… Or so it felt.
London is the home of the 2012 Olympics, and as a result they’re trying to improve the city’s infrastructure. While that’s great for them, what it meant for me is that the three lines that went from the stop where I was staying, to the stop where I was meeting my friends, weren’t running.
After a walking detour to a different line I came out of the tube at Embarkment station. It was a lovely walk down The Thames from there to the Westminster tube. I walked past Whitehall palace, the back side of the castle was quite impressive. I didn’t realize as I was walking by that the queen and was celebrating the presentation of colors on the other side of the building at that very moment. The significance of this I will go into more later.
Somehow three people without cellphones managed to find each other at the Westminster tube station. A miracle if you think about it. From there the view of Big Ben is ideal. While I’ve seen that building hundreds of times on tv and movies (insert obligatory “look kids, Big Ben, Parliament” joke *here*, lord knows we said it enough while we were there.) It is impossibly more ornate in person. The intricacies of the building design are stunning.
We walked over to Westminster Abbey but the lines were too long so we did not go in. That building is also quite stunning. I was a bit down about not getting inside after seeing how beautiful it was from the Royal Wedding photos. I didn’t watch the ceremony I swear! … But I did look at the pictures, how could you not?! But as I said, the line was ridiculously long and our day ended up quite full in the long run so it was no loss.
We walked around the Abbey, most of the buildings surrounding it were impressive as well. When we got back to the front of the building we walked towards Parliament.
This was the first of many times I struggled with the sun. It seemed like every time I went to take a photo, the sun was directly behind whatever the desired subject was.
We went through a park and came across this little pavilion. There was a couple taking wedding photographs in front of it with bubbles and the whole works.
After that we headed towards the Thames. We walked across at one of the many bridges. From here you can see the Eye and Big Ben.
Walking down the river walk there were these very elaborate lamp posts with fish sculpted into the bottom.
Even the benches had swans carved into their arms.
Many more photographs of Big Ben and Parliament later….
We got to the Eye. While we wanted to go on the world renowned Ferris Wheel, the line once again was too long. So we passed it up and moved on to the next site.
On the walk down to the next bridge back over the river we walked through the street performers. While NYC is home to many different types of performers, I’ve never seen anything on this scale. We watched this one group of men contort themselves in a fantastic circus act.
From here I got a great shot of the back side of Whitehall palace.
Halfway through the walk down the boardwalk we saw 3 copters flyby overhead. Then a bit later we saw 4 planes (all of which antique) fly overhead. By now we realized this must be part of the queen’s celebration. I got my camera out and got a picture of the next set of planes (but I couldn’t tell you what they were).
Four jets followed in this formation.
Finally nine more jets flew by with red, white and blue streamers coming out of their jets. I somehow managed to get this fantastic shot as they went by. I don’t think I could have done better had I tried.
Then while walking up to the bridge we found another act where a man was going to hit a “nail” through a little boy’s hand. While his mother kept trying to assure him that it was all part of an act, the boy was genuinely terrified and ended up not going through with it.
The bridge itself was quite photogenic. I had thought this was the bridge that the Death Eaters blew up in the 6th Harry Potter but now that I am watching the movie (on the flight home) I realize that was not the case.
A few more photos of Big Ben and the eye later…
…We were headed to our next stop, Trafalger Square.
While we were wondering around we found statues of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I found that kind of amusing as the former was the one to liberate America from the British. I guess they’re not the type to hold a grudge. Lincoln was down by Westminster Abbey, but GW was in the square.
There is also a countdown clock to the 2012 Olympics. A bit of a ways off still as you can see.
There was an anti-rape rally going on, where prostitutes and women dressed like prostitutes were rallying for women’s rights so we didn’t stay long. On our way out of the square I came across the Texas Embassy. Apparently it’s only a restaurant but it still looks all official like from the outside. Flag hanging in it’s glory and everything.
From there we walked up to Picadilly Circus. It’s what I would call the London equivalent of Time’s Square. While much of it was behind scaffolding, it was still impressive. We got on the tube and headed over to Harrod’s.
My father had told me to check out Harrod’s just for the spectacle. Since I was traveling with two manly man and didn’t want to suggest a trip to a store. (Especially when one of them said “what is it, like Macy’s?”) When I mentioned a quick walk through they said ok. When we got there, there was more scaffolding but we headed inside anyway. Afterwards we all agreed it was well worth it.
The food courts are amazing. So much food, and the chocolates area will make your mouth water. We headed to the “Egyptian Escalators” not having any idea what was in store for us. What we found was a 5 story extravagance. Marble columns, Egyptian statues of Gods and Goddesses, and a very elaborate panting on the ceiling.
Harrod’s is not just a store, it’s an art gallery, antiques store, pop culture collection and archeology specimens, not to mention, ridiculously elaborate. Besides the original Dali pantings and Warhol prints. There was also a collection of music memorabilia. The original Beatles “Let it Be” album for sale for 650 pounds. My mother has that album at her house and as soon as I see her next I am going to tell her to put it away for better keeping.
However, the most ridiculous piece in this memorabilia section was the original James Bond Dr No movie poster on sale for … 10,000 pounds! While I didn’t prepay for any text messages for this trip, I still had to text my brother to tell him right then and there.
We headed back down to the food courts, we each bought something tasty, went outside and took some photos of the building. Since the streets are so narrow it’s impossible to get a picture that captures the shear size of the building.
Next we headed over to Hyde Park to have our snack.
We didn’t walk through the whole park but while we were resting we decided to head to Buckingham Palace.
On our way there we came across the most fantastic event I’ve ever come across…. a naked bike ride. I had to take a video of this spectacle, but I don’t know that it would be wise to post it on the interwebs. There were mostly men, but some women too. They sang happy birthday to the queen, they were painted, in nickers, full on naked, riding with stereo systems and generally letting it all hang out for the world to see. It’s definitely something I’ll never forget.
Once we got to Buckingham Palace I struggled again with the sun. My photos of the palace are mostly backlit but some still came out alright.
The gates of the castle were stunning. We could see the guards standing within, but there were none out front to attempt to distract.
I had the same sun issues with the statues/fountains in front of the castle. Judging from my photos you’d think I was doing a study of Sillohettes, but generally I just wanted some photographs to go with my memories.
I did get some great shots of the palace though.
From the top of the fountain you can see the Eye standing over the London greenery. I asked my friend what was at the end of the walkway, he said he didn’t know but didn’t think it was anything special. And thus I missed my chance to see the front of Whitehall. Honestly it would have been nice to see but I do not feel my day was lacking in the slightest.
As we crossed the street, I saw Elvis. He’s alive and singing along to his own music in a blue car tooling around London. 😉
After the palace we walked through Green Park.
While there we came across this tribute to Canadian war victims. It’s a tasteful and elegant tribute to the soldiers. It l looks as if it aligns to a point on the horizon, we weren’t sure if it was the solstice line or perhaps a line of latitude that points to Canada?
On the top of the monument is a bunch of bronze fallen maple leaves that simply say it all.
After the park was another Tube ride. This time we got out at a station, Bond Street station.
We walked through mayfair to where my friend was staying.
There we tried to find out what the planes were that flew over our heads earlier that day. BBC showed that the celebration was actually being broadcast at that time and we watched the parade and fly pasts (as they call them) on tv. That’s when we realized how close we were and how close I had come to wandering across those events at the beginning of the day. That’s also when we learned what was on the other end of the long walkway from Buckingham palace, Whitehall. After the program was over we walked down to a pub to get some dinner, had a few drinks and I headed back to my hotel.
For the rest of the photos taken during this journey around London click here. Or browse a small sample below.