Trying to squeeze seeing another country into a limited time frame is impossible—it’s fun, but impossible. So, having embraced that paradox we present you with a fast, down and dirty tour of our 6 day trip. (Because we are also going to do a detailed post about the food and eateries of London and Canterbury we will leave out talking too much about them.) Even though this is the down and dirty there is still so much to pack in here…enjoy!
Tuesday, Montreal—Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport
Katie wanted us to leave the house earlier than I thought necessary but thank goodness we did because we were stuck in Montreal rush hour traffic: it took almost an hour to go 7 miles. Once we got to the airport and settled in we breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Flight Attendant: “The more you drink the better it tastes.”
um, yeah, so everyone should fly British Airways cause they have free booze! After a 5 and 1/2 hours flight we arrived, exhausted, in England…at 7:20am in the morning (2:20am EST). We tried to rally by having some coffee before taking the Express train into London. We had lots of plans for the day and we didn’t want to waste any time.
We stayed at The Wesley Hotel, which is right next to Euston Station and only a few blocks from both St. Pancras and King’s Cross International Stations (any Harry Potter fans?!)—it was a prime place to be. We had lunch at Vx, which is a kickass vegan boutique right around the corner from Kings Cross. While there we overloaded on swag (shirts, stickers, buttons) and then came back to the hotel and…crashed. Nap time was needed if we were to stay awake the rest of the day.
After some sleep we decided to see some of the “major” sights: Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria Memorial, the Royal Horse Parade Grounds, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben, as well as Trafalgur Square. Know this about England, and London specifically: the public transportation kicks ass. You can get anywhere quickly and easily. We finished the day with a delicious dinner at InSpiral.
The next day we headed over to the Tower of London, which turned out to be one of the most incredibly fascinating parts of the trip.
Fact: only 10 people had the honor of being beheaded on the Tower Green, which is within the walls of the Tower of London? Anne Boleyn was one of them. The view from the window looks out onto the green where the executions took place. Inside Saint Peter’s Chapel is where all of the executed souls were buried. (Anne Boleyn’s buried spot is just under the candle stick on the left hand side of the alter…shhh I wasn’t supposed to have taken that picture.)
Fact: there are resident ravens that “stay” at the Tower. They are massive compared to the crows you see flying around.
There are also some rather creepy aspects of the Tower, seeing as how a part of its history is the fact that it was involved in torture and the captivity of prisoners (justly or not). These pics are from the Bloody Tower, so named because it was supposedly the location of the murder of some young princes to ensure they didn’t ascend to the throne.
Later that day we decided to go up in the London Eye, which overlooks the entire city. It was well worth the rather expensive ticket price—you have an unobstructed 360° view of the city.
After such a wonderful day full of the sights and sounds of London we headed back to the hotel, warmed ourselves up with a little espresso…
Friday brought an early rise so that we could catch the Southeastern high speed train (The “Javelin”) to Canterbury. The train hits about 125 mph at its fastest, so the trip only took us 50 minutes. (Ok, so I thought it went about 300mph, which isn’t correct—only some high speed trains go that fast, and the one to Canterbury is not one of them.)
Canterbury is a big change from London. “Old England” with stone ruins and cobblestone roads; while we didn’t get to go into the Canterbury Cathedral it always loomed large over us, allowing for some beautiful photos.
After checking into our B&B, The House of Agnes, we got some lunch at The Veg Box. Then we picked up our rental car (ever drive a manual car with the shifter on the other side?)…
and drove down to the White Cliffs of Dover. Standing atop these ancient cliffs was awe inspiring: Calais was just across the channel, the sun was setting by the end of our walk, and the clean smell of the ocean (aside from the shipping port) made this one of the highlights of the entire trip.
And we had to take the ubiquitous “Dubliners” photo…Joyce came with us to Ireland on our honeymoon and he came back to the UK to visit England. Where will he go next?
Our B&B is a very old place indeed—it was actually mentioned in Dicken’s David Copperfield (it is named after Agnes Whitfiled, who became David Copperfield’s second wife). We didn’t stay in the main building, but instead lodged in one of the “stable houses”—intimate and cozy, it was a lovely time.
Let’s not forget that the real reason we were there in the first place was because I was to speak at the Postgraduate Conference in Aesthetics at the University of Kent.
The conference was Saturday and Sunday, and it was so much fun. My talk went great (aside from the failed powerpoint), and I received lots of insightful comments and advice; we also met so many wonderful people, from England and from all around the world. Katie commented that our dinner out at The Parrot was like the IHOP of philosophy: a girl from Brussels and a girl from Canterbury-via-California, one of the senior lectures is from Australia, Katie’s dinner neighbor was from northern Italy, the girl across from us was from France-by way of-Nicaragua (who’s father is Iranian), another neighbor was from Ireland, and across the table was guy from Oregon (now at Warwick University), his girlfriend from London, and a bloke from Cardiff. Phew!
After the conference ended on Sunday we hopped on the train back to London–or rather we found out at the rail station that we needed to take a bus (that was leaving now!) to the next station and THEN we could hop the train back to London. Disaster averted. Second averted disaster occurred at St. Pancras Station when we found out that our tickets were dated two days earlier! Luckily the Transit Cop was kind enough to not “ruin your day for 90p). We might still be stuck in the station, busking for change.
Given our now expert knowledge of the London Underground we easily maneuvered ourselves to our new hotel, The London House, which was close to the Nottinghill area. It overlooked this nice little green area…
…which, in reality, didn’t really matter since we were only a few block from the massive Kensington Gardens. Sunday night dinner took us down to the southwestern corner of London to a little place called 222 Veggie Vegan. The food there seemed to out due everything we had up to that point. Delicious.
The next day we wanted to walk around some of Kensington Gardens before heading up to the Camden Market for some lunch. The pictures might not do it justice: it is 275 acres of trees, paths, ornamental flower beds, the Kensington Palace and the Serpentine Gallery (which we didn’t have time to visit).
After our little walk we headed east and then up to the Camden Market, which is a large shopping area filled with eateries. Our destination was Cookies and Scream, which serves the best, and I mean best we have ever had, warmed brownies topped with ice cream. 40 degrees to not, we couldn’t pass up the chance for some vegan dessert.
After stuffing our faces (and taking a cookie to go) we headed back to the hotel, picked up our bags, and, biding farewell to London, headed to Heathrow to await our flight. Our time in England was at an end, and while we were sorry to leave (and come back to fridgid temperatures!) we had made lots of new memories, seen some amazingly beautiful places, and met people from all over the world. I cannot think of a better time to have spent together.
That being said, we needed to get home to our little doggie…