OK, today we can get back to happier
times, when murder and intrigue were all the rage. I am of course
talking about England in the 1500's around Henry VIII's time. We
had decided to take two days in London on our own, since neither of us
had been there. We tried to pack a lot in these two days and we
think we did an excellent job. Our feet hurt sufficiently enough
for us to say this. So let's get started.
We arrived in London on time, 6:30 AM from Accra. Our
business-class seats got us through the Fast Track immigration line so
that we could wait even longer at the luggage carousel than the
others. Really, it took 45 minutes for our luggage to come, and
it was really bad, because for a while they would put 1 bag down once a
minute, then wait about 5 minutes for another one. When it
finally did come it came in droves, and as is usual for us, our
business-class "priority" tag meant nothing. Early check-in means
last off the plane.
Once that was done, we availed ourselves of the ATM (despite the
queues, there is more than 1 ATM at Heathrow) then went to the British
Airways Arrivals lounge for a shower and breakfast. This was
really nice and refreshing, and complimentary. Sweet!
Then it was off to the Heathrow Express train, which costs £28
round-trip between Heathrow and Paddington Station, but only takes 15
minutes. It was nice and worked as advertised. Once at
Paddington we could either have taken a taxi or the Underground
(subway). We decided to take the subway, which turned out to be a
big mistake, as we had to transfer between two lines and lug our
luggage up and down innumerable numbers of stairs. Maybe that's
why it's called luggage... Once out at Queensway station it was a
3-block walk to the Thistle Hyde Park where our room was ready for
check-in. We debated another shower, having gone through the
physical exertion of getting to the hotel, but we freshened up and went
out on the town.
First it was off to Westminster station, where we bought some
disposable cameras, as I didn't bring the charger for this short a
trip. As it turns out I still took 40 more pix after the camera
said it had 1 minute of charge, but it eventually did drain
completely. Check back here soon for the additional pix from our
After getting our bearings and experiencing the awe of Parliament and
Big Ben (right outside the station), we decided to go over the bridge
to the south bank and take the British Airways' London Eye, that huge
observation wheel. It's some 400 feet high. Here's CJ
catching some sleep in front of the struts.
The nice Japanese people in the above picture took this one in exchange
for their own. CJ has Big Ben on the brain.
Towards the top of the ride you really get an expansive view - too bad
it was kinda rainy.
One of these two buildings held Churchill's underground bunker during
WWII. We went down and took that tour later in the day, but no
pictures were permitted.
Buckingham Palace from the Eye.
Parliament and Big Ben.
This is the side of Parliament, we were amazed at the stonework.
Coat of Arms
Next it was over to Westminster Abbey, this is the east side and the
main entrance. We spent almost three hours here, again no
photography, but we went through all the chapels, and the nave, and the
pyx chamber and everything. We saw the tombs of kings and queens,
poets and musicians, military commanders and dutiful citizens.
Some are tombs and graves, others are plaques in memorial of
individuals. Some we saw were G. F. Handel, T. S. Eliot, R.
Vaughn-Williams, Herbert Howells, C. V. Stanford, Edward Elgar, and
Isaac Newton. I'll go through the guidebook and pull more out
later. But it's a place to see, absolutely.
The main transept? of the Abbey.
Big Ben and a duck boat. Oh, and me too.
CJ in front of the horse's parading ground.
The Cenotaph, a major memorial to Britain's war dead. Again, I
have to comment at how the British and their Commonwealth states do
keep the memory of those who died for freedom alive in the minds of the
people. I think we've lost a lot of that sense here in the US and
I think we should really reflect on the sacrifices made by our brave
men and women.
As I said, we also saw the Churchill
Museum and Cabinet War Rooms
. Again, no pictures. But
they have a pretty fine web site here.
After that we walked across a park to Buckingham Palace, and it started
to rain pretty heavy. This is one of the gates around the traffic
circle in front of the Palace, with a memorial to Queen Victoria in the
Buckingham Palace, with traffic.
This gate leads to Green Park.
The coat of arms on the gate to Buckingham Palace.
We caught the Underground back to the hotel before dinner, had to get
at least 1 picture for you.
We had dinner at a Spanish Tapas restaurant which was quite excellent,
then back home to let the feet cool off prior to another walking day.