Friday, May 30, 2008

Blogging the London Trip- Day 2

A quick count reveals that Kat and I took about 900 pictures while in London. Clearly, this blog is NOT the place to view all of them. I will try to add in pictures this weekend (sorry, got home way too late last night to do much blog-enhancing), so apologies if you're keen to see what we saw.

Anyway, day 2...

We got up early (being still on East Coast time) and got downstairs for the continental breakfast. Didn't take us long to tear through cereal, fruit and cold cuts, believe me. The coffee was singularly bad.

Our tour activity of the day was a half-day trip through Westminster. This is what most folks think of when the words "West End" are thrown around, but it was originally a separate city from London and the home of the royal family. Greater London (as the sprawling metropolis is called, if you want to be technically accurate) swallowed up Westminster and various tributary villages and towns a long time ago. Nowadays Westminster is where you'll find:

  • Buckingham Palace
  • The Houses of Parliament
  • Westminster Abbey (name sort of says it all, doesn't it?)
  • Big Ben
  • 10 Downing Street
  • Hyde Park
  • and lots and lots more

The great benefit of taking tours is learning a bit of a place's history. Our guide for the day, Rosemary, offered something on nearly every street corner we passed. Kat kept busy snapping pictures and noting key locations (among them, Barclays, which charged us no ATM fees).

We saw part of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, rode past the cavalry barracks and stables (which have their own changing ceremony), got out at the Abbey and wandered a little, then rode back through Knightsbridge and got off near Harrods. We had a disagreement over what to do with the afternoon-- our choice consisted mostly of going on the afternoon tour of the City of London (which includes the Tower of London) or going our own way. Kat didn't care about seeing the Tower, so we ended up wandering in the West End.

We grabbed lunch at Sainsbury's, a local grocery chain, buying sandwiches and chocolate "pastilles" (buttons) and eating at Harrods. After that, we wandered through Harrods for awhile and Kat got to see where I bought her the first present I gave her (a black scarf).

We then headed for Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Kat figured we might be able to have tea in the Orangery of Kensington Palace. Walking through Hyde Park, we had some of our sandwiches left over, so we thought we would toss crumbs to the pigeons, ducks and geese nearby.

Foolish mistake.

Once they knew food was being distributed freely, the geese came up... closer and closer... until we were virtually mugged. Kat and I discarded what we had left and made--not quite a run for it but a brisk walk, leaving the geese honking and waddling along behind us.

We joked that we could have been the first American tourists murdered by geese in "yet another tragic bird-feeding related incident." The BBC headline really writes itself.

Moving along, we crossed into Kensington Gardens, the vast lawns encircling the palace where Princess Diana made her home. It was a royal dwelling until Buckingham Palace was complete (and Queen Victoria became the first monarch to live there); since then, it's housed members of the royal family and currently features an exhibit of Diana's signature fashions, as well as a circular fountain-and-watercourse dedicated to "the people's princess" and a commemorative walking path.

Our goal was the Peter Pan statue that I didn't find back in 2001. Sure enough, we found it on the easternmost edge of the gardens, overlooking the Serpentine (a twisting lake that forms the border between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens). It's quite impressive. We watched visitors feed the squirrels (who were uncommonly bold, even for us who are used to Washington squirrels); a fellow there fed birds and squirrels from his hand.

I'll have to ask Kat where we had dinner that night. Still, Monday was quite a busy day for our visit to London. Expect this post to be revised (significantly) once I lock down or remember some key details...

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