Westminster Abbey, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, Sir Ian McKellen, and Beer

If you like beer, I highly suggest several pub stops while in London. We replaced afternoon tea with a beer stop instead. On Friday night, after dinner, we were walking around and discovered that EVERYONE is out having a beer on the street next to the pubs. I had forgotten that when I lived in Spain we did the same thing. It’s a fun atmosphere and it made me wish I had friends to call up and meet at the pub! Oh and some people told me that the beer is warm here. It’s not warm, but it’s not ice cold and I made sure to try those taps! Best beer I tried was Sam Smith’s extra stout. I love some good dark beer!

All right back to touring: Westminster Abbey was our first stop and we arrived only ten minutes after it opened on Saturday morning. Definitely get there early! When we left the line was unbelievable and we only waited about five minutes without purchasing our tickets prior. I would have bought them online if I could. You get a free audio guide here too and Jeremy Irons is the voice of the tour, which is very cool. There are so many tombs to see of so many famous people that it’s almost impossible to see everyone. When we were leaving a man said, that’s more like a cemetery than a church! I agree.

Some tomb highlights: Charles Darwin, Nelson Mandela, Steven Hawking is right next to Isaac Newton and was the most recent I saw, the tombs of the monarchs are the most elaborate, but my favorite was of Lady Elizabeth and Joseph Nightingale. I love the imagery. Her husband is protecting her from death of which she succumbed to in premature childbirth (the child survived).

You could not take pictures so I found this online.

My other favorite part of the Abbey was Poet’s Corner which had way too many authors for me to list. It was confusing though because some of the people listed were just memorials and others were actually entombed there. At this point, the Abbey was starting to get really crowded and it was difficult to see all the tombs around everyone’s feet.

We wandered past Big Ben, which is totally covered by scaffolding and a BIG disappointment and through the streets until we ended up near the National Gallery. We walked through a very busy Chinatown and the streets surrounding it reminded me of the middle of New York City. We toured a bit of the National Gallery, then went out for our afternoon beer break. While we were walking around I saw a man that looked familiar. I said to Jef, I think that is Ian McKellen. I didn’t want to bother him, but Jef walked right near him and waited for a moment to approach him. He asked for a picture, but Sir Ian told him that he doesn’t do that. Jef simply told him what a big fan he was and Mr. McKellen thanked him. I was VERY excited. I was hoping to recognize someone, but I didn’t expect one of the biggest actors in Great Britain to be walking around! He has a one man show now playing right near where we saw him. I wish we had more time to go see it!

Our last stop was the National Portrait Gallery. It was surprisingly busy. I felt like I was back in my British Literature classes in college and finally seeing all the people whose works I read or history I learned. I found the choices of the most recent portraits and how they were presented fascinating. You will have to look up the list of who is there to see what I mean.

We had dinner and walked through Trafalgar Square to jump on the Underground. There were a good number of people preparing for a protest for Hong Kong wearing black face masks and carrying signs. The lion statues on the square are very impressive and I watched carefully as people tried to climb them for pictures. It was not an easy feat and many opted to hug a leg instead. Another day in London with no rain. I would say that is a success!

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