LONDON TRAVELOGUE - A British Pub and Big Ben
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At the pub

December 31
Right across the street from the hotel is a nice little (I assume) authentic British pub. It may not have been authentic, after all; there were no arguments, no fights, no drunken rows, there were no sly illicit meetings or secret romantic plots. It was absolutely nothing like Eastenders.

Actually in the pub

We were terribly touristy and asked our waitress to take our picture. Several times I think. We have no shame, but we really should.

I took a couple of pictures of the inside of the pub, but they were kinda dark, so you'll have to be content with looking at our pretty faces.

Chargrill chalkboard

This is the chalkboard that was right behind me, straightened out for your reading pleasure through some magical high-tech graphics manipulation. I ordered the second thing, a hamburger. Very different from American hamburgers...the basic structure's the same of course, but the bun was more sort of like a thick biscuit than a hamburger roll, and if I remember right, I had to ask for things like mayonnaise and ketchup ("sauces" they call them).

But still very good. And hand-cut chips. They really could have used a knife, in fact I would've preferred it; they were all mashed up and torn from the chef trying to use the edge of his hand as a cutting surface. This is not much of a selling point, for me.

You don't usually see this angle
January 1
The obligatory trip to Big Ben. Did you know that this clock tower is actually not Big Ben, but just the structure that contains Big Ben? Big Ben is the bell itself, hidden inside behind the clock face.

Yes, I learned that, but now that I know it I am going to ignore that fact and go on referring to the whole building as Big Ben, because as inaccurate as that may be, that is what I am used to.

This is the view of Big Ben from the small gated courtyard at the foot of it...farther to the right is Parliament, the British version of Congress, of which Big Ben is a part.

Well to be fair, I guess it'd be more accurate to say that Congress is the American version of Parliament. They were there first.

But you do usually see this one

A more traditional shot of Big Ben.

I suppose it's possible you'd see this oneWhen I first heard Big Ben chime (I'm talking about the bell now, just for this section only), I was stopped cold.

Why would a bell ringing fascinate me like that? Because I recognized it. It's very distinctive, and if you've ever seen an old black-and-white scary movie filmed on a set simulating London in the fog, and you heard a brash, hollow, echoey, loud chime, which was supposed to be Big Ben marking the hour, you were actually hearing a recording of Big Ben. I always thought that they picked a stock sound from their studio sound effect library, but I underestimated them...that's the real sound, and if you ever hear Big Ben in person, you will say, "Wow, Chris was right."

And when you're looking around in a clock store at clocks with chimes or grandfather clocks, and you see the label "Westminster Chimes", they're talking about Big Ben-style chimes. Big Ben and Parliament are in the city of Westminster--Westminster Abbey is right across the street from Parliament--and those familiar chimes that you've all heard all kinds of clocks make are based on the chimes that Big Ben plays.

All of this may have been obvious to you, but I don't spend much time thinking about things, personally.

The often-neglected other end of Parliament

Well you may not recognize this building. But it's the other end of Parliament, the part without Big Ben; it doesn't get nearly as much attention. Parliament's really quite a long building.

These people have lined up because they heard we were coming to London, but they thought we'd be coming from the other direction.

Big Ben is watching you

Later that night, a very shy Big Ben skulks around behind Westminster Abbey.

Big Ben all lit up

It had just begun to rain here in London. So here's a romantic picture of Big Ben all lit up for the evening in the London rain. It's only 5pm, but dark already.

Wow tall

Here I risked the life of my camera and, I suppose, my own life--I guess it's possible I could have drowned--to take some shots directly up into the rain. All for you people.

And there's the Eye across the river

And wayyy back over that way, across the Thames, is the London Eye, likewise lit up for the evening. Not the best picture, but I tend to lose interest in spectacular photography when I'm getting rained on.

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