Europe 2008 (London) Day 3 – May 27

27 05 2008

We knew that today we would go with a later start since we had to time our arrival down in London with the Changing of the guards at 1130.  Liz picked us up a little later this day.   We planned for an 0830 pickup but due to not setting an alarm (oops) we phoned her quickly upon wake up and asked her to delay to 0845.  After our usual heart attack breakfast we met Liz who was right on time.  She got us to the station at 0905 and insisted on making sure we were OK and off on the train.  Good thing.  It turns out the cheap fare begins at 0930 on weekdays and we were about 30 minutes early.  We headed over to her place to chat and have a coffee before going back for 0930.  By delaying our trip we saved £7.50 each for the travel card.  £11.50 instead of £19 

This time down on the train we get smart.  At Stratford station I realize that we can switch directly to the Jubilee line which would take us to Green Park.  We bumped and thumped along the tracks on the Jubilee line until the stop and headed aboveground.  The signage was quite clear and we easily made our way down to Buckingham Palace at 1045.  We didn’t really know where anything was going to happen so we settled into what appeared to be a good position along the entry road.   There was a lot of waiting and then a group of guardsmen come down the OTHER road and head into the palace grounds.  What??  Oh well.  We keep waiting and are rewarded by the next set of guards coming down OUR road and heading into the grounds.  We got some decent pictures of these guys.  Here’s the rub though.. .they weren’t dressed in black and red.  They were wearing white pants and tunic with a green "kilt-like" outfit overtop.  They were all obviously of some sort of East Asian or South Asian descent.  Where they the Gurkhas?  We met a nice couple from New Zealand and we helped each other get shots of what we could.  The ceremony itself was not visible due to the crowds up at the gates, but we got some good shots of the departing British Guard and the mounted riders.  We took some pictures of the Victoria monument and as we were doing so the sun started to come out.  Things were looking much brighter but still no blue sky.

From the Palace we headed down to Admiralty arch and saw the various memorials that were there.  There are some very creative ones.  The Austrialian memorial did a great job of using differing type weight on the list of names on the memorial to create the names of the locations of battles.   It really hit when you realized how many nations fought for or alongside Britain in its various military battles.

We got on the tube again and zipped down to London Bridge.  Oops… London Bridge is NOT the Tower Bridge.  We took a long walk and enjoyed the sight of City Hall  and stopped along the way for lunch at a pub.  We took a tour of the bridge and its history.  Quite the engineering marvel for its day.  From the bridge it was on to the Tower of London.  The tower, which is really a castle, was originally built back in the 12 century and even encompassed bits of the old Roman walls which had been built 100’s of years earlier.   It was interesting to read of the history of the various prisoners of the tower and what became of them.  The tour definitely confirmed my belief that politics hasn’t changed any since then.  The only difference is that now we have more media embarrassment for them rather than beheading or solitary confinement.   The truly cool part of the tour, of course, was the crown jewels.  Wow!  The actual coronation jewels and accoutrements were in a room with a moving beltway that kept you moving along.  I suppose in the summer this area must get pretty crazy.  From there we went on to see a wall of gold maces that had been used over the years by various monarchs.  The golden bowls, trophies and everything else helped you to understand why that area of the tower had a vault door that was about 12" thick.

Outside the crown jewel area was another one of these white/green Asian guards.  I asked one of the beefeaters who they were. 

"They’re Malaysian sir." , came back the reply.  "Different commonwealth countries supply the ceremonial guard for Buckingham Palace and here from time to time." 

"Thank you!".  There you have it…they were Malaysians.  This also helps to explain the various Malaysian soldiers I saw wandering about in casual fatigues near the palace and at the tower.

By now it was 1745 and they kicked us out of the tower complex as it was closing.  Good thing.  My feet were getting tired.  Time to tube it over to Westminster and shoot the OUTSIDE of Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliment now that there was finally sun.   Being rush hour, we crammed into the tube and popped out of our sardine can when we arrived at Westminster.  We walked around the outside of the various buildings and snapped away.  It was nice not to have to dodge raindrops for a change.   By 1900 it had become quite a bit cooler and was starting to rain… Just in time… We headed back down to the tube with sore feet and still dry bodies 🙂

We went from Westminster to Green Park and then transferred onto the Jubilee line again to go home. We waited for our Jubilee train and the first one ended up so full that we couldn’t get on.  We waited some more.  The next train didn’t go to Stratford, and by the time the third one came by there was actually some room.  We squeezed in and began our homeward journey, content with having seen the key points of London.

We got back to Brentwood by 2030 and Liz met us at the train station.  After getting to her house she ordered up some Fish and Chips, and we all had a very pleasant dinner.  Liz, Aiden, the two girls (names escape me at the moment) and Mrs D and I.  It was a very pleasant night.  A nice finish to a good time in London.  We got back to our hotel, tired, at 2230.

We’re leaving tomorrow at 0830 to get the car and start our Odyssey by car.  What fun awaits for the Canadian driving on the Left?

We’ll find out tomorrow!

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