||Another view of our room at Chalon House. What a wonderfully
comfortable place. There's an uncluttered romance about the room that's
||One of the musicals we saw was Notre Dame de Paris. This was
an entrancing show with bold lighting, an astonishingly creative set,
highly energetic choreography, and superb music and singing. We had gone
to Leicester Square to get tickets, and while I waited in line Elena
scanned the board to see what was available (it was almost closing time
for the booth). A cab driver approached the small crowd and asked if
anyone would like two free tickets. Luckily, everyone else was too
skeptical, but Elena got me and we talked to John (his name we later
discovered) and took him up on his offer. When we were seated (the best in
the house) we found ourselves next to six other people who had been
recipients of his generosity...thank you, John, wherever you are. It was a
gorgeous show. Oh, I snuck this one photo with no flash and no viewfinder;
they didn't allow photography, but if you get a small impression of the
beauty of the lighting perhaps I'll have been justified.
||Once back in London we visited the Tower of London. You can
see it's actually a compound of structures. I always thought it was a
single "tower" so was quite surprised at the extensive buildings
inside the walls.
||One of the famous ravens at the tower. These are the birds
of whom legend says, "So long as there are ravens at the tower, the
tower will stand" (meaning the monarchy I guess). The birds eat raw
meat - disgusting. Plus, they're known to bite if they're annoyed and
feeling impish. And from the looks of his perch there it appears that
they're not toilet trained.
||Elena mugs it up with a large stuffed bear dressed up like
one of the Yeoman Warders (those guys who keep the ravens happy and act as
tour guides). They're also known as "Beefeaters" though where
they get that name is beyond me.
||This is the armor of King Henry VIII (the eighth) found in
the White Tower of the Tower of London. Without being too obvious (there
may be children viewing this, you know) one can quickly discern the
feature that amused most folks viewing this suit. I can imagine the
impression the good king made when he entered a room, or at least when the
remainder of his suit entered a room if you get my drift. It was
hilarious. This item made for an entire afternoon of jokes with Elena, but
I'll spare you the mental anguish.
||Elena was exhausted when I took this shot at the end of one
day's rushing about. Here, she sits on a seat aboard a train in the
underground (or "tube" as the locals call it). What a neat
subway system. You can go anywhere in London easily, and there's no
parking involved...imagine that. Elena has our travel book open and seems
to be busy planning the next day's events.
||One evening we bought our dinner at a local grocery store
called Waitrose. We chose a salad and some other little items, and then
proceeded to the beverage aisle where we bought these juices. While eating
our dinner I opened mine (on the right) and took a swig. With a grimace I
managed to choke it down. It was incredibly intense in flavor and very
sweet...quite different from the rest of British cuisine. Elena took a
swig also, and we managed to gack down about a quarter of the bottle,
grimacing miserably all the time, until we read the fine print on the
reverse of the label. It was a concentrate meant to be diluted 4:1. Awck!
||We had a good meal at this Russian restaurant. It was
terrific, and my wonderful partner (the inimitable Elena, the one to whom
I am devoted) certified it as gen-you-wine-ly good Russian food.
||Elena had some tea to help finish off her meal, and she
laughed at the glass it was served in (missed me 'cause I was raised in
the states). It seems that this type of glass is only used to serve
beverages aboard trains in Russia, but what would I know?
||On the day before we left we visited Kew Gardens (the Royal
Botanical Gardens). This is one of about three glass-house structures on
the 300 acre site.
||Can you believe the size of those LILY PADS? They're said to
be strong enough to hold up a small child. I tried to talk Elena into
venturing out onto one of them just to find out if that were true, but
because of all the dining we'd been doing I think her confidence was a bit
shaken, so she declined to take me up on the dare.
||My honey sniffing some flower.
||Whoa! Elena's progressed from simply sniffing the poor
blossoms to actually consuming the unfortunates.
||Our last stop in London was the VAT (Value Added Tax) booth at Heathrow
Airport. This is where they signed off on the tax exclusion paperwork for
some of our purchases in Belgium (something done to encourage tourists to
spend money in the EU, and something the US government negates with duty
when you return). In Belgium we paid 22% tax on purchases, but for
anything costing more than just a few dollars most shopkeepers had a way
of allowing you to claim an exemption. This routine was simply part of the
pain of bureaucratic paperwork, but financially worth it.