club)
  11. “The Geeks Were Right” by The Faint (at 9:30 Club)
  12. “Runaway” by Ladytron (at 9:30 Club)
  13. “Show Me How To Live ” (Audioslave) by Chris Cornell solo (at 9:30 Club)
  14. “Song Beneath the Song” by Maria Taylor (at Rock n’ Roll Hotel)
  15. “The Fear” by Lily Allen (at 9:30 Club)
  16. “Messages” by Filthy Dukes (at Vibe Bar, London)
  17. “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings (at 02 Academy Brixton – London)
  18. “4 Songs & A Fight” by The Sounds (at Nissan Pavilion)
  19. “That’s What You Get” by Paramore (at Nissan Pavilion)
  20. “Sunday Morning” by No Doubt (at Nissan Pavilion)

Start dancing. Sing karaoke. Make the world a better place. Anything. Just please get to it. 

* From Barrack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration celebration concert “We Are One”.

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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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