So the next 2days are packed. There were a couple of time constraints here. First, Missy and Franklin were in London for only 2full days, so there were certain things that they wanted to fit in. Second, I had purchased the 3day London Pass, so - being the cheapskate that I am - I wanted to make sure to hit as many of the more expensive places when they were already paid for. And we're off!
But before that (I'm so good at linear story telling!), this is the morning I realized that my camera battery died... and would not charge. Therefore, most pictures from here on out are Franklin's... so if you like them, give him the credit. A few are mine as my camera would magically come to life for a picture here or there.
We started the rainy, wet, disgusting morning at Westminster Abbey. Well, we started it 30minutes before it opened so that we could be near the front of the line. As we waited got to see/hear Big Ben chime. [Did you know it is the bell not the clock tower that is named Big Ben?] Anyway, the Abbey, as I'm sure you can imagine, is gorgeous:
As if the outside isn't spectacular enough, there's much to attract interest on the inside as well. And if you watched the recent royal wedding it was especially neat to "place" what you saw on television there. I could have spent hours going in and out of all of the nooks-and-crannies (yes, like an English muffin) of that place, with all of the burial markers and sarcophagi (there are over 3300!). That's the thing with these places, what you get to see is all so fascinating that I can only imagine how enthralled I would be by the places you don't get to see. What's the crypt like? What's behind that closed door? What's the history of those places? I feel like there's so much more to be told by the spaces that aren't part of the "public." The places that I just can't go on the internet and read about. I returned often to these thoughts over the next few days.
We only had an hour in the Abbey before we had to book it to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. The ceremony takes place at 11:30am and all the books say to be there by 11:00am to get a decent vantage point, so we left at 10:30am to make the walk over. So what happens when we get there? Well for one, there are crowds, but it's not as densely packed as I would have expected. Hell, we could even walk straight up to the gate. Just to see the following sign:
Can't read the sign? NO GUARD CHANGING CEREMONY TODAY. What the hell?! Stop posting signs in front of palaces that hinder my plans! Probably because the Queen was still at Windsor. I should have known...
Being slightly ahead of schedule we then went to the Tower of London. Now, this is something I was really looking forward to. The executions! The torture! The Bloody Tower! The ghosts! [Pause for reflection: My fascination with historic death throughout these posts may be a bit concerning. Hmm.] Plus the Crown Jewels. [There, that's something normal.]
Once inside we saw the spot where Anne Boleyn was beheaded (a), where the bodies of 2murdered princes were found, Traitor's Gate (b), examples of torture devices, the Crown Jewels, some art that I want in my front yard (c), exhibits of armor and artillery, and Henry VIII's fat and over-compensating armor (d):
[Edited to add: I forgot to mention the sheer size of the vault (e.g., the Jewel House) in which the Crown Jewels are held. You quite literally walk into a multiple room exhibit the entirety of which is the vault. Walking in and out of the only 2entrances you see the massive vault doors which must be at least a foot thick. Hell, the whole Jewel House cost £14.5million. To be fair, the original Jewel House was built to withstand a nuclear attack, so I guess that scaled back... a bit.]
Once we'd spent a few hours there - though I know there was more to see, it's just so big - Franklin and I walked over to Tower Bridge. [Note: Up until planning this trip I always thought this bridge was London Bridge. London Bridge is comparatively unremarkable.]
My 2cents: They should not paint it such a ridiculous (for a bridge) color. Not only does it make the whole thing look somewhat toy-like, but it also shows how not-blue the Thames is. Gross. Anyway, Franklin and I climbed (well, took an elevator) to the top and later down to the engine rooms. It always amazes me when things like this can be built "so long ago." To be fair, the late 1800s isn't that old compared to other things in the city. Walking along the 2top bridges (141feet above the Thames) provided the first birds-eye views of the city. And an added bonus was that you could feel the whole thing shake - especially when standing in the middle - when a large vehicle passed. I love things like that.
Franklin and I, on our walk back to Missy at the Tower, bought the most delicious smelling peanuts. I'm not even going to attempt to describe them, but it was almost as if smell waves (with hands!) grabbed our noses and drew us to them, like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. And yes, I'm pretty sure that's the scientific way in which olfaction works.
That night, M & F were off doing their own thing, so I decided to go see a movie at Curzon Mayfair. Both of the guidebooks I'd referenced pointed out that it was worth a stop at this "historic art house," and it was covered by my London Pass... so off I went. I saw Love Like Poison, simply because it was starting near my arrival. It was... good? I'm still not sure. The only true review I can give of it was that it was French. Very, very French. The theater itself was nice, with comfy chairs, a bar, and not at all commercial. So win.
All June 6 photos:
Up next: Guards and cathedrals.