6 Pros and 6 cons of the London Underground

I ride the NYC transit system frequently. So of course I had many observations about the London Underground.

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London Day 9 – The last day – Saturday, August 23, 2014

Itinerary: St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Tate-to-Tate River Boat.

When we visited St. Paul’s it was on a Sunday and we could not take the tour. There are no tours on Sunday when there are mass services.

Victoria and I took the tour while Stefan and Daniela slept in. We got there right when the cathedral opened at 8:30 am. There are no photos allowed but here is a nice exterior shot.

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Inside there is a World War II Memorial in a chapel. They have a book with the names of the fallen soldiers and each morning they turn a page so every name gets a chance to be displayed.

We also went up to the Whispering Gallery. After climbing 257 steps I was dizzy and out of breath. (There is no elevator.) I had to sit down before I could go into the Whispering Gallery. As much as I wanted to climb higher to see the views of London from the very top, I was physically incapable. (Not to mention we were running out of time. We had plans to meet Stefan and Daniela at 11 am near The Tower of London.)

The Stone Gallery is 376 steps up from ground level, and The Golden Gallery is 528 steps up. I must get into shape so that next time I am in London I can climb to the very top and see the views. Perhaps start from the top and work my way down.

To see the Cathedral floor from the Whispering Gallery was both frightening and incredible. I was too scared to go to the edge so I peaked over from a safe distance back.

Victoria and I tried the whispering trick from opposite ends, but neither of us heard the other one. It does work in Grand Central Station in NYC though.

After meeting up with our friends we walked to Tower Bridge and on the way saw the volunteers installing the handmade ceramic poppies around The Tower of London. They blend in behind the trees because they are also wearing red. I love this photo I took. Great coloring and it mixes old and new (The Shard) buildings.

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London Day 7 – Thursday, August 21, 2014

Itinerary: Banqueting House at Whitehall, WB Making of Harry Potter Tour at Leavesden Studios.

How scary and awesome is this? I can’t even imagine not having any fear when cleaning Big Ben.IMG_3881

After breakfast Victoria and I separated from Stefan and Daniela for the morning. We would meet up in the afternoon to go to WB Harry Potter tour.

Vic and I wanted to see the Banqueting House. We learned A LOT of history about the Banqueting Hall. We even sat in on a 20 minute lecture all about the ceiling paintings by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. We learned what story each painting tells, where they were painted and how they were installed, as well as the history of cleaning and moving them. There was so much fascinating information to absorb, especially if you love art history. Instead of going over all the details that can be looked up online, or read about in a book, I am just going to share a few photos. It really is a great place to visit. It is quiet, relaxing (they have bean bags to sit on), doesn’t take up the whole day and is quite affordable. The aesthetics are just beautiful. So if you are in London I highly recommended this site.

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London Day 6 – Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Itinerary: Abbey Road, King’s Cross Platform 9 3/4, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Peter Pan statue, Harrods, The Old Vic stage door.

We had went to bed early to catch up on rest. Daniela and I were trying to keep the cold we developed under control. So we slept in a bit and by the time we were ready for breakfast, the hotel’s complementary buffet was closed. So we had a quick bite to eat near the hotel and bought some cold medicine along with cough drops at the one pharmacy we found.

Then we got the show on the road and went up north to Abbey Road. Just as suspected it was crowded with tourists taking photos as they crossed the street like the Beatles. The road is also a busy street with cars always passing and honking at the tourists. They especially honked at the tourists who didn’t keep walking but stopped to pose mid-walk. There is no traffic light at the intersection. It was madness.

If I lived and drove there, I’d avoid Abbey Road at all costs. I guess they must have to take that road or it’s just easier even if tourists block your way.

None of us would trust our cameras with strangers in this hectic situation so we took turns. I decided I wanted to be George Harrison and even wore all blue to match him in the photo. Stefan wanted to be Ringo, so Daniela was John and Victoria was Paul. Funny, Stefan doesn’t even like The Beatles (he says they are overrated *major eye roll*) but he’d do anything for a photo op.

I went across the street first to stand on the island in the road. I took a photo of the three of them in the order of John (Daniela), Ringo (Stefan), and Paul (Victoria). Then Victoria took one of me crossing the road solo. The plan was to photoshop me into their photo as George, but we never found someone to do that for us. Whatever, we can still say we walked across Abbey Road like The Beatles.

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London Day 5 – Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Itinerary: Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

I am so behind with getting these ten days in London posted. Continuing on!

After breakfast we purchased our tickets for Buckingham Palace online. The morning time slots were booked and the next available one was for 3:30. We had to rearrange our plans a bit.

First we went to Trafalgar Square to see the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. Yay for free museums!!

Trafalgar Square is turning into Times Square with the ridiculous characters. I saw a Mickey and Minnie Mouse soliciting for tips to take photos with tourists. I don’t get it in Times Square and I especially don’t get it in Trafalgar Square. There were also people costumed as Yoda or the Grim Reaper. They looked like they were suspended in air but were really sitting in a harness that was hidden by a long robe.

There were also chalk artists who drew some really cool sketches. On this day I saw someone drawing Watto from The Phantom Menace. The previous Friday I saw an artist drawing Jim Morrison. I would have taken photos except I wasn’t sure if I had to pay for one and I didn’t want to pay a single pence.

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I love that in the National Gallery you can take photos. With a limited amount of time we could only see the highlights of the museum and so we followed the suggestions in my travel book. There was a section with a map of the National Gallery and where to find certain works of art.
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London Day 4 – Monday, August 18, 2014

Itinerary: Windsor Castle, Oxford, and Stonehenge.

This tour was pre-booked a couple a months before our trip. Our coach was leaving Victoria Coach Station and after rushing, getting lost, and running around the confusing, under construction area, we finally found our bus tour!

Our tour guide was Russell and our driver was Ian. Russell was a short man with brown hair and a mustache. He was a stylish dresser with a brown jacket and suspenders.
He noticed my TARDIS necklace and mentioned that the new season would premiere that Saturday. I’d see it when I got home the next week.

Our first stop was Windsor Castle. While we were on the queue to get into the castle Russell took aside those in our group who had the London Pass to bring them to their entrance. With the London Pass you pay a fee, and then you get your own skip-the-line entrance at certain attractions because you already paid.

As he was taking them aside a Windsor Castle employee asked if the group was with Russell. He responded that they were and that they had London Passes. She then proceeded to explain that they could go on ahead. Russell said that they were with him and he was taking them to their separate entrance and he would be back for the rest of the group. There was a back and forth exchange about this and then Russell said, “I’m taking them in.” The Windsor Castle employee was taken back and widened her eyes at his tone.

He was a bit snippy, but that will always be an inside joke between Victoria, Stefan, Daniela and I. Throughout the trip we would periodically say to one another, “I’m taking them in.” LOL

Here are a few small things Russell told us about Windsor Castle. George IV was very vain and built ornate castles. He rebuilt Windsor. It had many styles over the years and the one we see today is from the 1820’s.

George IV was the fattest King of England. Henry VIII was the second fattest. George IV was 350 pounds and had a 54″ waist. This has been disputed by people, but Russell said George IV is the inspiration for the nursery rhyme:

Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,

George IV was a terrible drinker, gambler, lover, and king.

Windsor Castle is the home of the Queen today, when she is not spending the summer in Scotland. The Round Tower is not open to the public because she keeps her archives and private art collection there. She has many drawing from Leonardo da Vinci. I am jealous.

After going through security we went straight to St. George’s Chapel. We needed to be back at the bus by 12:15 so this would be the express tour. On our way to St. George’s Chapel we encountered the changing of the guard. It’s a long ceremony so we just took a few photos, and I took some video.

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