O MY, England was quite an awesome first port visit. Everything was so mesmerizing and fun. I loved it! The first night the Wardroom had an outing in England at a quaint little bar with a specialty for fish and chips (fish fry). We were saying goodbye to our navigator and his replacement was taking over. I started the evening off with a pint from the local brewery and fish and chips. Everyone was always talking about fish and chips, fish and chips. I didn’t realize that England was so well known for that dish, so I tried that. They were to die for… Literally. It was very good. After last call, everyone was standing in the alley deciding where we would go next, and I being pretty tipsy as it were said come on guys what are you doing just standing around, let’s go. Next Bar! They have that on video, and have been making fun of me for that ever since.
4 bars later we ended up at a club and club we did. Luckily I had planned ahead and was anticipating London so I managed to not be so ridiculous. The next morning as soon as we woke up H, my roommate and I got ready and headed out. We were meeting up with J and one of his friends from the carrier to go crazy in London. We hopped on the train and settled in for the 2 hour ride. It went by quickly and the countryside was very scenic.
The London train station reminded me so much of Harry Potter and after being in London for only one day I finally realized where a lot of the ideas for J.K. Rowling’s book came from. (saw her posh 5 mil pound apartment right by Buckingham palace btw!) We had to go to the bathroom so bad when we arrived at London Station, but it cost 30 pence and we didn’t have any so I had to buy a beget from a vendor to get pounds in exchange. Afterward we got all day passes for the subway and headed to our first stop: The Tower of London.
There was a big wall encasing a bunch of smaller homes and buildings, which all made up the Tower of London. Apparently there were many beheading there of the royals back in the day and we explored all of the terraces and towers on the premises. Much history resides there and people still live inside the walls today. In the center there was a long line extending from one of the buildings and we didn’t know what, but since it was so long, we jumped in line. After 30 minutes of waiting low and behold we saw the crown jewels of her majesty!!!! I was so shocked I didn’t even know what to do. I was mesmerized. We saw the sector and the orb used at the coronation ceremony when she became queen and the sword used to anoint her, plus crowns from previous queens, and gold relics used at the balls and ceremonies still in working order today. My favorite piece was a gold punch bowl which was absolutely magnificent. It comes apart in 123 pieces and holds 144 bottles of wine!!! The scoop is a huge gold conch shell with an ivory handle and it holds 2.5 bottles of wine, with every scoop! It was last used at the queens coronation. I can only imagine the after party for that celebration.
Upon our exit, we looked up and we were right underneath the London bridge. Wow! We walked up to the bridge and immediately saw a stop for the double deck buses so we jumped on one to take a tour of the city that way. We just wizzed around the city taking in facts from the tour guide, such as:
-There are 3 arches in the entrance to London square and only the queen is allowed to use the middle one, it stays closed at all other times.
-The royal gardens are now closed to the public because two Germans were sleeping over one night and when the queen opened her window in the morning she saw them washing their underwear in her fountain. (What a sight that must have been. haha!)
-One of the gardens has no flowers because one of the ladies picked a flower and gave it to a prince and told him to give it to the most beautiful woman he knew, so he gave it to a stranger passing by. Jerk. She had all of the flowers in that park removed as retaliation.
-The first hard rock cafe is in London.
-There’s a random arch in the center square and it was placed there because the queen didn’t like it on the palace grounds so she ordered it to be moved brick by brick to somewhere else.
-Those Londoner’s love their football (soccer)!
We saw Trafalgar square and the big lion statues that reside there, and we saw a huge mob of people singing and dancing in preparation for the soccer game with Barcelona that evening. Apparently it was like the superbowl of soccer in London on the evening we were there. The air was electric with anticipation for the game.
Also, we drove by the gentleman’s clubs where the royals hang out, and the eye of London which is a big Ferris wheel in the city. We jumped off the bus at Buckingham palace and walked right up to the front gate. How magnificent. I stood right in front of the balcony where William and Kate had their first kiss. Wow. I also got a few pictures of the guards. From there we walked to Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, they are located right next to each other and along the way we saw the stables where the royal horses perform. Westminster Abbey was another breath taking picture to behold. When we stood right underneath the front doors of the Abbey, I looked up and gasped at the brilliant view.
Finally we stopped for tea, scones, crisps, and cakes. We relaxed for a bit right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city and shared our snacks with each other. Perfection. We then walked along the city streets and did some shopping. We actually happened upon the National Geographic store [totally didn’t know they had one of those!!!] and I loved it so much. I need to find one in America. I went to bur-berry and saw the wallet I might buy post deployment but in pounds it was much more expensive than American dollars. The dollar here doesn’t exchange well here.
After all that running around we were thoroughly exhausted and took the subway back to the train station and jumped back on the train to Portsmouth. By this time we were all lethargic for a while and sat in silence just listening to the hum of the train. It was a smooth ride. By the time we got back we were starving for dinner but pretty much everything was closed. That’s one back thing about England. Everything closes very early around these parts. We ended up going to an Indian restaurant for curry. It was quite good. We all picked a different dish and again shared and so I was able to sample everything. I had duty the next day and boy did I sleep well.
On our final day we woke up early and took one of the vans (a stick shift with the steering wheel on the right side) to the Stonehenge to see the magical stones. I mostly wanted to see Stonehenge because that’s a default background option on most computers, so I figured it must be a big deal. Of course I listened to the audio tour as I walked around it. Afterward we went to a pub called the Red Rose and I had a lamb Ragu which was scrumptious. We headed back for the ship via a town called Salisbury which has the highest steeple church in England, which I saw!
Upon arriving back we took a tour of the HMS Victory, the oldest commissioned warship in the world but I had already toured the Constitution in Boston and essentially they were similar except one American and one English. And we shopped along the quay wharf and had dinner (fish and chips one final time). We arrived back relatively early so we decided to go to the bar right outside of the gate to the base so we could drink a few more pints of beer before calling it a night.
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