We got up at 8:30, ate our scones, and were again thankful for having hotel room coffee for once. Then we headed over to St Pancras to visit the official Olympic souvenir shop, because we hadn’t really seen much in the way of Olympic stuff elsewhere. (We knew we’d be at the station again the next day, but weren’t sure what time the shop opened.) We picked up a few things, then crossed to the Kings Cross station side and got on the tube to Arsenal. (It was on my favorite line, the one that ends at Cockfosters. If you can say that without giggling, you’re more of an adult than we are.)
One thing I’d really come to appreciate in London (beyond hotel room coffee, gin and tonics in cans, people walking quickly, not speaking French, and good beer): they remind you which way to look for cars at intersections. It’s easy to forget.
We walked the few blocks to the Emirates, and Matt joined the squad:
The stadium was really impressive. One of the things I really loved was that they had banners on poles circling the plaza that featured photos of fans with little bios about their dedication. I wish we did that here.
At the far end, we found the statue of Thierry Henry. I LOVE HIM.
We circled the rest of the building, then went to the gift shop and bought a bunch of stuff. Matt was really excited to be there. (While we were there, we learned that the British pronounce Adidas like the Germans – i.e. the correct way. Apparently that’s only an American thing.)
We stopped back at the hotel to drop off our purchases, had a snack of Go Ahead and cider, then went back to the tube. We rode to Bank, then transferred to the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to go to Greenwich. The ride on that train is really interesting… it’s mostly aboveground, and goes through the financial district, around the docks, and across the Thames. Halfway there, a big school group got on, and we knew exactly where they were going… with us.
We all piled off the train at Greenwich, and wandered out into a seriously adorable little part of London. I loved it a lot. We stopped at a souvenir shop, then consulted the map to find our way to Greenwich Park. Because we’re nerds, we really wanted to see the place where time begins.
The park was in the midst of a huge Olympic construction project, because that’s where they’re hosting the equestrian events. We checked out the arena they’re building, then climbed up the hill to the observatory. The entrance sign has the official time and measuring standards:
We didn’t want to pay admission to the museum, and of course the Prime Meridian line is within the museum’s courtyard. We could see through the fence where people were getting their picture taken.
However, you can go into the courtyard there, which gives you access to the gift shop. The Prime Meridian happens to pass through the building and out into the courtyard, so we just visited it there instead.
We picked up some souvenirs, then went back outside. We realized that there was an excellent view of the Olympic facilities from the hill.
We headed back down the hill and into town to find lunch. We chose one of the two really cute-looking pubs there and got a table near the bar. The place was called the Spanish Galleon, and it was a Shepherd Neame brewery. I ordered a beer called the Bishop’s Finger, just because of the name. Plus it was delicious.
Matt got fish and chips, and I had a vegetable sandwich. There was something about being in that style of pub again in London that made me really happy. It was just so stereotypical and awesome.
After lunch, we went to see the Cutty Sark. You know what Matt loves? Going on boats!
The whole museum was only very recently redone, and it’s really great. You tour the decks of the ship first, and learn the history of the tea trade.
They have a huge collection of figureheads in the museum. Is that the Burger King?
The view of the underside of the ship is fantastic.
We hit up the gift shop, then walked down to the pier to get on the water taxi. It has several stops along the Thames; we mostly just wanted to ride and get the view from the river.
The boat was a little cold, but worth it. Since we didn’t have a ton of time in London, it was a great way to see some things.
The Gherkin… Barcelona has basically the same building, too. Their nickname for it means poop, apparently. Oh, Catalunyans.
The traitors’ gate entrance is awesome:
The Globe Theatre:
We got off the boat at the London Eye. The line was crazy (is the line ever not crazy?) so we decided against riding it. Matt, who isn’t thrilled about heights, was totally ok with that.
We took some pictures, then crossed the Thames.
This particular area was packed with tourists despite the crappy weather, so there was the usual entertainment.
Big Ben, which hadn’t yet officially been renamed:
We saw Westminster Abbey and 10 Downing Street. At that point I was really damn tired of walking again, so we went to the tube. I was looking forward to a break, but of course it was packed (it was around 5pm). At least we could stand instead of walking, I guess.
Our destination was the Whisky Exchange at Vinopolis, which is quite possible the largest liquor store in the universe. It’s big enough to be marked on the tourist map, at least. We were primarily in search of their pour-your-own items, because they would be totally unique. It was basically a museum of whiskey, though. On the way there, we passed a movie set where they were filming a scene with a horse-drawn carriage. The neighborhood looked very appropriate for it.
We picked out a collection of mini bottles of scotch and a bottle of the Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros to smuggle home, then got an employee’s help for the pour-your-own (which is more like they-pour-for-you). He got us samples from all the barrels, and my tongue was numb by the end of the tasting. The guy who was helping us was hilarious, too, and had seemed to know basically everything about scotch. We got talking about smoky scotch, so he poured us Ardbeg Corryvreckan as well.
We decided on the Arras blended, Craigallechie single malt, and a rum from Trinidad. He handed us an unlabeled bottle and told us to remember what it was so he could mark them properly. Try repeating “Craigallechie” to yourself several times after a scotch tasting. It’s awesome.
Since the labels are made custom there, he said we could put any date on them we wanted. We went with our wedding date, of course. He wrapped everything up in masterful fashion so it would survive the trip home, which it did:
We took our two Vinopolis bags and rode back to the hotel to drop them off and relax for a bit. I had grapefruit and gin in a can (Snoop Dogg would be proud), and Matt had a Pimm’s cup (can). We walked to dinner at a place nearby called the Delhi Grill, which specialized in Indian street food. From there, we took the tube to Liverpool Street, in search of a cocktail bar called the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. It’s in the basement of a place called the Breakfast Club, and you enter it via a refrigerator door. (You also have to give them the secret phrase when you arrive.)
It took us a while to find it, and when we got there the upstairs place was full. I told them the password, and the girl there said the wait would be pretty long, since it’s a small place. She offered us a spot upstairs, but we decided to take our chances elsewhere. We headed off looking for one place, and only realized we were going in the wrong direction after walking several blocks. Matt mentioned that his friend had recommended a place he thought was nearby, so we managed to find its location on our map with very spotty wifi.
We walked past a huge office building that appeared to be empty, and the neighborhood was becoming less and less busy. (His friend said it was in a weird part of town, so that seemed ok.) We walked past a trainyard and some construction, and finally spotted a bar a few blocks away. We crossed the street toward it, thinking it was just a local pub that would work well for our needs. When we got there, though, we noticed that the place we were looking for was actually downstairs. We said hi to the doorman, and he pointed the way. We walked into a speakeasy-style place called Worship Street Whistle Stop (it was decorated with old furniture and barrels) that served the most creative and strange cocktails we’d ever seen. Nice work, recommender!
We ordered drinks at the bar, then found a two-person table nearby where we could read the whole menu. They were doing things like UV-aged whiskey, irradiation, cheese culture in booze, and something that was effectively made with dirt. It was all very entertaining. We had a couple of drinks there, and Matt tried the dirt cocktail.
After an hour or so the place started to empty, and we knew the tube would be closing up, so we walked back to the station and rode to the hotel. We cracked open our cider and got to packing up our stuff again, because it was already time to leave London. How could our time there have gone so quickly?