My apologies for the delay. WordPress and I are not friends this week. London really is an outstanding city. We had such a great time, I accomplished quite a bit of work (the real reason I was there), and we saw more rain that we see in a Seattle winter…I’m convinced!
We decided to fly in a little early to catch up with the jet lag and a little sightseeing. We walked for 8 hours our first day! Of course, we stopped for a pint and some fish and chips, it’s required! I decided to give you a tour just as we saw London.
We used some points to stay in Piccadilly Circus (circus was the original name for a roundabout in London) our first few nights. The hotel can be seen in the below picture, just behind this pretty fountain. I’m such a bad tourist that I have no clue what the name of this fountain might be… oh well, it’s pretty, no?
I liked this building in the West End. It isn’t a landmark, that I know of, I just liked the little turret and picture someone having tea up in that window. It’s probably just stuffed full of “stuff” like our houses and there is no place for the person living there to sit and have tea.
We wandered through the West End, saw some people setting up for the London premiere of “Speed Racer” (yeah, we totally missed Madonna, Emile Hirsch, and others the next night) in Leicester Square. We finally landed in Trafalgar Square. Scott decided we were walking past way too many geocaches so he stopped and checked out his GPS. I love the concept of a “square” … a meeting place, a resting place, a place to just hang out in the middle of the city. Trafalgar Square is quite large, there is a fountain that matches the one you see in the below picture just in front of and left of me, creating the “square.” You can also see the quintessential double decker red buses in the background!
Next we walked toward Westminster Abbey. Isn’t this just breathtaking? I shrunk the pictures in order to upload them, so some of the detail has been lost, but it is still pretty unreal the amount of detail in the abbey.
Scott took this picture at a different time of day, obviously, but I think it is so beautiful to show the Parliament buildings at night across the River Thames from the London Eye. The London Eye is essentially, a ferris wheel. It was quxite expensive to go up, so we just walked past and enjoyed the view from below. I think this picture catches old vs. new London across the River Thames. Kinda cool!
We walked all along the South Bank and enjoyed views back across the river to London. We wandered through the Borough Market, a huge open air market, that could come close to putting Pike Place to shame (I said close, ok). We then spotted The George Inn, one of the oldest known buildings in London. Chaucer began the story of The Canterbury Tales at one of the buildings here and it is said that Shakespeare and Dickens took in the hospitality of this hotel in the 1600s. That balcony looks a looks a little rickety, I believe it’s age! We stopped and had a pint at the George Inn to rest our feet.
Just before we crossed back over the Thames, we snapped this picture of the London “skyline.” A cab driver told Scott the Swiss Re Tower (the tallest one) was commonly referred to as “The Towering Innuendo” 🙂
We crossed back over the River Thames via the Tower Bridge (commonly mistaken for the London Bridge, which is quite underwhelming by comparison). This is by far my favorite bridge in the city, so massive and beautiful!
The Tower Bridge leads to the Tower of London (aka Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress). The Tower, which is misleading by name, is a massive palace constructed of many buildings and towers contained by huge walls. There is such rich history here, leading back to 1078, where the White Tower was said to be built as a fortress. Imagine a moat where the green grass sits now…
Just outside the gates to the tower, is the Traitor’s Gate. This was used for many reasons, but the most interesting would be when prisoners were brought here in the 16th century. They were brought by boat where they had to go under the London Bridge where the heads of executed prisoners were displayed on spikes.
Once inside the gates of the Tower, we went to see the Crown Jewels. Wow. So much glitz and glitter! There were no pictures allowed in the display. Scott took the below (very fuzzy) illegal picture of the Imperial Crown of India that has 6,100 diamonds in it! It was at that moment that I thought about the Traitor’s Gate…
Next stop within the tower was at Beauchamp Tower, where many of the prisoners were held. I like this picture of the tiny window that looked out onto the grounds of the palace. Inside the tower, there were many carvings all over the walls that were done by the prisoners during their stay.
Just outside Beauchamp Tower is a memorial to the prisoners who were executed at this exact spot. Some of the prisoners include Queen Anne Boleyn, so I was quite interested as I just finished reading The Other Boleyn Girl. And then I really panicked, thinking about that illegal picture again….
Alas, no executions for illegal pictures of royal crowns that day. We were safe. This is a picture of me and Scott just outside Bloody Tower which gets its name because the Princes (Edward IV’s) sons were said to have been murdered there in the 1400s.
After a delicious Indian/Pakistani dinner at Tayyabs (oh my, some of the best food I’ve ever eaten), we started making our way back to the hotel. We decided to make a stop by Buckingham Palace. It was really late and Queen Elizabeth II was there (the flag was flying above the palace), so we took no pictures…I dont’ want to be responsible for waking the Royal Family. 🙂 Instead, we snapped a picture of a giant statue of Queen Victoria with golden angels just outside the gates of the palace. I think it’s beautiful.
It’s been a really long day. Can we go home now?
Ooh wait! Cool juice and smoothie shop!!
Almost home…stopped at the Underground Station in Piccadilly Circus. You can see all the lights from the theatres around behind me. Gone with the Windhas apparently not done so well and production is being shut down shortly. (ps: we minded the gap)
After we got home to the hotel, we found a spread of fresh strawberries and champagne. What a way to end a really long day of walking and sight seeing! The British really know how to treat their guests.
Obviously, there was so much more we saw while in London. One of the best highlights was seeing Wicked. Wow, what a great musical, it’s coming to San Antonio in June (and touring the rest of the US all summer/fall) – I highly recommend you go see it if you get the chance!
One other funny thing I had to share. One evening my work team had a morale event where we went bowling. Hilarious. Their pins are on STRINGS! STRINGS! Haha. You can kind of see in this picture that the guys are working to untangle the pins after someone bowled a little too hard.
Hope you enjoyed your tour of London. We had a great time! 🙂