Sunday, September 25, 2011

London Day 5: 14/September 2011

This was our last day in London.
Wednesday: First up on the agenda was Westminster Abbey. We got there right at opening (such a hard commute, lol) and paid our entry fee and the extra 3GBP for the Verger tour. We had a half hour before the tour so Mr. Steves oriented us while we waited.

I'd have to say that Westminster Abbey is one of the most interesting, fascinating and old places we've ever been in. The Deacon Verger, David Mott, was excellent and the cost of the tour was so slight in comparison to what we received.

We started out in the Choir where we parked ourselves for David's introduction. Ok, I watched the wedding so y'all know I was stocked to be sitting where the little choir boys were. Too cool. Snapped myself to attention for the interesting history—it all started in 950 when Edward (now Saint Edward the Confessor) decided to build a church. Ok, that's wrong but I can't remember the details—there is just so much history in this place; I'd need a course at university to remember it all!

From the choir we went to the Nave and were able to see the "new construction" which looks very similar to the older part of the Abbey except for a subtle difference—look when you're there… We saw the Coronation Chair being restored. We saw the Scientists Corner and were impressed that Newton is buried there, along with Darwin and Rutherford among others. Now to the center of the Abbey where David walked us through a Coronation—8,000 people in the Abbey, incredible! Then to St. Edward the Confessor's Chapel where David told us about the tombs surrounding us (kings and queens and baby princes). Then onto smaller chapels before reaching the Lady Chapel with its beautiful frothy decor. On to the Poets Corner and Musician's tombs. Incredible, all of it!

We really loved this Verger Tour. David told us he escorted Wils and Harry on the wedding day and sat on the dais throughout. He interspersed a little modern history into the fascinating story of the Abbey which made it even more interesting.

No pictures inside but we took a few as we walked in the Cloister before heading out. When we go back to London we will probably not return to St. Paul's Cathedral but we definitely will return to Westminster Abbey.

Entrance to the Nave of Westminster Abbey; where Kate waved at us!

Big Ben and the London Eye are "right there"!

The cloisters are the only place photos are allowed

Being "artistic!"

Wonderful tour now on to lunch

We had lunch reservation at The Square at 1:30 and we were lingering a little long by now. We ran back to the apartment to upgrade our clothing choices then grabbed the Jubilee line to Bond St. There is no tube stop super close to the restaurant on Bruton street so we walked through lots of very cool, expensive shopping areas to get there. I hate shopping but if I had unlimited money and time, this would be an area I'd love to shop in—beautiful stuff!

The Square is everything you would expect from a 2 Michelin starred restaurant. The food was delicious, interesting and beautifully presented. The service was outstanding—attentive and friendly; no one was overbearing or arrogant. The d├ęcor was understated and elegant, yet comfortable. It was our first Michelin dining experience and it did not disappoint in any way. This was a wonderful treat!
The Square with Boris Bikes and the iconic Red Phone Booth; so London!

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My fish was fab

Hubby tried the grouse and it was delicious

Outstanding dessert for me

Outstanding raspberry souffle with ice cream for hubby

Gorgeous area

Unusual matte black Ferrari
 We left comfortably full and content and tried to make it back to Westminster in time for the Horse Guards Dismounting Ceremony at 4pm but just missed it.
Back in Westminster; Big Ben tells us we're too late for the Dismounting Ceremony

Prime Minister lives down this street

Very serious young Guard

Beautiful day in the courtyard of the Horse Guards

We then had 1 hour and 45 minutes to tour the Churchill War Rooms and Museum (which needs minimum 2 hours!). We used our 2 for 1, bought the souvenir book, and took the audioguide.

I'm not a huge War Museum person but I must say, this was very interesting and really well presented. The audioguide was outstanding. The Museum is pretty interactive; I really liked being able to step on a button to hear what Churchill and other dignitaries had to say, for example.

The Museum starts with Churchill at War and moves you through that time until his death and then introduces him as a young man. We had to miss some of his younger years due to lack of time. We got to see all the War Rooms and were the last two tourists out of the building. I wish we had 45 minutes to an hour more in there. But so glad we got to do it!

"Way out" in England does not have exactly have the same meaning as for Americans

Reenactment of War Strategy planning sessions

Churchill's bedroom

Last ones to leave Churchill War Rooms; Big Ben tells us the time!
We went back to the apartment and packed a little since we'd be heading out in the morning. Afterwards we hung out at the Westminster Arms and had a couple of pints (halfs for me) and chips. We really enjoyed talking to the barkeeps; we tried the "and one for yourself?" but were turned down. As we left, they wished us well and invited us to visit again on our next trip. It was our "local"! lol.

Our last day and night in London were just great! We loved everything about the city. I think we were super fortunate with the weather, even. Being able to communicate in English really made things easier. The transport system was easy to figure out and the free museums and 2 for 1 deals are great. Hubby proclaimed it his favorite big city and it's a very close second to Paris for me. I've put it on the agenda for 2013—it will still be fresh and sparkly after the 2012 Olympics!

Tomorrow another adventure: driving on the "wrong side of the road" and Stonehenge!

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