Sunday, September 25, 2011

London Day 4: 13/September 2011

Tuesday: Today I scheduled the Tower of London because it opened early at 9am. Well, we didn't quite make it there at opening time but there were no lines when we arrived at 10am. We used our 2 for 1 to save 19 GBP! So one 7 day Travelcard was paid for—nice.

It was another beautiful cool sunshiny day and hubby was difficult to corral—he wanted to take pictures when I wanted to get on to the Crown Jewels before the crowds showed up (as y'all suggested). Finally convinced him to go on in and we timed it very well—we were alone on the conveyor belt for our first two passes by the incredible Jewels. They're simply stunning! We had a good chuckle about the monarch who complained that his crown was too heavy and changed our saying from "my lobster is too buttery" to "my crown is too heavy"!

Guarding the Crown Jewels

Entrance room to Crown Jewels

Leaving the Crown Jewels rooms.  Stunning pieces!

As we left the Crown Jewels we saw that the crowds had arrived; there were about a 100 people following a Beefeater! We decided to tour the White Tower which was interesting—got my photo next to the huge and tiny armor. We left the White Tower and wandered around looking at everything we could for another probably 45 minutes. I liked going up on the Tower Walls. Beautiful, all of it, but such a gruesome history.
Canon welcomes you to the White Tower

Henry VIII's armour--nice codpiece, Hank!

Tiniest and biggest armour

This saw lots of action throughout the ages

Ancient and modern-that's London!

A "friendly" Beefeater

The Tower is a Royal Residence, thus the guard

Large group following a Beefeater tour

White Tower

Throne in a room up on the walls

Just need a raven for good luck!

The fortifications of the Tower

Across the Thames

HMS Belfast

It was a beautiful day
We made our way out of the Tower of London complex on the side by the river and wandered over to the Tower Bridge. We decided against crossing it and just took a bunch of pictures—it's quite impressive. We grabbed a bus to St. Paul's Cathedral and were lucky that it was an old timey one. We sat up top in front and really enjoyed the short ride (I love the double decker buses and always feel like I'm in a Harry Potter movie!).

Tower Bridge

View of the Tower of London from the Bridge

Old double decker took us to St. Paul's

View of the streets and St. Paul's from the bus

9/11 Firefighters Memorial
Very touching to read the remembrances and dedications

Arrived at St. Paul's hungry so grabbed a quick lunch at Pret a Manger—very good, inexpensive and fast. Headed over to the Cathedral and paid our entry fee. Took the audioguide but didn't like it so out came Mr. Steves for the highlights tour. I was amazed by the size of the Cathedral. I recall that it's the 4th largest after like St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It somehow didn't feel that big but once I walked the aisle (as Lady Dianna did at her wedding!), I comprehended the scope.

We followed Mr. Steves and then climbed to the very top. Beautiful views although it had just rained and the skies were no longer so sunny. The climb up was nowhere near as bad as we had expected. If you've climbed to the Dome at St. Peter's, this one will be easier—more metal spiral staircases than claustrophobic wall closing down on you… We went to the Crypt and looked around then back up for more soaking in the atmosphere of the beautiful Cathedral.

As beautiful on the inside as it is on the out

Lots of metal spiral stairs to the top of St. Paul's

View of Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern

You can see the London Eye in the distance

Fearless girl, I think she's texting!

London's skyline from St. Paul's

Watch yer head!

We had a 6pm reservation at St. John and it was now around 2:30pm so we headed out and walked across the Millennium Bridge (another Harry Potter moment!) to the Tate Modern. We passed by the Globe but neither had interest in touring it; not Shakespeare fans I'm afraid—too tortured by English teachers in high school!

On the Millennium Bridge with St. Paul's in the background

Super cool bridge; just a beautiful piece of engineering

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
We went into the Tate Modern which looks just like a huge empty warehouse on the ground level. Up some escalators we went to Material Gestures room for the modern impressionists. Did a quick walk through and enjoyed seeing these impressive paintings. I liked the Matisse and Monet. Cool stuff but not the warmest place in the world.
Big, empty, echoing Tate Modern ground floor

Beautiful Matisse upstairs

The view across the Thames from theTate Modern--Gorgeous!

Back outside another walk across the amazing Millennium Bridge. We caught the City of London School letting out. I liked seeing the boys all dressed in their coats and ties but still acting like boys.

We had some time before dinner so perused our map and went on a mini-pub crawl. We hit Viaduct Tavern and Fuller's Ale & Pie House and Portal Restaurant and Bar before 6pm. The walk between the pubs was great. I enjoyed popping into the small courtyard by St. Bartholomew the Lesser Church, unfortunately closed, and feeling the quiet serenity amidst the busy city. Took a picture by the gate and now I notice how narrow the house above was--so neat. Smithfield Market was shuttered but the displays describing its history were very interesting. We just kept walking and enjoying being in this, to us, not so polished part of London.

First Pub--The Viaduct

Second Pub--Fuller's
Colorful phone booths in Smithfield Market

Narrow house in St. Bartholomew's courtyard

Third Pub- Portal Restaurant and Bar; very good Portuguese beer

Dinner at St. John was outstanding! Hubby loved his meal and I really enjoyed my mushrooms (yeah, a non-cow, pig or fish eater at St. John, go figure!). We had a great waiter, Davie, and lots of fun. I'm not sure I'd rank it as the best ever for me but it sure is up there on hubby's list.

St. John Restaurant

Afterwards, we grabbed the Tube to St. James Park and walked back to the apartment: lovely views of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. We said hi to the guys at Westminster Arms but were too full for more drinks… And so ended yet another Wonderful Day in London!

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