Friday, August 28, 2015

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: England Day 6: London Day 2 : The Tower, Tower Bridge, Harrods, Abbey Road, and More--Shew!

  Our second day in London started out with confusion. Cheryl's hotel was near Liverpool Street station. I had loaded up her bag of goodies the night before so we'd be ready the next morning and could set off early. We arrived at Liverpool Street station and were set to walk to Cheryl's hotel and drop off the bag.

We texted Cheryl for directions. Apparently,'the exit across from Marks and Spencers' can be interpreted more than one way! There were several exits, all taking you out on to a different street. There was also more than one Marks and Spencers. Cheryl misunderstood which one we were in front of, because I didn't know there was more than one.In the end Cheryl told us to just wait and she'd come and get us.

Cheryl gets a look at her presents.
In shuffling the heavy bag of root beer flavoured goodies, (and other stuff.), the handle broke on the bag! Cheryl had seen how the girls shopped the day before, and 'suggested' that if the girls went back to the hotel with her and passed the big market on the way, we would never see anything that day. She thought it was a better idea if she just ran back with the stuff,with Ken as her porter, (It was a pretty heavy load and Cheryl, like me, has a bad back. She was going to transfer the stuff to her wheeled suitcase.),so they could be back quickly and we could get going.She was probably right, but after seeing Ken's pictures of the market, I agree with Ken: the girls would have loved it. When Ken and Cheryl got back, (Cheryl arrived with a new backpack she had bought in the market on the way back, to carry what wouldn't fit in the suitcase.), we headed out for the day. Since it was Sunday I had sorted out things that were open on Sunday, and things we could see no matter what the day or time. First off we set out for The Tower of London.

They were doing some jousting at The Tower.
Ivy had said she didn't want to visit the Tower because with it's murderous history and the stories of it being haunted, it creeped her out. She denied this, so we went and she didn't have a problem with it.
And Emma was really excited to see the Tower...

We saw the crown jewels. Sorry Ivy. No free samples...

Ivy, Emma, Cheryl, and me. Just under the clock behind us is where the entrance is to see the Crown Jewels.
 The Tower was once home to a collection of exotic animals, which were gifts from other countries.For 600 years The Royal Menagerie was entertainment for the royal court and the public. Animals were allowed to fight to their deaths as part of the 'entertainment', and during the time of James I a platform was built from which the fighting could be better observed by the king and courtiers. After the animals escaped from their enclosures several times, attacking each other, the public, and members of the Tower staff, they were sent, in 1832, to what is now the London zoo.

These wire sculptures are representations of the animals that used to live there. They're really amazing. They're all around The Tower in unexpected places.

Emma, Ivy, and Cheryl
Cheryl, me, Emma, and Ivy. My feet were killing me.
   A quick stop at the gift shop on the way out. I bought a Tower of London Christmas ornament that matched one I bought at The National Gallery the day before. (Metal, heart shaped, with pictures of the places on them. Better than it sounds!)  I love Christmas and Christmas decorations. I like to buy an ornament when we go on trips.
The gift shop: Beefeater bears, and ravens. Legend is that there have been ravens at The Tower since the 1600's. They have become part of The Tower's mythology. Supposedly if the ravens leave The Tower the monarchy and the kingdom will fall. Seven ravens are kept at The Tower at the government's expense, (Six, and one in 'reserve' in case something happens to the other six.) There is even a 'Raven Master' to look after them. Recently the whole legend of the ravens has come into question. There's an interesting article about it from The Guardian you can read HERE. Incidentally, I didn't see any ravens while we were there.

The girls and Ken with a real Beefeater, one of the ceremonial guards of The Tower of London.
 From The Tower we headed up to Tower Bridge.

Tammy managed to get out of the purse again. She brought the shirt over with her, the cheat,

Because it's such a famous London landmark a lot of people think Tower Bridge is London Bridge.In fact, London Bridge was in disrepair, and in 1967 it was sold to a rich Arizona business man. The story is that he was a bit upset when it was reassembled for him in Arizona and it looked like this:

...because he thought he was getting this:
This picture was taken from the other side, after we crossed the bridge.

As was this one of The Tower.
Of course,he denies the story. But then, you would...
  Cheryl and I had gone up in Tower Bridge the day we met the first time. (Remember, we had been pen pals back in 1985. I think we had exchanged all of two letters when we met.), and Cheryl had been up fairly recently. And it's a bit expensive, so Ken and the girls went up while Cheryl and I walked over the bridge and found a place to sit down for a while.

We got lucky and the bridge had to be raised while we were on it, giving the girls a chance to see this. It reminded Emma of the movie "Inception", when Ellen Paige's character is learning to 'build'.

Ken, Cheryl, Ivy, and Emma. The bridge is raised to let a boat through. It may have been for show, as, according to Ken, the boat they let through could easily have gone without the bridge being raised.

The girls up in the bridge. I do remember hating that glass floor.
Ah! Those feet on the left belong to Emma and Ivy.
 I have a terrible time finding shoes that don't hurt, and my feet were really starting to bother me. For some reason the second toe on my right foot had decided to start walking on the third. I was developing a blister that by the end of the day Ken would describe as 'an extra toe'.
  After Ken and the girls met back up with Cheryl and me, (and yes, that is grammatically correct. Think about it.), we decided to head for The Globe, the recreation of Shakespeare's theatre, (and, incidentally, the theatre they used for the Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code".) Cheryl insisted it was near enough to walk. I tried to insist that it was, except that we didn't have time to waste and maybe we should take the tube. I was out voted, so we began to walk. I wish everybody had remembered that part later when I got blamed for us running out of time to see the Globe...
  It started getting late and we hadn't eaten. We weren't going to get to The Globe before it closed for the day. So we stopped to eat at a pub on the river called The Mudlark.

The surroundings were pretty, and the food was good, but the service wasn't.

That's a vegetarian pie and gravy! There seemed to be a lot more vegetarian options, as a rule, at most places in England, other than fish and chip places. And it was good too. I couldn't eat it all, but Ken was happy to help...
 The waiter was, we all agreed, a bit rude. It was just not a welcoming experience.
Ivy enjoyed another J2O. I know. It looks like she's not enjoying anything. Ivy frequently looks like that.

I think Emma had black current lemonade. I hate black currant, but it's a very popular flavour for a lot of things in England. Emma has always liked it.

Ken had 'a pint' of something. Bleh.
Since it was too late for The Globe we headed on to Harrod's, to catch them before they closed.
Cheryl and me on the right. Notice that hat hanging out of my bag. There's going to be a quiz later...

Harrod's was one of the places Ken wanted to visit. He hadn't seen much of London in his life, but he'd been there. I'd been before too, and I remember that I wasn't that impressed because everything was too expensive to buy!

Case in point: Remember me posting about mini lamps just like these that I bought at Dollar Tree, for $1? Wow! Harrods has the same ones!
Well, not quite the same! Look at that price!

Harrods is beautiful though.
  The only other time I was there I had bought a Christmas ornament of a crescent moon with a face. What did I buy this time? A Christmas ornament! (A bear dressed as a Harrods door man.) Ken bought food of course.
  Ivy, who is possibly the cheapest human being in the world, bought a wash cloth! It was 6 pounds! For one wash cloth! (Remember, that's over $9!) When we checked into the hotel the night before we found that the hotel didn't have wash cloths. No big surprise, because wash cloths, (or 'flannels', as they are called in Britain.), aren't used by everybody over there. I was the only one of us who had brought theirs.Too bad for you losers! I always travel with a wash cloth, in case I'm somewhere that doesn't have one.
  Harrods closed not long after we got there, so Cheryl and I went outside to wait for the girls, who were who knows where, and Ken, who was scouring the food department. Once outside I realized I had lost my hat. Since it was the only one I had with me and I am supposed to avoid the sun, (You may remember I had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my face earlier this year.) I ran back inside to find it. It helped that I knew I had had it when I paid for the Christmas ornament, which was the last thing I did before I left the store. I found the girls, and the nice Harrods employees located my hat, so we went back out to wait with Cheryl. The funny thing is, the only other things I've ever lost in England were an ink pen, (Ok, it was only an ink pen, but Paul McCartney signed my postcard with it...), and a hat. The weird thing about the hat is, I lost the hat when I left it on a bus in Hull: Hull is the town Ken moved from when he came to America! Nobody goes to Hull!)
  Ken couldn't seem to locate which side of the building we we on! It was Liverpool Street Station all over again. It took him ages to find us. I told him to just keep going around the building until he came to us.

Cheryl, Emma, Ivy, and me outside Harrods. Ken did find us eventually.
   From Harrods we left for Abbey Road.

You know. This place.
The last time I was there---Hey! Cheryl was with me there too!---there was no one there. I think one or two locals walked by while we were there. This time was a different story completely. It was packed. The poor drivers were totally annoyed by people constantly stopping traffic to have their pictures taken crossing the road. That made Emma decide she was definitely NOT having her picture taken crossing the road,even though she wanted to. Ken was disappointed, as he wanted to take the girls' picture crossing Abbey Road. I crossed over with them to take their picture in front of the studio.

Emma and Ivy in front of Abbey Road studios, where so much classic music was recorded, not only by the Beatles, but by countless others. Cheryl tried to shame us for taking these pictures and "totally ignoring the musicians coming out the door." I said we weren't ignoring them. "We saw them, we just don't know who they are." Nowdays they have given up trying to get people to not write on the wall, and actually encourage it. They have, however, given up putting the street signs up. They used to have enameled metal ones like the rest of London, but people kept stealing them off the wall for souvenirs. I noticed there isn't a single one around Abbey Road. Or maybe they had all been stolen when we were there...
  While we were over by the studio I told Emma how much her father REALLY wanted their picture crossing the road. She said that she did not want to be the obnoxious problem to drivers that she saw everyone else being, but I pointed out that it wasn't necessary to stop. She could just cross the road normally and I'd take the picture. She said ok, so we got it after all. No stopping.
Going the wrong way, but who cares? The Beatles even had to get over there to start, didn't they?!
  We left Abbey Road and headed for Westminster to see the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
The girls and Cheryl outside the Houses of Parliament.

Big Ben' is actually the name of the bell in the clock tower.

Trying to get a good shot of the Houses of Parliament through the fence.
 Ken was disappointed he didn't get to see Westminster Abbey from the inside.
"What?! You mean we can't go in?!"
It was still light out when we got there, but it was fading fast. Cheryl retired to her hotel to pump herself full of cold medicine and rest up for the next day.
On Westminster Bridge. Ken wanted to go on the London Eye too,(The giant Ferris wheel.) but it was somewhere around 30 to 40 pounds for a 10 minute ride. We all voted no.
Ivy on Westminster Bridge with Parliament behind her.
Parliament, Big Ben, a lamp post, and Ken.
The same, minus Ken.
It was another long day. My feet were killing me. Everybody was tired and grouchy. This is our reflection in the window of the tube train. We had one more day in London. What did we see? Well, the world's oldest toy store for one thing. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: England Day 5: London Day 1, Part 2, Pollock's Toys, The Disney Store, and Covent Garden

  Well we're up to the London part of our trip, and there was so much involved in day one I decided to do it in two parts. Here's part two. (You can read part 1 HERE.) I should mention at this point that my friend Cheryl had persevered, and shown up despite a debilitating cold. She had loaded herself up with cold medicine and was making the best of things. She wasn't feeling great, but she wasn't letting it get the best of her. 
  After we gave up waiting for Robert-the-No-Show we had to decide where to go first. Ken was very upset, but determined to still try to get some enjoyment out of his trip. Since we were in Trafalgar Square at this point I suggested places within walking distance: all the way down to the Houses of Parliament, which were visable from where we stood, Covent Garden, which was a short walk, or Oxford Street, also a short walk. Emma and Ivy wanted to shop while they were in London, and Oxford Street is a big shopping street. I kept trying to give Emma opportunities to go to Oxford Street because I knew they really wanted to buy some clothes in London, and she kept turning me down. I think she was confused as to why I was suggesting it at the time, but I got blamed later for them not getting much time to shop there. To be fair, it was mostly Ivy doing the griping. It's hard to please everybody in a group anyway.When we originally found out we were going to London we tried to get the girls to tell us which places there they were interested in visiting. They didn't have many ideas, especially Ivy, whose answer to 'What do you want to see?' was, "Stuff." I made some suggestions, and they actually turned down Covent Garden at the time. I was a bit disappointed, because I had heard so much about Pollock's toy shop. I'm not sure I had gone when I had been in Covent Garden years ago. (I was in my early 20's. I was still trying to be a grown up. This is where Emma would ask me, "How's that working out for you?") So I wanted to go, but as I think I said before, I deferred to the girls and Ken because I lived in London for three months and I figured, that was fair.I had had plenty of chances to see what I wanted to see then, so if I never got around to it in that amount of time,that was my tough luck.
  But when given the options, the choice was Covent Garden. The girls seemed to agree on that.Emma was very enthusiastic about it.So I got to go to Pollock's after all.

Emma, Cheryl, Ivy, and me, outside Pollock's Covent Garden shop.
There are two Pollock's, fairly close to each other. One is the larger shop, which shares the building with Pollock's Toy Museum. The other, which we visited, is the smaller shop actually in Covent Garden.(For those of you who haven't heard of it, Pollock's started in the 1800's, selling miniature paper theatres. They still sell paper theatres of various sizes, along with modern and vintage style toys.) I was most interested in seeing the very tiny paper theatres. The super tiny ones weren't very detailed though. The next biggest size was detailed, but very expensive.
The paper theatres at the top were a couple of inches tall, and, as you can see, cost 40 pounds! That's a over $60! In the front you can see tiny paper dolls,boxed games, and other 1/12 scale items.

There was a mix of vintage and new toys in the glass case as you entered.

There were some beautiful painted pewter figures.

They have wire jointed arms and legs, and are about 1 and 1/2 inches tall.

My favourite was the little girl in the red dress, right behind the pink teddy bear. I didn't manage to get a picture with her in focus! She was more than I wanted to pay. The small teddy bears were (in pounds), 9.99 to 11.99, and she was much higher.

They had an Alice and the caterpillar that  liked, but it was way out of my range.

There was a Mad Tea Party set and some other great Alice goodies in the case downstairs by the entrance to the staircase which takes you up to the shop.

I very nearly bought a miniature Alice tea pot and tea cup set. They were about 1/6 scale. Somehow I managed to talk myself out of it. The cup was a bit plain, and it was still so early in the trip.There was a long way to go, and I might find a lot more stuff I would want more. You know how it is. I was tempted by some of the 1/12 scale miniatures, but as I always do, I managed to talk myself out of things by thinking, "I could make that."
   I had promised myself I would let Dad treat me to one big splurge while I was in England though. Dad passed away last year, and there was a very tiny insurance payment I split with my sister. (Dad didn't understand how the insurance policy he always thought was going to pay out about $10,000 would shrink over the 40 plus years since he took it out.)  So I've been holding it back. I planned to use a few hundred of it to fix the house up a bit, and put some of it on Dad's head stone. But I thought it would be nice to have one thing that I wouldn't buy for myself, that would sort of be a gift from Dad. Before I left I researched the A Girl for All Time dolls. I knew they were English dolls, so I thought they might be cheaper there. I have always kind of liked Clementine, but I wasn't sure about her.

The idea behind the A Girl for All Time line is that the dolls are all members of one family, throughout history. Clementine is the 1940's girl.
In some of the pictures I'd seen of the Girl for All Time dolls there seemed to be something just a little off about their faces that made them look a little strangely shaped. I really wanted to see these dolls in person. At Pollock's I found Matilda. I got so excited I forgot to photograph her!

This is a stock photo of Matilda, the Tudor era girl. The dolls are 16" tall, and all vinyl. They have jointed elbows and knees, as well as the usual joints.
In person she was actually beautiful, but pretty pricey. She was more expensive than she would have been if I had ordered her at home and had her shipped. So I left her behind. Besides, Clementine was the one I  wanted to see most. If I was going to buy a doll from that line I definitely wanted to see Clementine first.But now that I had seen one of the A Girls for All Time dolls in person, I could see why some people love them so much, The clothes were wonderfully made and the doll was beautiful.
  I spotted some cute hand made art dolls on a stall, and took a few quick pictures to share with you. The pictures came out great and the detail in the furniture that came with the dolls was wonderful. But in looking at my pictures I noticed a sign down in the corner of the picture that I hadn't seen when I took the pictures. (I was moving pretty fast at this point, trying to find a bathroom!)

So I can't show you the dolls, even though that would be free advertising for the people who make them. I can only give you this link to their web page: Hobo Designs.  I wish I could show you the old lady sitting in that great chair, but I can't, and she doesn't seem to be on the site. She was called 'Gran', and she was 275 pounds.
   I also saw these sweet dolls at a different stall.
Very cute, but I don't think they are meant for play That's a shame, as the look would appeal to kids. I could see these done as soft dolls, couldn't you? Or even jointed vinyl dolls, or small PVC dolls with a dollhouse. Hey! I should work for these people!
They're called Dumpling dolls, and their bag says The Dumpling Doll Company. I Googled The Dumpling Doll Company and it took me to their site, which is actually Mrs. Dumpling's Dream Company. If I could give them a word of advice it would be to settle on one name for easy identification and location. The dolls are cute though. Apparently they were originally made from dough, but are now made of a more permanent material. (Haven't we all made figures or Christmas ornaments out of that dough stuff you make at home, only to have them start to crumble after a few years,or be eaten by bugs while packed away in the attic?) The site is a nice one. The company has a sweet idea behind it:

"The aim for our project is to create a fresh wholesome little brand producing and presenting items that are designed to appeal to the child within us all.
The ethos for the brand is to be, that no matter what age we are, we all deserve to be allowed and encouraged to hang on as long as possible to the belief that anything and everything  is achievable and that dreams and aspirations should  always be encouraged, nurtured and never let go of.
Mrs Dumpling’s world is universally attainable to everyone, no matter what age, creed, colour or persuasion the only entry qualification being an unfailing belief in the magic that lives within us all!"

  The site has a couple of  games for kids. (I tried the Snow Ride game and although kids will find it pretty easy to do, I'm afraid I did plow through a few snow men and trees trying to get my mugs of cocoa and hot pies!) They seem to be trying to get their own tv show using the doll characters.I wish them luck.
 I didn't think there was that much in Covent Garden to keep the girls so long, and I kept trying to move them along to Oxford Street. I wanted them to have time to shop there.They got all interested in a shop selling tea and tea items, and really wanted to stay in Covent Garden for quite a long time. Ken and Cheryl and I killed some time looking at all the cool stuff on the stalls, and looking for a bathroom and a place to convert dollars to pounds.

We bought Fuzz a deerstalker hat. (Like Sherlock Holmes. I told you he loves costumes. Maybe he could get that Sherlock Holmes job after all...) I had to get advice from Cheryl, since I'm not very familiar with the show, to get Fuzzy the least Benedict Cumberbatchy one available. I also bought some key rings with miniature do dads on them.

They're pretty good 1/6 scale. The Big Ben could be 1/12 scale for sitting on a mantel or something.
  Cheryl bought a bag for me to take with me, so I could load up all the goodies I had brought over for her. At some point we needed to get them to her hotel. Cheryl got hooked on root beer when she was over visiting us all those years ago,and it's apparently hard to get over there. I brought her just about every root beer flavoured thing imaginable, including hard candy,(in England they would call it 'boiled sweets'), 'magic shell' for ice cream, root beer Chips Ahoy cookies,syrup to make ice pops and snow cones, and a lot of syrup to make your own pop. Oddly enough, when we got to Gloria's on day one we found out she had gotten in some root beer for us. I don't know why. I also discovered that English root beer tastes awful. It's not like American root beer at all. Cheryl said she couldn't get root beer, and if that's what she had access to, she was right. 
We finally got the girls to leave Covent Garden. We were all hungry by then and Ken went on ahead a few streets to scout out an Indian restaurant. The one he found had a guy outside trying to encourage people to come in. Emma said it reminded her of Babu Batt on Seinfeld, and she hoped that wasn't a bad sign for the restaurant!

Cheryl was starting to feel the effects of her cold. We were unfortunately seated right under a vent. I loaned her my sweater, but we were worried it was going to be bad considering her cold. As we were discussing whether or not we should ask to be moved to another table for Cheryl's sake another employee came over and told us he had turned off the air conditioning for her. Now that's service!
  The food was good too.

After the meal the girls checked out a Top Shop. At this point it was starting to get late and Cheryl was feeling pretty tired and worn down from her cold. So she headed back to her hotel, after setting us on the right course for Oxford Street.We arranged to text each other in the morning once we had gotten ourselves moving, to sort out where to meet.  
  It was then my job to get Emma to the HMV music store on Oxford Street before they closed. Since it was getting close to closing time for most of the shops I was panicking and starting to move very quickly. I went from bringing up the rear to leaving everybody behind. Unfortunately, what used to be my every day run down Shaftsbury Avenue headed to Oxford Street was blurry after all these years and the changes to London. I wasn't sure of my route.We found a large music store first, where she did buy some things.

And I asked directions to Oxford Street. As it turns out, I was right, and we were almost there. I found HMV and The Disney Store on Oxford Street. Emma's friend Felicia is a huge lover of Disney. She was assisting Fuzzy in taking our dog Piper out while we were gone, so I wanted to bring something back for her. The Oxford Street Disney Store is the largest Disney Store in Europe.Emma did a cruise through and picked something out for her.

This blurry picture is one I didn't know Ken took, of me, fleeing into the Disney Store before they closed. That's me on the right.
It has three floors. The entrance to the lower floor is a huge castle.
With Rapunzel on the ramparts. Notice the floor has sparkles and looks like a night sky.

Ivy on the left.

There's a Frozen department...
Yes, that's a boat hanging from the ceiling.
...and a Star Wars department...

This guy is life sized.

I think Yoda was bigger than life sized.

This is that mean looking young Yoda from the recent movies.I don't like him.And hey, if Yoda was 900 years old in the original movies, and Luke was in his early 20's or late teens even, how come Yoda was so much younger and fitter in the recent movies, when Luke is just born at the end of the third one? Are you going to tell me that Yoda was in that good condition, but once he hit 875 it was all down hill from there? Guess that's when Jedis start getting those 'Over the Hill' cards...
...and there was a Toy Story section.
Waaay bigger than life size.
Ken asking the help a question.They were more than happy for us to take as many pictures as we wanted.

I saw the new Aladdin Animator's doll.

Had you told me they were making another boy in the line I would have been excited, but I don't like him! His face looks scrunched and his open mouth---even though it has teeth, and you know I love that!----just isn't quite right. He also looks like he;s wearing pink glossy lipstick.
  And do The Avengers belong to Disney too?
Stan no! Not you too! (My pet peeve is Disney owning other people's stuff, like The Muppets and Star Wars.)

There's a huge Cinderella's carriage.
 There are seats inside for people to pose for a picture. Ivy wouldn't do it.
The back of it is a pumpkin.

   After HMV and the Disney store everything was pretty much closed. (In fact, I ran over to HMV when I was done at The Disney Store, and Emma pretty much closed HMV down. They had to tell us they were closing.
  From there we caught a bus to the tube station and saw some of London by night from the upstairs of the bus.

Then we took the tube back to the hotel and collapsed for the night. The hotel room had two floors, so the girls could be in the same room and I'd feel safer for them. It was pretty cool anyway. They were upstairs above us, like a balcony.
  Next time: London Day 2!