We took today to go to the National Portrait Gallery as Cynthia wanted to see the Tudor and Elizabethan portraits. You see these paintings all the time in various context but seeing them in person is quite remarkable.
From there we decided to go to Fortnam and Mason to have high tea. When we got there it was still closed and they would not open till noon. We did notice that there were barricades up for the New Years Day parade so we decided to watch part of that as it was only about an hour away.
Interestingly enough, most of the marching bands were from Texas.
There were bands from Austin and Dallas as well.
There were also some London specific entries to the parade
We stayed and watched the parade for about an hour before deciding it was too cold and headed inside of Fortnam and Mason to experience high tea.
We enjoyed a nice tea and a tray of finger sandwiches and made our way back to the hotel to pack. Tonight we had our going away dinner and are preparing to come home.
It has been a wonderful trip to London.
Today our plan was to go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We got there early and staked out a great spot for watching the ceremony.
One of the reasons we had a good spot for viewing the ceremony is due to the fact that we met a remarkable man who was also there to see the changing of the guard. His name is Michael and he is 80 years old and was one of the children evacuated during the blitz in WWII.
He was a wealth of information about the war, the crown and London in general. After the ceremony he invited us to a pub to have a drink and then proceeded to walk with us all around Westminster. He showed us many things and told us many stories as we walked and talked for hours.
After we finished our specially guided mini-tour with this amazing man we found our way back to the hotel to freshen up, get some dinner and prepare for the evening’s festivities.
Though we are not usually the type of people who go out on new years eve, we had managed to secure tickets to attend the The Mayor of London’s NYE 2014 Fireworks which takes place on the Thames River. Since they had limited ticket sales to 100,000 we felt that it might not be TOO crowded to go down and ring in the new year with a mass of London revellers. It really turned out quite well. It felt safe and the people were so fun and friendly. We met up with our friends Michael and Katrina and rang in the new year in amazing style. The fireworks display was one of the best I have ever seen in my life. Words can’t even describe what it was like to stand there and have the London Eye erupt right before your eyes.
Fortunately our hotel is not too far from the site where the celebration was held so we were able to walk home after the event rather than have to try and crowd into the subway or find a cab.
What a fantastic day! Tomorrow is our last full day and we will likely take it easy as we get ready to come home.
Things are truly winding down now. We’re taking it easy in hopes that if we save our energy we might be able to stay up tomorrow night and join in the new years eve celebrations which include a huge fireworks display at midnight over the London Eye.
We spent the morning just trundling around along the North Bank. Nothing much to report for today’s adventures so here’s some photos of Cynthia and me wearing the London Eye like a sombrero.
Another great day of sunshine. Cynthia had said she wanted to climb to the top of St. Paul’s while in London so we made our way to the cathedral after breakfast. We explored the cathedral (no photography allowed inside} and, knowing I could never make the climb, Cynthia headed up the 528 steps to the very top while I took the opportunity to do some photography down by the river.
We had arranged to meet up on the Millennium Bridge once Cynthia had finished her climb so we could go exploring some more of London.
We made our way to see St. Bride’s Church
We also walked down Fleet Street to see the art deco buildings. I wanted to see the street that was the home of British national newspapers until the 1980s
It was an interesting walk that took us to the house where Dr. Samuel Johnson lived and where were told we could find the statue to his beloved cat, Hodge.
After walking around all day I wanted to get a photo of Battersea Station, the power station many of us know from the cover of the Pink Floyd “Animals” album. Unfortunately, the building is undergoing major restoration as it is being turned into a living and shopping space.
All in all, though, a good day.
Another bright, beautiful day in London. Temps are in the upper 30’s so it’s quite brisk. We had intended to go to St. Paul’s today, but it’s only open for services on Sunday so perhaps tomorrow.
Today we took advantage of the weather and took a spin on The London Eye. It’s a bit pricey for a 30 minute ride, but the views are spectacular.
From there we made our way to The British Library via King’s Cross Station.
No photography allowed at The British Library, sadly, as there are some very cool exhibits there including a Gutenberg Bible and some original hand-written Beatles song lyrics. We even got to see an inverted Jenny in the philately exhibit.
After that we just enjoyed some more walking about and taking in the sites before heading back to the hotel.
I should note that subway travel has been complicated as the Central and District lines are not running while they undergo maintenance.
Temperature is dropping on London. Down in the low 30’s and the room has a slight draft. Last night we found the space heater. It made the room very comfortable but Cynthia was worried about it being a fire hazard so she had me switch it off when we went to sleep. The about 1 in the morning she woke me up to turn it back on.
Our commuting has been slightly disrupted due to the closure of the Central and District subway lines. These are the primary east/west lines and hit many of the spots we like to visit. Navigating around these closures has been challenging but not insurmountable.
Today we went to the Imperial War Museum. This is a fantastic space and we spend most or our day there exploring. We particularly enjoyed the First World War Galleries exhibit. Very powerful and informative.
We spent the rest of our day wandering around the parks and visiting with the birds
Tomorrow’s forecast is for sun so we plan on going to St. Pauls so Cynthia can climb to the top and also to ride the London Eye.
It’s Boxing Day. Most all the museums and other sites are closed. The Tube is running a reduced schedule and it’s cold and overcast. We made the trek out to see the replica blue police box because we are somewhat nerdy about Dr. Who and on our way back we took a peek at the Harrods window displays. After a nice Indian meal for lunch we decided to take it pack it on and take it easy for the rest of the day so we could catch up on some photo editing and post card writing.
If we get inspired we may go out tonight, but I am not counting on it.
Today was Christmas day and we had a very low key agenda planned. The hotel is minimally staffed so the breakfast was continental rather than full English. The tables in the breakfast room had Christmas crackers placed at each of the seats so we got to experience that English Christmas tradition. You pull the cracker like like a wishbone and it pops and inside is a small toy, a Christmas crown and a bad joke.
After breakfast we decided to go for a walk. It was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and blue skies so we wandered around Hyde Park.
From there we found our way to The Grazing Goat where we had reservations for a traditional Christmas dinner. It was a very festive and delicious experience. I had Venison Wellington and Cynthia has a more traditional turkey dish. Again we had crackers and we decided to wear our Christmas hats for the entire meal.
We met a lovely couple from Edinburgh who were in London for the holidays and we had a very nice time sharing travel stories and generally carrying on. At the end of the dinner we had a traditional Christmas pudding for dessert and then found our way back to the hotel. Unfortunately the subways don’t run on Christmas so we had to walk. Fortunately the weather was still fantastic so it was fine.
We wrapped up the day by watching the Queen’s speech on BBC 1 and the Dr. Who Christmas Special. All in all, a very merry Christmas.