Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bashing Around London

Friday I spent a whirlwind day in bustling London on the first of my trips through the International Summer School.

London is flooded with tourists elbowing past each other to snap the best photo, businessmen rushing by with briefcases to the underground, young twenty somethings with cigarettes dangling from red lips, and women clacking by in impossibly polished outfits and matching high heels. It's amazing how much life there is in one city. Shopping districts, government buildings, clubs and restaurants, and historic monuments only begin to scratch the surface of what there is to see!

I am so glad I did the London tour with the group because there is no way I could have as efficiently navigated to everything as we did together. First stop was Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard. As with most "Top 10" tourist spots, the sidewalks were flooded with people and various lenses pressed up against the gate, and my view was not the best. But, it was still a must see.

The front gates. Would have been better without the security officers, but much more authentic :)

The marching band that came in before the guards

Me! (Note the rain jacket. I was drizzled by rain and hot under the sun in one day. Welcome to England weather.)

The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk

Across from Buckinham.

Beautiful Buckingham once the sun came out

Intricate engravings and breathtaking carvings are details on almost everything I have seen. My eyes were constantly roaming.

The front of Buckingham Palace amidst the crowd.

The Victoria Memorial, dedicated to Queen Victoria.

Another statue, representing West Africa.

Even the lamp posts are royal!

Even though we didn't have the best view of the guard changing, it was worth it because as we left the Palace, we were greeting by our own personal processional!

The police officers on horses were so classically London.

Oh those hats :)

Next it was off to Trafalgar Square. This is a central public square around the parliament adn government buildings. It's named Trafalgar Square after the Battle of Trafalgar, a naval victory during the Napoleon Wars.

Admiralty Arch leading into the square. The latin on the top reads: (In the tenth year of King Edward VII, to Queen Victoria, from most grateful citizens, 1910)

Nelson's Column in the center of the square. This is a monument to Admiral Nelson who died in the battle.

Government building around the square.

Another building around the square.

Me in front of the Admiralty Arch.

Just up from Trafalgar is 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives.

The iconic, much needed telephone booth photo!

We then headed for Westminster Pier to meet Big Ben, each lunch, and take a boat cruise on the River Thames. It's hard to remember the names of all the buildings we saw, but I'll mark the ones I know for sure.

 Big Ben and Westminster from the River Thames.

 St. Paul's Cathedral.

 The bridge Voldemort and his Death Eaters destroyed. Don't worry, they repaired it :)

We ended our cruise at the Tower Bridge and saw the Tower of London.

 The Tower of London now holds the Crown Jewels, but it once was the State Prison for those who committed treason. 22 beheadings (including Anne Boleyn) took place here, as well as torture during the Tudor period.

I am constantly reminded of the rich, deep, and long history in England. The stories these walls could tell...

Our last stop, after riding on the London underground took us to Liecester Square where we had some free time to explore. This area is full of high end shopping streets and smaller unique shops and parks. We were exhausted at this point, but we still managed to trek to see Regent Street's Hamely's (a multi story toy store--the biggest in the world), Oxford Street and Carnaby Street's shops, and Piccadilly Circus.

 The Times Square like screen of Piccadilly.

Shakespeare fountain in Leicester.

Phew, that was London! The rest of the weekend was and is equally packed, with Oxford and Blenheim Palace today, and the Harry Potter studios tomorrow. Cheers for now! :)

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