After a very restful night, we came downstairs to a full English breakfast. Now bear with me while I try to describe this traditional British meal which is their take on bacon and eggs; and since I love food so much, hope I don’t get carried away!
Being American, obviously we do things as fast as possible: instant oatmeal, sliced bread, instant tea, numerous other quick alternatives. Not here, The bread was a good rustic loaf that Sue cut into perfect slices, about the same size. Very impressive and I loved that it actually went in the little toast rack! Tim cooked up some bacon that I would describe as a cross between American bacon and Canadian bacon, meaty, smokey and flavorful. He sauteed some whole mushrooms and tomatoes that we’re halved, the eggs were perfectly cooked and the plate was gorgeous. There was blood orange juice, homemade jams and hot tea. They also offered yogurt that is in vastly different flavors than what we’re used to here in the states: Champagne rhubarb, red current, lemon curd, honey & ginger, banofee, and Valencia orange to name a few. They are excellent and luscious, love them.
There is one common British breakfast food, however, that I don’t understand, but to each his own.
In a word, Marmite. To the American taste buds, well at least to this American’s taste buds, it’s like spreading a bouillon cube on toast. Ugh, I tried it, but really, why? Here is the definition from the dictionary:
(Cookery)™ Brit a yeast and vegetable extract used as a spread, flavoring, etc
Like I said, bouillon cube!
After breakfast Sue drove us to the Crystal Palace Train Station. It’s only a 7 minute walk, but she wanted to make sure that we found it. We got on the train and headed for Victoria Station where the bus tours started. I love Victoria Station, the bustle and excitement of people going places. In 2001 they still had the departure boards that flipped. I had seen them in so many movies previously and Marcie and I just stood like a couple of idiots watching them constantly flip, it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen!
I went to the bathroom and it cost 20p !
We bought tickets for the double deck bus tour so we could get our bearings, as if! I’ve been to London five times and I still can’t tell you where most things are in relation to anything else. But it was fun and interesting as the docent pointed out famous buildings and statues, relating history with a bit of humor. We saw Saville Row, The Temple of Mithris (2000 years old), The Millennium Wheel, The Thames, Parliament, Big Ben, St James, churches, famous streets, and everywhere stunning architecture.
We got off at Trafalgar Square, chased the pigeons, had our picture taken in front of Nelson’s Statue, then headed into the National Gallery. We were amazed to find out that most of the museums in London are free of charge! We went in and saw original paintings by the likes of Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and Pisarro. We went especially to see the painting that Pisarro did of the street where we were staying, Fox Hill. Very cool.
We got back on the bus to head over by the Tower of London and a boat tour of the Thames. We had bought a “British Heritage” pass and it was one of the tours we could take.
On the bus over as we were driving across London Bridge there were hundreds of business people vacating the financial district. Leslie, the current docent on the bus, commented on it, wondering what’s going on. We got onto the boat where there were 2 TV screens set up and saw the horrible scenes of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers in New York.
Like the rest of the world, we were stunned.
I have a completely different perspective than most Americans because of this. For one thing, we weren’t familiar with where to get information here. At home I would have been glued to CNN. The papers and television have an outsiders view so we felt distanced and not a part of what the nation was actually going through. That first day, after hearing about it, we both decided that we were going to move forward and enjoy our trip. There was nothing we could do and it wouldn’t do to mope around and change our plans.
What I do remember the most is being overwhelmed by the British people coming together to support the US. Thousands of people leaving flowers and cards at the US Embassy. It was the only story on the news and in the papers and every venue is having some kind of memorial, prayer or moment of silence. There were special services at the churches and cathedrals.
That night we went to see “Les Miserables” and there aren’t words to describe how perfect this show was. It was 18 pounds, which, at the time was about $27.00. We were in the fourth row! Before the show started the actor that played Jean Val Jean asked for a moment of silence to honor the Americans killed that day. To this day I tear up when I hear the music.
After such an emotional day it was good to have a calm place to go back to. Tomorrow we are taking a tour of the Royal Mews and Buckingham Palace.