Doing the tourist thing, London 5

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Rob Matthews’ London Journal, penultimate entry

Friday July 30, 2004

We had to check out of the Radisson because Tracy’s business was finished. That left us checking into the Alexander Hotel B&B near Victoria Station. (image is Tracy in the Alexander)

Differences between the two hotels:

a) # of TV channels at the Radisson- 8 (10 if you count the pay-per-view “adult” ones)

# of TV channels at the Alexander- 5 (that’s BBC 1, 2, ITV 3, and the cleverly named Channels 4 and 5)

b) internet access: Radisson (yes)…Alexander (no). The Alexander probably has difficultly with updating due to the age of the building since even the sewage drains were mounted to the OUTSIDE walls of the back of the building. Nothing like listening to the water from the toilet above you roll down a pipe on the outside of the building as you’re trying to sleep.

c) approximate age of mattress: Radisson (one year)…Alexander (I’m guessing that Tracy and I were not the oldest thing in the room) The Alexander mattress had that nice “spring” feeling to it. Not the season, the coil itself.

d) breakfast: Radisson (free in the restaurant)….Alexander (free in the basement)

e) doorknobs on the door to the room: Radisson (yes)…Alexander (no, the lock is good enough for keeping the door shut thank you very much)

f) convenience to Underground: Radisson (3 minute walk)…Alexander (6 minutes but did include walking by a bar called the Elusive Camel which is my second favorite bar name of all time next to one here in Philly called Atlantis The Lost Bar- thank you Fishtown)

g) price: as always, you get what you paid for…although of course we didn’t technically pay for the Radisson

All that aside, the Alexander was fine and given our real budget for a trip like this, I thought it was perfectly acceptable. Tracy probably would have preferred the reliability of the Hampton Inns that have served her so well all over the country for the past three years.

We dropped our bags and headed to the British Library. The BL holds original (or somewhat original) copies of the Magna Carta, an original Gutenberg Bible, the Lindsfarne Gospels (illuminated manuscripts), some Leonardo da Vinci journal pages, Handel’s handworked copy of Messiah, and a bunch of other impressive scraps of paper including The Beatles’ handwritten lyrics to “She Said” ironically located 6 FEET from the Magna Carta.

Pop tunes and documents that eventually led to the protection of personal freedoms. Same thing.

The US Archives does the same thing. We have in one room: Cary Grant’s citizenship application, a copy of MAD magazine, the Monroe Doctrine, Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and our gift copy of the Magna Carta, so who am I as an American to judge the odd pairings of British museums?

After the Library, we tubed to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. (image is Matthews in front of Bridge) The Bridge looked good enough from a distance and so we didn’t get too close to it.

The Tower was pretty interesting despite my lack of interest in armor and basic medieval squalor. If I didn’t clean armor every week of my life at the museum, I might get into it more, but probably not. Anyway, we saw some replicas of torture instruments, replica thrones, replica stonework, replica woodcuts, replica grass, replica cages, but the real Crown Jewels which only peaked my interest slightly more than the armor.

Still, the Tower fort is an impressive structure and seeing its adaptations over the centuries was more interesting to me than anything else.

Plus you got a really great view of City Hall (image) from the top of the wall looking across the river and I find that building to be one of London’s most interesting contemporary designs.

Once we finished at the Tower, Tracy and I decided we missed the neighborhood that the Radisson was in so we tubed back to Covent Garden for an early evening beer.

Around 6:00 we tubed to the Mayfair area of town which is sort of northwest of Buckingham Palace, I think.

There was an Indian restaurant recommended to us there so we decided to splurge on one really good meal. We were two of about 6 people in the entire place that had a waitstaff of, oh…60. At least it felt like that. We had 5 people hovering over our table the whole time. People pushed in our chairs. Three people together directed me to the restroom and luckily did not follow me in. Apparently I looked incapable of serving myself rice so they did that. I also am not capable of pouring water from a bottle that is already on my table into my glass so that was done for me, etc. You get the point.

From dinner we walked home past Buckingham Palace so I could say that I’d seen it and we went back to the hotel. After 5 days in London, I have to admit, I started getting that “check this off the list of things to see feeling” and the Palace was at the top of that list. But still, I saw it.

We watched the Weakest Link and a documentary about the shield and its use in warfare over 8 centuries followed by some weird celebrity game show where quiz questions are asked merely as a jumping off point for the guests to be “witty”.

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