Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Adventures in London - Day 7 - A Day of Excellence!


Hello from London!  Land of Buses, Beatles, and Brollies!

(still not sure what a brolly is, but apparently they're here.)

Husband had planned a full Day of Excellence for us, and despite my cold I sprang from bed, ready to take on the day and soak up as much English culture as possible.

We began with the quintessential British residence: Buckingham Palace!




I wanted to take a tour, but the queues were quite long, and Husband assured me that our time would be well-spent elsewhere today.

(I'm so glad I agreed!)


We trotted through Green Park, passing the Canada Gate and Canada Memorial (I thought Canada was still around, eh?), and then we found the Royal Band passing by Kensington Park!




They sounded so BRITISH!  And they set a song in my fluttering heart, so I hummed "Tuppence A Bag" to myself as we meandered through the next stop on our tour: walking through Kensington Park, which is full of BIRDS!




(a white swan AND a black swan!) 


As we crossed the park, we drew nearer to this World War I memorial and the War Cabinet.


 

We walked through the plaza and under that central archway.  Little did I know where we were headed next!


Though I stopped on the way to take another Gratuitous Tourist Photo:


Yes, I needed to be That Tourist for at least 30 seconds of our trip.  But LOOK what was across the street!


Yes, we got there at 12 noon on the dot!  Is Husband a good planner, or what?  

(I kind of think he lucked out on this one.)

A couple of people warned me beforehand that Big Ben was not quite as big in person, compared to the portrayals in films and postcards.  However, I didn't think Big Ben was misnamed at all - especially when it started striking twelve.  Those chimes are DEEP.

Right around Big Ben were several famous places: Parliament, the Jewel Tower, and Westminster Abbey.  

 

We didn't enter Parliament, but we did tour the Jewel Tower (right), which was built in the 1300s to house the crown jewels of England.  Now THAT's a sturdy building!

Then Husband and I toured Westminster Abbey, where thousands of distinguished people are buried and memorialized.  Everyone from King Henry VIII and Charles Darwin to the plumber of the church way back in the day (I'm serious).  It is a solemn place, though; full of remembrances to those departed, and full of peace.  Westminster Abbey is an oddly restful place, and we left feeling very... reflective.  

We were not permitted to take pictures inside, but here's the beautiful exterior.



By this time, Husband and I were ready for lunch - but we didn't know where to go!  We stopped off the Underground to see the London Monument, built to commemorate the Great Fire of 1666:


and while we were wandering, we found this excellent English pub, themed around Lewis Carroll!


It was charming, quirky, and full of locals taking late lunch breaks.  Husband and I got sandwiches and chips (fries, AGAIN with Heinz Ketchup!), and we shared a bit of delicious organic cider.

Our next stop was one of the biggest highlights of the entire trip for me.  If you ever go to London, DO NOT MISS St. Paul's Cathedral.



Again, we could unfortunately not take pictures inside.  But maybe that's for the best.  The interior of St. Paul's is like what everyone says the Grand Canyon is like; you just have to see it in person and take it all in.  St. Paul's is, in a word, sacred.  The arched ceilings and the central dome are covered in mosaics of tiny tiles and gilded.  Words from one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 150, adorn the curved corners around the altar.  The most incredible, inimitable part of St. Paul's, though, is just the feeling you get from standing in this beautiful, majestic, holy place.  I could have stayed there for hours, if not days.  Honestly, I could have moved in.


However, there was still more to see.


The Tower of London!

This complex contains some of the most pivotal artifacts and sites of British history in existence.  The Crown Jewels are kept here.  Royal traitors were imprisoned, even beheaded here.  It's a place steeped in history.  And they even let us take pictures inside!

These statues are actually constructed of chain mail! 

"The Traitors' Gate," a portcullis that could be raised to allow a small barge through, carrying the condemned prisoner.  Anne Boleyn arrived for her execution through this very portal.  

The White Tower is now a museum of British artifacts, like royal arms and suits of armor. 

This is one of the famous ravens of the Tower of London.  According to legend, if the ravens all leave, the tower will fall.  Well, you can't really tell from this picture, but I think the plan is to keep the ravens so fattened up that they can't leave!

This is St. John's Chapel inside the White Tower.  Simple, elegant, and calm.

The Crown Jewels were breathtaking (we saw diamonds the size of chicken eggs, and a golden soup tureen the size of a bathtub), but we couldn't photograph inside for security reasons.  Add this spot to your London bucket list, though!

Right by the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge (which many people mistakenly refer to as the London Bridge):

Then Husband led me past the bridge to a surprise location for dinner.  Can you guess?


The Dickens Inn!  This huge restaurant was originally an inn, owned by Charles Dickens' grandson.  O, History!

But, alas.


Seriously, London?!

But fortunately, I realized before we left in defeat that the grill was not actually CLOSED -- it just had closed between lunch and dinner.  So Husband and I happily waited outside by the docks, looking over my book about the Crown Jewels, until the Dickens Inn grill officially opened for the evening.


The food was delicious -- you might even call it "Food, Glorious Food" -- and we had the best view from the window!


After we had finished dinner, we walked along the river past the bridge and the Tower once more, before hopping on the metro.



London, you certainly were a whirlwind, but what a wonderful whirlwind you were!  I can't wait to go back!

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