LomoTravels: Reminiscing London + Manchester Day 4 / Of Tower of London, Spitalfields and Sunday UpMarket
This is gonna be a short one. As our trip was winding down, we either a) developed holiday fatigue, b) were too immersed in our activities or c) both a) and b) which resulted in us taking less and less photos.
After rushing through breakfast for the past few days, we had abit more time with the hotel buffet spread as the Tower of London opened at 10 on Sundays. Got our tickets with ease which were inclusive of a group tour (which ran at half hourly intervals) led by a Yeoman Warder. Also known as Beefeaters, the Yeoman Warders have been the guardians of the Tower since way back.
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Although a huge crowd was gathering at the entrance where the guided tour was going to start, it didn’t deterred us from waiting it out. Spent a few minutes hanging around and taking snaps of the surrounding.
LomoTravels: Reminiscing London + Manchester Day 3 / Of Palace of Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral
It’s the weekend! Not that we really care when we’re overseas, but the Palace of Westminster aka Houses of Parliament is only opened for tours on Saturdays during off peak season.
Had to rush through breakfast and adjust our planned travel route (scheduled closures of train stations are quite common) before reaching slightly later than our scheduled admission time.
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After going through the inevitable security check there was still abit of distance to cover before entering the palace. From there we got a good view of Elizabeth Tower which is best known for the bell it houses – the Big Ben.
Famed for its stained glass windows, the queue into Sainte-Chapelle was surprisingly unassuming. Sharing an entrance with the Palais de Justice, we had to go through a stringent security check before getting anywhere near the chapel.
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Once in, I was pretty much left speechless by these awe inspiring glass panels.
And that’s the first proper phrase I uttered in French. With surprisingly good results to boot.
The ticketing staff understood perfectly and handed over 2 train tickets to Chateau Versailles better known as the Palace of Versailles (for those who studied history for their O-levels).
Spent our time on the train savoring our takeaway breakfast of French pastries with the occasional background music provided by street musicians. So very different from how we travel back home.
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Alighted the train and followed the massive crowd to the palace. Spoiler: more queuing lay in wait.
An early bus and flight equal to a whole load of waiting and traveling and more waiting. Upon touch down, it finally hit home that we are in a foreign country. Signs were all in French which left us scratching our heads aplenty.
Pretty soon enough we got a knack of it; sortie = exit anddddd that’s about it. While struggling through the ticketing machine interface to get our metro tickets, I regretted not picking up a few basic French words/phrases.
Those regrets deepened and literally forced themselves up my nose and mouth in the form of my first meal in Paris. Headed to a cafe which came highly recommended online. Even though it was way past lunchtime hours, the place was still packed to the brim. Thought to self, “This meal is gonna be darn good!”
Finally got a seat and realized the menu is the big chalkboard hung on the wall. Added bonus was that it was all in French. Binbin went for the safe option and ordered poulet which we sorta knew was chicken or poultry.
Feeling helpless (the servers were not fluent in English) and adventurous at the same time, I decided to order a dish called “AAAAA blah Andouillette blah blah blah”.
That AAAAA to infinity totally sold me on it.
Interestingly, andouillette turned out to be “a coarse-grained sausage made with pork (or occasionally veal), intestines or chitterlings, pepper, wine, onions, and seasonings” as Wikipedia kindly puts it. I call it the sh*t sausage.
Obviously this was of nobody else’s fault but mine. I should probably just leave the ordering to binbin next time.
The alarm went off. Eyes opened. First thing out of bed was to ruffle the curtain drapes and peer out the window.
Nevertheless, we decided to push on with our plan to visit the neighboring islands Torcello and Burano. Who knows, maybe by the time we reached, the weather would have improved.
After an hour of traveling which involved transferring from one vaporetta to another, we finally reached the shores of Torcello. At this time, the rain was falling even more heavily. And the winds. The piercing winds!!
Compounding the depressing weather was the virtually empty streets as local vendors were all holed up at home while tourists that were as hardcore/foolish as us were far and few.
Well, I suppose our luck was going to run out sooner or later. Misfortune came in the form of rain as soon as we arrived at the train station. Thankfully we managed to find our way through the notorious Venetian alleys to our hotel.
First order of business was to hook ourselves up with tickets for the water taxi which is locally known as vaporetta. It is easily the only viable public transport if you wish to get around Venice. More often than not, you will see signs proclaiming “Vaporetta” pointing in all sorts of obscure directions while walking along the streets.
Unfortunately, this time round we fell victims to the maze of Venetian streets while trying to locate the vaporetta stop. Wandered for a good 20 minutes trying to make sense of the map/following the crowd/returning to base and starting all over again. Finally located the stop with the insides of our shoes feeling slightly soggy. D:
Proceeded to purchase the 72 hours tourist pass even though we would be staying for 2 days only. Value for money since a single ride cost 6 euros.
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Waiting to board our first ever vaporetta ride! Rather than being uber hyped about it, I remembered us shivering while holding our damp tickets, second guessing if we were waiting at the right stop.