United Kingdom – London, Brighton, Oxford
What? Did you think going to Spain would stop me from taking another UK trip later the same year? No way! As usual, I don’t remember when the wheels started turning for this trip, but I have to assume Ruth Ann and I were already talking about it when we were in Spain. After all, this was our fourth UK trip (and fifth trip overall) as traveling buddies, so if we weren’t already just operating under the assumption that a UK trip in the Sep/Oct timeframe was a given, I’m pretty sure we started thinking that way by the time we planned this one!
So what can I say about this trip? To start, there was something different this time – no Doctor Who convention! Although we attended Regenerations each of our first three UK trips, our friend Cary (the guy in charge of running that convention) decided to take a year off, so there was no convention to go to. But we still stuck with our now-standard Sep/Oct timing because we were already in a rhythm of traveling at that time of year anyway. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Don’t worry though – we still found something Doctor Who-related to do this time around, but more on that in a bit!
Just because we were solidly in our UK routine by this trip, don’t think that means we weren’t still finding new and fun things to do! At the beginning of this trip, we were once again joined by our friend Steve. I assume he must have stayed with us at Sophie and Vince’s house, but I can’t quite remember. He was still living in Southend at this point, which is what makes me think he stayed with us – easier for us to all hang out if we didn’t have to figure out a place to meet first! We started the ball rolling with a visit to the Buckingham Palace State Rooms, which are only open to the public for ten weeks each year and we happened to be visiting during those ten weeks, so we gave it a try. I’ve taken this tour one time since and would recommend it. Buckingham is a working royal palace, so it’s neat to see behind the curtain! We also decided to tack on a trip to the Royal Mews afterwards, which was also a worthwhile excursion. You may be wondering what happens in the mews, right? I know I was when I first heard we would be going! According to the website, this is the home for all road travel arrangements for the Royal Family, so there are lots of vehicles, carriages, and even some horses there! I haven’t been back for a return visit since, but I would definitely be open to it as it was fascinating to see all these big, ornate carriages up close and personal. Check out both if you get the chance!
After our royal fun (the next day, I think), we decided to Who it up with a visit to the now-defunct (as of early 2009) Doctor Who exhibition at Earl’s Court. If you’re thinking “Hey, he already went to a Doctor Who exhibition!” you would be correct, but that was the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, which is also now defunct (and there was also my visit to the big 50th anniversary event in 2013, which was a convention, but had definite exhibit aspects as well). This isn’t a sign that the show is on the downturn (on the contrary, as I write this post, the latest series just started and it’s already doing really well!), but the show has a long history of exhibitions that exist for awhile and then close down, only to reopen again in a new location with regenerated content, so I fully expect that to happen again. Wherever it moves to next, hopefully I’ll get to visit! But anyway, this trip to Earl’s Court was my first time going to an exhibition like this and it was a lot of fun! Although I’d been to many conventions, this exhibit was a chance to experience the show more directly on a condensed timeline of a few hours. Basically, you get to meander around through props, costumes, and other items from the show and learn more about the production and history of the series. I’m really glad we went!
Oooooh, what else? We made a quick there-and-back day trip to Brighton (re-joined by William for the day!) to see friends and to see a production of Noises Off at the Theatre Royal that featured Doctor Who actor Colin Baker. Although it was a bit of a whirlwind trip (thankfully not far from London), it was a lot of fun! If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I always enjoy visiting Brighton, even for a quick trip, so I was happy to have an excuse to pop down again. Alas, we had to get back to London, where we got to experience Illumini, a neat art event that took place in The Crypt Gallery, located in the crypt (where else?) of St. Pancras Church. This was really unique! I don’t remember if we made a plan to visit this ahead of time or if we stumbled onto it somehow, but the art was interesting and the setting was suitably creepy, so I would go again if the event was still on (looks like it was last on in 2012, but maybe it will come back).
Continuing the trend of seeing Doctor Who actors in stage productions, we made the short(ish) journey to Richmond to watch Sylvester McCoy in a production of The Mikado. I can’t remember what exactly inspired us to do this, but I suspect it came down to timing – the play was opening when we would be in London and Sophie (having worked with McCoy in Doctor Who) probably suggested it to us as Ruth Ann and I went with Sophie and family to see it. Or maybe it was Ruth Ann’s idea? Either way, it was fun! And what are the odds that we would get to watch two different Doctors on stage in two different plays in two different theatres on the same trip? Pretty cool! Richmond is one of the boroughs of London, so it’s not as if it we were very far from our home base, but it was fun to visit another part of the city for the first time (Scott and I would return to the area when we visited Kew Gardens in August 2017). On that theme, we also decided to pop over to Greenwich for a nice, sunny afternoon of wandering around. Although Greenwich is very close to Lewisham (less than two miles!), I had never been there (though Ruth Ann had on trips pre-me) and the sun and sights made for a great day! Greenwich is home to lots of green spaces, gorgeous views, and interesting places to visit (like the Greenwich Observatory and Cutty Sark), so it’s definitely worth your time to go there!
The last big thing we did in London was a visit to the British Museum, a place I had never been to before and haven’t returned to since. As I’ve mentioned before, although I do tend to go to museums a fair amount when I travel, I’m not an art connoisseur or critic by any stretch, so this museum was probably Ruth Ann’s idea. 🙂 They did have a lot of cool Egyptian stuff though and I seem to recall that was where we spent most of our time. And even for someone who isn’t big into art, there are some important, well-known pieces to see here, including the Rosetta Stone and the Portland Vase. And this museum is free, so you should certainly check it out!
Speaking of checking things out, I think it’s high time to look at some photos, don’t you?
Thankfully, the posing didn’t get in the way of us seeing the changing of the guard ceremony.
This little building is a way to enter the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs underneath the River Thames.
We took the Thames Clipper from Greenwich to reach to get across the Thames, where I snapped a photo of the HMS Belfast, which I didn’t visit for the first time until this past January.
This is called Hoa Hakananai’a.
Ruth Ann caught me ironing my shirt before we went out to see Riflemind with Sophie and Vince on (I think) our last night of the trip. Riflemind is a play directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and we went because Sophie and Vince had a friend in the production. The play was written so badly that they told us we could leave at the intermission if we wanted to! We didn’t, but that should tell you how bad it was. Fun fact – when we were talking about how bad it was on the sidewalk after the show, Hoffman walked by. Oops!
I kind of broke the mold by looking directly at the camera for this photo. Oh well! This is me with Vince, Sophie, and their friend who was in the play (whose name I’ve totally forgotten!) waiting to catch our train at Charing Cross.
Okay, I think I say this every time, but that felt like a lot of photos – whew! But hey, it’s tough to cram a couple of weeks of travel into one blog post, so that’s part and parcel of these throwbacks. 🙂 AND I’M NOT EVEN DONE YET!! Did you notice the dateline at the top? The location includes London and Brighton, which you’ve just read about, but it also includes…Oxford!
I think largely because we didn’t have Regenerations to go to, we decided we had the time to take a day trip somewhere new and Oxford felt like a good choice (so good, in fact, that Scott and I also took a day trip there on our first big trip together in 2013). I won’t pretend to remember all of the places we visited on this day trip (and some were just seen literally in passing, as we opted to do an open-top bus tour for some of our time there), but I hope you enjoy the photos nonetheless.
Look how immaculate the grass at Trinity College is!
Love the way the sun hit Magdalen College in this photo!
Cambridge isn’t the only place you can go punting, it seems.
This mound is part of Oxford Castle.
I *think* this is part of Christ Church Cathedral, but correct me if I’m wrong (hey, it’s been a decade since I took this picture!).
Okay, NOW I think I can put a bow on this trip. It was another fun experience and serves as continued proof that it doesn’t matter how many times I visit the UK generally and London specifically as I’ll always find new things to see and do (and I always enjoy revisiting my old favorites, too).
I hope you’ve been enjoying these Travel Throwbacks as I’ve really enjoyed reliving my trips of yesteryear. However, we can’t live in the past all the time, so I’m excited to say that it’s time to jump ahead to the present because…I’m back in the UK! Well, depending on when you read this, I may not still be here, but I am as of now, so be on the lookout for fresh, daily posts as I spend (even more) time in my happy place.