Tuesday, February 21, 2012

London Calling

Last weekend I hopped on a plane - my first time out of Ireland since I arrived here in September - and took off to London to visit with Samara Auntie and the rest of the family. Saturday was Samara's big 6-0 birthday celebration and what a party it was. We (and by we I mean Samara, Seema - Zaif's wife, Hooma - Seema's sister and Me) spent all day Saturday cleaning the house, decorating and cooking a massive feast for the 35 guests expected to arrive later that night. It was great getting to know Seema, who is so sweet and very pregnant at the moment and also getting to know her younger sister. The party was a hit and went on late into the night. It was also especially nice seeing Sarib again, who I haven't seen in 12 years - I was 10 the last time I went to London and that is the last time I saw Zaif's younger brother. 

Sunday Zaif took me out to Camden market where I wondered the stalls for a few hours and ended up finding a cute little bookshop down a secluded side street away from the main market. I ended up buying a book and then sitting in a coffee shop for a few hours with a nice hot cocoa. 

Monday, the day I was set to leave London and return to Dublin I went out to tour the Tower of London. I went on a guided tour with a Yoeman Warder, the funny, charismatic and ever knowledgeable warders of the tower. They are all former military officers and live on the premises guarding the Queen's castle. The tour was a great way to see the highlights of the Tower of London before I set out on my own to covet the Crown Jewels and wander the White Tower, where among other things, was where Anne Boleyn was sentenced to death. The famous ravens were abound along the green expanses of grass - so I guess that means the monarchy won't be falling anytime soon as legend goes.  

Traitor's Gate - where prisoners like Anne Boleyn where led into the Tower of London for their executions.

 Into the Torture Chamber - the replicas of the machinery used for torture were both scary and nausea inducing. 

The Ravens of Tower of London - especially for you mommy!
 it was actually really eerie to hear them caw as you walked across the grounds. 

London Bridge in the background. 

 Ruins of the old castle walls. 

 The White Tower. 

 Royal animals. 

 The horses of Kings past. 

 The Lavatory - yes, basically there is no bottom to this toilet. You go and the waste is released down below onto the cobblestones for a servant to then clean up. 

 It is the Queen's Jubilee this year and in honor of the occasion there was an odd exhibition in the White Tower - you walk in to view this dragon that makes a lot of noise. Not too sure about what the meaning behind it all is... 

 This sculpture is a memorial to the six people - 5 women, including two of Henry VIII's wives, and Lady Jane Grey, the uncrowned Queen of England - who were sentenced to death by beheading in this very area. 
The row of homes behind the sculpture is a Tudor style home built as a wedding gift to Henry's second wife Anne Boleyn, unfortunately by the time it was finished, so was Anne. 

 Bye bye Tower of London - see you next time.

Now, here's where it gets interesting! While I was wondering around I passed by this tall red-haired woman dressed in black and walking along with a Yoeman Warder showing her the sights. I happened to look up as she passed and recognized her face. I was startled at first and had a moment where I couldn't quite believe that it was her but upon closer inspection I confirmed that it was non other than Julianne Moore! Actress in such films as The Shipping News, The Hours, Laws of Attraction, The Kids Are All Right, and Crazy Stupid Love. She was heading into the same tower I was about to tour so of course I followed behind her. Still rather stunned but determined to play it cool. Some foreign tourists recognized her as well, and were whispering a bit and making it obvious they knew who she was, but I was determined to just enjoy the moment without ruining hers and she was touring the Tower with her daughter in tow. They were having a nice time and I really didn't want to go up to her and draw attention to the fact that she is someone famous. She was clearly trying to fly under the radar.

I did have my moment though. The tower we were in circled upwards and as we came out into a round room with prisoner graffiti etched into the walls I began to look around. She did the same and as we came around the walls she came to a stop right next to me! She was pointing out a few etchings to her daughter and then pulled out her phone to take a picture. I turned to her and she smiled at me and then continued on. All I could think was how nice she was and how freckly she is in person! 
I have always loved Julianne Moore as an actress and am thrilled I got to see her up close in real life. She sounded so sweet and like a very genuine person. 

So after my celebrity encounter Zaif and I met up with Sarib for lunch before Zaif took me to the airport to catch my flight back to Dublin. It was a quick but nice weekend. I actually missed Dublin terribly though and realized that the more I live here the more I think of Ireland as home. I was missing the familiar and have come to the conclusion that I am definitely not a London girl. I'm Irish through and through.

A few parting words...