Archive for the 'London' Category

14 moments from our summer 2014 trip to the UK

Just a few days after Peabody’s last day of 5th grade, we headed to the UK for two weeks. Leaving right after school usually means better weather and smaller crowds, especially when travelling to Europe. It also starts the summer off big and sets the tone for the next couple months. Here are a few of the adventures we had in our two weeks in Stratford-upon-Avon, York, Edinburgh and London.

  • Calling on Sir John Soane
  • Meeting Henry VIII and George II at their home in Hampton Court
  • Stepping onto the set of a 18th century TV pilot
  • Visiting the Land Rover assembly plant in Solihul
  • Staying at the Ace and having tea in the lobby every morning
  • Touring the RSC’s theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and seeing Roaring Girl
  • Exploring Lincoln’s Inn with LEG
  • Shopping and eating in Shoreditch
  • Playing games at the National Museum of Scotland
  • Walking the York Wall at dusk
  • Time travelling to Roman Britannia
  • Mudlarking for clay pipes, roof tiles and potsherds
  • Saving the world in 60 minutes and 45 seconds
  • Drinking homebrew with friends and getting inspired to make our own

The Incident of the Broad Street Pump

John Snow by Derringdos

For last year’s term paper, I wrote about John Snow and how he discovered how cholera was spread through water during the Soho cholera outbreak of 1854. John Snow was the first person to disprove the miasma theory (the idea that disease is spread through bad air), though Pasteur is often wrongly credited with this discovery. During our trip to London this summer we visited a replica of the Broad Street Pump, which helped Snow in finding the cause of the disease. There is a nearby pub named after John Snow, and nearby is the former site of his house. It was so exciting to walk around in the neighborhood where Snow made his incredible discovery!


During a whirlwind European business trip, I found myself with some spare time in London after a day of meetings. My first priority was finding some gifts for the Derringdos at home. VV Rouleaux, a ribbon and trimmings shop in Sloane Square, was my first stop. Annabelle took me to their Marylebone location ten years ago. She could spend hours. I found her some ribbon and for Nettie, some big pink hoop earnings and a butterfly hair clip. Nearby is one of the most beautiful buildings in London, Michelin House (pictured above). I had a great meal here years ago at Bibendum, a French resteraunt named after the rotund tire mascot. Not forgetting Peabody, I stopped into Foyles and picked up Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air. It’s a new cross section book following fourteen historic journeys. My brief journey came to an end with a walk around some of the city’s parks and a Tube ride back to my hotel. I feel like we might need to return this summer!

Travel Books vs. Travel Apps

Saturday’s Financial Times had a feature on the downturn in the guidebook publishing and the rise of travel applications. The FT likes “augmented reality” tools that let you scan the horizon with your phone’s camera and see hotels pointed out over the screen or take a snapshot of a museum’s painting to get its history. I’ve played with some of these apps and found them slow and finicky. And the the information provided isn’t usually what I’m looking for. My iPhone’s GPS map and web browser are the only apps I regularly use for travel help. Even with those, we still carry a traditional map and usually a walking tour book or two. On our summer trip to London we used Andrew Duncan‘s Favourite London Walks (we have been using his books for years) and an old copy of Walks in London, written in the late 19th century by Augustus Hare.

Theodosia Throckmorton Tour of London

While we were in London, I was finishing the third book in my new favorite series written by R.L. LaFevers about Theodosia Throckmorton, an eleven-year-old girl living in turn-of-the-century London. She has the special ability to detect vile curses on the Ancient Egyptian artifacts brought to the museum her parents run (The Museum of Legends and Antiquities), and, while working to remove them, gets caught up in many exciting adventures involving secret societies, mummies, and valuable antiquities. Since the books note many specific sites in London, I decided to find out if I could visit them while on our trip. I won’t put in any spoilers, but my sites do include the second and third book. Here are the places I visited:

  1. The Seven Dials: The scene of an exciting chase in the first book, “Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos”. In the book, the Seven Dials is in a crime-ridden, seedy neighborhood, but today, it is a nice, friendly section of town. No people getting stabbed here!
  2. The British Museum: Theodosia visits this rival museum once in “Serpents of Chaos”, and again in the third book, “Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus”. It’s also just a really big, interesting museum that we go to every time we’re in London.
  3. Cleopatra’s Needle: Scene of a large battle between two secret societies that want something (I’m trying to not give anything away!) in the end of ” Eyes of Horus”. It is so cool to see an Egyptian obelisk just standing in the middle of London!
  4. Chesterfield Street: is where Theodosia lives. It is also the location of the Embassy of the Bahamas! The street is filled with old townhouses, exactly as described in the books.
  5. Charing Cross Station: The main train station used by Theodosia’s family and enemies. I’m afraid it doesn’t look quite as it used to.
  6. The Alcazar Theater: is now called the Phoenix, but looks pretty much the same. Theodosia first visits in the beginning of “Eyes of Horus”, and continues to visit throughout the book. It is at Charing Cross Road.
  7. Somerset House: The former inhabitance of the Society of Antiquaries, and also, in the Theodosia series, the Brotherhood of Chosen Keepers. It is now “an inspiring space for art, culture and creative exchange”. It looks very grand, and you can just imagine Theo visiting here. It is located on the Strand.
  8. Burlington House: The current location of the Society of Antiquaries. Not in the Theodosia books, but I wanted to see where the Society was now. It IS a really pretty building, and you can eat lunch in the courtyard… You can find it at: 31 Burlington Arcade.

I didn’t go to any sites particular to the second book: “Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris”, but there are plenty. This was a really fun tour to do: one of my favorite parts of our London trip. I loved being able to actually SEE the places that are in the books.

London’s hidden Egyptology museum

A few blocks away from the British Museum’s famous mummies lies a wonderful little archaeology museum on the University College, London campus. When Indiana Jones says “that belongs in a museum” to Beloq, the Petrie is the museum you imagine he is referring to. With its mishmash collection of Egyptian jewelry, pottery and artifacts in old display cases, wandering the aisles was like exploring an ancient tomb. We were surprised to find ancient dolls, hedgehog statues and the Tarkhan Dress (photo here, description here), the oldest garment in the world.

Mudlarking on the Thames

In Victorian London, a Mudlark was a child who dug in the muddy Thames shore for valuables. With raw sewage being dumped into the river, it was a nasty occupation. Today, the Thames is one of the cleanest metropolitan rivers in Europe. On our trip to London, Nettie and I walked the bank at low tide and found stems from 17th century disposable clay pipes. No digging necessary! There are several access points on the South Bank between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges. If you’re interested in the history of the Thames visit the Thames Discovery Programme site. They offer guided tours of the shore and hands on archaeology events.

Falconry Exhibit at the British Museum

While in London, we visited the British Museum three days in a row. On one such trip, we discovered that the museum was having a “Renaissance Night” with sword fighting, beer tasting, and a falconry show out front. We sat down to watch, and the head falconer showed the audience how he sent off the various olws, falcons, and hawks to scare away pigeons. When he asked for volunteers, I got to hold Elsa, a big, orange-eyed owl, while she snacked on baby bird heads. The only other time I’ve interacted with large birds of prey was not nearly as fun… I’d rather have them eat little baby birds than my granola bar! (Click the picture above to see more images.)

A week in London

We’re back from our adventure in London! It was a week of walking tours, mudlarking, Roman ruins, Egyptian artifacts, owl training, sword fights, sandwiches and Legos (the photo above is from Legoland Windsor). We’ll be posting some highlights from our trip over the next few days.