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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Monday, April 23, 2012

London Day 2

Jay spoiled us again with an incredible breakfast. Coffee, juice, fruit, biscuits and scones with clotted cream.
I had never had clotted cream or even heard of it, but it was really good. My dad kept saying how unappetizing the name sounded, but then again we have sour cream, which sounds just as bad.
We got ready and took the tube to the London Eye, for which we had 10 a.m. tickets. We waited in the line for less than 10 minutes. About halfway through the length of the line, security was checking bags. They waved my dad and I to the left of the barrier that split the line into two. After we passed, they closed it off, leaving my mom on the other side. She ducked under and followed us. We completely bypassed the other side of the line. It was like fast track tickets at Disney World. We literally walked straight onto the capsule.
And up we went!

For those who happen to not know what the London Eye is, imagine a large-scale ferris wheel with giant glass eggs as the cart. Each egg capsule holds about 20 people I would estimate. It took about half an hour to go all the way around.

It was a pretty grey day, but I feel like that's how England is supposed to be. As we started, we could see Hungerford Bridge. The rest of the city folded out behind it as we climbed higher and higher.

Hungerford Bridge

When we reached the top I looked at the capsule next to us. At first I laughed — I feel like they looked so ridiculous. Then I realized I was standing in the same thing and giggled to myself harder. 

I collected myself and looked out at the view again. Parliament looked magnificent. I wasn't really prepared for seeing all of this before I came. I was more focused on geting to see my parents. I hardly even thought about all of the iconic things I'd be seeing. Everything became so much more breathtaking this way.

We got off the eye as security systematically walked in with mirrors to check under the bench to make sure no one left anything threatening. With our ticket we could see a "4-D experience" for free. Why not? We filed inside and shuffled along with the crowd. The show was about five minutes and basically a time lapse of the London Eye being lifted into place followed by a montage of nifty celebrations and such happening in the capsules and on the eye as a whole. 3-D birds flew at us, smoke machines filled the air with grey smoke and I think there may have been some glitter or bubbles. It was touristy, which was expected, but neat.

We went back outside to meet Jay. He was going to come with us to see the Guard Change now that we had the right day. We had a lot of ground to cover and a lot of crowds to work our way through, so we started power walking to Buckingham. We got to The Mall, the road that leads to the palace, and were walking alongside the procession of the guards. We were walking pretty briskly so we could get ahead of them, but they certainly weren't strolling along. My mom stopped to take a picture and video of them walking by, but Jay and my dad and I kept going. We reached a wall of people before we were anywhere near the palace. There was no way we'd be seeing it.

I zoomed in, raised my camera above the crowd and snapped a quick picture. It was the closest I got to seeing anything.

I wasn't too upset about not getting to see it. It certainly would have been something to see, but it wasn't on my list before I got there, so no big deal. I didn't need to let it get me down.
We eventually relocated my mom and worked our way back toward where we came.
Jay was heading to the hospital to see his partner, Liam. We walked as far as Parliament before parting ways. Here my mom and I took our photos in front of the telephone booth — necessary of course.

Then I dragged my parents back and forth from corner to corner to get several 30 Years Later pictures. Parliament was so much more ornate than I had even realized from a distance.

We walked across the street to see Westminster Abbey, but decided not to go inside because of both the price and our time constraints. There was a lot to go back to from yesterday.
It was still impressive from the outside.

We walked back around Parliament toward Westminster Bridge. We started to go over when I remembered there was a 30 Years Later picture from down the road to our left. My dad waited around while I power walked to find the right spot. My mom followed behind me.

I kept thinking I had it, but it was always a little farther down. I was determined to get this one because I knew the London Eye, which was obviously not around in the 80s, would now take up a good portion of the picture. It would be a great comparison shot. 
Eventually I did get it though! (Check out the next post)

Mumsie and I walked back to find my dad, stopping a couple of times for pictures such as this one:

And people wonder why I'm weird. We walked back to meet my dad, then hopped on the tube to the Tower of London!

We got there in time for the 1:30 p.m. Yeoman Warder tour. We walked under arch of the Middle Tower and waited for our guide.

There was a trebuchet to the left right inside the entrance.

The crowd was pretty large by the time our tour started. The guide stood on a platform and started to tell the history of the Tower. He spent a lot of time trying to get loud responses from the crowd, which made me lose interest pretty quickly. He herded us under the Byward tower and made a stop at the Bell Tower. He told us that a lot of the guides and their families actually live inside the tower today, which really surprised me.

Byward Tower
Next we rounded the corner to Traitors' Gate, through which traitors/prisoners entered the Tower by barge.

Our tour guide standing in front of the Traitors' Gate
The guide continued to focus a lot on engaging and entertaining the crowd, but not with topics relevant to where we were. He spend about 10 minutes asking everyone which country they were from then cracking a joke about it. One or two would have been entertaining, but he just kept going. He had completely lost me by now.

I followed the group up a set of stairs, then left to wander around on my own while my parents stayed to listen.

Under the grey sky and next to the stone buildings, the grass of the Tower Green and blue of the Gaoler's House doors popped out of the scenery.

At the site of the execution block sits a contemporary memorial in remembrance those who died there. A poem wraps around the base: ‘Gentle visitor pause awhile : where you stand death cut away the light of many days : here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life : may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage : under there restless skies’.

The tour ended inside the Royal Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, the burial place for some of the Tower's most famous prisoners, include Ann Boleyn.
We walked back outside to explore on our own. The sky was looking more and more foreboding, so we went inside the Waterloo Barracks to see the Crown Jewels.

Not surprisingly, we weren't allowed to take any pictures inside. Maybe I just don't have the right perspective here, but I found the entire exhibit garish. It's a disgusting display of wealth. I understand the romanticized idea of monarchy and queens, and it's great in theory, but it doesn't make sense to me. Political connotations aside, I don't think I'll ever understand dumping so much wealth into a crown when citizens could benefit from that money. This certainly isn't exclusive to monarchs; it's how government seems to work everywhere. The crown jewels are just a such a visual depiction of the phenomenon. Maybe I'm just missing something.

We walked around a little more before grabbing a small lunch inside. It was cafe-style and subpar, but it stifled the growls coming from my stomach. Next we climbed up to the inner curtain wall of the Tower.

From here we could see the Tower Bridge and begin the East Wall Walk. It links the Salt Tower, the Broad Arrow Tower, the Constable Tower and the Martin Tower all together.

I was hoping to get to the top of at least one of the towers, but a gate blocked every single one. 

Still, the view of the city from where we were was pretty great.

It was getting pretty late, and we still had lots of things to see, so we left the Tower and walked over to the Tower Bridge.

If we had had a little bit more time, I would have loved to go to the top of the bridge. (Of course)
I'll do it next time, for sure.

After a few minutes out on the very windy bridge, we took the tube to Piccadilly.
First we made a quick pitstop at Covent Garden, where Jay thought one of mom's pictures was. 

We couldn't find it, so instead got gelato where my parents had Thursday. It was among the better gelato I've had this semester, but it's no Gelateria dei Neri. While we were enjoying our gelato, I looked closer at the picture that was supposed to be in Covent Garden. I realized I could see a street name if I zoomed in: Glasshouse Street. We pulled out a map and eventually located the street near Piccadilly Circus.
We finished our treat and headed that way where we were supposed to meet Jay anyway. Along the way, we passed the Wyndham's Theatre where we saw "The King's Speech" the night before.

Piccadilly was incredibly busy, making my 30 Years Later mission more of a challenge than usual, but my mom trailed behind me in circles as I searched for her photos.

My dad stayed behind to wait for Jay. I got the photos I needed in the square, but I was determined to find the one for Glasshouse Street.
I found it pretty quickly, but not where the photo was. An entire block of it was closed for construction. I was about to give up, but I decided it was worth a shot to go around the block and up one intersection farther. My mom followed reluctantly, scolding me for making us late, as I half ran down the road.
I rounded the corner and almost squealed with joy to see the intersection. There were actually two photos taken at this spot, but construction made one of them impossible to retake. I have no idea what the significance was or why mumsie decided to take a picture of that, but not Buckingham. But at least she wasn't standing in the middle of a busy intersection to take it this time.

Satisfied with my recreation, we hurried back to meet dad and Jay.

From Piccadilly, Jay led us to Soho Square where we had dinner reservations at a Thai restaurant. I'd been craving Thai for weeks. I was so excited I practically skipped there.

I have no idea what this is, but we passed it along the way. It made me laugh.
The thai food was even better than the expectation I had worked up in my mind. After dinner we walked over to Palace Theatre to see the display for Singin' in the Rain Jay had told us about.

We grabbed a cab home, and I took pictures out the window.

The driver dropped us off at the end of the block, and we walked back as night fell.
I had to wake up at 3:30 a.m. for our flight to Pisa, so I just packed and went to sleep.

It was an awesome introduction to a city I hope to see plenty more of in the future.

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