Bright and early on Monday morning we headed back to the V&A museum to visit the David Bowie exhibit that we were lucky to get tickets for. It sold out online and people were forced to wait hours in line to get in. We bought our tickets a few days before so we could avoid the lines the day we wanted to visit. Due to copyright issues we were not allowed to take any photos inside so you will have to use your imagination. As we walked through the exhibit’s two sections, we saw handwritten lyrics, sheet music and letters that David Bowie wrote. We got glimpses of behind the scenes interactions, interviews, and costume designs. They had a movie theatre room where we watched short clips of all the movies he was in. There was one room with huge screens on all the walls showing live performances from his most famous tours. It felt so real that at the end of a few songs we almost started clapping. The V&A expects visitors to pass through the exhibit in 1.5 hours but it took us 4 hours!
Afterwards we went back to the courtyard and had a picnic. We have gotten pretty good at shopping at the farmer’s market and packing excellent lunches, which are not only delicious but save us money. We have been having mouthwatering sandwiches on fresh bread with organic ingredients. Mi even got marmite to put on the sandwiches.
After lunch, we felt that we had enough art for the day and we were in the museum district so we went back to the Natural History Museum to see what we could not the first time around.
Pliosaurs like this one were marine reptiles, not dinosaurs, which only lived on land. Instead, pliosaurs were distant relatives of modern lizards. They were carnivorous, with powerful jaws and bodies that measured between 13 and 49 feet.
Megatherium, or giant ground sloth, lived in Central and South America. Weighing up to 4 tonnes, was one of the largest land mammals that ever lived. It is also Mi’s power animal.
Kelly is admiring this Bengal tiger as it devours a deer. All tigers are endangered, so if they aren’t protected, this might be the only way that people can see this majestic animal.
The gem and mineral hall was so large and the specimens so numerous that it would have taken hours to properly take it all in.
The vaulted ceilings are lined with carvings of animals and the skylights illuminate the statue of Charles Darwin on the opposite side of this grand room.
Mi really wanted to visit the library and herbarium but it is inaccessible to the general public.
The museum’s Darwin Center is in a structure within the museum called The Cocoon. This futuristic 7-floor structure houses thousands of specimens, interactive displays, glass-walled labs to watch scientists at work, and plant and insect collections that go back 400 years. This display was about planning a trip to collect insects where you have to choose and pack supplies using a touch table.
Kelly is one with nature. Be the fly.
A scientist at work recording and analyzing pages from the hundreds of years old herbarium books.
The entrance to the “Red Zone” section about earth and the natural forces that shape our planet is excellent. There are statues that represent myths that are related to natural processes like mineralization that turns organic materials into stone, like Medusa. There is also a statue of Cyclops, which is one of Mi’s favorite stories because it is possibly based on peoples’ misinterpretations about finding pygmy elephant skulls. The skulls have a large nasal cavity in the middle of the forehead, which could easily be misconstrued as an eye socket. The pygmy elephant’s short tusks could have looked like enlarged fangs.
The room is dominated by an escalator into the molten core of the planet, surrounded by constellations.
After the museums, we were tired and hungry so we walked to Hyde Park where we took off our shoes and devoured the leftovers of our homemade lunch as we watched boaters and swans on the lake.
Queen’s Gate to Hyde Park with the lion and the unicorn, which are heraldic symbols of the United Kingdom.
Kelly reading the evening post, which is free at any train station. The paper has three editions which are released throughout the day for commuters to stay informed. All of the recent editions have been about the royal baby. We personally think that George is a really boring name. We know they had to keep it kingly but Kelly thought they should have gone real old school and named him Tut.
Tuesday morning we took it easy then made our way to Camden Town to meet Hajra, a friend Kelly made while studying in Argentina 5 years ago. When they met, Hajra was a medical student with just two years of school to complete. Now she is a full fledged doctor at the age of 26 and after a few years in rotation had just landed what she called her dream job. It is very nice to hear she became what she set out to do and at such a young age! You rock Hajra!
Although Hajra is fasting for Ramadan she still insisted we try a virgin piña colada in a pineapple if only for the photo opportunity.
An old horse hospital has been turned into a trendy market where you can buy anything from clothes to street food. Everywhere are large steel horse statues. This one is so big we could put our heads in its nostrils.
This store is for rave gear. When you walk inside drum and bass music is blasting and black lights made our teeth glow. Futuristic robot decorations, glasses, and costumes adorned every surface.
It has two stories and multiple rooms. After we took this photo we were informed there were no photos allowed. We could hardly hear each other over the music but Hajra said some weekends they have dances in the store too. We can’t imagine working in an environment like this in fear of going deaf but all the workers were rhythmically bobbing their heads to the beat.
After wandering through the market we made our way to Primrose Hill and sat up top talking about everything from politics to the royal baby. Hajra and Kelly filled each other in on places they have been since they last saw each other and gave advice and helpful hints on places that one had been that the other wanted to go.
At about 7 o’clock, Hajra had to go so we took a quick group shot and saw her off the the tube station. We decided to stick around and explore the area a little more.
We found the original Doc Martens shop and had to take a look inside. Mi needed good shoes for Norway but also required that they were vegan. We knew that Doc Martens had a line of vegan shoes so we took a peak inside. They only had two pairs in Mi’s size and one happened to be the color Mi wanted! The salesman was telling us how people come from around the world to buy shoes from this store and if we waited even a day the shoes would most likely be gone. He told us that in Norway we would pay at least twice as much and probably wouldn’t find the vegan shoes. To be honest, we knew right when we saw the shoes we had to buy them. Kelly bought them for Mi’s belated birthday present.
After our awesome buy we stumbled onto a queer Macbeth performance where all the proceeds went to an organization raising money for HIV and AIDS awareness and treatment. We wanted to see a show while we were here and thought a queer take on it would be fun. It was interestingly put together. Snippets of today’s culture were spliced in like songs, dance and ipads in place of faces, which gave this dramatic play a humorous touch.
We enjoyed a pint over some dinner while watching the play then made our way back to the tube.
Outside the London Bridge station is an excellent view of Europe’s tallest building, The Shard. We recently read that Al Jazeera will be leasing a floor to bring balanced news to the English public. We were happy to learn this because Al Jazeera is one of a handful of trusted news organizations we turn to.
The next morning we woke up early-ish (about 9) and packed our lunch to hit the most essential tourist locations in London.
First stop: Buckingham Palace.
We believe that everyday is crowded while the Changing of the Guards occurs, but because the Royal Baby was just born it was even more crowded than usual. This woman cop on her incredibly beautiful horse was also a highlight of our morning. We managed to get a decent spot to watch the band and guards march to and from the Palace gates.
The horse was so beautiful and very used to being in large crowds of tourists trying to get a glimpse of the guards in their bear fur hats. This day was especially crowded because Queen Elizabeth left the palace to visit the 3rd in line for the crown at the Kensington Palace. We took about 30 pictures of this horse alone.
This guard was in a silly mood when we visited. We always thought these guards had to be stone faced and still. First, the guard opposite him started twitching like his feet hurt so they started marching up and down in front of their posts. This guard was making silly faces into cameras of tourists who put their cameras over the rope.
A panoramic shot of Trafalgar Square. It’s a bustling part of the city where it is of upmost importance to pay attention of the cross walk signals.
At the calvary museum Mi got a picture with a military man and his horse.
Standing next to Westminter Abbey with the Houses of Parliment in the background. We stuck around to hear Big Ben ring but it didn’t!
We stopped for a picnic in a park behind the Houses of Parliment. Every lunch break we have has been so relaxing and romantic. We eat our delicious salads and sandwiches, then feed each other strawberries while we look up at the clouds.
Kelly insisted that her feet be in this shot. It makes it more personable she says. You also get a glimpse into her silly idiosyncrasies. After lunch we wandered around a bit more, got a pint, then headed back to Blackheath. Since we have been in London the temperature has not dipped below 28 or 29 degrees Celsius with humidity between 70-95%. It has rained for a total of an hour at most and only in the middle of the night. Needless to say, we are losing steam after so much sight seeing that we are heading back earlier in the day to spend the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying each other’s company away from the bustling crowds. Plus, we are on vacation so we do what we want!
Thursday we made our way to Shoreditch which is well known for its vintage stores and street art.
The vintage stores had so much cool stuff but it was way overpriced. We don’t have any room in our bags with all the souvenirs we have from Asia so we didn’t mind passing up very cool but very expensive rags at the shops.
Mi really likes the idea of being dwarfed by oversized animals. It gives us perspective. As humans, we are still small in the scheme of things, despite our disproportionately large impact on the planet.
After Shoreditch we went to Soho, the gay district. We actually saw more visibly queer people in Shoreditch than we did Soho. We did however find some very cool specialty shops like this umbrella store.
We stopped for a pint (of blackberry cider) to get out of the heat in a very British-style pub called The Plough. The bar tender was the second to card us here and the second to say he didn’t expect our IDs to say we were as old as we are. We take it as a compliment when people think we are younger than 18. When we are 60 we expect to look bangin’.
Kelly is trying a new photo style where she only shoots parts of the subject to make the viewer focus on what is easily overlooked when looking at the whole, something she picked up at the travel photography exhibit we saw at the Royal Geographical Society. Bet you wouldn’t have noticed the wood grain or the wallpaper if this had been shot differently.
This tweed specialy shop was so fun but everything was a little to big for us. We vow to one day have tailored tweed jackets for fancy occasions.
This train station at Russell Square in Camden had spiral stair cases to the platform. An announcement stated that the 175 stairs from the platform to ground level were the equivalent of a 13 story building. We took them down because the lift queue was miles long.
We took the train to King’s Cross to get a picture Kelly was very excited about. While she ran through the wall to board the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4 she sported the Slytherin scarf because she always roots for the underdogs. She read all seven Harry Potter books in English and Spanish and insists Mi should read them even if they are young adult books. It is an awesome story!
From the train station we overheard some people saying they were going to a Mexican food place for dinner. We asked them if they could show us the way because it had been a while since we had Mexican food.
The drinks were spectacular. One Sangrita and one Mojito with two shots each. The sangrita was a delicious mix of tomato juice, orange juice, grenadine, tequila, and spices. We really thought London would have some good Mexican food but were disappointed with what we got. The hot sauce is advertised as “searing hot” and it was sweet, without any burn at all. We shoud have known because the place was called Wahaca, the phonetic spelling for the Mexican State, Oaxaca.
The rice was coriander flavored basmati (a variety usually reserved for India food) and the chips tasted packaged. The food was excellent, but not authentic like we hoped.
Afterwards we were a bit tipsy and wandered into a pub for one last pint of cider. We had a few laughs including saying at the same exact time “When it looks like our face is melting off…” We think it’s hilarious that we not only finish each others’ sentences on a daily basis, but also have the same mental images at the same time and describe them the same way.
The next day we had one goal: to find a tasty vegan restaurant. We met that goal and surpassed it at the Pogo Cafe in Hackney. This is a cooperative run entirely by volunteers. It is autonomous, non-hierarchical, and affordable. Not only was the food tasty and completely vegan, but the restaurant also provides information and a place to be with like minded people. They have free movie screenings, activism opportunities, and board games. After we finished our “punk burgers” and “milkshakes,” we basked in the community space occupied by people whose goals are to liberate animals and live in harmony with all creatures. We grabbed books from their library to read while we digested. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
On our walk back from the train station we found this interesting flower that looks like it would be found on another planet.