Thursday, April 11, 2013

London - Day Two

London - Day Two.  After we finally had a good nights sleep - (I realized we had been awake more like 48 hours, not 24), we headed out for a bus tour of London.  This was very welcome as we had walked quite a bit the day before.  It was nice to be inside a warm bus, SITTING, and also be able to learn SOO much about everything we were seeing.  Our tour guide Marianna at Explorica, was absolutely FABULOUS! She has been traveling the world since she was 15 - spoke five or six different languages, knew everything about everything, but was so kind and gentle and loving, and really knew how to make the most of every experience - she was also our warrior when things got tricky (so many stories to come!).  You can see our hotel out the bus window - The Jurys Inn. 
  We all had a good chuckle over this London McDonalds - haha!
 The iconic red double decker  buses, advertising what else - Harry Potter! Getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road - that was very disorienting.
 Most of the homes inside the city looked like these.
 And all the children rode on scooters alongside their parents.  That's brilliant - bloody brilliant! :)  You would often see the kids just standing on their scooter while the parent had a hand on their back to just scoot them along when they were a little too tired.

 In the older historic areas of London, you could see where the very affluent once lived in their townhouses. These "townhouses" take up entire city blocks and staffed hundreds of people.  Made me think of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs.
 This picture above is what used to be a "personal mall" of sorts.  The rich homeowners apparently got tired of replacing their wives dresses every day when they went out shopping and soiled the bottoms of their dresses on the streets of London.  So they had these private shopping malls built for their wives that allowed them to shop indoors and stop ruining their dresses - ha! First world problems.....
 another private shopping mall (not so private anymore)
 See that little tiny shop? That is the original Twinings Tea Shop - I can't remember how old she said it was, but how cute is that?  I took all these pictures through the bus window, so sorry about all the reflections and not so sharp images.
 The Royal Courts of Justice
 Ahhhh - loved the Tower  Bridge - apparently not London Bridge.  That was dismantled and shipped to America and now stands in Arizona somewhere.
 One of the most exciting parts of this day was seeing all the places that JK Rowling, not so long ago, wrote all the Harry Potter books.  I'm sure you know the story of how she couldn't even afford to heat her home so she would take her baby and ride around on the double decker buses, or sit inside coffee shops and write her stories - sometimes even on napkins.  Well, apparently this statue of a dragon was one of her main sources of inspiration as she drove by it repeatedly on the bus - so cool!

 The part of town where we got off the bus to explore a bit around the Tower Bridge was surprisingly very modern.

 Love this modern foot bridge - but can't remember the name of it.  See it way back there in the distance?

 The more modern side of London - this is just left of the view of the Tower Bridge.
 and this was the view behind us while looking at the bridge

 Apparently some of us were more thrilled than others at this moment - Megan?
 we found this open gutter very interesting, it was only about six inches deep, but ran right through this open walking area - one of the things I embraced about Europe was their no-nonsense attitude towards common sense.  Like with driving - anything goes as long as it makes sense.  In America someone would sue the city once a day because they tripped in this gutter.
 The iconic Eye of London
House of Parliament as we crossed the bridge.

 Westminster Abbey
 side entrance to the Abbey

 This was inside a smaller chapel just off Westminster Abbey

 the ever famous Big Ben - as we were touring this area, I kept hearing inside my head all the little songs from memory period that our kids sang so long ago about Europe "The British Isles, the British Isles - in the Atlantic across the channel from France - bagpipes, the Beatles and Big Ben are found in the British Isles. The British Isles, the British Isles - in the Atlantic across the channel from France - Edinburgh, Scotland and Loch Lomond are found in the British Isles. The United Kingdom is Northern Ireland and England and Scotland and Wales governed by the Houses of Parliament in the capital - London."
 The Houses of Parliament just across the street from Westminster Abbey.
  See that helicopter in the picture? We had noticed before we got off the bus a motorcage with police escorts driving off in the distance, and then there were two helicopters hovering around the area for quite a while....... keep that in mind until you scroll further down... :)
the twins and their fabulous Momma T!

 Kirky checking out the helicopters....

 Next we made our way over to Buckingham Palace.  So amazing to remember the recent wedding of Prince William and Kate - and to see that famous balcony!

 a royal wave!

 see those gates starting to open back there in the background?  suddenly everyone started running over in that direction - apparently someone "royal" was entering the palace!
 The motorcage and other vehicles entering into the palace gates... wonder who it was? Now that probably explained the helicopters! As soon as they arrived at the palace, the helicopters took off in the other direction.  We know it wasn't the queen because of the flag that was flying over the palace that signals whether or not she is there.
 The famous guards did certain marches as they entered...
Kir was able to get a pretty good view of the vehicles.
 Then we headed out of town to go and explore Windsor Castle. The London countryside was beautiful.

 from this view of the castle, you can look straight down on a school, with a little playground - this was where Prince William and Price Harry went to grade school.

 Haha - Joanne tried to have a serious British guard face.

 the little shops across from the castle were so nice - we found one that had a (very expensive) Princess Di line of clothing - so pretty!

 London roosting pigeons - they were huge!
 back in town for a delicious dinner..
 at this restaurant - can't quite remember the name of it...
 and then we enjoyed Wicked in London! What a fabulous show, and it was all the better hearing it with British accents!
Coming up next - Paris!


Caseybumpinalong said...

Amazing photos! Enjoying your tour!

LittleInsect said...

Glad you liked London and Windsor! The footbridge that you couldn't name, is the Millenium Bridge. They had to alter it quite a lot just after it oopened, as, if too many people were walking over it, it started to sway quite alarmingly! Even though it was actually perfectly safe.

LittleInsect said...

Oh, and the dragon you photographed? There are actually several of them, and they mark the perimeter of the City of London - which is the smallest city in the world, being just one square mile.

What most people know as London, is actually comprised of The City of London, the City of Westminster, the City of Southwark, and several other places that have merged together into one conurbation called simply, London