We woke up early for our first day in London and had breakfast down stairs in our hotel–a full English breakfast.
We had to catch The Tube and then walk to Victoria Station to find our tour bus. Lin’s experience on the subway in New York City really helped. The nearest station to us was about a 7 – 10 minute walk. The pre-paid Oyster card provided by our tour guide helped ease us into the routine. The walk down into where we caught The Tube consisted of an elevator and an escalator-down, down, down. When we found our platform, we didn’t wait long. I enjoyed our uneventful trip on The Tube and our pleasant walk to Victoria Station–I worried a little if we were going the right direction but we were–thanks to Lin’s great navigation skills.
When we arrived at Victoria Station, we had time to grab a Starbucks and relax some. I needed the bathroom and I had “to pay to pee.”
The crowded queue area for all the tour buses felt overwhelming, and there were lots of buses lined up ready to take willing tourists all over London and England. We found our line and bus and waited.
The jam-packed tour filled our whole day: we saw Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, 10 Downing Street, and drove down White Hall. We saw the famous Big Ben and Parliament.
Our tour guide timed our visit to Buckingham Palace perfectly so we could see the changing of the guard. The soldiers going off duty were the Irish Guard. Those coming on duty wore the Scottish gear with the big hairy helmets. The huge crowd waited patiently. Our tour guide used a unique flag to find her–a skull and crossbones. She waved it high and was easy to find, but we still lost two women. The sculptured flower gardens took our breath away–bright colors, manicured lawns and decorative pillars and statutes.
From there we bussed to Tower of London for a lunch of Fish and Chips. We toured the Tower and saw the Crown Jewels–OMG!! Again the crowds were massive.
The next part of the tour was a cruise on the River Thames–what a relaxing jaunt! Seeing London from the river gave us a great vantage spot. Our tour ended with a ride on the London Eye, an over-sized ferris wheel on the edge of the River Thames.
I’m not normally afraid of heights, but that ride was a little daunting. We could easily see the Parliament building and Big Ben from the ride. The individual compartments could hold about 10 – 15 people, so I could walk from side to side and take pictures. We had a clear 360 degree view of London. The river laced in both directions–it was awesome. The scariest part for me hit at the top of the ride and then when we started down the other side–I felt protected when we traveled up, but when we were going down, I felt vulnerable and exposed. It truly is the Daddy of them all for a ferris wheel ride.
When we finished the ride, we walked across the bridge near Big Ben for The Tube Westminster station to get back to our hotel–it was more involved than the straight shot to Victoria Station, but Lin handled it masterfully. Again we had to go down into the bowels of London to access The Tube–musicians played at a variety of spots. We made the connection back to Victoria Station and then back to the stop near our hotel.
Before going to our room, we talked to Charlotte, the hotel clerk, about seeing a play in the West End on our next free day on Wednesday. She helped us book tickets for “Les Miserables” at the Queen’s Theater in the West End–I was so excited.
A friend from home suggested we see a play in the famous West End of London before we left–I hadn’t thought of it with all we were going to see, but I knew we had to do it.
We had a leisure dinner in the neighborhood and a restful evening in our room after a busy, busy day. We knew we needed to rest up for tomorrow, our free day in London. Lin studied the map of The Tube and laid out our route to get to our destination for the next day–the Charles Dickens museum and the British Museum.
Have you ever been to London? What was your favorite sight?
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