Our family arrived in London the next morning, just as tired and worn out as we were the day we had arrived overseas. Despite this, they were all very much excited to do some sightseeing and even managed to make it to a historical pub crawl later! It’s crazy what a little bit of excitement will do to dispel tiredness! With their arrival, our ranks swelled from just Lauren and I to me and my father, his brother Dan, Lauren and her parents, her aunt Jennifer, and Jennifer’s daughter, Blair.
Though it was at least my fourth or fifth trip to London, the beauty of the city lies in the fact that you can never really see all of it. This was also the first time Lauren and I were able to take a trip to London where we actually had a bit of extra money to spend freely. For that reason, we decided to finally go into Westminster Abbey when in the past we could never justify spending that much.
Westminster Abby was first founded all the way back in 960 with construction beginning on the current structure in 1245. The importance of the Abbey to English history cannot be understated. The first coronation happened in Westminster Abbey in 1066 with William the Conqueror. Since then, all coronations of English and British monarchs have taken place there. Besides coronations, 16 royal weddings have taken place in the Abbey and it also serves as the burial sites of more than 3000 people including at least 16 monarchs, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking, among may other famous persons. Of particular interest to me was the so called Poets’ Corner which holds the remains of many of the most influential British authors including Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, John Dryden, and many more. I am finally glad to check a visit to the Abbey off my list of things to do in London. The history of the place seeped through every inch of the building and really is a must-see when visiting London regardless of its relatively expensive entrance fee and crowds.
After, we stumbled across Shake Shack, home of the best burgers this side of
Europe the World the universe. As I just had In-N-Out for the first time and have had both Five Guys and Shake Shack multiple times, I feel obligated to weigh in on the debate of which of the three is best and I have to say that, for me, Shake Shack wins hands down. I find that the burgers at In-N-Out are vastly overrated and the fries god-awful and that the only reason they are in the conversation for best burger is because of the difficulty in obtaining a burger in a large portion of the United States. This leads to the burgers having a legendary status that is not really earned. Five Guys is definitely a close second when it comes to food. I can honestly find nothing bad at all to say about Five Guys and might have put it above Shake Shack if it wasn’t for the meal I had at Shake Shack in London. I got a Shack Stack burger which is a cheeseburger topped with a giant stuffed portobello mushroom which is probably the best burger I have ever had. Alongside that beauty I had some cheese fries and a delicious beer brewed for and served only at Shake Shack. You definitely wont find that at In-N-Out Burger or Five Guys!
After our heavenly lunch, we met our tour guide for our historical pub crawl, making our way to five separate bars which are mostly situated in the Blackfriars Area. Along the way, we were educated about the history of the area and the bars we entered. Of particular interest to me was an interesting little pub which goes by the rather strange name of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. The pub was rebuilt shortly after London’s Great Fire of 1666 and, like many of my favorite sights in London, is known for its literary associations. Known patrons of the pub include Mark Twain, Famous English poet W.B. Yeats, and Charles Dickens, the latter of the three even alludes to the pub in his masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities.
We had another interesting and rather funny experience walking down the street on our tour nearby the High Court of Justice as we walked by a group of judges hurrying back to court from lunch carrying their robes in one hand and their wigs in the other. Apparently, wigs are still a thing judges wear in England. Our tour guide explained to us that the tradition is very much still alive and that the length of a judge’s horsehair wig is a status symbol with some of the longer ones costing several thousand pounds!
After an early night, we woke up the next morning and headed towards Churchill’s War Rooms, a museum in the underground bunker where Churchill and his advisers strategized during World War 2. Though at times the museum was nauseatingly overcrowded – it was never really meant to hold that many people – it was all together utterly fascinating. Particularly interesting to me was the exhibit on Churchill’s life and his many eccentricities which included a lifelong love of painting, his well-documented rapid-fire wit, his often intense demeanor, and his skill at the written word. There I also learned of his strange hate of things like noise, paperclips, and even staples. This exhibit was extremely interesting as Churchill undoubtedly had quite a unique personality, though the exhibit did a great job of showing just how inspiring he was to the people of England. I found the War Rooms to be extremely informative and well put together, much like the two other Imperial War Museums I have visited. After leaving the museum, Lauren’s stepdad and I took a walk up to Buckingham Palace and through the Guards’ Chapel as we waited for my dad and uncle to leave the museum. The rest of the day was spent just exploring London to our hearts’ content.
Finally, the day that was the catalyst for this entire trip arrived and Lauren and I made our way up to Wembley Stadium to watch Tottenham take on Arsenal in the North London Derby. Though it was still a 45 minute train ride to the stadium, the train we got on was already packed with Tottenham supporters making their way to the game. The excitement was muted at first but the further northwest we traveled, the excitement became more and more palpable. It wasn’t until we stepped off the train to rousing chants of “Yid Army” as we made our way down Wembley Way that it started to hit me that we were going to the game. As has awesomely become tradition when we come to the North London Derby, Lauren bought me another Spurs jersey before we took our seats for the match.
The game was a back-and-forth battle with Arsenal hitting the target first with a 16 minute goal by Aaron Ramsey. Large portions of the rest of the game were quite frustrating as a Spurs fan until Harry Kane won a controversial penalty in the 73rd minute, tying the game at 1 – 1. The game was poised on a knife’s edge with both sides getting decent chances until the 89th minute when Arsenal won their own penalty kick. Expecting the worst, I’m not ashamed to admit that I couldn’t stand to watch the penalty but luckily it was saved and the game ended 1 – 1, a scoreline that definitely favored Tottenham. As frustrating as the match was to watch at times, I still had a wonderful time and am so thankful to I got to see my team in person. I’m also proud to say I’m still undefeated in North London Derbys!
Though I know much of our family was not impressed much by London, I had an amazing time as always and cannot wait to make my way back there again soon!