Category Archives: London

Stonehenge and Space Odyssey

In general I don’t love large tours.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip with Premium Tours.  Our guide tried and succeeded in making us the first people to enter Windsor Castle, which enabled me to have my fabulous experience at the church.  He cracked a lot of jokes throughout the day and provided a lot of history and information.  He also didn’t mind when we went out on our own.

But my favorite thing he did was timing the theme song to the Space Odyssey with the first sighting of Stonehenge.  As the bus climbed the hill we listened to the beginning of the song and as soon as it went “DUH NAAAAH” we spotted it.  It may sound cheesy but it made it even more impressive.

Not that the 40 ton rocks that are between 4-5 thousand years old need additional fanfare to make them impressive.  But like Darth Vader walking around to the Imperial March, it does add to the overall effect.

Stonehenge first view

Our guide told us that a few years ago a team of engineers, archaeologists and scientists tried to move just one of these rocks the 250 miles by the leading theory of how they were moved thousands of years ago.  They made it to the river and it got stuck.

Stonehenge close-up

Did you know Stonehenge was used as target practice by planes during World War II?


This artist was bundled up and sketching the monument.

Artist sketching

Did you know the sun lines up through each archway (if they were all there) during each month?  And it lines up perfectly through the top and the bottom stone (think 12 and 6 on a clock) when it’s summer and winter solstice?

Did you know it’s fun to play with your shadow and dance, even if other people stare at you and think you’re a little crazy?

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Did you know the Bluestones are warmer than the air in the winter and colder than the air in the summer?


If you don’t take a tour here, or if your guide is not as fantastic as mine, I highly recommend listening to the Space Odyssey theme song anyway.  It just fits.



When it’s sunny, the outside of the castle is as impressive as the inside.

Windsor Castle

The British flag and the Queens flag were both flying high.  When the Queen’s flag is up it means she is here, but I didn’t see her, Prince William, Prince Henry or catch a sighting of Kate.  Maybe Kate & William got their own place after they got hitched?

Windsor Castle Street View

I followed the “no pictures” rule inside the State Apartments because of the crowds and the guards.  And because my tail was still between my legs after the scolding in the church.

After viewing the apartments I went to the changing of the guards.  This alternates, every other day between Windsor and Buckingham.

Changing of the Guards

It was impressive!  The beat of the drums echoed throughout the area and after the guard change a military band played Christmas Carols for about 30 minutes.

Beat of the Drums

I decided to each lunch on my own instead of with the tour bus.  I enjoyed wandering through the streets to find a pub.

Near the Main Gate of Windsor Castle

I found a great place and enjoyed a steak and potato pie.

steak and potato pie

Then I wandered through a few shops until it was time to meet everyone at the bus.

Sweet Shop

Windsor town is cute!

Shops near the train station

A Thousand Words

If you wake up in London on day four and the sun is shining, do not hesitate to go to Windsor Castle.  Take the train, car or a coach.

If you carefully jockey your position so you are the third person to enter when it opens at 10am, even if the queen is in, do not follow your audio guide, map or numbers…go to St George’s Chapel.  You may even want to run.


If you arrive at 10:04, you may be there before any of the vergers.  In which case, you may choose to ignore all the “no photography” signs.  After all, those signs are for the people who do not know how to disable their flashes…  Those signs are for people who will disturb other people with their photography…  But if you are alone taking photos without flash, is it really wrong?

Morning Light at St George's Chapel

Stained Glass

Beautiful Stained Glass

Decorative Ceiling from the 1400s

I couldn’t help myself, the stone glowed with morning light.  It called to me.  It was begging to be photographed.  For I could write a thousand words for each picture I took that day, but it would not be enough to describe the peace and beauty of that morning.  So I will let these photos speak for themselves, although I tell you, they do not do justice to the chapel at Windsor.  So you should visit it yourself.

Walkway Between the Chapel and the Choir Room

Glowing walkways

Incredible Ceiling

The area that honors the Order of the Garter was incredible.  Each flag and helmet represents a coat of arms for a Knight in the highest order of chivalry.  I entered the room so quietly the vergers who were in deep conversation did not hear me.

Knights Coat of Arms

Incredible Ceiling

Order of the Garter

Order of the Garter Knights

And then, I finally got caught by the kind fellow in this picture.  I felt horribly guilty, just not quite guilty enough to delete all my previously taken photographs. more photos

Here are the beautiful doors I shamefully exited through.  I doubt I was the first to leave ridden with guilt while thinking, “it was worth it”.

Exit Doors

Winter Wonderland

Sunday we woke up to a blue sunny sky again.  We celebrated our luck by going on a long walk.  We ended up in Hyde Park at a big festival called Winter Wonderland.  It’s a pop-up German Themed amusement park.  We enjoyed walking around and listening to the people as much as we enjoyed the sights, smells, crafts and food.  Our favorite snack was mini churros.  They disappeared before we even got a picture…  I also ate a Giant Pretzel and Greg got some corn.

Corn In December?

After the Wonderland we took the subway to the Churchill War Rooms.  It was interesting to see the headquarters for WWII and to learn more about Churchill’s entire life.  We attempted to go to the original Hard Rock Cafe but it had a 90 minute wait so we ate at a local Pret A Manger and had a delicious, no fuss sandwich.  It was a great day.

Big Bus Tour in London

We woke up on day two in London with big blue sunny skies again.  Isn’t it supposed to be rainy in England, especially in December?

We decided to follow a friends advice, thanks Kathi, and take a tour from the hop on hop off Big Bus Company.  She advised us that it was a great way to become familiar with the city.  I also enjoyed getting a quick overview of all the main tourist attractions so I could pick which places to go back and spend more time.  The bus happened to stop just 2 shops away from our hotel.

big bus tour bus

It was pretty cold out so we bundled up and rode on the top deck.

On the top of the bus

Our first driver was frustrating, he stopped for 10 minutes or longer at many stops.  We are much too impatient for that, so we got off the bus at Piccadilly and walked through town deciding it might even be faster.

Right off the bus we went to the Gap where I bought an orange hat, knowing Greg would end up wearing it, and I would get my scarf back.  Then we wandered around Chinatown and the theater district until we found a Swiss restaurant.  We enjoyed fondue and spatzle and then walked to Trafalgar Square.  Don’t read about why there aren’t as many pigeons in the square as there were in Mary Poppins time, you’ll regret it like I do.  Wikipedia said at the peak there were 35,000 pigeons, I can honestly say I can’t imagine that many birds and their waste in one square.

New Orange Hat takes a trip to Trafalgar Square

I learned later from a guide that the four lion sculptures in the square were made by a man who had never seen a lion.  So he used descriptions from other people and also his dogs, perhaps retrievers, as models.  Can you see the resemblance?

Trafalgar Square

Then we walked down Parliament Street.

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Once again I felt like I was on a movie set.

Parliament Street & Bus

Parliament Street
I enjoyed another phone booth shoot.  You can’t tell from the photo but I think he’s holding his breath because he said it smelled like someone had repeatedly marked their territory inside.

Greg and Phone Booth

Then we spotted Westminster Palace and Abby in the distance.

Almost to Westminster

Spectacular.  In person the traffic cam doesn’t seem as prominent, it is NOT as tall as the Elizabeth Tower.

Westminster Palace

The Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben

Elizabeth Tower

We walked over the Westminster Bridge and got back onto the Big Bus.  This bus had a live guide instead of a recorded tour you listen to on headphones.  We enjoyed him much more and we were happy he only waited for a minute or two at each stop.

Greg got a spectacular shot through a window from his phone going over the Tower Bridge.  He definitely gets the photo of the day award.

Tower Bridge

We rode the bus most of the way back to the hotel and felt blessed to be together and for our wonderful sunshine filled day!  Since we enjoyed a fondue feast for lunch, we picked a simple dinner that night at Paddington Station.  Greg had a British Christmas feast in a bowl from the restaurant EAT, imagine Thanksgiving dinner in a cup.  I got a meat pie from a counter. It was the perfect British food to end a wonderful day.

hot pot

The Horse Whisperer

If you see the Royal Guard on horseback.


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This is how the horse looked around everyone else, a bit wary…the ears back are an obvious give away.  Don’t blame Greg, the horse was like this with everyone.


This is how the horse looked around me, cuddly.  That “Beware” sign obviously didn’t apply to me.  Perhaps he felt comfortable around my red coat?

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My only regret is not feeding him an apple or a carrot.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I thought this car was really cute so I snapped a photo.  I did think it was a little strange there were penguins driving.  And I thought it was odd that penguins were even in a tourist sales shop in London.  Do they have them in England?  Are they a mascot for something?  But, that is not what is wrong with this picture.  I didn’t see it in the store.  I saw it later when I looked at the picture on my laptop. If you need a hint it’s inside the car, visible through the windshield and it looks like it might be sitting in the back seat…

Why Is There a Creepy Bald Guy In This Car?