I had this morning to myself, so I decided to go back to the Buckingham Palace area. Though my camera was still not charging, it did spring to life long enough to take the following picture:
That's in St. James' Park, with my back to Buckingham. Every time I look at this view I can't imagine that the year is 2011. It's like being transported back a few centuries; there's not even a hint of a modern skyline. I love it.
I next went to the Guards Museum, which explains everything you ever needed to know about the five regiments of the Queen's Guards. I mostly went because I knew my brother would appreciate it. Highlights while there: Trying on one of the huge bearskin hats (Gah! No camera!) and getting the "inside scoop" on that day's changing of the guard. I wasn't going to stick around for it, but was told I could go to the Wellington Barracks next door and see the Welsh Guard prepare for the ceremony. Lining up right along the fence I saw one regiment/battalion/group-o-guards and a band, all lined-up for inspection. That's a serious time commitment every morning. Dayum. Once approved the band started playing some song... I don't remember the exact ones, but they were things like "Stairway to Heaven" or The Beatles or some contemporary pop something. Things you wouldn't expect from a bunch of guards wearing big furry hats. So fun.
As that started to draw a crowd I decided to walk away from Buckingham Palace to the Royal Mews, where they house/train the Queen's horses and carriages. Well, I guess they don't train the carriages... Anyway, saw a few horses in stalls, some being ridden in the Equine School (this is where the horses are trained and most royalty learn to ride), the coach Princess Diana rode in to her wedding (among others), and the Gold State Coach (used in coronations). That last one? Whoa. Ornate. And heavy. It takes something like 8horses to pull AND just to get it out of the building they have to take down a wall, which takes 2days. Serious business.
I was then off to meet Missy and Franklin at the Tate Modern where we saw some Picasso, Monet, Pollock, and Matisse.
Next up was walking across the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral:
The story goes that the Queen opened the bridge on a Sunday and the police closed it on a Monday. Apparently, it was so unstable and swayed so much that people were getting seasick. It took years and millions of £ to stabilize it.
As an aside, Franklin seems to really like taking pictures (understatement!). As such, Missy has learned to just "keep going" rather than stop and wait every time Franklin wants to get a shot. It would just take too long, plus he always catches up. However, this meant that we sometimes lost Franklin for a moment. And just to illustrate how far back he sometimes was, take a look at this:
Once inside the cathedral we split up to do it at our own paces. Just like in Westminster Abbey, I was fascinated. While there were fewer "English Muffin" areas here (sad face), you can go into the crypt (happy face). The highlight was, undoubtedly, climbing to the top of the dome. I remember when I was in Rome with my mom (and church), back when I was 13, I couldn't climb up St. Peter's dome because my mom is afraid of heights. This was my time! You start by climbing up 257steps to get to the interior Whispering Gallery:
This is one of those cool acoustic places where you can hear conversations, as if whispers, spoken from the opposite side of the gallery. Getting here wasn't much of a commitment - you can turn around at any point. To go up to the first exterior landing, however, you need to be committed. There is no turning around. You go up one tight, steep, circular, stone stairway that is so narrow 2people cannot possibly pass each other. A mere (hah!) 119 steps later you are there. And the legs are burning by this point. Luckily there were benches to rest on at the various landings within the stairwell. Once I walked around and got an almost 360degree view of the city, I decided to go up to the final level. Again, once going up you're committed. Now, I've never considered myself to be scared of heights, but I was feeling some serious anxiety here. To illustrate what these final 152steps were like, I want you took look at this:
The stairs shook slightly and you could see all of this open space around you (including DOWN). To top it all off you couldn't touch the wall just to remind yourself that there was something stable and solid there. Ugh... I have never felt like that before. Did not like. But like I said, once you start, you can't stop. The sweet relief of reaching the top (I wasn't scared once up there, it was just getting there that sucked) was well worth it. I obviously don't have visual proof of it, but here an illustrated version of where I was on those final levels:
And then it was time to come down, which sucked just as much as going up, if not more because gravity was aiding you, thus increasing the chances of a death-plummet. And when doing 278feet of 3winding staircases in a row (even if they each got progressively "better"), you actually get quite dizzy with some skewed depth perception. Despite all of that: Awesome.
Right in this area, next to Tate Modern, is a replica of Shakespeare's Globe. I walked back over to take a closer look, but it was unfortunately closed to tours due to a performance. Sorry, mom.
I then went over to Harrods... not to buy anything mind you, but just to see how gargantuan it is. I rode the Egyptian Escalator from top to bottom and went into a few of the departments. The place is just ridiculous. I was apparently there the same time as M & F, but the place is 4.5acres across 7floors, so no surprise that we didn't see each other.
We then met up at the London Eye. Though I was initially hesitant at the price for just a 30minute ride, the views made up for it. Not that this is a shot from above, but I am particularly in love with this shot of Franklin's:
For dinner, we went to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub Missy's friend had recommended, which also happened to be in my guidebook. Couldn't go wrong! They brew their own beer, so they have that going for them, and I was able to get my fish-n-chips meal. They rebuilt in 1667 after the Great Fire, and have since been open during the reign of 15sovereigns. That's endurance.
I said goodbye to M & F, who were off to Paris the next day, and my day officially ended there. But I would like to recap - because I love saving money - how economical the 3day London Pass was. I bought the thing, with international shipping, for £69.85. It got me into £107.70 worth of places, for a savings of £37.85. That's approximately $61.50. WIN.
All June 7 photos:
Thanks again to Franklin for sharing his pictures!
Up next: Stonehenge and Bath.
Up next: Stonehenge and Bath.