insights, outtakes and observations from our sabbatical year in England
Monday, July 25, 2011
London Adventures (Rebecca)
Haida Totem in London!
Well.... with Steve off to Kansas for a week of orientation (the new job), I set off with the boys for a first day of exploring the downtown. The plan was to see the British Museum, then do the Harry Potter walking tour. Our first visit to the British Museum was astoninshingly short. It was packed with people, and the sun was blazing in to the central area... within minutes, alex was saying "I have gotta get out of here" (too hot, and too many people). I totally agreed... it was a claustrophobic sweat pit! Knowing that we could come back many times, we decided to stay only so long enough to greet the huge Haida totem poles sitting in the centre of the museum (which seemed funny since my last act in Canada was to say goodby to "The Spirit of the Haida Gwaii"), wander past the Rosetta Stone, admire a few sarcophagi, and giggle with the kids about the one Egyption statue bearing the name of Pansehy. We thought it was close enough in spelling to Pansy, and (like the cretins we are) are calling him the whimpy Eygyptian.
Then, we headed off to do a walking tour.... I love London Walks...a cheap and fun way to wander around the city, learning things as you go. So... we have now done the newest offering, a wander through Harry Potter Film locations (and other interesting locations where some connection -- even if sometimes tenuous -- could be made to the film. fun, fun, fun!We started off at the Bank of England (and a discussion of 'goblins' and 'ingots' blending into a discussion of 'gringots'), and then wandered down the street with our fabulous guide, Lawrence. We wove into small back alleys, with distinctive Dickensian character, and past the site of the oldest coffee shop in London (from the 1600s). Then it was off to "insurance company corner", where stand three Insurance Company towers, one of which is the Swiss Re Building (also known as 'The Bullet" and "The Gherkin"). It is from inside this building that muggles watch the approach of the Death Eaters through the sky in the beginning of The Half Blood Prince. I love the mix of ancient and modern with the old cathedral right in front of the glass and steel of the other building!
Then it was off to Leadenhall, which functions as part of Diagon Alley in film 1. It is a still functioning market, and as you walk the cobbled streets, it is obvious why they chose it as a film scene.... it has a super vibe! Here, Duncan is posing in front of the door that functioned as the entry to "The Leaky Cauldron".
Because we were supposed to also 'learn' things, we headed off next to Pudding Lane, where the great London Fire of 1666 started in the shop of king's baker Thomas Farynor. Even though 80% of old London burned to the ground, only 9 people died in the 5 days the fires burned. Christopher Wren helped construct The Monument, which commemorates the fire... it has a lovely "goblet of fire" at the top. Ironically, in the year after the construction of The Monument, it was implicated in 17 deaths (people throwing themselves off the top!)
Then we walked to the middle of London Bridge, which is a pretty ordinary looking bridge, the version right before having been sold to a guy in Arizona. Still, from the middle of the bridge, you get a pretty good view across to Tower Bridge, further down the river. Alex was appalled by the colour of the water, wondering why they didn't put something in place to clean it up so it would look more like the lake or ocean closer to home. :-)
We stopped on the other side, to see the border between London and "the City of London" with its Dragon Crest. We were reminded that the City of London (as opposed to just London in general) is only about one square mile wide. We also checked out the "Millenium Spike", a bit of modern art invoking the history of putting people's heads on the spikes of London Bridge. We heard a great story about Sir Thomas Moore's daughter stealing her father's head from the bridge, leading to the King's direction that the heads on the spikes were to be counted twice a day to ensure that none went missing (leading to the phrase "doing a head count". Apocryphal story or not, it was fun! We then wandered past ... Southwark Cathedral (the oldest Gothic cathedral in London), and through a fairly aromatic Market (ie smelling of Fish!), to the site of the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter movies 3 and forward.
The tour ended there, so we hunkered down in the pub on corner of the street of the Leaky Cauldron. This corner is also used in "Bridget Jones' Diary", and in "Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrel". Fun! The food was a hit with the boys: Bangers and Mash (Duncan), and Steak and Ale Pie (Alex). I could get very fond of life in the Pub! Sitting there, we met up with some others from the tour, including an older guy from Houston Texas (have forgotten his name, of course!) who takes his granddaughter traveling with him for 3 weeks every year! Lucky her! We also chatted with our tour guide Lawrence, who had, as it turned out, just moved from one part of London into Finchley, a few blocks from us, and only 2 days after us! All in all, a pleasant way to finish off the day....And thus ended Monday!