Monday, May 7, 2012

When in London...

Day two… ohhhh day 2. Where to begin. I got up bright and early to begin my explorations. I started off on foot towards Kensington Gardens to see Kensington Palace and Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain. As I was walking I realized it was taking longer than I would like – I had plans to get to Buckingham Palace to see changing of the guards so I was on a bit of a time crunch. I hopped on a metro and was to the gardens in no time. I wandered through – saw the Elfin Tree along the way which was cute. It wasn’t until I got to Kensington Palace that I realized Princess Diana’s fountain was in a different park right next to Kensington – oh well, it was still a nice stroll!
Blooming Flowers :)
So I cut across the gardens and made my way towards Hyde Park to see the fountain. I found it! It looked cool… except it wasn’t on. Turns out they only run it during a certain time in the day and that time happened to be 10am. Since my ultimate destination was Buckingham Palace, I decided to leave and come back later to see the fountain so I could go get a good spot. I finished my stroll/speed walk to the edge of the park, and the next task was to figure out how to get to the Palace. I knew the direction I needed to go, but the lack of crosswalks and the pedestrian subways made it difficult to find my way – but I finally got to Wellington Arch marking my successful journey toward Constitution Hill and the palace.
Wellington Arch
There were more people around here so I picked up the pace to get a good spot. According to my man Rick Steves, one of the best spots is right on the fence since the main part of the ceremony takes place right in front of the palace. When I got there, there appeared to be no open spots along the fence (apparently everyone else got that memo too…). So I picked a spot that looked like I would get a good watch. Then you’ll never guess what happened next! The man in front of me just decided to leave – so I got his spot on the fence! Front row action!
This is his "ready to get off work" march
I can’t even begin to describe the ceremony… It was incredible. I would hate to sound like a stereotypical tourist, but it is by far one of my most favorite things I’ve seen so far. I stood in the wind and rain for a couple hours to watch, and I enjoyed every minute of it. After the ceremony was over I recruited an old man to take my picture. The only bad thing about travelling alone is that you have to find random people to take your picture… some are better than others haha.
The band and guards
The ceremony was over at noon, and I decided to go off to find food. Along the way I found the Horse Guards – yep guards sitting on horses. Then I kept walking and guess what I ran into… Parliament and Big Ben. No big deal. I took my fill of pictures, and recruited a couple different people to take my picture this time. I actually got some good shots! I continued across Westminster Bridge and was starving at this point. So I hit up a Subway. I know, I know… but I haven’t had turkey or ham since I’ve been here!
Parliament and Big Ben
After lunch, I hopped on the metro and went to Trafalgar Square. Not only is this a famous square, but it contains St. Martin-in-the-Fields (a church we learned about in history) which was my main destination. It was so beautiful inside, and the organ pipes were incredible. It was an amazing church… then I went down to the “crypt”. I put quotes around this because they turned what used to be the crypt into a restaurant… I wasn’t so thrilled to see this.
Organ Pipes in the church
After the church I back traced down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace, but instead of walking back to the palace, I wandered through St. James Park. It was so beautiful, and they had lawn chairs sat out all over the place in the grass. It is a very cool little park. I ended up following my ears to the edge to see a sort of military barrack where they seemed to be training up-and-coming guards. They were definitely getting yelled at after they marched. Guess they have a long ways to go…
Views from the St. James Park
By the barracks there was a guards museum and shop I went to. It had uniforms, medals, weapons, instruments… anything you can think of throughout the time of the guards. A nice little piece of history. After hanging out on this side for a while I went back towards Kensington Park to see the Science Museum I had heard all about. They had a gift shop inside with more gadgets and fun toys you could imagine! I resisted the urge to buy any of them… mainly because I have to limit the weight of my bag for the rest of my travels haha. The museum itself was also really cool. There were a bunch of different exhibits, and they were all interactive. I think that’s why I like science museums the most – they are hands on instead of just looking at stuff. Maybe it’s the kid inside me haha.
Display in the museum
I began my journey back to meet up with Ryan to go to the musical, but made a stop back by Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain along the way. It was definitely worth the stop; it was beautiful. It is a ring with one point at the top higher than anything else. The water then flows two directions and ends at a calm area at the bottom. I could have spent a lot of time here… but again, I had places to be! Maybe I’ll go spend my last afternoon there. Also, while walking through the park I found something else that was a pleasant surprise. The squirrels here will come right up to you; they love people! So on my walk I made a couple friends. It was pretty cute :)
Part of the fountain
I walked back to meet Ryan, and before we went to see Chicago we stopped for some dinner – London style! I had fish and chips and London gold beer. I don’t tend to like fish much, but this was delicious. After dinner we walked to the theater. The musical was nothing short of amazing. I love the movie so I knew this would be good. I loved it – it was a great end to a great day!
Now I’m ready to pass out and enjoy another fun-filled, packed day tomorrow!
One of my squirrel friends posing :)
Random shot of the day.

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