Monday, July 20, 2009

European Tour 2009 - Day 5

Buckingham Palace

This particular day was a whirlwind. We had one day for London. I know it sounds crazy, and I don't necessarily recommend it. But we did it! We didn't see everything, but we were pretty efficient and tried to maximize our time even if it didn't always work out. Knowing that we needed to get as early a start as possible, our train from Manchester left around 5:50 a.m.

Eric and I waiting at the train station--and yes, it is 5:30 a.m. Our schedule was such that we needed every minute of the day.

We caught the train at Warrington Bank Quay

Dan and Tina on the train to London--I think they look quite chipper for such an early hour

We arrived at London's Euston Station around 8:00 a.m. We headed to our hotel. Even though we couldn't check in yet, they held our baggage for us. We were also able to enlist the help of the hotel's concierge in getting us tickets to see Wicked that night. He was also kind enough to inform us that we should plan to arrive at the theatre before 7:00 p.m., as the tube (subway) was striking that night at 7:00. Wow. A scheduled strike. That was news to us. He also told us how to find a bus back to the hotel. We found a nearby cafe and ate some breakfast. We had a bit of time to kill because our friendly concierge also informed us that the tube day pass is considerably cheaper if you buy it after 9:00. We made an attempt to walk to some sort of Dicken's Museum that didn't pan out before we needed to make our way to the King's Cross Station. We (and by "we" I mean mostly Eric) became quickly proficient in the reading of the subway map. We actually had to take a detour right off the bat because the Circle line was down. No problem. Our first stop was The Tower of London.

Our hotel is up on the left--the entrance is under the awning

This was a little "alley-way" near our hotel where we ate breakfast

King's Cross Station

The Tower Bridge

The Tower of London was pretty amazing. It was incredible to be surrounded by that much history. It's unfortunate that there is so much we couldn't take pictures of.

Tower of London

Another angle of the outer wall

Dan, Tina and Eric crossing the bridge to go within the walls

Inside the walls

Tina and I trying to figure out the audio tour--not terribly user friendly at this venue

The White Tower--the Henry VIII armor exhibit was housed here

This exhibit was amazing--a lot of armor and weaponry

A cannon

The White Tower

We saw signs like this a lot

This guard was outside The Waterloo Barracks where the Crown Jewels are housed

The memorial on the scaffold site

Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula

Queen's House--built by Henry VIII (well, not personally) for Anne Boleyn

Traitors Gate-those accused of treason would enter here

This was actually Sir Walter Raleigh's room in the Bloody Tower (the same tower in which the bones of the "two princes" were later found)

After leaving The Tower of London we headed towards Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. We were starving and I was dealing with a low blood sugar when we arrived. We had to walk around for an alarming amount of time before we found somewhere to eat! We finally found a little sandwich shop and we had a little picnic. We then walked to Westminster Abbey. The guys weren't sure they wanted to pay to see inside, but Tina and I were going with or without them. It turned out to be an amazing experience. We actually took the audio tour which was very informative. I think that Eric and Dan were both happy that we went inside--it ended up being one of Eric's favorite things we did in London.

The London Eye

Houses of Parliament

Eric and me at Houses of Parliament

A view of the Thames

Big Ben

Another view of Houses of Parliament

A front view of Houses of Parliament--there was a lot of security

Westminster Abbey

Entrance to Westminster Abbey

Another view of Westminster

After Westminster, we went to The British Museum. I really wanted to go there (partly because of Amelia Peabody--if you don't know who I'm referring to, you should find out). It was very interesting and there was a lot of cool stuff. It was very different from the art museums we later saw in Paris.

Outside The British Museum

In the Egyptian Section

Tina looking at a very interesting stone box

Egyptian hieroglyphics

Dan's head meeting a gigantic ancient fist (he was probably asking for it)

The Rosetta Stone--how cool is that?

A statue in the Greek section

We saw a lot of partial statues--heads and arms missing

After leaving The British Museum we went back to our hotel to clean up and get ready for Wicked. We had been going non-stop all day long and were already exhausted. We had a brief rest before we left again. We got on the tube and headed for Victoria Station. When we got on, the tube was pretty crowded. As we progressed through the various stops it became apparent that many people were getting on and no one was getting off. We were up close and personal with many people. It was a little unnerving. Okay, A LOT unnerving. It was a huge relief to finally get off. Most likely everyone was trying to get wherever they needed to go in anticipation of the strike. In retrospect it might have been worth a cab fare to avoid that mess.

Victoria Station is right across the street from the Wicked theatre. We still hadn't seen Buckingham Palace and it was nearby, so we ran over there and snapped a few photos. Before going in the theatre, we were once again on the hunt for something to eat. We just wanted a little something to tide us over while we watched the show. This is one of those times when I made a bad decision. Have you ever had a pasty?

Eric and me in front of Buckingham Palace

The Palace Gates

More Palace Gates

If you know me at all you know how much I HATE having my picture taken and I HATE HATE having it displayed anywhere. I have been a little braver with the vacation photos, but I still HATE HATE HATE posting a really bad photo of me. I am posting the above picture to warn any reader about the aforementioned pasties. I am what a person looks like after eating only part of one.

Dan and Tina's pasty was Italian style and slightly better than ours, thus the smiles

Eric, Tina and me in the theatre

The show was great, of course! I have seen it before (see here), but it was fun to see it again. Eric, Tina and Dan loved it too. After an extremely uncomfortable and crowded bus ride back to the hotel, we ended the night in search for a decent meal. No such luck. Everything was closed! Our final option was room service which would have cost us $5,000. Sadly I had to go to bed with a pasty sitting like a lump in my stomach! Overall, though, this was a fun-filled day. We saw and did so much.

Things I learned: LOTS of British history that has slowly seeped back out of my brain; I can hold my breath for a very long time while riding the tube with a million other people; some British food is really terrible; a strike can be scheduled and have a beginning and and ending time set; if you ask Dan to start cracking jokes, he will (this is sort of a warning); tennis shoes worn repeatedly for many day start to smell; I really don't need very much sleep.

Things we ate: various egg dishes for breakfast at a little cafe in London; sandwiches and salad and fruit for lunch; a nasty pasty for dinner; and some chocolate at the theatre.