London: Mormons, Camden, and Churchill

This past weekend we went to London.  The primary reason for the trip was that newlyweds Jessie and B-mac purchased a group of tickets for the Book of Mormon musical.  The Book of Mormon was written by the creators of Southpark.  If you watch the exerpt from the Mormon Southpark episode below, you can get an idea of what the writers think of Mormonism.  I’ll get to the musical later, but I’ll just say now that it was the funniest thing I’ve seen….. ever.  I can’t remember a time when I laughed more.

Anyway, back to the play by play.  We got a good deal on 7:00 am train tickets, so we headed to London at said time on Saturday morning.  Waking up at 6:00 am on a Saturday isn’t a lot of fun, but the 7 GBP tickets were worth the sleep penalty.  The show wasn’t until 7:30 pm, so when we arrived in London, we headed for the Winston Churchill Underground War Rooms.

One thing we didn’t know was that Saturday June 15th was apparently the “Trooping of the Colours” day in London.  We only figured this out because the “bobbies” (police) asked us for a ticket as we were walking down the pavement (sidewalk).  When we asked why we needed a ticket for walking on the sidewalk, he tried to explain it to us, but all we could understand was something about the “tripping of the colors”, which made no sense.  All we really gathered was that there were a TON of people standing in line all around the government buildings who were very dressed up.  Later, we asked a British person and she explained it was the Queen’s birthday celebration.  I just looked it up and the Queen was actually born on April 21, but she chooses to celebrate her birthday with a parade in June.  I’m guessing this is because the weather is quite bad in April.

People were queueing all the way back to Trafalgar Square

People were queueing all the way back to Trafalgar Square

Luckily we could bypass the queue to get to the War Rooms

Luckily we could bypass the queue to get to the War Rooms

Anyway, after navigating through all of the well dressed British people, we made it to the Churchill War Rooms.  During the Second World War, the British government command center moved underground for security from air raid and invasion.  The main thing that made this place so secure was the fact that no one knew where it was.  At first, it was nothing more than a basement.  But overtime, the complex was expanded and fortified with tons of concrete and steel.  This place was really cool and interesting.  It was done up to look like it was back during the war.  And there was also a huge Churchill Museum down there that detailed Winston Churchill’s entire life.

Secret entrance to the War Rooms

Secret entrance to the War Rooms

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Churchill’s bedroom/office

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Situation Room

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Typical accommodation for a normal person in the bunker.

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Cool interactive Churchill timeline

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This Churchill propaganda cartoon reminds me of George Bush propaganda

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This is how people in the bunker knew the weather outside. I find it hard to believe they used this particular sign very often

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Important conference room where all the big decisions were made

Overall, I would recommend this place.  It was very interesting and I learned a lot.  Randomly, we saw Andrew there, who we were meeting up with for the Book of Mormon show later in the day.

We had some time to kill before we could check into our hotel, so we decided to do a Rick Steves walk through Westminster.  After all, how I could go a whole blog post without a shout out to the king of travel.  The sites on the walk are all things we’ve seen numerous times, but it was good to get some history and perspective on them.  Here are a few photos.

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Rare blue sky and the London Eye

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Look kids, Big Ben

As we were approaching the horse guards, which is one of the places that had large queues for the Queen’s birthday celebration, we saw a few big helicopters flying low overhead.  We stopped and watched them and thought it was pretty cool.  A few seconds later, an old WWII plane flew over really low.  It looked like it was just above the building tops.  That’s when we realized that we were in the middle of some sort of mini air show or flyover for the Queen’s birthday.  This was an an amazing and unexpected surprise.  I compiled all photos into a collage.  It was complete luck that we were walking by the exact building that the planes were flying over, but it was awesome nonetheless.

Bonus Mini Airshow

Bonus Mini Airshow

After the mini air show, we met up with the group, grabbed some lunch, and headed to the hotel to get ready for the show.

Prior to the show, the whole group met up at a Chinese restaurant for some grub.  This is the only shot of the entire group.

Book of Mormon Group

Book of Mormon Group

This place was pretty authentic.  As such, all we got in the way of utensils were chopsticks.  My meal ended up being pretty soupy, as you can see below.  There were noodles, meat, and veggies in the broth…. and you were supposed to be able to eat this with chopsticks.  I have no idea how this would be done.  I tried and failed to eat this soup with chopsticks for a while, but eventually gave up and asked for a fork and spoon.  The Chinese guys were probably all having a good laugh at my expense.

Impossible to eat with chopsticks

Impossible to eat with chopsticks

Next up was the main event, The Book of Mormon.  I’m not going to spoil any of this masterpiece.  All I can tell you is that if you enjoy humor and laughter, you should go see this.  I can’t remember a time in my whole life where I laughed so hard and so often.  If you don’t like Southpark, you should stil go see this.  It’s more grown up than Southpark and is well written.  I should point out that this is definitely adults only comedy….. to the extreme.  What are you waiting for?  Go see this musical!

The Main Event

The Main Event

After the play, we toured around various bars and ended up at a casino.  It was Andrew’s birthday so of course we ended up gambling.  I couldn’t complain.  Both me and Tara came out ahead playing blackjack, which was a great way to end the night.

The McMasters and the birthday boy

The McMasters and the birthday boy

The next morning, or afternoon really (it was a long night), we made our way out of the hotel and walked through Kensington on our way to Hyde Park.  I really liked this neighborhood.  I forgot to take any pictures.  We even stopped by Whole Foods and got some snacks to hold us over until we could make it to the Camden Market.  I forgot how awesome Whole Foods is.  If I lived near one, I would be a poor man.

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So many choices. I ended up getting some Spanish ham. I will miss that when I go back to the States.

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Tara will miss Pimms

After the Whole Foods detour, we leisurely walked through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.  It was partly cloudy and not cold, so it was a win weather wise.

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Kensington Garden

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Italian Fountains in the park

From the edge of the park, we hopped on a big red bus and made our way to the infamous Camden Market.  I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into on this one, and it turned out to be a great surprise.  When I thought market, I was picturing a huge farmers market style market like the Borough market that we went to the last time we were in London.  Boy was I wrong.  On Sundays, the whole neighborhood of Camdem comes alive and turns into this giant sprawling market of private vendors selling everything alternative that you could imagine: vintage clothing, books, hats, art, shoes, tattoos, piercings, music and much more.  And on top of all the unique stuff, it has authentic food from every country you could think of.  You want Polish food?  No problem.  Got a hankering for Peruvian cuisine?  Check.  How about some Malaysian fair?  Don’t mind if I do.  You get the idea.  And to make this place even cooler, all of this amazing food and unique stalls somehow form into this maze that is laid out inside an old horse stables, canal lock yards, and a series of outdoor markets.  They all seemed to mix together and you can’t tell when one ends and another begins.  There were multiple levels and winding passageways that were great to explore.  Just when we thought we were leaving, we were sucked back in.  This was a great way to spend an afternoon.  Luckily, we weren’t in a rush.  Otherwise, it would have been nerve racking trying to see everything.

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On the Camden canal

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Camden high street

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The sun came out!

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Horse Tunnel Market

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I picked up some really cool Guinness signs for the future man room

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All the stores had 3D signs

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One of the food court type areas

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Lots of food. We ended up with Mexican of course

Told you they had vintage clothes

Told you they had vintage clothes

Well, that’s about it.  We took another bus to St. Pancras and made our way to our train.  We made one quick stop on the way to our platform.  You wouldn’t believe how long the line was to get a photo so we just creepily took a photo of this person posing in front of the famous Harry Potter platform.  I like the idea of someone holder her scarf so it looks like she is running through the wall.

Next stop, Hogwarts

Next stop, Hogwarts

Overall, this was surprisingly one of my favorite UK trips so far.  I say surprisingly because If you would have told me that I would have an amazing weekend going to a musical and a market, I would have laughed in your face.  And as it turns out, both were pretty legit and I really enjoyed the whole London trip.  The other thing that made it great was the fact that we brought almost no luggage.  I just had a tiny backpack with spare socks, underwear, a shirt, and a toothbrush.  It was liberating to not worry about what you are going to do with your luggage.  That’s all for now.

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3 thoughts on “London: Mormons, Camden, and Churchill

  1. Pingback: Wimbledon 2013 | Schetzels in the UK

  2. Pingback: Markets and Marty in London | Schetzels in the UK

  3. Pingback: The Best and Worst of 2 Years in Europe | Schetzels in the UK

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