Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 3: London
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United Kingdom


Travelodge Covent Gardens, London


Sunny with a high of 21C

Day 3: Thursday, September 7, 2006     London England

The Big Bus Tour

This was a very busy day for us.  I started the day with a traditional English breakfast - who has beans for breakfast?  After consuming a week's worth of salt in one sitting, we were off.

We walked about one kilometre from our hotel to Trafalgar Square.  This huge, huge square is very impressive with Nelson's Column and its many fountains.  We decided to get a quick tour of London's main sites so we bought tickets on a Big Bus Company bus which is good for 24 hours and allows you to hop on and off at any of its many stops.  While waiting for the bus, we bought huge bottles of water to keep us hydrated on this unexpectedly nice day.

Trafalgar Square with Nelson's Column

Our first stop was near 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's residence.  The entrance to Downing Street is barricaded and guarded by heavily-armed cops.  We got back on the bus and followed along to the Parliament, across the bridge over the Thames and past the London Eye.  We continued on the south bank for awhile and then crossed over Waterloo Bridge and continued down Fleet Street.  Fleet Street was a combination of newspaper offices, law offices and pubs.  I think I'll have to come back here tomorrow.

Ken in front of the gate leading to Downing Street

We got off at St. Paul's Cathedral and toured the interior.  The cathedral was awesomely beautiful but again, no photos were allowed inside.  (For more information on St. Paul's, see http://www.stpauls.co.uk/) We then decided to climb the 530 steps to the top.  This turned out to be a major mistake.  The view from the top was great and worth the climb but . . . by the time we walked the 530 steps back to the bottom, Ken was 'knackered' and both of his knee's were throbbing.  More photos later.

St. Paul's Cathedral, taken from atop the tour bus

You will see the bluish Easter egg shaped building at left in several skyline shots that I took in London.  It is officially 30 St. Mary Axe but it has been called many things like Gherkin and other male sex organ type names.  It is home to Swiss Re, one of the world's leading re-insurers.  Some people like it but most Londoners appear to hate it.

After a short wait, we jumped on the next Big Bus and continued our tour eastward. We arrived at The Monument.  The Monument, which was designed

by Sir Christopher Wren and erected between 1671 and 1677 to mark the Great Fire of London in 1666, is the tallest freestanding stone column in the world. The significance of its 202 feet height is not simply that it makes your feet ache if you climb it, but it is also the distance to the bakery on Pudding Lane that was the suspected source of the fire that destroyed the city.  We made a right turn and crossed over to the South Bank  on the 'new' London bridge.  We saw Southwark Cathedral, the London Dungeon and the new City Hall - another much-discussed architectural wonder - before crossing back over Tower Bridge, another famous London landmark.

On the north side of Tower Bridge sits the Tower of London.  Originally a moated fort, the White Tower was built for William the Conqueror from 1080 to 1097..  Later enlarged by other monarchs, including Henry VIII - who had two of his wives executed at Tower Green, it became home to the city arsenal, the Crown Jewels and the Royal Mint.  We got off the bus at the Tower stop. 

Tower bridge

By this time we were getting hungry and there was a hot dog stand with a large line-up.  We bought two dogs and a couple of drinks and discover we paid $7 for each hot dog - location is everything.  We then boarded the free included Thames river cruise boat which took us back up the Thames to the London Eye and Parliament buildings.  It was a great way to see London from the 'backside' and we took lots of photos.

We then hopped back on a Big Bus and toured the west end of London.  Some of the sites we drove by included Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.  We traveled along Hyde Park to the Marble Arch, looped back through the ultra-rich Grosvenor Park and on past Harrods.  The tour continued past Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science and Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, around the west end of Kensington Garden and Kensington Place, then back east to the Marble Arch.  There was still more to the tour but we were running out of time so we got off the bus at Speakers' Corner of Hyde Park and caught the Tube back to our hotel.

We changed clothes and walked a half-mile to the Lyceum Theatre to see The Lion King.  What a fantastic show.  We pretty much agree with what the Sunday Telegraph had to say:

Lyceum Theatre, Home of the Lion King

The costuming and music was so powerful that it didn't take long for one's mind to look at the combination of masks, wires, strings and sticks and believe that these were 3-D talking animals.    Hold your mouse over each photo below to see the name of the characters.  Our favourites were the hyenas.

After the theatre we stopped at an East Indian restaurant for an excellent meal before heading home to bed after a long day.

Pumbaa, Simba and Timon














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