Friday, June 7, 2013

{European Travels} London Day 3

In case you're just tuning in:
London Day 2: West End, Soho, and Piccadilly

By our third day in London, we felt comfortable and efficient navigating the Underground and almost "at home" in our tiny apartment. Before officially heading out on the town, we stopped at a local breakfast shop around the corner which our landlord recommended. Josh had savory french toast with cheese and bacon and I had yogurt with fresh fruit compote. London had yet to disappoint in the food category (or any category for that matter).

After breakfast we walked 15 minutes north to Buckingham Palace to catch the Changing of the Guards. Since today was a bank holiday this, and everything else, was packed! 
We waited on the circular platform/statue in the center of the yard, hoping the position would get us a better view of the incoming bands, fresh guards, and actually ceremony. We got to see the marching bands come down the long stretch of road, playing their little ditties; who would have thought they were such fans of Michael Jackson!
The Horse Guards
 Trying to get a good view.
 Fresh guards, reporting to duty.
 Passing of the regimental flag, or "color"
 Josh making friends with the local law enforcement.

While the ceremony is a must-see when visiting London, I was really impressed by the surrounding grounds full of tulips and lush grass.

The ceremony ended by noon and we headed to Trafalgar Square to walk Rick Steve's "City Walk" audio tour. This walk took us along Shakespeare's old London, a one-square-mile stretch surrounding St. Paul's Cathedral; this also was the main path of the Great Fire of 1666. It was easy to follow, as we walked east down a single street that changed names as we went: The Strand ->Fleet Street ->Ludgate Hill ->Cannon Street. 

First stop: St. Clement Danes, which straddles the lanes of Strand Street and is left on its own little island. After the fire in 1666, Christopher Wren was selected to rebuild the city. This is one of 23 he built here in London. 

Across the street is the beautiful Australia House, more famously known (in my book) as the Gringotts Wizarding Bank in Harry Potter. No muggles allowed. 

Continuing east along Strand, we saw the Royal Courts of Justice, Britain's Highest civil court. 

And across the street was the tiny shop of Twinings Tea (established in 1706), where I loaded up on souvenirs for myself. No, I will not share.  

Further down we passed this little guy, which marks the official border between the City of London and the City of Westminster. The Queen cannot pass this statue into the City of London without "permission" of The City's Lord Mayor.  

"Leaving" Westminster and "entering" The City we passed underneath Prince Henry's Room, once an office for the son of King Charles I, and one of the few buildings to survive the Great Fire.

We got off the main road for a bit and ventured through some narrow streets of London. 

Following the signs around twists and corners, we found Dr. Johnson's house, the man who created the first English-language dictionary and, apparently, loved his cat Hodge.

Dr. Johnson, as well as Charles Dickens, also was a frequent visitor of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, which was just around the corner. This tavern has been around since 1538, but was rebuild in 1667 after being destroyed by the fire. We had hoped to eat here for lunch, but was closed due to the holiday.

Walking past The Cheese, we poured back onto Fleet Street and were met with the stunning view of St. Paul's Cathedral, England's national church. 
Remember that guy Wren who reconstructed the city after the Great Fire? He's in charge of this beauty. 
No pictures were allowed inside, but of course my husband attempted a few. Although blurry, you can still see how ornate and intentional every detail is.
We decided to climb the 530 steep and narrow steps to the top and were awarded with unobstructed views of the city.  

Quick fuel before carrying on. The day of site seeing isn't quite over yet! 

The next memorable stop on the tour was The Monument, which stands near the northeast corner of London Bridge. It is 202 feet tall, and again, by Wren. He built the Greek-style column as a tribute to the 1666 Great Fire which destroyed 80 percent of The City in 4 days. Miraculously, only 9 people died.

Just a few blocks later, and with very tired feet, we finally arrived at the London Bridge.
First good picture of us, with views of the Tower Bridge in the back ground.

As you can imagine, by now we were starving after only having breakfast and ice cream in our bellies. We ate at the pub The Punch off of Fleet Street, just a few blocks from St. Paul. 

I had my first British Pie and mash and clearly loved it. 

After dinner, our feet were throbbing from walking all day so we returned home with some store-bought dessert to play a few hands of Phase 10 (yes, we sometimes act like old people).

Only one more day left in London! 

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