Monday, August 8, 2011

Back to Reality

Gone are the days when all I needed to know was where and what time to meet the following day.  All of my decisions and choices in London centered around which famous thing to see next or whether I would have a butter or chocolate croissant from Pret!  I haven't had a lot of time to sit and contemplate everything that happened, but what a great trip!  I love talking to my family and friends about the things I saw and sharing photographs with them.  I love answering questions about what it was like to live in London for three weeks.  Most of all, I'm just glad I did it.  It was an opportunity for me to travel and meet some good people; both were accomplished.

For now, however, there are things to sell and boxes to pack, friends to see and more travel to arrange.  I'm off to a new city, a new state, and a new house.  It will be strange not teaching in the fall; I already miss my colleagues and students at LHS.  Though I'm sure I will be busy, it will definitely take some time to adjust.  Fortunately, we are expecting visitors and some nice winter weather :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Our Final Tour

We were fortunate enough to tour Buckingham Palace today with a superb audio guide.  After being on several tours during the last three weeks, it is without question that a good audio guide can make a tour much more enjoyable.  Several hall and state rooms in the Palace are open to the public for only a few months each year.  The grandeur of the Palace is just indescribable, from the paintings and the tapestries, to the furniture and the ceilings.  The audio guide also gave additional information about some of the pieces on display.  This summer's tour features exhibits from the Royal Wedding of William and Kate.  Pictures and video recap the events of the April ceremony at Westminster Abbey.  But the real draw of the exhibit is Kate's wedding dress, with comments by the designer.  Also on display are her shoes, earrings, and bouquet, as well as a replica of the wedding cake.  It was fun to think back about watching the wedding, never realizing that I would see any of these things in person.

Our goodbye lunch was at the Hard Rock Cafe, the original one, which opened in 1971.  I read a little history about the restaurant on a drink menu at the table.  As the story goes, Eric Clapton was a big fan of the restaurant when it first opened.  He asked the owners if he could have a plaque above a certain table to reserve his spot; they said no.  However, they said they would hang one of his guitars there instead, and so started the collection of rock memorabilia in Hard Rock Cafe restaurants.

Well, it's been a great trip but I am looking forward to going home tomorrow.   Our group certainly packed a lot into our three weeks in London.  I think I would like to go back to several of our destinations, just for an extended visit.  I'm also looking forward to watching the 2012 Olympics after spending time in London.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Looking Ahead

Feeling a bit under the weather this morning, I didn't make the trip to Hampton Court with the class.  I am looking forward to Buckingham Palace tomorrow though.  In addition to the Palace, I also hope to see the Royal Mews where the State vehicles are kept.  Certainly one of the best things about this trip is touring the Royal Palaces and Parks.  I can't imagine the amount of work that goes into the upkeep of those landmarks and open spaces, especially with the number of visitors that tour those facilities each year.  The flowers and gardens are kept in immaculate condition, and the parks are relatively litter-free.  Constant work is being done to the buildings, many of which date back hundreds of years.  Those landmarks and parks have left an indelible impression on me.

I did see Wicked tonight at the Apollo Victoria Theatre with three of my classmates.  Having always wanted to see the show, I finally had the perfect opportunity here in London.  In this city, you could probably see any show that you've always wanted to see, on any given night!  The costumes and set were wonderful and really added to my enjoyment of the show.  But hands down it was the performance of Rachel Tucker as Elphaba that made me want to go back.  With her incredible voice and emotion, she really drew me into the story.  I was also very impressed with Chloe Taylor, the understudy, who played Glinda.

As my departure date from London quickly approaches, the one thing that I'm sure of is that I will return.  There are still items on my wish list of things to see and do.  My return will be with my history enthusiast husband, who would love this city.  I'm so thankful for this opportunity.  It amazes me that it took 39 years for me to travel overseas; I can certainly see why students want to study abroad.

The Beefeaters

Click on the Glogster tag at the top to view the full size version.


Badge of the Yeomen of the Guard.  Retrieved July 31, 2011, from:

Chessandlena.  (2009).  Yeoman Warder – Traitor’s Gate [video].  Available from        

Hollist, M.  (2010).  Grand tradition:  Beefeaters with the Tower’s fabled ravens [Photograph].  Retrieved from 1241959/Beefeaters-accused-running-50-head-private-tours-Crown-Jewels-wasnt-tourists-saw.html

MacLellan, K.  (2009).  Beefeaters [Photograph].  Retrieved from

T., Kris.  (2011).  Tower of London – Beefeaters Tours [Photograph].  Retrieved from             er_London /London-309228/General_Tips-London-Historical-BR-1.html

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Other Half

Today I learned a little about how the other half lives.  After touring Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, our group stopped for High Tea at the Orangery.  The Orangery sits on the grounds of Kensington Palace, you know, William and Kate's new home.  Although some work is being done to the Palace to get it ready for the newlyweds, the grounds and gardens are at their full summer glory.  The Orangery is a beautiful building with a terrace and large windows, perfect for an afternoon tea.  Here are some of the highlights of a traditional English High Tea.  You get a tiered stand with three plates of food, and of course, tea.  You eat from the bottom plate up, so the sandwiches come first, then the scone, and finally, dessert.  Today we had little sandwiches with cucumber, ham, or salmon; the scone was made with raisins, and the desserts were a small chocolate cake and an apricot tart - all quite delicious.  With a little milk and sugar to make it more like coffee, the tea was delightful as well :)

On the advice of others, I stopped for a little look around at Harrod's on the way home.  I honestly thought Harrod's was a large, upscale shopping mall.  After twenty minutes and a lot of questions, Theresa finally enlightened me that Harrod's is actually one department store!  What a place...and the reason for the title of this blog.  Unless you are in the gift shop, this is certainly a store for "the other half".  This store has the best of everything and the price tags to prove it.  I was most impressed by the food halls, where you can get anything your heart and stomach desire.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Beefeaters

With only a few days left of my journey, I knew that I had to see the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge.  According to every tour guidebook and map I've looked at in the last two months, these landmarks are not to be missed when in London.  I was certainly not disappointed.  My first stop was to join a tour led by one of the famous Beefeaters, the honorary guards and tour guides of the Tower.  Our guide was quite entertaining with his tales of the famous prisoners who had been kept at the Tower, and for many, their subsequent executions - Anne Boleyn being one.  At this point in my trip, I think I know the story of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn better than I know myself  :)  Look for my Glogster (a multimedia poster) about the Beefeaters, or Yeoman Warders, in the next few days.  In addition to my tour, I also saw exhibits of armor, artillery, instruments of torture, and of course, the crown jewels.

I must admit that after the last three days, it will be nice to be at home where there are no crowds.  London is of course a destination for people all over the world; it is a very cosmopolitan city.  I do enjoy listening to all of the languages represented here, and it's great to see families visiting these amazing sites.  However, there is something to be said for less traffic, no lines, and quiet.  Soon enough I will have plenty of that as well!

Tomorrow we will be having High Tea after spending some time in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.  In thinking about a traditional tea, I must evaluate some other traditional English fare before I head home.  It's time for a full English breakfast!