Linda Urquhart

Sunday, October 16th blue skies, sun most of the day with clouds in late pm
Well we found the Hertz Car Return area, all is good, they cleared the car and then we took their shuttle back to Heathrow. Mileage was 10799 and we started at 6215, so we drove 4584 miles in 35 days! Took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. Had an easy transfer to the Underground (The Tube) and got to our Travelodge about 1pm. Got settled in , then took the tube to Victoria Station and got a bus tour for a 2 hour tour around London. Since we hadn’t seen a thing yet, it was awesome to see Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings and St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge and London Tower and Westminster Abbey. There was a big celebration at Trafalgar Square - a big religious holiday for people from India not sure if Hindi or Sike. They let off a big bunch of orange and green and white balloons as part of their celebration.
Here are the parliament buildings on the Thames:

And Big Ben:

And a neat building on the tour:

A London street:

A London street corner:

A pigeon on Nelson's monument:

A sculpture in Trafalgar Square:

Another monument:

A monument commemorating the Great London Fire:

Modern London

The Tower of London:

The London Eye:

The Prince of Wales theatre in Soho:

Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park:

After the tour we got off at Buckingham Palace to walk around,

liked the Victoria monument all lit up,

walked thru St James Park, then walked down to Piccadilly Circus, what a wild place that is - all the cinemas and theaters and nightclubs & restaurants & bars were open, many souvenir and fun shops as well. We enjoyed strolling among this throng of people.

Monday, October 17th foggy in the am but sunny pm about 65 degrees
Went to the Tower of London where we spent the whole morning. A beef-eater took us on a tour, very entertaining, giving stories of the blood and gore, the beheadings the tortures, etc. The Tower hs served as a a fortress, a royal residence and a prison.

The Bloody Tower:

Then we were on our own to wander around the place. We were very impressed with the Crown Jewels. The Tower has been the home of these jewels since the beginning of the 14th century. There is quite an exhibit and they have you on a moving walk so that you can’t take too much time gawking. Luckily there were fewer people there at this time of year so we could repeat the walk more than once to get a good look. Huge diamond!

The Fusilier's Museum,

The ravens ensure the continuation of the monarchy:

Our beefeater tour guide:

The knights room:

The knight's armour, everything is kept safe!!!

Exhibits of all the weaponry:

The Chapel Royal:

The site where the private beheadings took place:

The names of some of the more famous beheadings held here:

Sir Walter Raleigh's cell where he wrote his history of the world:

Next we started walking toward Big Ben but it was a much longer walk than we expected. Lo and behold we walked right up to St Paul’s Cathedral. It was well worth the price of admission. An absolutely gorgeous church, the most beautiful one that we have seen in all of our travels, beautiful gold wall coverings. There were 4 paintings by Sergei Chepik that were outstanding, Christ's Incarnation, His Ministry, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Very graphic but unforgettable. Wanted to take pictures of them but could not. Wandered around in the crypts, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington were buried there as well as many others, hundreds of years ago. It has stood here since 604 A.D. but was rebuilt many times, the curretn structure since 1710.

The dome is incredible.

Then we were too tired to walk anymore so we took the Tube to Westminster. Took pictures of Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings but the Westminster Abbey was closed at 3:30 and here it was 3:45.

Me and Brian in front of the Tower Bridge:

HMS Belfast, the WWII ship used by Eisenhower:

Big Ben

Parliament Buildings:

More Parliament Buildings:

Front of Westminster Abbey:

Back of Westminster Abbey:

The Dean's residence for Westminster Abbey:

Then we went to Buckingham palace for a few more pictures in nice weather.

Then walked thru Green Park where there was a grove of Canadian maple trees and a war monument honoring Canadian soldiers.

The went thru Hyde park looking for Princess Diana’s monument.

The parks here in London are so big. Hyde Park has a small lake running thru it called Serpentine Lake and there are ducks and swans all over.

After about an hour of walking (it’s a big park), we did find it. It was like it was described in the newspapers - very plain, a circle of concrete with water running from the top of the circle in 2 directions, and coming down the circle sides like rapids and small falls, like a babbling brook. That is what strikes you about it - the sound of the water - it is so serene and soothing. I felt emotional being there - had to touch the water for some unknown reason.

As we left Hyde Park, we found the monument to Prince Albert who was VIctoria's husband,

and across the street from the monument is Prince Albert Hall.

Then we got the tube down to Victoria Station to take the London At Night tour. We had about an hour to wait so we sat in Victoria Station watching the people running to and fro catching trains to probably just get home. It is a lot like Union Station in Toronto with GO trains. Very busy place. Then took our tour. It was just about the same as the day tour but the driver was a true Londoner -he called it being a cockney. He said that there are 9 and ½ million people living in Greater London but only 9,000 people live in London itself. He said that flats are being torn down and being replaced by businesses and banks. He was very entertaining but I was disappointed that our camera did not take good night pictures. It was beautiful to see London all lit up like it was.

Tuesday, October 18th beautiful day until 10:45pm then rained buckets
Got to Buckingham Palace in time for the changing of the guard. It was quite impressive, especially the Queen’s Honor Guard on horseback. They were really something with a lead bugler.

My cute bobby!

After that we took the tube back to Westminster Abbey. It was also quite amazing. It was founded in 960 AD as a Benedictine monestery and since the crowning of William the Conquerer here in 1066, the Abbey has been the nation's "Corontation church". It is also the burial and memorial place of numerous famous figures from the last one thousand years. There were tombs of many former kings like Edward I & II, Richard II, Queen Elizabeth I (1603) and her half sister Mary Tudor (1558). Also Mary Queen of Scots (1587). There was a section of poets like Dryden, Tennyson, Robert Browning, John Masefield, and writers like Johnson, Dickens, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy buried here. Some tombs from the 1200's. There is a war memorial to the Unknown soldier and memorials to Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and many others.

St. Margaret's Church beside Westminster, the parish church for the House of Commons.

By then my back was really starting to hurt (too much yesterday) so we took a tube to Piccadilly & bought tickets to see Woman in White later this evening. We had some time to kill so we walked down to Trafalgar Square & took some pictures, then sat on a bench and watched the throngs of people all over the place. It was very relaxing & enjoyable.

Victoria Arch at Trafalgar Square

Protesters across from the Parliament Buildings:

Winston Churchill facing the Parliament Buildings:

After dinner we walked around some more venturing into Soho till it was time to go to the theater. It was the Palace Theater built in 1892, very beautiful old theater. The play was an Andrew Lloyd Weber play based on a book written in the early 1800's by Wilke Collins - a very good drama/musical. I enjoyed the music very much. It was not as powerful and haunting like the Phantom of the Opera but it was very good. It did make me cry which does give it an overall thumbs up from me. A very nice last night in jolly old England. Nervous about the flight tomorrow but anxious also to get home.