After arriving in London, our hired Limo arrived to pick us up and take us to our hotel.
We were on road by 0800 and being rush hour - it took us a good hour to get to our hotel.
Check in was not till 3pm but the hotel worked with us and was able to get us into a room
by 11am or so.
We'd been awake about 36 hrs, so were probably looked a bit like flesh eating zombies,
if not - we certainly felt the part.
But my motto is: "There's plenty of time to rest when you are dead" so we took quick showers,
and soon our friends Mark & Karen had arrived to show us a bit of London.
Our hotel (The Londoner Hotel) is a brand new facility located on Leicester Square.
A great central location and short walk to a tube station
All day musicians and artists populate the square with all sorts of interesting things going on.
Leicester square is a theatre district and has various statues about that pay tribute to
some of the hollywood greats.
Below is a statue of Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain.
|Gene Kelly Statue on Leicester Square|
We walked a few blocks to Trafalgar Square.
In the center is a monument with Lord Admiral Nelson perched on top.
Admiral Nelson was the commander of the fleet and onboard the HMS Victory (the ship I'm building)
at the battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805
Nelson was killed during the battle, but the end result was destruction of 2/3 the Combined
French and Spanish Fleets which eliminated the threat from Napoleon once and for all,
and confirmed British Naval superiority moving into the 19th century.
From there, we grabbed a taxi and rode over to St Pauls Cathedral.
Built on the highest point in London, this is the main Anglican Church in London.
It was first established in this location in 604AD and the current building dates to the early 1600's
Numerous famous people are interred in the Crypts below, including Admiral Nelson.
This is also where Charles & Diana were married instead of the normal Westminster Cathedral.
|Admiral Nelsons Tomb|
After St Pauls, we walked and hit a few pubs, and eventually made our way over to the south bank
of the Thames and had dinner followed by a taxi to our hotel.
Since we'd now been awake for about 36 hours....
It was time for a well deserved jump into the sack.
Friday morning arrived on schedule, and it was time to meet up with Mark & Karen
at the Tower of London
We purchased "Oyster Cards" which you can preload with ££'s.
This made it easy to travel on all of the London Transports, including the tube.
You could also use your phone and credit card, but the rates are cheaper if you get the card.
We walked about 1/2 mile to the Embankment Tube Station to take the Division line to the Tower.
There is a tube station on Leicester Square but would have required a change of trains at
Embankment, so we decided to start the morning with a short walk.
The tube is clean, fast, and on-time.
Arriving at the Tower, we began our tour.
You can walk the tower on your own, but your admission includes the 30 minute tour
with one of the Yeoman Warders which is well worth taking.
To be a Yeoman Warder, one must be retired military with long good conduct medal,
and have attained the rank of Sergeant Major or higher.
They live inside the tower, and can remain as long as they like as long as they can do the job.
It's a great place to raise a teenage daughter as at 10pm the gates close and locks out the boyfriends.
First started by William the Conqueror in 1078 - 12 yrs after defeating the Saxons,
it was built to let the peasants know how was now the boss.
Building castles to make a statement seemed to be the standard M.O. for kings those days.
Originally just a wooden fort, it was soon replaced by William with the stone White Tower.
That was eventually encircled by two concentric walls followed by an outer moat.
This is a rendering of what the completed fortress would have looked like.
Below - the 'Traitors Gate" is how prisoners would be brought to the tower.
The gate opened to the Thames and prisoners would arrive by boat.
The White Tower was Home for the King and housed the Royal Apartments.
This was the original tower before the outer defences were added.
Walking the inner wall.
Inside one of the towers along the wall.
At some point there was Royal Residences in one of the Defensive towers as well, but
I am not quite sure when and why that was.
Unfortunately I don't have the time right now to research and get it all straight.
Below is a meeting hall where the king would have met with his court.
On the far wall you can see the sooty remains of where a grand fireplace was located.
There was a change of guard while we were there.
We were told that when the guards are marching - you MUST get out of the way
or they will walk over you. They will NOT stop for you!
A few minutes later we heard the guards marching and an old lady was walking in their
way and one of the guards bellowed a few times "GET OUT OF THE WAY!
A few people rushed over to help her move out of the way.
While most prisoners had their heads removed in public outside of the tower on tower hill...
Henry VIII had his wives executed on this green inside the tower.
Beyond the green are barracks where some of the guard live.
This is the building in which the Crown Jewels are kept.
We saw the jewels including ones that we recognized from the Queens funeral.
Unfortunately but understandably photos inside are not allowed.
Along the outer walls are apartments where the Yeoman Warders live.
They say the castle is haunted but I didn't see any ghosts....
Often mistaken by people as London Bridge...
Which, as all my RV buddies know, is really in Lake Havasu. ;-)
Outside the tower.
The close tower is called the "Middle Tower".
It was actually a tower in the middle of the moat.
You can see it in the rendering above.
It was now about 430pm.
Time for our own "changing of the guard"
Mark & Karen had a train to catch, while Craig & Vicki were arriving
on another train and we were headed to meet them.
We met them at the rooftop bar of their hotel.
Another great reunion after several years of forced absence!
As usual - it was like we saw them yesterday and resumed where we left off.
The view over London from the bar.
You can see the London eye on the left, Big Ben peeking thru in the middle
with towers of parliament just right of Big Ben
The next morning Craig & Vicki took us on another walking tour.
Below is the Mall where many Royal processions take place.
At the far end is Buckingham Palace
We crossed over to St James Park, but not before we stopped to pay our regards to
our friend King George.
King George is famous for being the king to lose the American colonies.
In St James Park there is a large collection of resident Pelicans.
Craig & Vicki are coming to our house for Thanksgiving this year.
Looking at that bird.... I'm wondering how to fit it into my suitcase.
Perhaps some St James Turkey might be nice to put on the Thanksgiving Menu.
The 4 of us with Buckingham Palace behind.
Of course Kate has to stop and pose with every "hunk" she finds.
Next we walked up to Westminster Cathedral but unfortunately its closed on Saturday
and of course only worship on Sunday - so we are not going to get to see it this trip.
No worries - we'll be back in the spring and this trip we've been trying to go to the places
that are not dog friendly. It will be easy to visit later while we take turns going
inside while the other waits with the dogs.
Kate and I in front of Westminster Cathedral.
Number 10 Downing St is the green building on the right.
Last time here (many years) I was able to walk right to the door, but sadly times are changed.
Outside the horse barracks are the horse guards.
These are guards of the King.
If you've watched any Royal Celebrations, then you have seen them mounted on parade
Inspection of the guard.
This parade ground was created by Henry VIII as a jousting ground.
You will have seen many Royal Parades upon these grounds.
Next on our stop was the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Built by Queen Victoria - the ornate and beautiful interior reflects all the opulence
and wealth of England during the height of its worldwide power.
The museum is huge and would require days to see it all.
Not wanting to put all of our eggs in one basket, we barely skimmed the surface.
This is the Hall of Casts.
Cast reproductions of monuments from all over the world.
The Museum from outside.
Next was a taxi over to Convent Gardens and the Market.
OK - this is the type of place that my wife could get lost in.
Gift shopping galore!
It used to be the old Produce Market which was first established around 1200.
|Convent Garden Market|
The photo above only shows about 1/6 of this floor and there is a basement too.
After the Market we walked back about 3/4 of a mile to Leicester Square, and home.
Next on the agenda was an evening out to dinner with Craig & Vicki, their son and
daughter in law, plus a friend of their son.
I did not include photos of the whole group as forgot to ask if they would mind.
The restaurant was just off of Piccadilly Circus, so it was a short walk.
We've learned that London is a very social city.
The streets were jam packed with people out and about - like I've never seen anywhere!
Especially when the sun starts to set.
Walking up to Piccadilly.
It was a great French Restaurant.
Dinner was delicious and we had such a great time meeting new friends.
Kate could not get her Prosecco though - only Champagne.
Oh the humanity!
Walking back thru Piccadilly.
The streets were even more crowded on the walk back.
It seemed as if every person, in every room, had come out onto the street to enjoy the night!
Sadly it was time to say goodby to C&V but but they are coming to Arizona
for Thanksgiving (and St James Turkey) 😎
in just a few short weeks.
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Sunday morning we were able to sleep in a bit - well Kate did - I had to get up and work
on this post.
By about 1030 we were positioned along the mall to watch the changing of the guard.
The troops who are currently guarding the palace are called the "old guard"
The guards who will replace them are called the "new guard"
Once the handover is complete - then the new guard becomes the old guard and vice versa.
So - the old guard march from their barracks to the palace to join up with the other members
of their regiment who are currently at their posts at the palace.
Then, the new guard marches from their barracks to the palace too.
Now lots of things take place during this...
The days orders are passed along, the keys are passed from the old to the new,
which symbolizes the turn over of responsibility.
The Old Guard Marches by.
A video of the old guard marching by.
These troops taking up the rear seemed to be from a foreign country.
I could not find out what that was about.
We then walked up to Buickingham following the Old Guard.
So did everyone else.
I was only able to get some video of the new guard arriving.
To see the whole operation requires either way less spectators - or 3 days.
One day to get a good position - like we did - to observe the old guard.
Then a good position to observe the new guard.
Then a good position at the palace to watch the hand over.
I learned that of the 3 - the action at Buckingham is much slower as much of what is going
on is not real viewer friendly as its inspections, passing orders etc.
We were pleased with what we saw.
Next we headed back to the horse barraks as Kate wanted to make an encore
appearance at the gift shop.
To our surprise - another parade broke out!
The English love their traditions, and they have had a couple of thousand years to perfect them.
I have no clue what this parade on the horse grounds was about, but they formed up,
marched about, and then the bands piped up and soon were marching up the street.
There seemed to be members from all the armed forces plus some
Bring on the parade!
A video of the parade as it marches by
Unable to find anymore parades at the moment, we shifted our sights to the south bank
of the Thames.
We walked across the Hungerford Pedestrian Bridge to the south bank.
Firmly planted on the south bank we started to walk west back towards Parliament.
This area between the bridges was sort of a park and playground with musicians,
performers, the carousel below...
And the London Eye
We did not ride the eye.
We could have gotten a ticket for today but did not want
to stand in the long long long que that you would stand in AFTER buying
your ticket online.
|The London Eye|
We posed for a shot with Parliament and Big Ben behind us, while we made our way
across the Westminster Bridge.
Ok... look at the sun shining thru the bridge rail....
Is it me, or do you see it too? 😏
I learned this trip that although people call the combined entity Big Ben,
the tower was actually named the Clock Tower and renamed in 2012 to the
Elizabeth Tower in honor of the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee.
The clock contained in the tower is Big Ben
So after making the loop back to Parliament, we headed down Whitehall where we parked
it for a while at an outdoor Italian restaurant for some great fresh mozzarella balls
and a small Margarita Pizza.
Returning to the National Art Gallery which is just down the street from our hotel,
we sat and watched some Iranians protesting the current regime in their country.
I mentioned to Kate how helpless one must feel when their nation has lost its way and
there is nothing that can be done without the tip of a sword.
Arriving back at the hotel around 3p, I went to work on this post for a while and around 5:30p
we headed a few blocks to Chinatown (Have I mentioned how centrally located Leicester Square is)
Thanks Craig for the suggestion. What a great place to park it.
Kate found us a great place called the 4-Seasons.
A 5 min walk - we beat the crowds and sat right down.
We noticed many asians eating there so to us that was a good sign and we were not disappointed.
Since arriving we've had Italian, French, Chinese.
Well that concludes the first 4 days of our visit to London.
Whew.... its been a busy few days for sure!
Tomorrow we will day trip to Windsor Castle and perhaps have some tea with the King.
Tuesday we have a limo coming to take us 2 hrs to Southampton and the Queen Mary2
for our 7-day crossing back to the States.
We should get some R&R on that ride!