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Update on European Vacation

Prior to moving onto Rome I had gotten a couple of days behind on the Chronicles of our European vacation. Since arriving in Italy our bandwidth has been terrible, and we can rarely get on-line except on our phones (which doesn’t help with the blog!) So, the whole idea of a daily travelog has gone out the window!

We’ve now been to Rome and moved onto Florence, and it’s slightly better here, but not enough to be able to get photos to post, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to wait to get caught up. Instead of doing a daily travelog, I’ll probably just condense the last two legs of the trip (Italy and the River Cruise.) I have soooooooooo many photos I’d love to be sharing with you, but maybe it will be less boring for y’all to see fewer, anyway.

Just wanted to let you know I hadn’t fallen off the earth, and that I’m thinking about you in and amongst all of our adventures.

As we change locations I’ll continue to try to download pictures!

Ciao!

 

EV Day #15 – Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey and Parliment

Tower Bridge (named for the nearby Tower of London) which spans the Thames is my favorite bridge in London. I know London Bridge is the one everyone has heard of, but it is actually very plain these days. Once upon a time it was pretty fancy and has a remarkable history, but after burning down and falling down, getting rebuilt, then falling down over and over (thus the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down”) it was rebuilt as a much more sturdy bridge, but inadequate for all the traffic it needed to carry. Ultimately the bridge was dismantled and rebuilt in Lake Havasu, Arizona and now is just a functional (boring-looking) bridge.

Tower Bridge, on the other hand, is very ornate and when built in 1886-1894 was a mechanical marvel, having a hydraulic system that raised and lowered the draw bridge to allow for tall ships to pass. The mechanics have been updated, but the bridge retains it’s splendor! The tour includes a presentation about the history and building of it, plus a look at the engine room.

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Our afternoon was spent on a tour of Westminster Abbey. On the way there, we walked past by the Parliament building (of which the clock tower housing Big Ben is a part) and noted that the press was setting up in preparation for covering the Scottish Referendum on whether or not they wanted independence from the United Kingdom. It was exciting to be there at such a potentially huge time in history.

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Westminster Abbey is beautiful, and in addition to being a working church, is the final resting place of many of England’s monarchs and dignitaries, and also houses memorials for poets, actors and other famous people in history. Photography is not allowed inside the Abbey, but you can find lots of them here…just amazingly beautiful.

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We returned to our home away from home dead tired, but I stayed up late to watch the news coverage of the referendum. At 1am I finally gave in and went to bed. I’m a couple of days behind on reporting about my travels, so by now you know that the Scots rejected the idea of leaving the UK. I’d done my best to follow the arguments for and against, and had decided that if I were voting, I’d vote no, but it appeared to be a toss-up. It was a little nerve-racking! We woke up the next morning to learn they had voted to remain in the UK, so all my nail-biting was for naught!

EV Day #14 – Tower of London and WWI

Today was our visit to the Tower of London. We’ve been here twice before, but we really like it, so wanted to go again.

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It was just as fun as ever, although the cobblestones were MUCH easier to navigate in Birkenstocks than the high heels I wore the last time we were there. I was having flashbacks!

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This year is the 100th anniversary of WWI, a war which took the lives of 888,246 British servicemen. Since The Tower was the place where many of the troops were recruited and trained, and it was the prison where 11 enemy spies were kept and executed, it seemed a good place to have a memorial for those lost.

The art exhibition is called Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red. Ceramic artist Paul Cummins made 888,246 beautiful red ceramic poppies, one for each of the fallen, and from August 5 to November 14 they will be progressively be placed by set designer Tom Piper in the moat around the Tower. When he is finished, the poppies will completely surround the Tower. With nearly two months worth of poppies yet to be placed, it is already a dramatic presentation.

The poppies are being offered for sale for 25 pounds + shipping and the net proceeds will be donated to local service  charities. It is hoped that millions of pounds will be raised. The poppies can be pre-ordered, but they will not be shipped until the end of the exhibition. Sales have been brisk, and we’ve even ordered one.

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We admired them for quite awhile, then got caught up in the rest of the castle…

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So much history here. Much to learn. But still LOADS of fun.

 

 

EV Day #13 – Banqueting House and a Trip Down the Thames

Day #13 of our European Vacation was a doozy – lots crammed into it. Mr. Tattered has starting wearing his fitbit and we’ve been logging 12,000, 15,000, even 17,000 steps a day. No wonder we’re so tired!

We started the day off with a visit to another place we’d never heard of, The Banqueting House. It is the only remaining part of Whitehall Palace (the primary residence of the Monarchy from 1530 until it burned to the ground in 1698.) The structure is a large hall which was built to hold state functions and “masques” or plays. It houses the only Ruben paintings that still remain in their original location, and it is speculated that the only reason they are still in existence is because they would have been too much trouble to remove from the ceiling. It is also the site of the execution of King Charles I in 1649. We have learned soooooo much!

Anyway, it was incredibly beautiful, and the self-paced audio tour was very interesting. Plus, they set out a bunch of beanbag chairs so you could lay back and enjoy the ceiling whilst (I love that word!) you listened to the tour!

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Mr. Tattered discovered a piece of home for lunch. Wouldn’t have been my choice since we can get the same thing at Chipotle whenever we want, but he’s been such a good sport about running ourselves ragged, I figured he deserved his 1st margarita in 2 weeks!

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Then it was off down the Thames River to Greenwich. We got a nice commentary about the sights along the way. My favorite part was going under the Tower bridge.

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We disembarked in Greenwich and Mr. Tattered went to the Maritime War Museum while I walked around town and scoped out a pub – the prettiest we’ve been in yet!

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…and place to have dinner. I chose a French restaurant – since I humored him at lunch, I figured he could humor me at dinner.  Turned out to be a really nice meal!

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We took the Dockyards Light Rail (DLR) home – yet another great form of public transportation! And collapsed. And we’ll start again 1st thing in the morning. I’m wondering how much more we’ve got in us!

 

 

EV Day #12 – Hampton Court

I am fascinated by Henry VIII, have been ever since I saw “Anne of the Thousand Days” way back in the day, a movie about Henry VIII and his relationship to Anne Boleyn. He was a piece of work, but after visiting Hampton Court, I have a little more empathy for how difficult life was for him. Not a LOT, mind you, but some.

There really WAS a lot of pressure in those days to produce a male heir, and he just couldn’t seem to get it done. The Tudor line was in jeopardy of ceasing to exist, which is what ultimately happened. We were reminded of the rhyme English school children learn to remember what happened to his wives – divorced, beheaded, died – divorced, beheaded, survived. But really, it wasn’t about  just getting “action.” He could have done that with mistresses – he was really desperate to produce a male heir. Ultimately, he did have a son, who was crowned King Edward VI at the age of 9 and died before his 16th birthday. After that, both of his daughters, Mary and then when she died childless, Elizabeth, ruled as queens.

And do you find hosting a party to be stressful? Back in those days the gentry expected to be wined and dined on a grand scale, and for a king to not deliver was just unimaginable. The amounts of food and drink they consumed at the palace were incredible. The King stayed there until there was no more food to be had in the countryside, then had to move to another palace/castle until that area was depleted. Unbelievable.

Anyway, his palace at Hampton Court was beautiful and the displays very informative. There are really two parts of the castle, the part Henry the VIII was responsible for, and the part that King William and Queen Mary were responsible for adding later. There is SO much to see and read that we ran out of time after just Henry’s part. The rest will have to wait for another visit.

Once again, I spent the day with my camera glued to my face.

hampton12-wHampton Court sits on the banks of the Thames River.

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It will come as no big surprise how much I am enjoying the gardens at these Palaces and Castles. I don’t know if it will be enough to actually get me excited about MY garden again, but there’s that stirring…

 

 

It Shouldn’t Be About The Food

…but it so is! At least partly. Too much.

We are having an all ’round terrific vacation, but I have to take a break from photos of all the wonderful sights we’re seeing and give London it’s proper due for its food.

There was a time, years ago, when England had the reputation of having tasteless food. I know when we went for the first time about 13 years ago, people warned us that we would have trouble finding vegetarian food, and if we were able to, it wouldn’t be very good.

I remember being pleasantly surprised that it was pretty good.

Well in the years since then, they have increased their vegetarian offerings by leaps and bounds. I would say it is MUCH easier to find vegetarian restaurants here than it is in the states. And the ones we’ve tried so far have been very good. And after tonight, I’d have to say OUTSTANDING!

We just went to “The Gate” near the Hammersmith tube station on Queen Caroline St. and had what is probably the best meal we’ve ever had.

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We actually read about it in Veggie Times Magazine before we left on vacation. They did a spread on the 5 best veggie restaurants in London.

Mildred’s (the one we’ve already been to 3 times!) was in the same article, and we’ve been raving about it. Well, As much as I love ya, Mildred’s, you’ve been kicked to the curb.

For starters,  we had a bottle of Madregale Pinot Grigio and something called a “mezza,” a platter for 2 of the following appetizers:

Arancini a’la Contadina
Deep fried risotto dumplings filled with peas, fava beans and mint, served with sun dried tomato pesto

Leek, trompette and stilton tart
Baked with crème fraiche custard, served with crispy leaves and red pepper tapenade

Halloumi kibi
Roasted halloumi skewer in tikka marinade with courgette, peppers and red onions with chickpea salsa and harrisa

Japanese rolls V
Smoked tofu, shiitake mushrooms, roasted red pepper, grilled courgette rolled in cos lettuce and,

Beetroot ravioli
Roasted and shaved beetroot filled with goat cheese, caramelised apple and walnuts, served with heritage beetroots, watercress and basil & celery granita

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For mains we ordered

Butternut Rotolo : Roasted butternut, goats cheese and basil encased in baked thyme-infused rolled potato, and served with an artichoke puree, sauce vierge and crispy kale

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and Cheese glazed gnocchi: Panfried gnocchi glazed in reach cream sauce served with wilted spinach and salsa rosa

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We all but licked our plates…

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And for dessert? (I can’t believe we had room!)

Brioche blueberry and white chocolate butter pudding served with blueberry compote

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…and Summer pudding served with home made mango and banana kulfi.

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I see another piece of the blueberry and white chocolate pudding in our futures! Ha! In fact, we’d already made reservations for tomorrow night, then after we finished the appetizers, we made reservations for Friday night, as well. Yeah, we’ll be having more of the pudding. And maybe even more than that!

They have 2 cookbooks, and we bought them both to take home with us.

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I can’t swear that was a good idea, but I couldn’t help myself. Now Mr. Tattered wants something from the cookbook for dinner every night. I may as well just throw all my clothes away and start living in a mu-mu…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EV Day #11 – Kensington Palace

We spent Day #10 of our London vacation at Kensington Palace, probably best known in current times as the home of Princess Diana from the day she wed Prince Charles until her death, and now the home of William, Kate and baby George.

But it was also the childhood home of Queen Victoria, England’s longest reining Monarch, and where she lived when she married Prince Albert. Her 1st child, Victoria, was born at Kensington Palace. Right now there is a big exhibition “Queen Victoria Revealed” and we learned so much about her life, in addition to enjoying the palace itself.

The exterior is pretty unassuming, not like many of the palaces in England are. What made this one special is the stories and the items inside.

Unfortunately, we were unable to use flash, so most of the photos came out crummy, so this will be a shorter post than I’ve been subjecting you to in the past few days. (Sorry about that – hope it hasn’t been TOO boring!)

The main gate boasts a large statue of Queen Victoria:

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These gates may look familiar. This is the site of the makeshift floral/candle memorial for Princess Diana:

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The palace itself:

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Looking into the gardens:

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From the gardens looking to the palace:

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From there ended up at the Pizza Express for dinner again…we’re getting in a bit of a rut. But it’s sure a good-tasting rut! There’s not much that can compare with dough balls. Next time (and there WILL be a next time,) we’re going with a double order with dipping sauces…I can taste them already.

 

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