If you missed them, be sure to read Parts 1, 2, and 3 first!
This was the second day we split up. Bill & Jan went to the Imperial War Museum and to Wimbledon (though they couldn’t get in to see much there). Adrienne & I went to the Doctor Who Experience in the morning. It was fun to see props, set pieces, and other things from one of our favorite shows. After that we walked to Hammersmith Shopping Centre for a quick lunch before heading to Wembley Park via the tube.
We took a tour of Wembley Stadium, the national football stadium, where they play various cup finals and England national team matches, and even an NFL game once a year. It was very neat to see, and, much like Emirates Stadium, we’ll now be able to say “We’ve been there!” when we see it on TV. When we had finished there, we went back into the city, to Covent Garden for some brief shopping and to Trafalgar Square for more pictures. We walked all the way back home from there, stopping at a Mexican restaurant for a light, late dinner.
For our last day in London, we hadn’t left much for us to do besides shopping. But we did still have to see Hyde Park. So we spent the morning there, including seeing the Peter Pan statue and the excessively ornate Albert Memorial. However, Kensington Palace was undergoing renovation and we didn’t get to see much of that. After lunch at a sandwich shop, we spent most of the afternoon at Harrods, the largest store in England. It has 330 departments, ranging from high end clothing and accessories to sports to food to toys, and even a Christmas department.
We accomplished our desired shopping and walked down the street to the Victoria & Albert Museum and enjoyed a traditional spot of afternoon tea in their very Victorian cafe. After a little more shopping at the museum gift shop, we took the tube to Leicester Square. We found some nearby bookstores and did some more shopping (are you sensing a theme?). And then we had a quick dinner at Burger King before taking the tube home. After counting up our remaining money and figuring out how many snacks we’d promised to bring back for people, we made one last trip to Sainsbury’s to clear out their chocolate hobnobs and a few other assorted snacks. And then we returned “home” one last time before our flight home.
There’s not much left to say. We had done as much packing as possible the night before, but there were some odds and ends left to pack and cleanup. We were a bit surprised to fit everything we had acquired into the same set of bags we had brought. We walked to the Warren Street station as we had done most days of the trip, but this time with our bags packed full. We took the tube to the airport (transferring at Green Park from the Victoria Line to the Piccadilly line). And after doing all the usual things you do at the airport, we flew home.
If you missed them, be sure to read Parts 1 and 2 first!
We took a tour of Parliament Monday morning. The tour was organized like clockwork as there were often 3 or 4 tour groups in a room, and they still managed to not run into each other and we could amazingly always hear our guide. The tour did not include any portion of the clock tower. Afterwards, we took the tube to Bond St, where we found a pub nearby for lunch. And we walked past Grosvenor Square and the US Embassy. One of the more surprising things we found was a statue of Ronald Reagan which had just been erected earlier in the month.
We walked further along to the northeast corner of Hyde Park, where the Marble Arch sits, and then we split up. Adrienne and Jan went home to get a head start on our plans for an afternoon nap, while Bill & I walked north all the way to Regent’s Park to buy tickets for that night’s showing of Crazy For You at the Open Air Theatre in the park. We walked back home for a bit of a rest ourselves before heading out all together to see the show. It was a bit ironic that we found ourselves going all the way to England to see Gershwin, but it was tons of fun.
We spent this day in the neighborhoods to our north, starting by walking to 221b Baker Street. We didn’t go through the Sherlock Holmes Museum, but we perused the gift shop, which was interesting enough. From there, we took the tube 1 stop (a long one) to St. John’s Wood, which is just a few blocks up from famous Abbey Road. Once we got the pictures we wanted, we continued our walk. We went past Lord’s Cricket Ground before finding our way to the northeast corner of Regent’s Park where we connected up with the Jubilee Greenway trail, following it all the way to Camden Market.
Similar to what we found at the Greenwich Market, there were various stalls with food (Turkish kebabs, Indian food, etc.). After we had eaten, we wandered around the stores and stalls to do a little shopping. It reminded me a bit of night market in Taiwan, especially if it was more densely packed and more crowded.
We took the tube from there to Euston and got some gelato for a snack at the St. Pancras train terminal. The remainder of the afternoon was spent at the British Library. The primary exhibit for visitors is the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, displaying hundreds of documents and artifacts, related to music, literature, religion, science, and other historical items of note. I took particular note of the King James Bible–celebrating its 400th anniversary–which was left open to John chapter 1. We also perused the temporary exhibit on science fiction (including life-size TARDIS!). After spending some time (and money) in the gift shop we walked home, stopping at Sainsbury’s for a cheap dinner.
This was our longest walk to begin a day as we walked about 40 minutes to Covent Garden and the London Transport Museum. It was fascinating to learn about the early history of transportation in London, including underground steam-powered trains (I can’t even imagine how bad the air quality would have been down there). Once we’d finished there, we got lunch at a pie place (not that kind of pie), and wandered around the shops and market stalls a bit.
From there we took the tube to Westminster Abbey (via Victoria station for a bit of a walk). We waited in line for about 40 minutes before we could enter and were there for about 2-3 hours, including staying around for the Evening Prayer service. There was a lot to see there, even more than at St. Paul’s Cathedral, it seemed.
We didn’t have anything planned for the evening and were feeling adventurous so we found a bus going somewhere we hadn’t been and hopped on. It was #211 heading southwest and we got off near the Fulham Broadway tube stop, and looked for food. We didn’t have to go far before we found Bodean’s BBQ. Much to our surprise it wasn’t just a burger place (what we had seen passing for BBQ in some places), it actually served BBQ, including a KC Brisket sandwich. They were even showing MLB games on weekends! After a satisfying meal, it was time to go home for the evening.
If you missed it, be sure to read Part 1 first!
This was the day for visiting Cambridge. We took the train from King’s Cross to Cambridge (about 45 minutes). Once there, we walked into town from the train station, and made our way to King’s College, where we spent about 2 hours in the chapel and around the grounds (but not on the grass!). We had lunch at The Eagle, the pub where Francis Crick and James Watson “discovered the secret of life.”
In the afternoon, we wandered around past some of the other colleges, and also went on a punting tour of the River Cam. Our guide was a recent graduate of one of the colleges, and he did a great job entertaining us with stories and navigating the crowded river. We took the train back to London, stopping at Sainsbury’s for food to eat on the way. When we arrived in London, we went to Regent’s Park and walked around its southeast corner a bit, taking some pictures, before walking home.
We took the tube to the Waterloo station so we could walk across the Westminster Bridge before catching a boat trip to Greenwich from Westminster Pier. The trip was about an hour long, which was the same as in Cambridge, but the mode of transport was much larger. As went along the Thames, one of the operators provided some stories and information about some of the buildings we were passing. We arrived in Greenwich and walked around the Old Royal Naval College a bit before finding lunch at Greenwich Market, where we each got something different (Chinese food, English pasty, etc.).
After lunch we walked up the hill to the Royal Observatory. There were several buildings with exhibits pertaining to time-keeping, navigation, and astronomy. But the main attraction and photo op was the Prime Meridian. When we were done, we walked through Greenwich, stopping in a few tourist shops. Then, we took the Docklands Light Railway (connected to, but not exactly them same as, the main Underground network) back towards the city.
We got out at Bank/Monument, and went to The Monument. It’s a monument to the Great Fire of London in 1666. We were too late to go inside, but we walked around and observed the outside of it. We spent a brief amount of time at the church of St. Dunstan-in-the-East nearby. It is a church that was severely damaged during the blitz and, rather than being repaired, has been turned into a public garden. It was getting towards dinner time, so we took the tube to Leicester Square and found a Szechuan restaurant in nearby Chinatown. The atmosphere and food were both authentic, though a couple dishes were a little disappointing.
This was the first day that we split up. Bill and Jan took the train southeast to Dover and spent all day there. It was a beautiful day and they were able to see France in the distance. Adrienne and I spent the day at Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal FC. Our trip happened to coincide with the Emirates Cup, their annual 2-day friendly tournament. We went through the Arsenal Museum, and saw 2 games. In the first, New York Red Bulls (who we have seen the Sounders play several times) beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0. And in the second game, the one we cared about, Arsenal started out strong but gave up 2 late goals to draw with Boca Juniors 2-2.
Despite the result, it was great to see where Arsenal play, and to see the players up close. Just like when we see baseball highlights and can say “Oh! We’ve been there!” for 19 out of 30 stadiums, we can now say “We’ve been there!” when we watch Arsenal too.
We got one of our earliest starts on Sunday because we wanted to make sure we got to church on time. In fact, we got there early enough that we had some time to take some pictures in Trafalgar Square before heading “next door” to St. Martin-in-the-Fields for the service. Afterwards, we walked past Cleopatra’s Needle and had pizza for lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant.
From there, we did a little more walking, to the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum. We spent much of the afternoon there, in particular at the Churchill Museum, which was fairly new. We proceeded from there to walk to Westminster Abbey, where we attended an organ recital by a young organist from New Zealand. It was neat to see the inside of the Abbey, but we didn’t get to wander around at all as admittance was purely for the recital, which we already knew and were planning to come back later in the week.
We crossed the Westminster Bridge, and found a light dinner. And then it was time to go up in the London Eye. It was a beautiful evening, as were many of the days we were there, and we could see for miles in every direction. After the 30-minute trip, the clouds and sunset were still so beautiful we stopped by the banks of the Thames to take even more pictures before finally heading home. This was probably the longest day of our entire trip.
It’s been over a month since we returned from our trip, but I took some notes while we were there and drafted most of what you’re about to read soon after. I have merely attempted to summarize all the places we went and haven’t written much about each of the places individually. I’ve included links to Wikipedia for some things for basic information, but if there are things you’d like me to describe from my experience, let me know either in the comments or next time you talk to me, and I’ll be happy to elaborate.
We arrived Sunday afternoon. After some brief trouble at the tube station at the airport, we made our way to our home for the next two weeks. I knew it was going to be just one block from BT Tower, but it didn’t really hit me how useful that would be until we started walking towards it after getting off the tube at Goodge Street. From then on, any time we spotted BT Tower, we would remark to each other: “Look, there’s home!”
We took a few minutes to settle in before enacting our plan to defeat jet lag, by going out to see things. So we got back on the tube and went to Trafalgar Square. They were beginning to fence off a large part of it in preparation for the “One Year To Go” celebration for the upcoming Olympics in London, so we resolved to come back later in the trip. From there we walked down Whitehall, including 10 Downing Street, then past Big Ben and Westminster Abbey before heading home, where we found a nearby pub at which to eat.
We got a late start as we were still settling in and needed to catch up on sleep after a long travel day. So, by the time we got to the Tower of London and looked around just a bit, it was already time for a light lunch, so we had some Fish & Chips and found a bench overlooking the River Thames and Tower Bridge. Then we spent the entire afternoon in the Tower of London, beginning with a brilliant tour led by a Yeoman Warder (sometimes called a Beefeater). We also saw the Crown Jewels and various exhibits pertaining to the various people and purposes the Tower has served over its nearly 1000-year history.
We made our way by foot across the River–via Tower Bridge–and headed towards Shakespeare’s Globe (rebuilt in 1997). We had pizza for dinner nearby, then got in line to ensure good “seats.” In fact, our seats were not seats at all. We were groundlings, which meant we stood on the ground, and being towards the front of the line meant we were able to claim a spot right up by the stage. We saw Much Ado About Nothing, and had a grand time of it.
We arrived at Buckingham Palace and found quite a crowd gathered, and realized we had showed up during the Changing of the Guard. Most of the action was inside the main gates where we couldn’t see, but every several minutes a troop of guards marched in or out along one of the streets leading to the palace. From there, we walked around a bit through St. James Park and along The Mall through Admiralty Arch to once again reach Trafalgar Square. We ate at the Sherlock Holmes Pub nearby.
From there, we got on a heritage route bus–the type where you can just get on in the back–and headed towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. We spent some time walking through the main level of the cathedral, and also had the opportunity to walk up to the base of the dome and even higher, including the chance to look out over the city. We stayed around for the evensong service. For dinner, we stopped at Sainsbury’s–a grocery store–for the first of many times to get sandwiches, chips, etc. for a cheaper meal than eating out.
We took the tube back to Buckingham Palace so we could get a closer look with the crowds long gone. And we took more pictures. I was surprised by how drab Buckingham Palace looked for being, well, a palace. Without the ornate gate in front, it might look like any other government building. We also walked through Green Park to Hyde Park Corner and took the tube home.
We walked to the British Museum, and spent all day here. We certainly didn’t see everything, and we didn’t even walk through all the areas. We started at Ancient Egypt and made our way through Ancient Greece and other similarly ancient civilizations. We also went through a bit of Australia and Japan. I saw a special Jade exhibit, and thought about spending more time there before remembering all those times I saw Jade at the National Palace Museum for school, and figured I could spend the time seeing new things instead.
We took a break for lunch and found an Indian restaurant (Chambeli) just up the street, which had great food. The tandoori was particularly enjoyed. We returned to the museum, and spent time in medieval Europe, America, Africa, clocks, money, and several other areas. This was also the first place we purchased souvenirs, including an 850-piece Rosetta Stone puzzle.
I said we spent “all day” here, but only the daytime, really. We took the tube to Piccadilly Circus, which shares some similarities to Times Square in New York. We looked around for somewhere to eat nearby, and eventually walked to the Carnaby Street shopping district where we found a recently opened Hawaiian burger place (Kua Aina; based in Honolulu, but with locations throughout Hawaii and Japan, and now London).
This last weekend, we went backpacking for the first time this summer. Our destination was the Thunder Creek trail in North Cascades National Park. We’d never been to this area before, so it was a new experience for us. For the official trail guide at the North Cascades National Park website, click here.