Frankly, we were having adventures before we even managed to make it to London. We caught a train to the Pisa airport Wednesday afternoon, expecting to catch our flight about 4:30, but Pisa was socked in with heavy fog. About an hour after our plane was supposed to take off (during which we had no news and they don’t have information boards in Pisa) they canceled the flight. In fact, they canceled just about every flight in the airport, so the whole place was just CHAOS. Eventually we got piled on a bus and driven over two hours to Genoa where we caught our flight to London, arriving at about 1 am. We caught the Gatwick express to the Victoria Tube Station and caught a Black Cab (the cabs in London don’t have boots (trunks), so you have lots of leg room and put your luggage where ever).
The next day we moved out at about 10. Highlights? The National Portrait Gallery where I got to see the original portrait of Richard III, a wooden copy of which has been somewhere in my house for all of my life. The British Museum is like the London version of the Met and shows off the British’s unparalleled skills at stealing artifacts from other countries during the Imperial Era. I got to see the Rosetta Stone which was highly exciting along with an enormous Egyptian collection…What was also neat was the room full of things taken from the Parthenon-a frieze from there wrapped around the entire room!
That night Kristina and I went to go see Wicked at the Victoria Apollo, which was INCREDIBLE. We bought reduced tickets that morning that had great seats. A fabulous evening.
My very excited roommate Kristina
Friday we did the major site seeing-Horse Guards, Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Big Ben, King’s Cross (Platform 9 and 3/4!), several random parks, the London Tower, the Tower Bridge and Westminster Abbey. We spent a lot of time wandering around heading in the general direction of sights and getting surprised when we ran into them. The British Parliament is one of the prettiest government buildings I have ever seen and it is absolutely MASSIVE. It turns out that the London Tour is not in fact a tower, but is really a castle-like looking thing. We tubed up to King’s Cross Station just so that we could go to Platform 9 and 3/4’s to take a picture of us pushing the cart through the platform wall. Yes I know, we’re silly.
Westminister Abbey was absolutely STUNNING. We spent at least two hours in their wandering around listening to the audio guide,-there is so much to see! The amazing fan style Gothic ceiling, the many, many chapels, the choir loft, Poet’s corner….Queen Elizabeth I is buried there and I have to admit that I definitely did a little dance of glee upon seeing her tomb and monument-she is my favorite British monarch. I also got the see the graves of Bloody Mary and Mary of the Scots among others. Practically everyone is buried in Westminster Abbey from Tennyson and Blake to Newton and Handel. A place of amazing history that still manages to be relevant even though it is over 800 years old. There are monuments all over the church to the brave British men who fought in the World Wars as well as those who died in India and France, those who fell to Hitler, to Napoleon, and more.
We had a rather interesting experience at the changing of the guard. People were crammed up against the gates of Buckingham Palace and on the island in the traffic that is Queen Victoria’s monument. Kristina managed to find a spot at the gate, but Megan and I were too short so we went over to the island to see if the view was better. As time went on, first columns of soldiers in furry hats playing instruments went by and then later, men on horses swords unsheathed. Megan and I peered through the golden gates, “Are they setting up *music stands*?” Yes, they were. We stood there as the British guard starting playing songs from West Side Story-*badly*. We both agreed that this HAD to end, but how to get away? We were trapped on an island around which the roads were blocked off so the guards could come by and the police weren’t letting anyone pass now and Kristina was on the other side. We determined after some scouting that sneaking wouldn’t work…the British police were too vigilant and far too into obeying traffic rules (unlike the carabinieri in Italia!)…eventually we found a spot where we could cross, found Kristina and the three of us ran from that place before any more pomp and circumstance could trap us!
Other notes: Red Telephone booths are everywhere and adorable. Charing Cross Road has been renamed Book Shop Lane by me and I love it. Painted before every crosswalk is “Look Left” or “Look Right” so that we American tourists don’t get run over.
Overall, had a lovely time!
PS, someday I will figure out how to make vertical pictures vertical rather than horizontal…gahhh