Monday, November 14, 2016

Day 3: My Trip to London and Ireland

Charming London street
My sister Lisa and I had planned all along that we would go to a West End (British version of Broadway) play while in London.  On Tuesday, we headed out to find a place where we could supposedly get a good deal on tickets.  That done, it was on to more sightseeing.

Westminster Abbey

Our agenda for the day was Westminster Abbey, Churchill's underground bunker, and Buckingham Palace.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey was another site that had been on my bucket list forever, and it didn't disappoint. We were given a gadget to listen to a guided tour of the facility.  Again, because it is a church, we weren't allowed to take pictures.  Sometimes that's a good thing.  You're able to completely be in the moment and not be preoccupied with photo opportunities.

The abbey is a place that's rich in history.  Since 1066, British monarchs have been crowned here. Prince William and Kate Middleton were married here. Princess Diana's body lay in state here.  Over three thousand people are buried here, including Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, George Frederick Handel, Sir Isaac Newton, and many, many more.

Words can't express how awe-inspiring this place was.

I did take some pictures in the outer courtyards of the building, and as no one stopped me it was apparently acceptable.

One of the oldest doors in Europe...ordered built by Edward the Confessor in  the 1000s

A lovely courtyard at Westminster Abbey

Churchill's War Rooms

From Westminster Abbey we made our way to Churchill's War Rooms,  the underground bunker where the famous prime minister and his staff stayed during intense bombings of London during World War 2.

While I found it fascinating, about halfway through the tour, my claustrophia kicked into high gear.  Anyone who suffers from similar phobias will understand how intensely I wanted to get out of the place and back into daylight!  This actually gave me empathy for the people who had to live in this small, stuffy space.

I was so glad to walk out of that place and back into fresh air!

St. James Park & Buckingham Palace

We decided to walk to Buckingham Palace, and our walk took us through the lovely St. James Park.
Lisa and I were charmed by this park, which included the picturesque Birdkeeper's Cottage.

Birdkeeper's Cottage at St James Park

Buckingham Palace was everything we expected it to be, and it was thrilling to see yet another place where so much history had taken place.

We opted not to take an indoor tour of some of the rooms, opting instead to enjoy the iconic landscaping and gates.

In front of Buckingham Palace.  I only bought one article of clothing in London...this top from Marks & Spencer.  It's become one of my favorites! And despite the fact that it looks like I'm matching everything in the picture, there is no filter on it.

At some point, Lisa and I had a tasty lunch at a charming Italian restaurant on Haymarket Street called the Spaghetti House.. We had Italian twice on our trip, once in London and once in Dublin, and found it measured up quite well to the Italian food we were used to in the States.

After a day of much walking and sightseeing, we headed to our hotel room to get ready for Les Miserables!

Both Lisa and I had seen Les Mis previously, but we really enjoyed our West End experience of one of our very favorite musicals.  What a wonderful way to cap off our next to the last day in London!

To be continued

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Day 2: My Trip to London and Ireland

In front of the famous Eros Statue in Picadilly Square

Lisa and I woke up refreshed and ready for a full day of sightseeing.  After a continental breakfast, Job One was finding out exactly where to get on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus.

That done, we set out in a light mist. (The very light rain didn't last very long, although the skies remained mostly overcast that day.)  I loved how the guide filled us in on important sights we were seeing on the way to St. Paul's Cathedral, where we would exit the bus.

(By the way, I STRONGLY recommend the Hop On Hop Off bus! It's definitely the best way to see a big city when you have limited time.  We enjoyed our experiences on the buses in both London and Dublin.)

St. Paul's Cathedral

On the steps of St Paul's Cathedral

The iconic dome of St Paul's
This iconic London church, designed by renowned architect Christopher Wren in the late 16-hundreds and early to mid 17-hundreds, had long been on my bucket list.

I had read many books in which St. Paul's featured prominently, including Connie Willis' fantastic time-travel books, Blackout and All Clear (read my review here.)

The building has served as a timeless reminder of the courage and resilience of Brits.  Parts of it were even bombed twice by the Germans in World War 2, but it still stands, full of dignity and historical significance.

We were taken around the cathedral by an informative, humorous guide.  Pictures aren't allowed inside the sanctuary, as it is still a place of worship to this day, but our tour was truly fascinating.

St Paul's Cathedral

Our first fish and chips

After a fairly lengthy tour of the cathedral and some souvenir-shopping, we were ready for lunch.  Remember I told you about our bad eating experience the day before?  We weren't sure what to expect when we sat down at Joe's Kitchen near St. Paul's.  But we were more than pleased.

This was our first experience of eating fish and chips in London, and it was delicious! In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we ended up eating fish and chips two more times during our trip.

The Tower of London

The Tower was another landmark that I had always longed to see.  What an experience! One of the amazing things for an American visiting Europe is the sheer age of everything.  America is comparatively a very young nation.  But in London, you are surrounded by things that were functioning as far back as the 1000s, some even earlier.

Parts of the  Tower of London were built as far back as 1078.  It also features prominently is many historical novels I've read.  Just about anybody who was anybody in British history was imprisoned there, including wives of Henry the 8th.

We were given a tour by Billy the Beefeater, a guide who is a member of the Yeoman Warders.  Apparently they were called Beefeaters because at one time, they were paid in beef.

Bill was hilarious, energetic and very informative...he helped make the tour a truly amazing experience.

One part of the tour that I can't show you, because photos weren't allowed, was the Crown Jewels.  The room full of incredible sparkle and shine was awe-inspiring!

The tour ended up in a small chapel in which services are still held today.  Once again, we were awed by the historical significance of this place.

River Thames Tour

Just after our tour of the Tower, we stepped onto a boat for a tour of the River Thames.  Another informative guide kept us informed about all the sights we were seeing....the Shard, the Globe Theater, the Tower Bridge and several other bridges, the London Eye (the huge ferris wheel), and much more.

Aboard the Thames River cruise

The Tower Bridge from our Thames River cruise

Seeing the sights of London from a boat on the River Thames was a truly memorable experience that I highly recommend.

I'm ending my recounting of Day 2 in London with this picture.  I literally have dreamed of having this very picture taken...standing by a red London phone booth with Big Ben in the background.  A dream come true!

After a very long day of sightseeing, most of it on our feet, we headed back to the hotel for a much-needed night's sleep.

To Be Continued
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