So, we are staying near this neighborhood in North London called Golder's Green. It appears to be the center of Judaism in London and apparently Jews like bread. So do I. There seems to be an average of three Jewish bakeries per block in the center of Golder's Green. I think we picked the most expensive one - a common theme today.
We started off having what I think we thought was going to be a fairly simple bakery experience and ended up being a full blown meal. Novellino is nice, hip, trendy, and very clean with a fairly friendly, if not somewhat snooty, wait staff. I think they are expected to be by both their employer and clientele, and it didn't ruin the place, just a bit "nuevo riche" for my taste. Anyway, Karen ordered a breakfast with fried eggs, a salad, tuna and 2 weird creamy sauces. She also ordered a "pot of breakfast tea" that had one tea bag and enough water for a cup and a half of tea. She did not care for her meal, but man, did she put on a good face there. I had two pieces of toast with scrambled eggs on top. I don't like eggs... my bad. The breads and jams were good though. The bill was not. I believe it was £18 (about $27, oh god, that hurts, I'm actually converting them right now.... THE GOGGLES, THEY DO NOTHING!). Yeah, not cheap.
We headed out, walked down to the next underground station (which is above ground, even higher than the streets, makes no sense to me!) and headed for the British Museum. We walked a few blocks to the museum and proceeded inside, having no clue we were about to be blown away. It all went by in a rush, I'm not even sure what I saw anymore, and I think we only saw like maybe 1/5 of the public rooms and didn't really study most of those. One could spend weeks in the place and actually enjoy it. We mostly viewed the Egyptian displays, the rock carvings, statues, and sarcophagi are not graspable. Simply mind blowing. The Assyrian carvings are simply astonishing, their gates mind-blowing, and the detail of the smallest figures so intricate that it's hard to imagine that they were all made by hand. The black onyx figures were incredibly smooth and exactly what I expected, so much so that it was sort of creepy. The Rosetta Stone. Need I say more?
We headed through to the "The History of Humans in 100 Artifacts" exhibit and saw parts of this, things that were indicated as important in a tour overview that we saw, before we headed upstairs to the mummy display. Along the way we passed through the Medieval Europe display and I was mesmerized by the displays here. The history of the dark ages has always seemed so clouded and distant to me, but being surrounded by these items and pictures of restored settlements brought an air to them that was not very different to the living villages of the colonial and civil war periods from the United States. The amount of insight into the lives and history of this time are so much greater than I ever gleaned from reading a text book about it. I really hope that we get to make our trip to the ruins in England, Scotland and Wales as we planned, the taste of these things have left me wanting more.
The mummy display upstairs was great! I am still fascinated by the fact that Egyptians began burying their dead in coffins in order to isolate them from the ground, and therefore help to preserve their bodies, but in fact this led to the very quick decomposition of their soft tissue and the old-school ground burial resulted in a very much in-tact mummification of the body. The techniques that were developed in order to keep a body in tact and in a coffin is pretty neat, but a bit gross. The detail put into the sarcophagi and the shrouds is impressive, and the mummification of animals was bizarre but intriguing. After a quick view of this display, we made our way out to the back of the museum, to glance around the South Pacific displays and a new looking display called "Connecting to Ancestors" that was really neat. Seeing an Easter Island Moai was simply cool. The displays from various natives around the world was particularly neat, especially the similarities among many of them.
After finishing this display, we realized that we had been in the museum for about three hours, we were hungry and thirsty. We headed out, and straight to Malabar Junction to have, yet another, Indian Meal. Can't beat it, so why not enjoy it as much as possible. Malabar Junction specializes in Southern Indian, so I had Kalar, which is cooked green bananas in a light sauce with ginger, and Karen had Vegetable Korma, sort of an "all-around" curry with vegetables. It was good, tasty, and simple. And expensive. I believe it was around £26. By this point, I stopped comparing it to places at home. I can't imagine how people live in London, unless everyone makes ridiculous salaries, or they all know about the affordable places to eat and we are not finding them!
So, we had a good and filling Indian lunch, and we decided to head to the Tower of London to take our tour before the Ceremony of the Key's that we've scheduled for this evening. The days have been flying by, and by the time we got to the ticket house, it was only 30 minutes before the Tower closed. We decided it was best to see the Tower the next day, and decided to head to Harrod's and window shop.
Harrod's is a shopper's paradise. Fortunately, Karen and I are not very big shoppers and instead found it stuffy and overcrowded. Don't get me wrong, they had a lot of amazing things for sale here, but the huge mass of people visiting was unbearable at times. We walked through THREE perfumeries before making around way to the market and food shops area. Talk about selection! They had a ton of really neat imported sweets, delicacies and a wonderful variety of exotic fruits and vegetables from all of over the world. There were a ton of fruits that I'd never any seen before, let alone heard of. It was really neat see a large selection of Italian pastas and sausages, stuff that we have not seen since last year. This place is like Whole Foods on steroids! We moved on to the food shops on the west side of the building. This was a little more disappointing. There was a large candy store that was pretty impressive, but there was also a Krispy Kreme donut store. There was a very overpriced pizzeria that did not look particularly tasty. The prices on a personal pizza were in the £15 range ($24) and fairly plain looking - which is usually very tasty, but I want substance for my price. However, there was a really really awesome treat here. There was an old school gelato shop. It was a weird mix of traditional American style ice cream soda fountain and gelato. The actual ice cream was made in the traditional Italian style but served in massive Sunday styles with candy and fruit, wafers and chocolate. Karen had a 3 scoop Sunday with chocolates and candy, and I had the Chairman of the Board, and it was AMAZING! It was served with strawberry and vanilla gelato, wafer, chocolate straws, and a bunch of fruit; kiwi, grapes, strawberries, red currants and more. It was sooo good, and sooo big, I couldn't eat the whole thing. The big shock was when the bill came. I almost died. We paid £32 ($50) for two ridiculously large servings of gelato. For some reason, we didn't think to share. Did I mention that London is expensive?!?!?!
After stuffing ourselves on gelato, we walked around a bit, grabbed a coffee and water at Caffe Nero, and window shopped some more in Knightsbridge. We wandered around for a while and found ourselves in Hyde Park. a Corner of Hyde Park had been set up as the Winter Wonderland festival/circus. We took a stroll through this, checking out all of the kids riding rides, people snacking on German treats, fresh roasted chestnuts and various vendors selling wares. I'm glad we checked this out, Londoner's really seem to enjoy celebrating Christmas.
Before long, it was time to head back to the Tower for the Ceremony of the Key's. As we waited, we spoke with a family from Minnesota, a woman from Australia, and a beefeater. It was here that was we told that there are only 36 Beefeaters and that they all live at the Tower with their families. I was aware that the guards that wear the tall bearskin hats were not Beefeaters as people often think, but rather they are members of the five regiments of the Royal Guard. The Beefeaters are officially known as Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary. We moved into the tower to view the ceremony, and unfortunately not able to take pictures. It was very intriguing and a big learning experience. Check out wikipedia to find out more on the actual ceremony. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceremony_of_the_Keys
To wrap up the night, we headed back to Piccadilly circus to enjoy some of the street food. Apparently, I didn't get the memo, we spent £33 ($51) on some Lebanese food (at a restaurant run by Greeks) that was two meals and a Humus appetizer. It was good, but I could have eaten similar food for less than $20 in Nashville. I know, this isn't Nashville, but that was disappointing. This was supposed to be a cheap meal!
We headed home via the Northline and crashed pretty straight away. It was very late, and we've been getting home later and later each night. Tomorrow is going to be crammed in tight if we keep this up! I think we've been walking about 5-6 miles a day since we got here.
More pictures from today http://s290.photobucket.com/albums/ll256/sandalscout/GB%202010-2011/Dec%2022-British%20Museum-Harrods-Keys%20Ceremony/
Also, check out Karen's site for a ton more pictures from the trip. http://mondarytravel.shutterfly.com/