Clock towers, churches, underground bunkers, and palaces 1 comment


Yesterday was beautiful. Today was freezing! It rained pretty much all day long, and if it got to 50 I’ll be surprised. But we went out and saw the sights regardless! Even when we were soaked to the bone from the rain and could see our breath, we still kept going!

It started with an early morning grocery run for me and The Nomad. We grabbed a few quick things for lunches, and while The Nomad made sandwiches, I planned our route for the day with our handy dandy Underground station map and our city map of London.

We decided on Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament while the rain was still light. Then we’d go on to Westminster Abbey, followed by the Churchill War Rooms. After that, we’d walk up to Trafalgar Square to eat our lunch and pop into the National Gallery for a bit before we ran up to glance through the first floor of the British Museum.

Well, needless to say, our day didn’t exactly go like that.

We hit Victoria Underground around 10:30 a.m. but there’d been some kind of accident on the rails (someone had lost a bicycle?) and everyone was backed up. The place was busy and bustling and crazy full of people. And to make matters worse, The Padre had some kind of issue with his Oystercard.

The Oystercards are cards that you load with funds so that you can use the public transportation options in and around London. They’re really handy when they work. And Dad’s had worked fine last night. But something went wrong this morning. But we didn’t realize it until the three of us (The Nomad, The Ginger, and myself) were on the other side of the gate. Poor Padre was stuck on the other side. So we had to go down to the platform and back up again to find him and try to figure things out.

0514151125It’s a long story. But we figured out a solution and got things working again. But that put us later than I expected us to be. Either way, when you walk up out of the Underground at Westminster Station and the first thing you see is Big Ben, you just have to stop and take a moment. Because you know it’s big. It’s Big Ben. But you just don’t expect it to be so big. And it’s right there!

By the time we reached Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, it was really raining. And it was cold. So we snapped a few photos and made our way to Westminster Abbey. Beautiful, ancient, incredibly intricate Westminster Abby … and it was closed until 1:30 p.m. randomly. What?

Yeah. So we decided to take some more photos of Big Ben. Then we hoofed it to the Churchill War Rooms.

0514151344Seriously. One of the coolest museums I’ve ever seen. I knew more about Winston Churchill than the average American, but I learned so much! And the exhibit itself is extensive and hugely informative. You get this helpful little audio guide, and you walk through this enormous underground bunker where people lived and worked during WWII. They’ve got it all set up just the way it was in the 1940s, and they’ve set up mannequins all over the place so it looks like it’s actually staffed.

Amazing, amazing place. I highly recommend it.

After we all learned some awesome stuff about Churchill, we decided to find a place to eat our sandwiches. The problem? It was pouring down rain. Not like a Houston frog-strangler, of course, but it was certainly “chocking down proper.” And it was cold enough to see your breath. And it was surprisingly windy.

In our search for a place to sit that wasn’t cold and wet, we ended up getting lost in St. James’ Park, along the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. We just kept wandering around until we found this cute little cafe. We ran inside and sat at a table and ate our sandwiches with our heads down, hoping they wouldn’t toss us out for being deadbeats. But they didn’t mind.

Once we finished our awesome sandwiches and our chips and our fruit, we hurried back outside in the rain and the cold. Since we were so close to Buckingham Palace, we decided to swing by and see what was happening. It was pretty quiet, but I know the others got some pretty fantastic photos.

0514151504Then we headed back toward Westminster Abbey, but we stumbled across a marching field of some kind next to the Horse Guard Museum. There were about 50 teenagers (maybe college age) practicing their marching skills. It was pretty cool to watch, but the poor kids couldn’t get the hang of a particular maneuver. So the drill sergeant was letting them have it.

We left the drill sergeant chewing the kids out and hurried on to Westminster, and once we got there and got in line, we were told we might have to come back tomorrow because they were closing at 3:30 p.m. It was 3:20. But we just made it. We were like the last group to be let in.

If you’ve got a chance to go inside Westminster Abbey, do it. What a beautiful, amazing building. It was so cool too because we had gotten to see inside Carlisle Cathedral earlier, so we had something to compare it to.

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I found a memorial for William Wilburforce. The Ginger found William Shakespeare, and The Nomad found the Poet’s Corner. I think Jane Austen is buried there somewhere too, but I didn’t see her stone. We also saw the past kings and queens of England like Henry VII and Richard the II and Edward III, along with Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.

Pretty awesome, since I remember studying these folks in school.

Apparently there was also an audio tour narrated by Jeremy Irons, but I missed picking it up. And by the time I realized it, I was too deep into the Abbey to go back for it. I have zero photos because photography was forbidden inside.

After we finished at Westminster, we came back to our little hotel. The Ginger and The Nomad picked up lunch stuff for tomorrow, and we all walked down to another local pub, The Warwick. It was pretty nice. I had a steak and vegetable pie, and The Nomad and I split a sticky toffee pudding.

Either way, by the time we got back to the room for the night, we were exhausted and soaked to the bone. So we poked our head into the breakfast room and were pleased to discover that the hotel leaves the coffee machine on. And it has a hot chocolate option. So we all had about three cups of hot chocolate while we were using the hair dryer on our clothes.

Tomorrow we’re going to try to pick up some of the things we missed today, like Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, and the British Museum. But we’re mostly aiming to hit the Tower of London and the Museum of London. We’ll see what we actually get to!


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