Tag Archives: London

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.

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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.

Busted...no 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

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.

Beware.

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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.

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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.

Piccadilly Circus Dressed Up For Christmas

From the moment I saw the Tube station sign, I started singing a certain song in my head because the lyrics really applied.  Especially since three days prior I had no idea I’d be in London.  By the time I got above ground, I nearly burst out singing.  Had I started, I might have even given into a twirl or two (think Sound of Music in the hills).  Instead I belted it out in my head and softly hummed because listening to the city noises is part of the fun.  Especially with the London sirens I’ve heard so many times in the Bourne and other UK filmed movies.

Tube Station

Woke up in London yesterday
Found myself in the city near Piccadilly
Don’t really know how I got here
Got some pictures on my phone…

Bright Lights Big City

Oh, this has gotta be the good life.
This has gotta be the good life.
This could really be the good life.

I say, “Oh, I got this feeling that you can’t fight”
Like this city is on fire tonight.
This could really be the good life, a good good life.

I guess I channel One Republic more than that band from the UK that also starts with a One…

London

If you arrive in London in December and it’s sunny, don’t worry that you haven’t slept for nearly two days.  Get outside.  Because surely the weather won’t last.

Take a taxi, they are roomy, charming and come with wonderfully accented drivers.  In fact, if I would have had pounds of pounds (£) I could have happily ridden in the back and talked to the driver for hours.

Taxi

When you see your first phone booth, don’t be embarrassed, take as many pictures as possible.  In fact, try to take more than I did, I dare you.  After all, who knows how long these essential but unessential phone booths will be around.  I think they are essential looking even if they are no longer used.  In fact, couldn’t they just disconnect all the phones but keep the booths there?  Or perhaps put in cell phone charging stations?  I must write the Queen with this suggestion…

If you know anything about London I don’t have to tell you to go to Harrods.  It’s the number two tourist destination in London.  It was my third stop.  1) Hotel 2) Restaurant for classic British Fare 3) Harrods.

Harrods is this big

The clothes are high end.  I found a beautiful knit hat for 240£ (388USD).  Later I found one I liked just as much from the GAP for 6£ (10USD).  I’m guessing that might be the reason the clothes areas were free of people.  I left the expensive clothes and followed the trails of people like a worker ant and quickly found the packed, full to the gills, can barely lift your arms crowded food halls.

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So this is where everyone has been hiding.  And it’s no wonder because everything was beautiful!  They had every brand of chocolate, tea, pastry, confection, meat, sushi, fish, breads, veggies, condiments and gifts from all the lands formerly under the British Empire.  And the shop keepers wore cute hats!

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If you’re wondering why some of my previous photos were blurry it’s because I kept getting knocked and squeezed by the hoards of people.  They do not say excuse me or pardon me because that is what you say when you pass gas in London.  So they just knock you about and blur your pictures and head on their merry way.

I have been accused of saying too often “I almost bought this for you but…”  Apparently it’s quite maddening.  But, I almost bought this for my close friends and family but I never went back.  It was a cute flag tin full of Scottish (the best) shortbread.  Are you getting mad yet?

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I spent at least an hour exploring the marvelous food halls.  I highly recommend skipping my above mentioned stop 2 and interacting a bit more with the products there.  I was too full to eat anything.

Every year Harrods does elaborately themed Christmas windows.  They are spectacularly over the top!  This year was Disney Princess themed.  I wish I would have taken the time to get better and more photos of these but if you’d like to see someone else’s video click here.

Harrods Christmas Windows

Notice Cinderella’s missing slipper and the elaborate marble staircase.

Snow White was my favorite, the hill with flowers and the little dwarf beds were amazing.  And her dress and hood perfected the window scene.

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And last but not least.  Here is the building I picked (it changed daily) for my flat in London.  Adjacent to Harrods.  Whoever would need to cook when you can eat like a Queen next door?  And while I’m imagining things, I might as well take the corner tower as my place.  Would you come visit? I promise I’ll buy you a tin of Scottish shortbread…

Building Next Door

And we can eat our shortbread and look at this view of the sunset…if you’re fortunate enough to come to London, like I did, when it isn’t raining.

Sunset at Harrods