Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day Three- Palaces, Parliament and Purity

Hey all,

Sorry for the delay and I hope this makes it up.  It's day three of our little trip and after a great night's sleep we were up and out.  Since we slept in a bit to make up for two days of NOT sleeping, we headed straight to our first tourist venue...Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard.
It's really a magnificent building.  Huge with so much history behind it.  Rather than lose ourselves in the crowd at the gate, we decided to watch from uptop the fountain in the center of the square.  That way we could not only see the changing of the guard, (see courtyard above), but we could watch them come in and leave as well.

The ceremony is full of pomp and circumstance.  It lasts close to 45 minutes from beginning to end and for the average tourist, it's hard to understand exactly what all the fuss is about.  Even my military-bent hubby couldn't grasp all the nuances.  When we researched it later, we discovered that each stomp, each shout and even each song played has a specific meaning for the day.

The guards leave the barricks in perfect formation, accompanied by a marching band.  They walk up a long street, circle around the statue (above pic with Jonathon) and enter through one of the gates.  That's when the actual changing begins.  One by one the guard is changed out, the new guards walking the perimeter with the old guard.  They ignore the crowd.  This may be a show, but it's all deadly serious for them.  Especially when the Union Jack is flying, which we were told means the Queen is in residence.

We were also fortunate to see the changing of the Horse Guards (other pic)  They are wearing their colorful red winter outfits and the horses are beautiful.  That changing takes place at another gate, but is just as ceremonial as this one.

Afterwards, we had this great meal in this historic pub called, The Albert.  (see pic to right) We just came across it as we wandered back towards the main tourist areas near Big Ben.  It is this tiny little building surrounded on all sides by skyscrapers.  Looks totally out of place, and when you walk inside, it's like heading back into the past.  

Lords, Dukes, Prime Ministers and even royalty have eaten here and because of that, it is safe from the wrecking ball.  I was pleased to hear it.  This small pub is one of the nicest ones we were in and it's great to hear that my children's children might have a chance to visit it someday!

Next up on our tour were some churches.  We stopped at both Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.  The first is one of the older churches in town and quite beautiful in it's own right, although it is often confused with the Abbey where the coronations and wedding of the royals are held.

We were able to walk around in both of them, and at the Abbey, after the service we attended, Jonathon was able to talk to one of the clergy--not sure what exactly she was...a rector maybe--and she gave us a short tour behind the scenes.  They were getting ready for the Queen to come the next day for the Queen's Jubilee, so everyone was kicked out after the service, so it was neat to see a little more.  She showed us several tombs.  (English churches are filled with dead people.  Very different from most in the states.)  Charles Darwin, Sir Issac Newton and several others whose names escape me now.

Next we headed to one of the most well know sights of London.  Parliament House and Big Ben.  We both were slightly surprised that Big Ben isn't well...bigger.  LOL  It is a normal size clock tower over an enormous building.  It just looks a lot bigger in pictures.  But it is still a beautiful sight and it's setting by the river Thames makes it quite magical in the afternoon sun.  And kissing my sweet baboo with Big Ben in the background is pretty cool too!

Boy, did we do some walking.  I have a little meter that tells me how many miles I walked and we hit 15 that day!!!  Next, we went up to Trafalgar Square and since it was so bloody cold, we got a cuppa of hot cocoa and people watched for awhile.  Then a bus ride took us up to Convent Garden (first pic below) where we spent several hours searching the stalls for bargains, enjoying the sidewalk entertainers, and we had our very first Cornish Pasty, which was totally yummy!  Somewhat like a beerrock, but even better.
It was getting late, so we decided to head over to Piccadilly Circus (2nd pic above) to check out the night life.  We got lost and in doing so, found Victoria Station, Chinatown and Soho!  LOL  We did some more souvenier shopping before we found a pub and listened to music while we had a drink.
Since we knew we wanted to get up early the next morning, we didn't stay out too late.  After an adventurous bus ride home...we got soooooo lost...we finally found the hotel and went to bed.  The next day...seeing London from a bird's eye view!  
Check back with me next week for the next day of this travel log!  
Hugs to all!


Dani said...

Thanks for the travel guide! I'm SO ready to go to London. Probably will be another year before I get the chance though. :(

It looks like you two had a wonderful trip!

CJ England said...

Thanks, Dani. We did have a good time. Both sightseeing and reconnecting with each other. It was worth every penny and more!