NOTE: if you hover your mouse over the photos, a description will pop up.
While I swore I wouldn’t do the double-decker bus tour thing, it only took me 3 minutes to change my mind. It was actually very cool since they give you a running commentary about the places you are driving through.
Note to self: Next trip must walk down Bow Lane, the only street in London that hasn’t moved or been changed since Elizabeth I’s time.
We ended up touring St. Paul’stoday instead of later in the week as originally planned. It worked out for the best. St. Paul’s was rather awe-inspiring. Jacki and I found ourselves in tears more than once while there. The first time, when they were sharing stories of how St. Paul’s has always been a place people flock to during difficult times. They specifically shared how over 30,000 people came to St. Paul’s on 9/11 to offer comfort to the thousands of American citizens in London.
The second time was when we walked behind the high altar and discovered a very touching memorial to all the service men who fought in, and for, England during WWII. There is a beautiful book with the names of each and every one of them; including their rank and their hometown. Obviously I knew the role the US played in helping Britton, I just had no idea of the depth of gratitude they had for it. This was not a small memorial and it was in the place of highest honor in the Cathedral. It was moving. Sadly, St. Paul’s does not allow photos.
We picked up a wonderful lunch of fresh crusty bread, pasta salad, cheese, and raspberries and had a picnic on the steps of the Cathedral before catching the bus for the Tower Pier for our boat trip on The Thames.
Funny story about The Great Fire Memorial. When Charles Wren (the designer) went to King Charles II to request his likeness be used, King Charles refused him. His reasoning was he didn’t start the fire! Priceless.
I can honestly say the hardest thing I’ve ever done is stand outside the walls of The Tower of London and just walk past it. I’m not sure but I think at some point, Jacki had her arms around me, pulling me away from it. *sigh* I must add, even Jacki was a touch awed by the sheer size. I’ve seen a million photos but nothing, NOTHING, prepares you for the real thing.
Jacki said from the planning stages that she wanted to take a boat trip on The Thames. The only thing we could find on-line were day-long trips and we just couldn’t figure out how to work it into the schedule. It wasn’t until we got there that the ferry-boat option became known to us. So we took the ferry from Tower Bridge Pier to Westminster Pier. We saw Big Ben at Westminster Castle (known as Parliament to you non-history buffs – bet you didn’t know it used to be a Royal Residence, did ya?), and the usual stuff on that corner. I won’t bore you with pics of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey or Buckingham Palace. The following are just some fun pics of cool stuff we saw while running around this area London.
We walked The Mall, saw the Banqueting House where Charles I was beheaded, saw the back entrance to St. James Palace. The Banqueting house is the only building that remains of the original Whitehall Palace. It dates to Henry VIII but it has been renovated and modernized so many times, nothing truly remains of the original building. We did not do the tour. Maybe next trip.
Historical Note: The Queen may live at Buckingham Palace but St. James Palace is still her official court (and has been the official court since Henry VIII) so it’s secured from us riff-raff getting too close. At the time of our visit, Princes William and Harry (as well as the Duchess of Cambridge) were living there.
We found, quite by accident, a set of river stairs from, Whitehall. They were doing some digging and found them. They are tucked away behind the Department of Defense (or was it Ministry?) with just a little plaque. I was beyond THRILLED to discover it. If we hadn’t decided to take a short cut, we would have walked right passed and never known it was there. It was these little treasures I came to see.
We walked though the Horse Guard, the area they practice on today is the same field used for Tournaments and Jousting by Henry VIII. If you watched Kate and William’s wedding, we walked the exact route their car took except for a shortcut through St. James Park.
We continued on through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace, the big arch (as opposed to the two smaller ones), and I can’t remember what else we saw. We walked through Green Park. There are no flowers in Green Park. Charles II compared his mistress to the beauty of a flower while walking through it. His Queen (Catherine of Braganza) demanded that all flowers be removed from the park and it’s been just green ever since. There was so much!!! Lots of memorials and statues. I have tons of photos of those but they just don’t do the work justice. I high recommend seeing them in person.
Historical sidenote: Queens, New York is named for Queen Catherine of Braganza.
I have to tell you what happened at dinner that night though. Our waiter (different restaurant) asked where we were from. Upon hearing Minnesota, he asked “oh, the place where the roof collapsed from snow?” Jacki almost crawled under the table. It seems mocking the Vikings is a worldwide past-time.