After almost 5 weeks travelling it was time for me to start my journey back to Melbourne. So after a overindulging Christmas Day/Evening we had the place to clean up and sort out as heading off to Paris this afternoon and my sister would be gone for a couple of days and didn’t want to freak out the housemates if they turned up to a messy house.
I ended up needing 2 suitcases to get all the stuff home and after a serious sort through of pamphlets and other paraphernalia I achieved Grand Master status in Suitcase Tetris and we were off to St Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Paris.
Woke up this morning still hoping for a White Christmas at actually Christmas time instead of the white Christmas in July that we sometimes get home back in Australia. I opened the curtains and nothing even looking remotely white apart from the Van parked across the street.
I then headed out to the lounge where my sister was sleeping and woke her up with the traditional ” Ho Ho Ho Mary Christmas” of our family, just to make her feel as though she wasn’t without family for the day.
So we gathered around our very environmentally friendly tree and opened presents and luckily Santa made sure we had things to open from the other side of the globe.
Another tradition that our family has is to have brunch and dinner so that we don’t over stuff ourselves but as my sister had invited friends over for lunch it was a little less fancy affair as we had to get lunch on the go. But we still enjoyed Eggs Benedict.
The rest of the day was spent in the (very tiny) kitchen and getting things ready for lunch, guests arrived later than planned so it was a fine balancing act keeping everything hot and not letting it dry out too much as the 1:30pm lunch turned into early dinner at around 4:00pm and by that time bellies were full of alcohol and people politely ate a well overdue lunch but sadly a lot of food was thrown out after so much effort had gone into the preparation. But we all shared some great times so that’s all that matters in the end…right?
Dessert was of course Plum Pudding soaked in Cognac and flamed beautifully.
We were bursting by this stage and just enjoyed each others company for the rest of the evening until we said goodbye to our dinner guests and then after a quick clean up we both collapsed it bed but not before packing a few things as we head to Paris, as I fly out from there tomorrow night back to Melbourne via Dubai.
This morning I woke up feeling a little better and as it was my last chance to get out and about I thought I would finish off the list by going to the Natural History Museum (NHM) and the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) and also had to go to Harrods to pick up some special bears.
Unfortunately, I got a text from my sister saying that both the museums were closed and to say I was disappointed was an understatement as they were places I really wanted to visit out of any and due to being sick and tired as I was nearing the end of my 5 week holiday I didn’t think to research opening hours for anything and just assumed they would be open seeing as it was a regular working day.
But little did I know what the day would entail as my sister told me to come to the museum anyway and she would see what I could have a look at in the Rare books Library. And in case you were wondering here is her 60 secs in the spotlight article they do on staff Clicky Clicky!
The glorious NHM
After being let into the museum as a ‘Departmental Visitor’ due to my wealth of knowledge we headed back to my sister’s office to drop off bags and coats and the day got increasingly better as we were off on a somewhat limited but yet personal tour of the NHM! NO KIDS NO SCREAMING/WHINGING/CRYING KIDS! Woohoo…how awesome is that a silent museum all to myself ( and my tour guide)!
Along the way to the office we visited Sophie the Stegosaurus who is the most complete specimen approx 90% to read how she was put together go here and a quick FAQ here.
This globe used to rotate but due to its age and safety reasons it now stands sill but is still quite impressive.
First stop was the Rare Books room that houses all the original books from Charles Darwin and other explorers like showcasing the drawings of wildlife as they saw it for the first time.
Amongst the books house in the Rare book collection is the drawings created when the NHM was being built in 1860’s and was opened gradually in 1881-1883, most of the tiles and columns are terracotta and still look amazing to this day. For more on the NHM history go here.
This book is from 1472 and sadly has been infested with wood borers at some point as you can see from the holes on the cover…this book is stunning in real life and mind boggling to be in its presence.
The following book is amazing as it is some of the first ever drawings completed from images under microscope called Micrographia 1662. Luck would have it my sister wrote an article about this book and you can view it here. Here is a basic overview:
“The first person to recognise and explore cells, Hooke’s interest in the unseen was to lead to the publication of this book Micrographia in 1665. Micrographia, or the Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies, made by Magnifying Glasses had an enormous impact both within and beyond the scientific community. Although microscopes and telescopes were used prior to Hooke’s time, his refinements of the compound microscope opened up a whole new world to the scientific eye. Micrographia explored these discoveries, in both words and pictures. Hooke’s exceptionally detailed engravings of cell-life were accompanied by a close-up of a fly’s eye, the point of a needle, a flea, and many other tiny life-forms never seen in such detail.”
The images are fantastic in their detail.
Detailed notes on the images
After spending quite some time in the Rare Books Room it was time to explore the NHM on foot, it was a quick tour of the museum itself as we had to get home to start getting ready for Christmas.
First stop was the mammals…
Professor Owen bought the Leviathan back to the NHM and removed all the wooden blocks and plaster replicas of incorrect bones that were used to make the skeleton larger than it actually was. The skeleton was then correctly reconstructed into the animal that it is today and now called a Mastodon to reflect the true nature of the beast.
While we were in Skeleton mode after heading through the Darwin Centre where the glass jars of animals or Zoology Spirit Collection are housed and also the research facilities are located and you can view the scientists working in the Cocoon building, which is actually shaped just like a cocoon.
Next stop was the Dinosaur Exhibit which is usually packed with hyped up 4-8yr old boys but today I got to experience it in total silence…bliss! Well it wasn’t total silence as all the animatronic dinosaur’s were all functioning…it was definitely a unique experience.
As we went through the Dinosaur exhibit back to front we came out at the Main entrance of the NHM and was greeted once again by Dippy as detailed in yesterday’s post.
We then headed through the very vacant main hall and headed up the stairs to take in the amazing hall and all the terracotta work in all its glory…a sight to be seen to be believed really. Sir David Attenborough really made this place come alive for me as I could put what my sister had told me and then he had shown me all together once I was personally in the space.
As time was flying by and we realised that we really had to end home and also pop into Harrods on the way so we made our way back past the Bird exhibits which were being cleaned and swapped in/out mentioned earlier.
Just before we got to my sisters office we came across this stunning cabinet full of Hummingbirds. Cases like this highlight one of the reasons that some birds are no longer on the planet due to be caught and mounted in huge numbers just because someone wanted them for their private collection just because they had amazing plumage. The photos below don’t do the colours justice as the feathers had this luminosity to them.
Bags and coats were collected from the office and then we dropped by Sophie again on our way out and due to many failed attempts of trying to take selfies with Sophie, the security guy came out of his office as he heard the laughter going on but we eventually got a good one!
I knew that Harrods would be over the top but it was just crazy the level of opulence in both the goods on sale and some of the people shopping…all sorts!
The main reason I wanted to go to Harrods was to look at all the Christmas decorations but they had packed up the Christmas Shop already which I thought was a bit rough seeing as it was Christmas Eve! But we did get to see some of the beautiful decorated windows….
Boy was it crowded inside but what else would you expect on Christmas Eve..hehe
Managed to squeeze through the the food halls and get a peek of some of the amazing food on offer.
There was caviar and champagne flowing everywhere you looked, would have been nice to stay a little longer but time was against us and we still had to find the Toy Department and the bears.
And we found them!
Then after buying the bears I wanted to we hightailed it out of there as it was getting more crazy. On the way out we were heading down the escalator there was a guy behind me discussing what champagne he would be serving on Christmas Day and he felt that he was just quite over Dom and wanted a change…the poor dear!
So we got the meats all organised and cooking for tomorrow as to save a bit of time on the day.Then it was time for me to plonk and do nothing as I was still battling this darn chest infection plus my feet were killing me after hoofing it around London for 2 days. My sister headed out to friends for dinner which I thought was important as she had not seen any of her friends since I had been in London and having some time to myself was also in need as I haven’t really stopped for close to 5 weeks now.
** This post may require a big cup/glass of your favourite beverage as its a long one but hopefully you enjoy it**
This morning I had a little bit of a sleep in as I was still contending with this chest infection but today and tomorrow are my only chances to get out and see London even though I have been here since the 12th December!
My sister also went back to work so it was up to me to find my way into the city and find the things that I wanted to see.
On the list was:
* Big Ben & Houses of Parliament
* Buckingham Palace
* Natural History Museum – where my sister works
* Victoria & Albert Museum
* Tower of London & Tower Bridge
So I headed off on my adventure with tube map and Oyster Card in hand!
First stop was Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels are kept.
From August 3 to November 11 2014 the artist Paul Cummins created 888,246 ceramic poppies as a tribute to to mark the First World War dead of Britain and its empire.
Having watched the TV series ‘The Tudors‘ I had some understanding of what happened at the Tower and also who resided there over the years but to be physically standing in this amazing place was something different.
I am certainly no history buff having never studying history at school and only dabbled in it over the years and so a lot of the impact of these places on me is a little underwhelming but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the fact that after hundreds and hundreds of years these buildings remain and fairly closely to how they were in the time of their construction…to be honest its mind boggling that they still are!
For more detailed information about the Tower of London click here
Once inside the gates I plotted my tour of the tower and if I had more time I would have taken the audio or the Yeoman tour but I had a few things I wanted to squeeze in today.
First stop was the Coins & Kings as King Edward I moved the mint to the Tower in 1279 to increase its size and the security. At first only silver coins were minted until the introduction of gold coins in 1348.
Legend says that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. It was Charles II, according to the stories, who first insisted that the ravens of the Tower should be protected. This was against the wishes of his astronomer, John Flamsteed, who complained that the ravens impeded the business of his observatory in the White Tower.
Despite their having one wing trimmed, some ravens do in fact go absent without leave and others have had to be sacked. Raven George was dismissed for eating television aerials, and Raven Grog was last seen outside an East End pub. There are seven ravens at the Tower today (the required six plus one spare!). Their lodgings are to be found next to the Wakefield Tower. These magnificent birds, large members of the genus Corvus, the crow family, respond only to the Raven Master and should not be approached too closely by anyone else. The ravens preside over four different territories within the Tower precincts.
The Crown Jewels are housed in a vault and under guard at all times. To keep crowds from blocking the view of the jewels they have placed a travelator in front of the display cases and you can just ride it over and over again until you get your fill of jewels.
The Crowns are amazing and once again the age of them is baffling that they are still in used and in fairly good condition but you can certainly notice their age in the settings.
Also displayed with the Crown Jewels is the gold serving ware used by the Royal family at dinners in the Palace. It is blinding the amount of gold before your eyes.
***Phew that’s a lot of blogging for one place***
As time was moving on quickly I thought I better move on to the next destination….Big Ben!
After arriving at Westminster I was looking for the exit to Big Ben and boy when they name an exit they do it perfectly! This was my view as I exited the building……
So after a quick stop at Big Ben and listening to it chime 3:00pm I headed to wards Buckingham Palace and then thought I better head to the Natural History Museum before my sister finished work.
Along the way I bumped into Paddington…
Walking through St James’s Park up to the palace was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the city. Walking past 10 Downing Street, Royal Barracks felt quite surreal that I was actually in London and walking past all these famous places as if it was something I did everyday.
Found some friends in the park as well which helped boost the critter count that has been stagnant for quite sometime.
If you whistled the squirrels came up to you as if you were going to feed them and some people were letting them climb all over them.
I eventually arrived at Buckingham Palace and just happened to enter through the Australia Gate.
As it was approaching 4:00pm by the time I reached the Palace light was fading so I apologise for the poor lighting in the following photos but I managed to also catch the light coming on in the Palace precinct.
The gold Queen Victoria’s statue is more amazing in real life that I thought it would be. The gold looks like it finished yesterday – so clean and shiny.
After I had finished at the Palace it was dark and then I had to find my way to the NHM, the GPS said it was a half hour walk but there was no way I was going to do that as my feet were killing me and with my chest infection I was exhausted after walking for most of the day. After bailing up some good looking young man at the Palace gift shop for assistance I walked through Green Park to the Tube station where I caught the bus to the NHM.
Next door to the Natural History Museum (NHM) is the Victoria & Albert Museum – which houses textile exhibitions and I’m hoping to get here tomorrow as I have run out of time today.
At the front of the NHM in winter they have an Ice rink and small fair. It’s a lovely sight to happen upon whilst walking up to the museum.
I was quite excited to see where my sister worked and also having seen the NHM on television several times to be there was fantastic.
Dippy has been on display at the NHM since 1905 apart from a short time when he was dismantled and stored during the war to protect him from bomb damage. His appearance has changed over the years as knowledge and understanding has improved of Dippy’s appearance and structure.
As it was close to my sister’s finishing time we headed to her office were I could finally sit and get off my feet which were quite sore after all the walking I had done today.
After the quickest tour of a library I have ever had it was time to go home after some dinner. On our way to Gaby’s in Leicester Square we walked past many arcades unlike the ones in Melbourne, Australia, all decked out in their Christmas finery.
We also checked out Fortnum & Mason’s Christmas window displays, they have been trading since 1707 but not in this same location.
We also passed by Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street…
After dinner we headed to Waterloo Station to catch the bus home, another amazing station with amazing architecture, this place is huge!
Whilst walking to the bus stop we stumbled across the local Fishcotheque!
After a long day on my feet I was exhausted and went straight to bed once we got home…phew!
To those that have stayed with me until the end I hope that you have enjoyed this lengthy and hopefully interesting post. I felt like I hadn’t covered much in the day but looking back it was jam packed with experiences and amazing sights and even though I am exhausted I am glad I spent the day exploring and look forward to continuing to do so tomorrow after a well earnt sleep!
Oh…I forgot to mention that whilst in Jersey I picked up a chest infection which all started the exact same way as my 2 cases of Pneumonia that I already had this year did….razor blade throat that went south!
By the time I got back to London last night I was well and truly on the way to a 3rd case of Pneumonia for the year…..go me! But luckily I had though ahead and got a script for some fairly hefty antibiotics “just in case” and as soon as I walked in the door last night I got started right away as I need to be able get out and about over the next few days as it is the only time I have to see London.
Today was another washing day and catch up day for me and my sister caught up with friends for lunch. As Christmas was approaching with warp speed and the house wasn’t overly festive I bought a few decorations and once my sister got home we made a ‘Eco-friendly’ tree and a few other things to brighten up the place a little.
Also bought some Tulips as a thank you for my sister and her housemate for putting up with me.
The rest of the day was spent just taking it easy as with this delightful chest infection was making it hard to breath, so an early night was on the cards after pizza of course!
Today we headed back to London and it was our lucky day as the Central Market in town was open today (Sunday) as it was the last trading weekend before Christmas.
These markets have been around in one form or another since the late 1500’s and 2003 was the 200th anniversary of the market moving to its present site from the Royal Square, ‘Le Vièr Marchi’ – the old market place – in 1803. Jersey’s Central Market is the vibrant heart of St Helier, the Victorian covered market replacing its predecessor in 1883.
As it was near Christmas the Market was flooded with flowers of all types, absolutely stunning to see. Clearly the more glitter the better!
There were several butchers and bakers but no candlestick makers in the market and the produce looked so fresh and mouthwatering perfect. Found some amazing looking Pate and its a shame that we didn’t visit earlier or had more time as I would have loved testing a bit more of this amazing produce out.
Once we had finished at the Market we headed back to the hotel to pick the car up and make our way to the airport. We made a few stops on the way including viewing Elizabeth Castle from a different angle and the tide was out again!
After cruising around the coast for a while we headed to the airport and said Au Revoir to Jersey.
We had to go through the Duty Free shop of course and just outside the shop was the cigarette shop all by itself, I have never seen so many packets in one place ever!
I found something more to my liking though……
Then it was time to leave our ancestral home and head back to London on the lovely squeazy jet…once again we will leave it at that!
I would love to come back one day and spend longer discovering all that Jersey has to offer and spend more than a few minutes here and there. I feel very lucky to have been able to add this amazing place onto my holiday as my parents, myself and my sister are the only ones from our family to go back and I wish that the rest of the family could travel to see this beautiful part of the world where we used to belong. I now feel more connected to Jersey and have a mental picture of the places that my Nana has written about and the places mentioned in stories that Pop used to tell us, I feel sad that I can’t go visit them and tell them all about it as they got the chance to travel to Jersey, I will remember this visit for a long time to come.
This morning we decided to head off in the car to the Parish of St.Clements where our family spent most of their time while in Jersey.
The church has beginnings around 955 A.D. and has had several additions and removals of sections of the building itself in align with events of years gone by. It began as a private chapel then was handed over to the Parish of St. Clements no later than 1067, there was evidence that William the Conqueror granted to the Abbey of Montvilliers half the tithes of the Church of St. Clement in Jersey.
At the time of the Reformation the beautiful font, said to date back from c.1400, was removed from the church and buried in the churchyard. It was later retrieved during the middle of the 19th Century.
For more detailed history about St. Clements click here so much more detail than I can write about in this post.
The Church graveyard is full of Touzel’s, 177 are on record between 1793 – 2008. Some markers are just markers with very little information due to the age of the stone whereas others are more intact. There is an online record of graves here which has helped fill in some of the missing details.
We had a lovely chat to the ladies that were arranging the flowers for the Christmas services that were coming up. They were more than happy to talk about the Church and our connection with it.
The church was beautifully decorated for the festive season and they were holding a candle lit carols service at 6pm the following evening and sadly we were flying out earlier in the afternoon. It would have been nice to see the church in candlelight.
After wandering in the church grounds for a while we decided to head back to St. Helier and just take our time. We drove around the coast road and made our way to Gorey so we could check out Mont Orgueil Castle and the harbour that we had discovered last night.
Losing light early again cut short our sightseeing for the day so we dropped off the car at the hotel and walked into town for dinner at the famous Hectors Fish and Chip Shop which was delicious and a great way to finish off the day.
Walked home down the High Street (main street) and it was quiet and decorated for Christmas.
Today we decided to explore St Helier by foot as it would be less frustrating then trying to navigate the labyrinth of one way and tiny streets in the hire car.
We headed off in the direction of Elizabeth Castle which is built on a rocky islet in St Aubin’s Bay, Elizabeth Castle defended Jersey for more than 400 years. The castle is accessible at low tide by foot or the castle ferry but it was closed like a lot of attractions at this time of year so we missed the chance to explore it any closer. So a walk along the breakwater was as close as we were going to get.
As we were trying to find the best vantage point we mistakenly went down the wrong marina. Jersey’s land mass increases at low tide by 40%as the tidal range can be up to 12 metres. So when the tide is out it is quite noticeable.
And in some places the boats get confused as to where the water should be….
Next stop was the Town Church as the Touzel’s once were parishioners and according to family history some are buried in the church grounds.
Saint Helier, a sixth-century hermit, who lived on the isolated islet offshore, was martyred in the year 555 A.D. The first small chapel built on this site may have dated from that time.
The earliest part of the existing church is the choir and a small part of the nave which show clear evidence of early Norman, tenth or eleventh-century architecture. We know that Saint Helier ranked as a parish church before 1066 as William the Conqueror endorsed his father’s gift of half its revenues to the Abbey of Cérisy la Forêt signing himself Duke of Normandy, not yet King of England. Early in the 13th century transepts and a tower were added to create a cruciform church and before 1400 A.D. the north chapel, which has recently been recognised as unique in the Channel Islands with its stone-built half-vault, was added. During the next century the south aisle and chapel were built giving it the parallel-aisled plan typical of many Jersey parish churches. Throughout this time the Town of Saint Helier was growing up around it. For an inside view click here.
After a full day of exploring and the fact it gets dark around 430pm we headed back to the Hotel for a rest before dinner.
Sharon wanted seafood for dinner so after tracking down a restaurant we headed off with GPS guidance to the Crab Shack for the night. We were amazed that when we got out of the car that this was the view….
Dinner was the freshest seafood meal I had experienced in a long while. Although I had fish & chips it was quite well done. Sharon had the Seafood Board which was a small taste of multiple things off the menu.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel after driving down into the harbor and checking it out for a possible return tomorrow. Then it was back to the hotel for an early night as walking all day on cobble stone paths really wears a person out that has dodgy ankles.
This morning was a lazy start to the day as we were flying to Jersey this afternoon.
Jersey is where our family originates from and were living there for about 300 years before immigrating to Australia approx 150 years ago. My parents and sister have been to Jersey before and since it was so close to London I thought I might as well go check it out for myself.
So after being charged for an oversized carry on bag ( not going into this as poor language choices may be made) we boarded our easyJet flight for Jersey. I’m so glad the flight only lasted 45mins as it was the most cramped flight I have ever been on but it did the trick and got us there in one piece.
It was wet, windy and dark when we arrived in Jersey so didn’t see much at all. We headed our to pick up our hire car, which was a little black Fiesta. Gotta love having the car inspection report to check off on a black car in the dark and rain…like I would see anything!
Then after some bad navigating by the non-driver we plugged in the address of our hotel into the GPS and got there eventually! St Helier, the capital of Jersey is almost all one way streets so you can imagine the frustration in trying to find somewhere in the dark in a country and town you have no idea where anything is.
The Hampshire Hotel is a lovely little place that we found on booking.com and it was about 10min walk into the centre of town and had a supermarket right next door which was quite handy.
We made the decision to order room service tonight as it had been a big day and we were both tired and wanted to get a good start in the morning.
I ordered the Prawn and Avocado Salad which looked amazing and tasted so fresh and light but filling.
Then it was bed time as it was time to start exploring the Island tomorrow!
Today was a lazy day and just a day to catch up really from the events on Brugge. First on the agenda was to wash all my clothes as I had worn nearly everything or it just needed a freshen up as it had been in the suitcase for too long.
While I was waiting for the washing to wash I decided to go get a manicure and pedicure as a treat, plus the manicure I had in Vancouver was well beyond looking decent anymore and as we were heading into the West end to see WICKED tonight I just had to have it redone so I felt like I had made an effort to attend the theatre. The pedicure was exactly what I needed as well, weeks of feet in boots and walking for some very long days, they felt like heaven after the man worked his magic on them and he very kindly gave my legs a good massage as well which was also well needed.
By the time I got back from up the shops it was time to get ready to head into London for the theatre. Unfortunately it was drizzling rain by the time we got into the city and Sharon wanted to show me some nearby sights before the show but the weather wasn’t really in our favour. But I did catch a glimpse of Big Ben at night and the London Eye, but will save further investigation until we get back from Jersey.
We found the theatre and headed in to the sea of green inside to get our tickets.
Wicked was fantastic and the two leading ladies could definitely belt out a tune and hold a note!