Welcome back! When I left off our London tale a few days ago, I was just finishing up Tuesday with our trip to the aquarium. Review if you need too, but if not, let’s start the next part of our wondrous London story.
Green Lantern and I got up in anticipation on the next day. Well…maybe more me than him. Our first stop for the day was the London Dungeons, and one of my most highly anticipated stops on the trip for me. I was so excited that I was standing in line, holding Green Lantern and singing him songs from “Sweeney Todd.”
Let me take a minute to explain the Dungeons. This a chain attraction that is currently spreading slowly through the northern part of Europe into cities that have a particularly extensive and graphically gory history. The London Dungeon is the first, and outlines some of the “worst” parts of London history. The attraction runs on this concoction: It’s two parts real history, two parts haunted house, one part special effects, One part live theatre show, and one part theme park. The layout in London follows this order: You start by wandering into a crypt, below one of the famous churches in London. You then find yourself in the Labyrinth, a dizzying hallway of mirrors similar to the torture chamber described in the Phantom of Opera book. Here we are met face to face with two of the most “mass murdering” events in London History: The Black Plague, and the Great Fire of 1666. After the fire, you are ushered into an operation theatre where you watch the performance of primitive surgery, and then into the torture chamber where you see and learn all about the devices famously used in the Tower of London. The Courtroom comes next, with a judge condemning your soul to one of two routes (both of which you experience) Bedlam Insane Asylum or the Beheading of the Traitors in the Tower of London. Those of us “lucky” enough to survive our beheadings come face to face with the real and non-musical version of Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Ghost Hunting comes next in the laser ride “Vengeance,” followed by streets of Whitechapel, which belonged to one of the most famous serial killer in England (and quite possibly the world) Jack the Ripper. After that, we see the reality behind the reign of “Bloody” Mary, daughter of Henry VIII. The attraction finishes out with the remaining judgement, and the experience of being hanged.
On the day we attended the dungeons, Vengeance was closed, but to be perfectly honest, the Dungeons didn’t need it. The actors were phenomenal and really believed in their characters. They reached a level of full immersion that made you believe they truly were who they said they were.The Labyrinth was beautifully made and deliciously confusing to no end. You truly had to keep track of where the group was, or you could easily be lost. The Plague was complete with the man pulling the cart and calling “Bring our your dead!” and the doctor in the frightening bird-looking mask that supposedly protected them from getting the disease. the Surgery was awfully grotesque, and kept just in line with the history of surgery and the grave-robbing of the time in order to get bodies for experiments. The Judge and the courtroom combined humor with fear, sentencing us all to horrible fates. The Beheading scene, which came in the form of a log flume ride, took us through the infamous Traitor’s Gate at the Tower of London, and we met our executioner. The force and angle of the water that was sprayed at us right at the time the knife fell truly felt like the blood of the people behind you in the boat, and the fall (backwards) made me feel as if we were falling into oblivion. Mrs. Lovett stole the show for me. Whether it be my innate love for Sondheim’s version of Sweeney Todd or the fabulous acting of the girl playing her, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The barber room itself sent shivers up my spine, and I was sure that the actor was going to pop out at any time right behind me and try to slit my throat. This moves us into the Jack the Ripper scenes, which Green Lantern and I both agree was the best made portion of the Dungeons. You are first moved through two of the Ripper’s crime scenes. The attention to detail was immaculate. I have seen the crime scene photos for the Ripper murders, and these props of the deceased women were dead on. It was realistic, gruesome, and impossible to look away from. We are then ushered into a bar, supposedly on the 10 year anniversary of the killing of the first girl, Mary Ann Nichols. The bartender, who tells you all of this, with a vicious thunderstorm brewing overhead, recounts that the Ripper has never been caught. Then, when the power goes out, He attacks. I don’t want to give too much away about how it happens, in case anyone is going there, but I assure you, it will get your heart hammering and the screams caught in your throat. In Bloody Mary’s domain you see the results of what a true burning looked like, and the Hanging, which is a rapid drop ride, kind of like the Tower of Terror in Walt Disney World, was timed perfectly. The only room that left anything to be desired for me was the Bedlam Asylum, and that was just because there weren’t any crazies really wandering around. This attraction was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
We next ventured away from the blood and gore and crossed over into Green Lantern’s domain. The next stop on the trip was the Imperial War Museum, a gorgeous building bursting to the seams with wonder aircraft, sea-craft, and memorabilia from every era of war. I could tell he had so much fun, wandering amongst the possessions of those who were once just like him: a soldier for good. He took pictures everywhere, and seemed genuinely impressed with their collection.
A particular strength of the museum was their impressive Holocaust exhibit and memorial. They spared no detail, and no expense and it truly showed. It was a wonder collaboration of video, testimonial, artifacts, and models that truly made your heart hurt for all of the awful things that were endured during the war. Overall, the entire museum was beautifully laid out, and a joy to experience.
After that, our underground journey dumped us out at a station right in the middle of a shopping mall. We took in lunch, and I experienced what I am sure was the best pizza in the entire city. We found a dress for the Opera for me, which I will detail in a later post. And after a lot of running in circles, we finally located the right underground we wanted to be on to continue our journey. That journey was to the Cutty Sark.
The Cutty Sark is the one of the last Surviving Tea Clippers in the world. It was built in 1869 as a merchant ship, and stayed in operation until it went on display in London the 1950s. Again, we had a stroke of bad luck. The second ship that Green Lantern was excited to go on was again closed to the public. It is undergoing a restoration now after a fire in 2007 that damaged part of the ship and will reopen later this month.
In our explorations of Greenwich, the portion of London were the Cutty Sark is located, we discovered a handful of things. One was the National Maritime Museum, that Green Lantern wants to visit the next time we go to London. We also found, of all things, the set and filming location of a new and current movie. We aren’t sure was it was, but it was kind of exciting to see all of the extras in costumes and the big video cameras rolling as they filmed. This was also the night we crossed the path of Buckingham Palace, and the only time we would do so on this trip. It was quite beautiful and ornate, with luscious gardens and ponds surrounding it, and also the gorgeous iron gates inlaid with gold. We meant to have dinner in the Hard Rock Cafe, which is kind of a tradition in all of the trips that we make, however I was WAY too hungry to wait like 3 hours to even sit down. We found a charming little English pub around the corner, and which Green Lantern ordered a meat pie, and I went back to singing songs from “Sweeney Todd” for the rest of the night.
Keep an eye out the next blog about London! Hope you are all enjoying!