Friday, October 6 - London

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 other cameras.

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.

The Royal Coat of Arms on Parliament.

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 center.

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.