Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Burke and Hare

Burke and HareThis movie is based on a true story. Let me say that now. In 1828, two Irish men, living in Edinburgh, began to kill people so that they could sell the bodies to the medical schools that were flourishing in Scotland at the time. Autopsies were spectator events, and the medical men needed bodies to carry on with their work.

That being said, this is not an action movie, or a scary movie. It’s a comedy.  With Simon Pegg (who I love), and Andy Serkis as Burke and Hare. And there are other actors that I love, including Bill Bailey as the hangman, Jessica Hynes (Daisy!) as Hare’s lady, Michael Smiley (Tyres!), and Tim Curry, looking gleeful after sawing off a man’s leg:

burke_and_hare_movie_image_tim_curry_joblo_branded_01The doctors doing anatomy lectures were willing to pay 5 pounds for each body, because it was difficult to find people who would willingly give over their relatives.  Burke and Hare have a tenant who dies, and they stumble upon the truth that they can get paid for his body.  After that, they slide pretty easily into the act of murder in order to sell the bodies.  At first, it is only old people, friendless and without family, but they venture beyond that group when they need to.  Hare uses his share of the money to dress himself and his lady in the finest frocks.  Burke falls in love with an ex-prostitute, played by Isla Fisher, and uses his share to fund her all-female production of Macbeth.

BURKE & HARE

Boys can be very dumb sometimes.

Most of the movie is taken up with the boys luring their victims into darkened corners, or physically struggling to transport them up and down the Edinburgh hills.

Edinburgh is, probably, my 3rd favorite city in the world, and I find it especially delightful that very little had to be altered to make this movie (set in the 1830s) possible. The old town area looks mostly the same now as it did in the 1830s. The ‘new town’ area is from the 18th century.  The ‘new town’ part of Edinburgh is older than my entire country, just for some perspective. 

Everyone in this movie has great comedy chops.  I think someone other than me might find this movie hilarious.  But I couldn’t get past the fact that this was a true story about serial murder. 

I had a similar reaction to Dr. Strangelove when I saw it.  When these black comedies are about something so foul and catastrophic, I just can’t find them funny. I take life too seriously.

The movie mentions that Burke and Hare murdered an old woman, a fat man, a freed slave…a total of at least 16 murders. For pretty clothes and the affection of an ex-prostitute? A freed slave, who must have thought he’d lived through enough hell for several lifetimes, is killed in Edinburgh for 10 pounds, and then dissected in front of an upper-class audience.  I just can’t find it funny. Especially since it is a true story. Although, in reading about the true story, I see that Sir Walter Scott thought they were an alright duo: they “have cleard the streets of some of those miserable offcasts of society, whom nobody missd because nobody wishd to see them again”.  Oh Sir Walter Scott…why is there a landmark devoted to you? You seem awful. And I couldn’t even make it through the first 100 pages of Ivanhoe, so you’re really not that great. In other news that I never wanted to know, I’ve just seen that Burke, after he was hanged, was dissected in a sold-out autopsy ‘performance’. They used his blood to fill a fountain pen and write out some lines. They made a ‘leather’ calling card case from his skin.  Ew.  Also, if you’re a macabre sort of person, they have masks made from Burke and Hare’s heads in the Anatomy Museum at the U of Edinburgh. Maybe I’ll stop by next time…but I won’t be watching this movie again. 

Book Review: Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

Mrs. Queen Takes the TrainFirst, I have to give a tip of my figurative hat to the art director/cover designer for this book. I love it! What sums up QEII more than Buckingham Palace, some guards, and a cup of tea? Horses, a little handbag, and Corgis, obviously. It is a really cute little hardcover.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it was an entirely successful novel.

The book is primarily about Queen Elizabeth II (the current queen, for those of you who really don’t pay attention) and the hazards of getting older and of being a monarch in the 21st century.

The primary plot revolves around The Queen deciding she could really use a day off/a cheer-up. She is feeling her age, and her increasing lack of power and importance in modern UK life. Let’s face it, the monarchy has rarely been less liked and less powerful than it has been lately. I think the dislike reached a peak at the death of Princess Diana, and has been recovering the last year or two with the Olympics, the jubilee, the royal wedding and soon-to-be royal baby.

As I’ve said before, I am not a big fan of the royals. Most people in the US seem more fascinated by them, I suppose because we don’t have anything equivalent here, but I just can’t be bothered to care much about them. I do not believe much in tradition, in ceremony, or in a class system. I picked this book up because, even though I’m not drawn to the monarchy as a subject, it promised a humanizing look at QEII. This is the author’s first novel, having previously written several biographies and light historical books on Brits and Americans (including Jackie O, the closest thing the US has ever had to a Queen). I do think it’s interesting to consider the monarchy from the position of human beings placed into this unique and almost impossible situation. How does one adjust to the fact that they lead the country by supposed divine decree? How would you adjust to the changing times and ideas of politics and political power during a 60+ year reign? When QEII had her coronation, Churchill was the PM and the nation was still recovering from the devastation wrought during WWII. She’s still Queen, but undoubtedly the country is totally different. It is really fascinating to consider the role of a leader when you’re able to also hold it in your mind that this is just a regular person. Despite what Henry VIII might say, I don’t think any of the monarchs have ever been assigned by God or given special gifts or knowledge to allow them to lead. They are, by chance of birth, thrust into a position of leadership. I’ve already talked a little on this blog about Edward VIII and his decision to abdicate in order to marry Wallis Simpson. He couldn’t be King and marry the woman he loved, so he chose. Prince Charles, by all accounts, was asked to marry Princess Di when he loved Camilla from an early age. That obviously didn’t turn out well, but the point is that obedience and sacrifice comes with the pedigree and the real estate. It’s not a free ride. I’ve also already talked about the current climate of paparazzi frenzy over pictures of the royals, and how that will affect both Kate Middleton and her royal baby. It’s a tough time to be a royal, in my opinion. So a look inside all of the pomp and circumstance and at the reality of the situation is always a welcome thing.

Unfortunately, despite his training as a historian, Kuhn doesn’t seem to have captured a believable queen. It’s ironic, because as a historian, it is possible that this is a very accurate picture. Maybe she really does do yoga and feel comfortable talking to strangers on the street. But it doesn’t seem believable, even if it is true. Some aspects were plausible to me–the idea of The Queen not wanting to ask for computer help even though she hasn’t quite got the whole thing down–and others were really not–the queen having a secret twitter account only followed by family and friends. Even if these details are true, they don’t match with the public perception of The Queen, and there is nothing in the text to reconcile these. In scenes where The Queen was practicing yoga, I found myself picturing her in a lavender dress and matching jacket. I wondered how she could do Warrior II in panty hose. I couldn’t imagine her ever doing Downward Dog, because what if someone walked in and saw her backside in the air?

Of course the Queen is a human being, and sometimes she doesn’t wear pantyhose. It’s possible she even has yoga pants. On the other hand, how many octogenarians do you know who do yoga? If she is unusually attuned to what is young and new, then there has to be something in the text to align that with her public persona as being very old-fashioned, traditional, and proper. Otherwise, there is too much cognitive dissonance.

In the book, The Queen decides to take the eponymous train journey from King’s Cross to Edinburgh (a trip I recently made myself) in order to visit the royal yacht (which was decommissioned in the ’80s or ’90s) moored there. She sneaks out of Buckingham Palace on a whim, wearing a borrowed hoodie. She doesn’t tell anyone where she is going.

Several characters are charged with and volunteer to track her down in order to keep her from harm. They include an equerry (old-fashioned term for a sort of personal assistant to the monarch), a lady-in-waiting, a butler, a stable girl, a dress maid/ladies’ maid, and a clerk from a cheese shop. They frantically search for her, forming uneasy alliances across class lines (slightly reminiscent of Downton Abbey), and try to keep her disappearance quiet.

I had two problems with this book. The first was a lack of real suspense in the plot. We view the story from alternating perspectives, but we are never away from The Queen as narrator long enough to worry about her safety. The other characters are stressed about not finding her, but the tension of the situation and its potential dangers are glazed over and presented as secondary to the maze of social propriety involved in dealing with the monarch. There is never a sense of a non-happy ending being remotely possible.

The second problem was the portrayal of The Queen. As I said before, it doesn’t seem realistic even if it is based on real facts. So that’s a problem of writing, not of research. I think it also paints The Queen as less capable and competent than she most definitely is. The Queen in the book seems to regret that everyone went to so much trouble looking for her, and that she caused them stress. But, after being queen for 60+ years I’m fairly certain QEII knows exactly and entirely what would happen if she went AWOL. I would respect the character more if she knowingly decided to escape from her handlers. I also think that The Queen in the book is not as bogged down and restricted by her ideas of propriety and tradition than QEII must be in real life.

But where am I getting this info? What on earth do I know about QEII? Nothing, obviously. But she is a human being, who was raised knowing very early on that she would one day lead her country. She’s seen it through wars, through peace, economic prosperity and depression. She’s seen PMs come and go, political parties rise and fall. She stands alone, is the only one who can know the burden of leadership and the restrictions of monarchy. Her family has inklings, but nothing on the same level. There is no way to portray her in any book or movie that does not acknowledge this ordering of the world according to tradition and to responsibility. And in this book I just don’t think that was acknowledged enough.

I’ve read quite a few novels lately written by historians. I have no idea why they would want to make that jump. There’s an old joke that the profession least likely to get their book published is a writer! Seriously though, it’s not as easy as it looks, guys (the ones I have read were men; I am not implying that all historians are men). There has to be a more human look at the historical figures, not just an ‘accurate’ portrayal. If you described Henry VIII as large, fat, with a beard, who liked to have his wives beheaded, you wouldn’t be wrong. But you wouldn’t catch the essence of him as well as someone who might write about his frustration and anger with himself at not fathering a male child, frustration that he aimed clearly at his wives. Cutting off their heads was an easy way to blame them, and to excise the blame from himself. Is saying that accurate? No way to know. But it makes a better novel, and if you’re going to travel into the realm of fiction you have to take the leap away from concentrating on accuracy and focus instead on creating a character comprehensible and relatable.

TV Show Review: The Book Group

I found this show on my Netflix instant recommendations a month or two ago. I had heard good things from fellow bloggers, so I gave it a chance. I really enjoyed it, though it ended abruptly and that makes me very irritated when shows aren’t given a proper ending.

The show is really an ensemble, but the first episode at least centers around Clare (Anne Dudek, aka Amber from House), an American who has just moved to Glasgow and starts a book group in an effort to meet friends.  The first meeting is at her new flat, and she is rather shocked by the people who turn up.  I will say that none of these people would normally all be in a room together.  Claire is an intellectual (or she would describe herself that way, at any rate), and I imagine she expected people with tweed jackets and elbow patches to turn up, ready to discuss Jane Austen and do in-depth analysis of literature.  She does get one PhD student, Barney,  doing his dissertation on Garcia Marquez, and she immediately takes a shine to him, especially in light of the others in the group.  There’s:

Kenny, the wheelchair-bound aspiring novelist, who turns out to be the nicest of the group by far.

Janice, the footballer’s wife, who wants to be a TV anchorwoman.

Dirka and Fist, both of whom are vapid and superficial. One is from Sweden, the other Holland. Both are dating/married to footballers, if my memory serves.

Rab, who has zero interest in books it turns out, but is very interested in football (and the sexy men who play it).

None of them seem particularly interested in books, except Clare and Barney.  It’s obvious quite early that Clare looks down on the others in the group, but this fact is tempered by the fact that it is so easy to look down on her while you’re watching the show.  She is really rude, and despite hosting the book group at her flat doesn’t offer refreshments of any kind or attempt to be hospitable. She is rude and ignorant about UK culture, which makes me cringe.  Even worse, in the second season her sister comes to stay, and suddenly Clare seems to be worldly and wise, and the sister’s stereotypical ignorance is even more pronounced.  She says’ Edinburgh’ the way it’s spelled, and when a Scot corrects her, her answer is this:

“You say tomaaahto, I say tomaayto. But you’re wrong, because it’s tomaayto.”

No wonder the world hates us.

The show, unfortunately, only lasts 2 seasons, and it has its problems.  The plots sometimes pick up and let go in weird places, not following much through to fruition. Relationships among the book groupers are fairly incestuous, short-lived, and tempestuous.  But there are also really funny moments that equally mock the intellectuals and the athletes.  It’s a bit like if a couple of cheerleaders, the quarterback of the football team, a girl from the honor roll, the water boy, and a drug-addled student teacher got together to discuss books–to use a thoroughly American high school analogy.  Wait…did I just describe the Breakfast Club?  The point is, it’s a very odd group of people to be in the same room, and that makes for some really interesting and funny situations.

The downfall of the show, in my opinion, is that it is so farcical. The characters let their minds wander away into deep fantasy and I found those scenes jarring and weird, even when they were funny. And when one character dies in the series, the same actor comes in to play his brother, and stays for the rest of the show.

Just a note so that you won’t be disappointed like I was–they almost never talk about the actual books that they read. When they do, however, it’s pretty hilarious.  After watching this, I can comprehend why people hate it when English majors go to their book clubs.  I only hope I’m not like that!

In the end, it’s a fun show, if you don’t expect it to be deep or life-changing. It’s good for a laugh.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities in the world, as I have said before. I never considered myself a fan of the theatre (yep, I spell it the English way. deal). before I went to live in the UK.  I think that is because, here in the US, the vast majority of theatre that gets any attention on this side of the pond is musical theatre. I cannot possibly describe how much I hate musical theatre. Only the use of italics can lend the situation the necessary gravity. I don’t like to be sung at. I don’t like people who sing while smiling or smile while singing. I can take it in Disney cartoon form, but that’s it. When the people are in real life, and right in front of me, I want to escape, ASAP.  The only musical theatre I have ever enjoyed was Rent and Wicked.  I hate Andrew Lloyd Webber (yep, enough to use bold).  Anyway, so no wonder I dislike the theatre here.

But in the UK it’s really different. Yes, there’s the trite West End shows like Oliver and that one about Queen. And I’m sure they’re quite good if you like musical theatre. But if you don’t, then there are other options. And they are much easier to find there than in the US. There are tons of theatres in and around London, offering new plays, old plays, dramatic, comedic, historical, controversial. I went to see 12 plays during my 6 months in London. I would say I enjoyed 10 of them. None of them involved music. One was about the stock market. One was about a young, idealistic Muslim girl in the UK, one was about an American journalist (Richard Dreyfuss) forced to name his source for an article. They were all vastly different and interesting. They were also all pretty inexpensive. The thing about theatre in the UK is that it’s not such a big deal. People wore jeans. It didn’t cost $70 for each ticket, so there is more of a range of socio-economic status represented in the audience. It is just more accessible, not so fancy as it is considered here.

So now, I’m a theatre fan. If it’s that kind of theatre. Interesting, well-written, dramatic, and unpretentious. I first heard about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival when I was living in the UK, from one of the other students in my program who was a theatre nut. She now works in theatre in some capacity.  Unfortunately, my visa expired that June, so I wasn’t able to go. But this year, I finally went!  So, based on my limited personal experience and lots of internet research, here are my tips and tricks for surviving the Fringe.

History

The Fringe Festival started when 8 different theatre companies who were not invited to the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947 showed up anyway and put on shows in small venues for small crowds. It has grown in size and attendance pretty consistently for the past few decades. This year, I don’t know if numbers have been released, but it seemed pretty damn busy to me!

The festival, because of its history, attracts weird and avant-garde performers and shows. Just be ready for anything and everything. Embrace the strangeness of it all.

Where to Stay

Edinburgh is a fairly small city, with lots of hotels and hostels. Some people even open their private homes and rent out rooms for the festival. They all seem to be booked at capacity during August, though. After all, not only are all the visitors staying in hotels and hostels, but most of the performers are too.  We were able to find a hostel room at short notice, but only after an hour of internet searching.  During a visit to the hostel’s pub, we were ‘treated’ with what I can only describe as a real-life version of Glee. A group of performers from Australia were singing and dancing to a selection of mid-90s pop songs. Not my favorite night in history, though that may be because an Italian man touched my hair with his cigarette-smelling fingers. If you’re fiercely antisocial, you might be better off at a hotel.  Either way, aim for something in Old Town or New Town areas. Those are the most convenient to the various venues and also the tourist attractions.  Anything with a view of the Princes’ Street Gardens is highly recommended, as it is a gorgeous part of the world.

What to See

There are two ways to do the Fringe, from what I can tell. 1-Plan, 2-Don’t.  We did not plan.  If you walk down the Royal Mile during any day of the festival, you will be accosted by approximately 5 million people handing out fliers for their shows, ghost tours, exhibits, whatever. You will have a handful of papers by the time you get your tea and muffin in the morning. There is no shortage of choice.
On the other hand, I can see the virtue in planning if you have things you particularly want to see. Or if you are just the planning type. Or if you find being handed fliers a troublesome experience. The festival website has a full program that you can order/download up to a few months beforehand. Once the schedules are finalized for the year, you can also search which shows are going on during a specific day or weekend or whatever. Warning, though, there are TONS of shows. Hundreds each day. Alphabetical order is not a great way to try to sort through.

Another word of warning. Avoid comedy shows.  This mostly applies to those of us not from the UK. I wish I could find video of this, but there was an episode of the Simpsons where Groundskeeper Willie did some comedy. He said something like  “Did you ever notice that people from Aberdeen hold their golf clubs like this, and people from Glasgow hold their golf clubs like this…” with accompanying motions.  Get it? Me neither.  That’s rather the point. Comedy is a difficult thing to translate across cultures. I am pretty aware of British culture, and have watched a lot of British shows. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to get the cultural significance of ASDA when you mention it, or see why your story about buying a Cornetto is funny.  There’s a big chance that I’m just not going to understand.  Also, those venues in the Fringe are (or can be) very small.  There’s always some chance that it’s going to be you and 2-3 other people in the audience.  If you’re not laughing, the comedians can very easily see that.  Also, try to sneak out and you will be heckled.  In fact, you may, out of politeness, be forced to sit through an hour-long midnight show in which an Irish man rants incessantly about the IRA and government corruption. Then gets into an argument with someone in the audience about how nice Wales is or isn’t.  Then complains about how the show isn’t going well, so he’s going to end it early after this next story. But then he DOESN’T.  I’m just saying. Learn from my mistakes.

Another word to the wise. Sometimes the free shows are free for a reason. We only had time to see 4 or 5 shows, but the paid shows were much much better than the free alternatives.  And the ones we saw that were paid were only like £5. It’s worth it.

Other Advice:

Bring a raincoat or umbrella. It may be August, and therefore summer, but it’s still Scotland. It gets cold at night, it gets wet often.

The Radisson on the Royal Mile has a bathroom in the lobby that anyone can use. You have to go all the way through the lobby and down a set of stairs, but it’s there and it comes in handy during a long day wandering around.

There are a lot of stairs and hills. Don’t wear your platform heels or your shoes with no tread. It’s steep and they are often made of cobblestones.

There are other festivals going on simultaneously, including the book festival, art festival, and film festival.  Allow some time to explore those as well. (Sadly, I didn’t heed my own advice on this one!).

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Do NOT under any circumstances order a Long Island Iced Tea anywhere in Scotland.  I only ordered one, in one pub, but I’m putting a blanket  ban on them for the whole country.  Do not assume just because it is listed on their menu that they know how to make it. Two shots of tequila and some generic-brand Coke is not a Long Island Iced Tea.

On that note, don’t expect any pub in the UK to be able to do proper cocktails.  There are a few that can, but you have to seek them out.  If you want something resembling a cocktail, your best bet is rum & juice or vodka & juice.

 

I have to say that I wish desperately that I could have had more time at the festival. The atmosphere was great, even when the weather wasn’t. The shows were fun and I was disappointed with not having more time to see all of them. People were incredibly nice, and I would go again every year if I lived less than 1000 miles away. Go if you can!

Trip to England–what to see?!

After my last post, which turned out to be far more controversial than I expected, I’ve decided to go for a less contentious topic.

I am going back to England for the first time in 3 years, and am in the midst of deciding what to see.  I’ll be going in August, so thank god the Olympics will be over and the crowds might have dispersed a bit.

There are certain things that I think every tourist should see, and certain things I think are overrated.  So I’m going to share my personal recommendations, but would also love some ideas for attractions and events that are off the beaten track.

I’ve already made a post outlining my favorite parts of the UK, and I do hope to go back to some of them. But first things first, what’s worth seeing if you’re new to London, only there for a short time, want to see as much as possible, etc.

My top 5 recommendations to See/Do:

1-Parliament and Westminster Abbey

The lines are very long in the summer, but I have to say it’s worth it. These are, arguably, the two most important buildings in the country, and they are right next to each other. One has seen the coronation of 36 different monarchs, dating back to William the Conqueror in 1066. The other has seen the gradual shift of power away from the monarchy (and the clergy) to the hands of the Lords, and then to the hands of the Commons.  I was particularly happy to see Poet’s Corner inside Westminster Abbey, where writers from Geoffrey Chaucer to Elizabeth Gaskell to Ted Hughes are interred or memorialized. I do, however, recommend going in the off-season or early on a weekday, if possible.

2-British Museum

My favorite part about (most of) the museums in London is that they’re FREE. Not because I don’t value learning or museums in general, but because this takes off the pressure to see everything in one day, in one go.  Which means if you have 20 minutes, you have time to see the Rosetta Stone, the second best collection of Egyptian artifacts (Cairo is, logically, a bit better), pieces off the Parthenon, as well as the same artifacts that inspired Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats to write some of their most famous poems.

3-Albertopolis–

This is an area of South Kensington so called because almost every important building you see was created by Prince Albert, or in his memory. If you don’t know, Albert was Queen Victoria’s husband. He urged the purchase of this area of London with the profits from the Great Exhibition of 1851, and tons of public buildings were erected on it. It’s a major cultural center and there is truly something for everything. Attractions include the Albert Memorial, the Science Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Royal Albert Hall.

4-The Royal Parks–

I can’t narrow it down to just one, but there are lots of parks in London. The Royal Parks refers to the areas technically hereditary property of the crown. These were hunting grounds for the monarchy back in the day. My favorite’s include Hyde Park, St. James’, and Regent’s, but really the point of these parks is just to have some green space in the city. It’s a really green city, with small parks and squares dotted around everywhere. On the first proper Spring day, you see people in droves, sitting in the grass with their shoes off, reading or sleeping or eating picnics. It’s lovely.

5-The South Bank.

None of the individual attractions of the South Bank are my favorite things in London, but if you add them together, along with the view of the Thames, the street performers, and the Saturday flea markets, it’s an awesome atmosphere. Skip the lines and just spend the afternoon walking. If you start from the Tower Bridge, you can walk past City Hall (called Darth Vader’s helmet b/c of its shape), past the reconstructed Globe theatre and the Tate Modern museum (worth a glance, even if you don’t get modern art), past Waterloo station and into the ‘culture complex’ which contains the National Theatre, galleries, festival halls, dining, the British Film Institute, past the Eye, the aquarium, and all the way to Westminster Bridge with its infamous views.  After that long walk, take in dinner and then hit a show at the National, or walk a few blocks to the Old Vic.  Trust me, that’s a good day right there.

Honorable mention–St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millenium Bridge, Chancery Lane and the Royal Courts of Justice, Kensington Palace, Hampstead Heath.

My top 5 to AVOID:

1-The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace

I think the palace is worth a look, but I fail to see the attraction of crowding around tons of people to watch a very sophisticated shift change.

2-A show in the West End

When people talk about London theatre, I’m always interested. I took a theatre course while I was there, with the Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington. It was awesome.  But we went to see real theatre, not the musicals on the West End. I admit that I dislike musicals in general, but that is not the only reason this is on my list.  First of all, they are too expensive. About the same price you would pay for a Broadway show in NYC.  But if you go instead to the Old Vic (or the New Vic), to the National, or to smaller theatres in Soho, you can see amazing plays with some real substance for much less money. If you’re under 25 (I think it’s 25), you can get tickets for free or £2-4 online to see shows at the National. And you can see big names there. I saw a play at the Old Vic with Richard Dreyfuss; I saw one at the National with Gary Cole, who I love.  You can see 3 or 4 of these plays for what you would pay to see a West End musical like Billy Elliot or Oliver.  Plus, a lot of the West End shows are just a London cast of an American musical, and why not just see that at home if you’re so inclined?

Piccadilly Circus

This is the London equivalent of Times Square, and appeals to me just as little as its American counterpoint.  A bunch of tourists taking pictures of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not building and the Anteros sculpture.  Tons of shops with trite souvenirs for sale.  Pass.

4-Madame Tussaud’s

I don’t really mind MT’s, and I had to go get my picture taken with the Beatles, but the lines are so incredibly long that it is in no way worth it.  It’s also a bit pricy, after you wait for several hours to get in.

5-The London Eye

I do like the London Eye, so it hurts me to put it on the list. But if you go to London anytime between April and September, the lines are incredibly long.  It’s nice to get to see the city, and they offer some cool private party options if you wanted something special, but for the money and the lines, it’s not worth it just to go on a Ferris wheel. If you’re there in the off-season, then go for it. Otherwise, give it a pass.

Honorable mentions–Harrod’s (way too crowded, way too expensive, not even owned by a Brit anymore). Trafalgar Square (soo crowded.  If you’re going to go, go in off-hours or in the winter. Tower of London (the Tower is worth a look, but no way was I going to wait in the line to see the Crown Jewels).

So, I have seen all of these things, and am going back to a city as a tourist where I used to live.  I’m not sure what to see or do.  There are things I missed the first time around. I never got to go inside St. Paul’s cathedral.  There are things I want to see again–The Camden market, for example.  Decisions! I have a lot more money this trip than during my time there as a student, so I plan to eat some good food and enjoy myself a bit more this time.

I’m also really pleased to say that, this time, I’m going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! So excited.  I cannot wait to see the next big star doing some sort of weird anti-establishment play like Hamlet if he was a transvestite prostitute whose pimp was killed by his business partner, etc. Plus, Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities in the world and I am so thrilled to go back.

If anyone has any suggestions for what to see, where to eat, what crazy performances I should see in Edinburgh, I’d love to hear them.