1 July 2010: English vacation, Part 2

Janice and Gene at the Sherlock Holmes Museum

In a previous post, I blogged about the first few days of Janice’s and my vacation in England. The Internet enabled us to act as our own travel agents, conducting research on sites to visit and helping us book travel through Expedia. The London Pass program allowed Janice and me to get into museums (although most were free) and other attractions without waiting in line/queue for tickets.

On Wednesday, 23 June 2010, Janice and I went to the Tower of London. Janice remarked that it isn’t so much a tower as a castle (based on a Norman keep). We saw the crown jewels and Traitor’s Gate, and I noticed that the armor exhibit had changed since my previous visit 24 years ago. We had lunch at the Armories Café and then walked past the Golden Hinde (Sir Francis Drake’s ship) to the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

We weren’t able to tour the theater because a production of Macbeth (the “Scottish play”) had just begun, so we walked across the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral, observing a range of architecture on the way. The church is as much a testament to British nationalism as to the Anglican faith, having been redesigned by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666. St. Paul’s magnificent crypt contains grave stones of numerous notable scientists, artists, statesmen, and military leaders.

Janice and I then strolled by the antique stores of Portobello Market and Notting Hill, made famous by movies. Many of the stores were empty, but the pubs were overflowing with fans and spectators of soccer’s World Cup. The Wimbledon tennis tournament was also occurring that week, but we couldn’t tell if it affected traffic or tourism. We later enjoyed Indian cuisine at Masala Zone, which I liked even more than Wagamama because of a friendly and informative staff, healthy and tasty food, and reasonable prices.

The next day, Janice and I went to the grand British Museum, which had a special exhibition of Renaissance drawings. We also checked out the significant collection of artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt (such as the Rosetta Stone, mummies, and statuary related to my Pathfinder: Holy Steel” campaign), Greece (including the Elgin Marbles or contested sculpture from Athens’ Acropolis), Rome, and several other civilizations. We could easily have spent more time exploring London’s many museums and palaces, just as there are other sites in the U.K. that would be worthwhile destinations for day trips.

Janice and I had dinner at Pret a Manger, which is similar to and slightly nicer than Au Bon Pain in the U.S. We then walked through Bloomsbury and Soho (no relation to Manhattan’s Soho, other than being a neighborhood frequented by artists). Among other things, we stopped in at some comic book shops, including Gosh!, Comicana, Orbital Comics, and the multimedia extravaganza of Forbidden Planet, which has few equivalents here at home.

On Friday, June 25, I mailed two boxes of books and a few souvenirs home to lighten our luggage for our return. Since Janice and I had been unable to get inside the Globe Theater two days before, we returned for a tour. Whenever we return to England, Janice and I would like to try to take in a show.

After a simple but good lunch of wine and cheese at La Fromagerie, we walked to the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street. Janice and I are both fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective, so it was fun to enter a replica of Holmes’ Victorian apartment. In nearby Covent Garden and Marleybone, we liked the markets and had a decadent snack of Nutella and peanut butter at Crème de la Crepe. We browsed at Daunt’s Books before dinner at Café Pasta, a local chain.

Janice and I flew back to Boston on Saturday, June 26, watching most of Up in the Air on the way. (I screened the OK juvenile fantasy Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief on the flight to Chicago.) After “comfort food” at Wild Willy’s Burgers in Needham, Massachusetts, we began catching up on chores such as mowing the lawn, doing laundry, and grocery shopping.

In addition, I’ve enjoyed the latest episodes of Doctor Who (continuing our Anglophilia) and Leverage. I’ll have to try to post more soon about the end of the regular television season and this summer’s genre shows.

On Sunday, June 27, we met Janice’s middle sister Shelly, her husband Melvin, and our nieces Rebecca and Laura for lunch at a Chili’s in Worcester, Mass., after they dropped off our nephew David at a summer camp for kids with diabetes. We had seen them a few weeks ago at Becky‘s high school graduation party in Utica, New York.

This past week, the “Holy Steel/Dragonslayers” teleconferencing team and face-to-face group skipped more sessions, but we’ll soon be getting back to the fantasy game, a few more one-shots, and the upcoming “Vortexspace opera (about which I’ve been blogging).

This coming weekend, Janice’s parents and the family of her youngest sister Melinda will be visiting us around Independence Day. College chums David I.S. and Dexter V.H. also hope to visit the Boston area. So much to do, so little time!