Friday, May 15, 2009

day 2: the walkathon

As the title suggests, today we walked our booties off.  We had lots of places we wanted to fit in today and managed to get most of them.

Our morning started off with a quick breakfast from the nearby M&S.   This is a bit like a grocery story but with it’s own little bakery/cafe, and most of the food is pre-prepared.  There are lots of sandwiches, and I have to say this goes for the London in general. This has got to be the sandwich capital of the world and has been our main source of nutrition since we arrived.  For breakfast we each had a “bacon roll” which was basically a toasted roll ham sandwich.  The lady at the counter offered “brown sauce” to go with it but it sounded a little ominous so I passed.  Our first stop of the day was to be Westminster Abbey. When we came out of the tube station the first thing we saw was Big Ben and Parliament.


This is a picture of Big Ben and in the distance you can see the London Eye.  I don’t really think we expected it to be there so we didn’t really investigate a better photo-op because we had a timeline we were trying to maintain.  We plan on heading back to this area in the next few days. 

I think we committed one faux pas when we were walking through this area.  We had to cross a park to get to where we thought Westminster Abbey was so we stuck to the sidewalk and walked around the grassy area in the middle. We saw a bunch of people on the corner ahead and it wasn’t until we got there that we realized we had stepped right into the middle of a demonstration protesting violence in Sri Lanka.  At that point we looked around and also realized that the entire park was cordoned off and was surrounded by tons of police.  We walked through and away from the demonstration as quickly as we could but I definitely don’t think we were supposed to have been there.

Anyway, on the other side of the park was Westminster Abbey and it is stunning.  It reminded me a lot of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris because they are both designed in the same French Gothic style.   We went in and right away signed up for a “verger” tour we had ready about in our trusty


Rick Steves London guide.   The verger tour is guided and takes you to some places the public doesn’t get to see.  You absolutely can’t take any pictures in the abbey and I definitely wasn’t going to try because I saw our verger lay the smackdown on some lady who was trying to sneak a few and it wasn’t pretty.

The inside is of course amazing and I hadn’t realized, there are over 3000 people interred and buried right there either in tombs you can visit or under the floor where you walk. There are memorial stones everywhere.  Among others, we got to see the actual tombs and effigies of Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Mary, King Henry VII, and Edward I. (Incidently, if you saw Braveheart, Edward I was the mean king in the movie) There were so many cool tombs and then we got to see the memorials or burial markers of people like Jane Austin, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Handel, Chaucer….so many to remember.  I wish so much that we could have taken pictures.

So from the Abbey, we walked a couple blocks north and then a few blocks west along St. James Park and came to Buckingham Palace. 

usbuckpalace  I was a little disappointed because I really wanted a picture of one of the furry hat guards but they were on the other side of the gates and Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t let us in.  The Palace is just as you see on TV and it was really cool to be standing in front of it.  We were there only for a few minutes and then we headed to the British Library.  The library has this awesome room that displays the original manuscripts, writings and letters from some really famous people in history.  We saw the actual Magna Carta, the Gutenburg Bible, the original manuscript of Jane Austen’s Persuasion written in her own handwriting (my favorite item!), and even a few songs written by the Beatles.  They were the actual lyrics written by John Lennon and one was written on the back of a Birthday Card.  Then we went over to the Henry VIII exhibit, again original writings which even included a handwritten love letter to Anne Boleyn, and ended up staying there until they pretty much kicked us out because they were closing.  


This is another picture of Buckingham Palace. 

After we left the library we had one more stop, the National Portrait Gallery where we did a free guided tour of the Tudor and Elizabethan Portraits.  It was super interesting and so cool to see the original portraits of so many people I’ve read about in European history.   When the gallery closed at 9pm we finally headed back to our hotel stopping at Yo Sushi for another conveyor belt sushi experience. It was pretty good but MUCH more expensive than in Seattle.  I don’t think we’ll go back.

A couple things we’ve learned about London so far:

1. Everyone moves VERY fast here.  This is something I never really thought about any other city I’ve been in but here you’d better not slow down or you’ll get run over.

2.  If they didn’t have painted at every crosswalk right on the road “Look right” or “Look left”, I think Chris and I would have already been flattened.  The traffic patterns make absolutely no sense to me.

That’s it for tonight. We’re beat and tomorrow we have to get up early.  We’re taking our first day trip to Bath and Stonehenge. 

1 comment:

  1. Ello ello:) Nice job in the park guys!LOL Way to stand up for Sri Lanka! The trip sounds so interesting! Can't wait to see pictures..excluding Westminster Abbey(u chickens):) Still reading so keep writing! And don't forget to "look right" and "look left"....



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