Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 4 - London (last full day)

Today is our last full day in London before we head to Paris.  We are sad to be leaving already - so much more to see and do!  We are definitely going to have to return to do the things we just don't have time for.

Today was another packed day.  We saw Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Tour de France, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, Shakespear's globe theater, Millennium bridge.....very busy.  Kids fell asleep quickly tonight!

We were off to an early start this morning taking the subway (which we have become very comfortable with) to the Piccadilly Circus area.  No - this is not a is an area of London not far from Trafalgar's Square.  And it reminds us a lot of Broadway in New York City - just on a smaller scale.  We took in the sites shortly before heading over to Trafalgar Square.  We knew we were going to run into some obstacles today because the Tour de France was coming through.  But we worked through it.

Trafalgar was all set up for the tour.  They started blocking the roads off at 9am.  We heard several locals complaining about this because the tour wasn't due to come in until 3:30pm that afternoon.  I had to agree, but my guess is - this was the only way they could do it.  Trafalgar was all set up for you to watch the tour on a big screen starting at 12pm.  And then it was to come right past the square later that afternoon.  They had food booths, music, shops.....the whole nine yards.  It was pretty cool.

We didn't stay there long and then made our way down to Buckingham Palace.  We wanted to see the changing of the guard which was to take place at 11:30am.  It was a bit of a walk - but we were entertained with Tour de France stuff the entire way.  We got to the palace at 11:15 and it was jammed full of people.  But we quickly found a spot where we could easily watch the changing of the guard.  We waited.....and waited...and soon it was 11:45.  Hmmmmmm.  Finally a police man came out and said "sorry - no changing of the guard today".  BUMMER.  Our first hiccup.  Our guess was it was because of the tour (which ended at the Palace and it was just a mess down there with Tour stuff).  Oh well.

So - with that plan foiled, we decided to head on to Tower of London.  We ate lunch at a small cafe right out of the Tower, and then went in.  We stayed there for over 3 hours - lots to see.  This structure was built in the 1100's, so it was cool to walk around a place so old.  The prize of this stop, though, was seeing the Crown Jewels.  We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside (and it is heavily guarded) but it was quite the sight.  The girls, especially, were in to seeing the million dollar crowns and staff.  There were crowns in there that dated back to the 1600s.  Pretty impressive how well the were preserved.

While we were at the Tower of London is when the Tour de France came right past.  Now - I couldn't get anywhere close to the front of the watchers (it had been jammed since 10am), but I could see them ride by from a high spot in the Tower of London.  So I did see it!  And tried to take pictures.  But they were really moving fast, that you will need a magnifying glass to see the heads of the riders.  Amazingly fast.  They were gone in less than a few minutes after all the prep the city had done all day.  Hysterical.  What did follow the riders were cars and cars (and cars and cars) of bikes.  Just 100's of them.  Crazy.

After that fun, we headed over to the Tower Bridge.  We had tickets for this, and this was our second hiccup of the day.  Sigh.  We could walk onto the bridge, but could not go up because the elevator was broken down so they had to shut down the operation.  Of course.  But - our tickets are good for any day, so we are going to try and go back the Monday we are here next week before we have to fly home on Tuesday.  The bridge itself was very, very cool.  As a reference, it is the bridge that they put the Olympic Rings on a few years ago when they hosted.  Huge bridge.  Finley hated it.

Since that was a bust, we decided to head down to Millennium bridge (which, for you Harry Potter fans is the bridge the Death Eaters blow up during one of the films).  When we got off the subway, we came out by St. Paul's Cathedral.  This wasn't on our plan for today, but my goodness are we glad we stumbled upon it.  St. Paul's Cathedral is the Mother Church of London.  This thing was a monster in size.  Just - you can't believe it and a picture could never capture it's size.  For my family - you know St. Patrick's in NYC?  I think you could put about a dozen of them inside this church and still have room.  CRAZY big.  Way to keep it modest, Catholics. :)

We weren't allowed to take pictures inside but it was beautiful.  They were having a small service and a choir singing so we stayed and listened for awhile.  Because it wasn't a Sunday service, you could still walk around and look at everything.  It was very impressive.

We walked across Millenium bridge (which Finley hated) and went to dinner over near the Shakespeare Globe theater.  It would be REALLY cool to see a play in there - but right now they are showing Julius Ceasar.  Not really kid material.  We hate dinner at a cute restaurant right next to the theater.  This is the second place we have eaten that has "communal" seating - where you sit with strangers at these long tables.  It is pretty cool, and no one seems to think it strange.  (except us).

After dinner, we were tired, so we headed home to pack.  And now we are getting ready to turn in because tomorrow morning we leave on the EuroStar for Paris.  Finley is so excited she can hardly stand it.

A few things about London (although if I took the time, I could come up with more)
1) they smoke.....a LOT.  a lot, a lot.  90% of the population has to have lung cancer.  It is crazy.
2) they don't put ice in any drinks unless you ask.  Even water.  It is......interesting.  Cool, but not cold drinks everywhere
3) I have watched several people eat a hamburger with a knife and fork - cutting it into small pieces and eating it like a salad.  What in the world is that about?
4) most everyone knows they drive on the left side of the rode and the steering wheel in the cars are on the right.  This blew the kids minds.  They also tend to walk up and down on the left side of the stairs - which we never really got used to.  We were always running into people.
5) The toilets are similar to ours - just smaller in size.  Surprised us the first time we saw them.
6) they call french fries "chips" which the kids could not get over.
7) cars don't stop for anyone.  I mean - NO ONE.  You are in the road, you are either flat or getting honked at.  There is no waiting.  Kind of like NYC......
8) the traffic lights are similar - go from green, to yellow to red.  BUT - before they turn green - they go from red to YELLOW and then green.  Pretty neat.

Here are the pictures from today.  I put the Tour de France pictures all together at the bottom just for my parents because I know they would have loved to have seen that today!  Enjoy!

Piccadilly Circus:

 What the Subway stops look like throughout the city:

 Florence Nightingale!

 statue in Piccadilly Square:
 St. James park:
 Trafalgar Square:

 The Square was jammed with race stuff:

 Entrance to the Mall - which leads to Buckingham Palace:

 Buckingham Palace.  Mat and I wonder who polishes this statue.  It was gleaming:

 I want these gates at our house:

 The Shard.  Mat loves this building - he keeps taking pictures of it::

 No idea what this is - just liked it:
 Tour of London:

 This is where they keep the Crown Jewels:
 White tower - the original tower in the Tower of London area:

 Guard at the Tower of London.
 And the Shard again.  Mat thought it was interesting that you could see this very new building next to the building that is almost 1000 years old:
 A peak of the Tower Bridge from the Tower of London:
 The kids all tried on a helmet which would have been worn to guard the tower.  They said it was really heavy:

 Cool looking building we could see from the Tower of London.  Looks like an Egg:
 This is Walter Reighley's desk.  He was a bit of a trouble maker.  He was arrested 3 times and then eventually beheaded.  BUT - while he was in prison.....he had it pretty good:
 Tower Bridge:

 St. Paul's Cathedral:

 Sitting on the Cathedral stairs:
 The front of the cathedral:

 Tower Bridge (in the distance), London Bridge, and the Shard:
 Millennium Bridge:

 Shakespeare Globe Theater:

 Yes, I am on this vacation and still alive:
 Dinner at the Swan:

 This is the subway stop closest to our apartment:

Here are the pictures from the Tour De France:
These guys in Yellow were all over the city
 Signs up in Trafalgar Square:

 Tour stuff at Trafalgar:
 These volunteers traveled in hoards:
 The bikes road through here to the finish line in front of the Palace:

 So much stuff!!

One of the stages:
 Big grass area where you could watch the tour on the big screen:
 I took this picture around 10am - 6 hours before the tour would come past this spot and people were already camped out:
 At regular intervals these little bike groups would ride through with a car or two with them.  No idea who they were:
 A group of people waiting for the tour.  This is around 2pm.  It is 10 people deep at least and this is not the finish line:
 If you look REALLY REALLY close you can see the bikers helmets in the corner on the left.  They went by so fast, andI was just too far away:
 See there helmets there?  These are the front riders:

 Then came the hoards and hoards of cars with bikes on top:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting!

Thank you for sharing :)

Take care!