London – Day 1 – The Whole of London…

Two weeks.  That’s the amount of time Brittany and I had to explore London and Paris (and Versailles and Chessy).  While that seems like quite a bit of time…there is far too much history in these places for two weeks to really make a dent.  With that said, we did the best we could, usually trekking from literal sun up to well past sun down.  Camera in hand, we went through two and a half 8GB memory cards (that’s over 3,500 pictures!).  We won’t bore you with all of them, just enough to tell our story; however, the amount of story we came home with does mean that each day has its own dedicated post.  It will take some time getting them all up, but hopefully you enjoy them.  Again, these pages aren’t really about anything more than letting our friends and family know what we’re doing while traveling Europe, but they’re also our journal to look back on from time to time.

So without further ado….here is day 1 of our adventure…


Day 1 – London – 3/31/2016

Sometimes I get this sneaky suspicion that Brittany would like to punch me in the face for how I operate on our “vacations.”  For me, if the sun is up, we should be exploring, and when the sun goes down, well that makes for interesting exploring too.  She always handles it like a trooper, but she’s the one that actually planned this excursion.  So it’s her fault that we were up and on a plane before the sun even came out in Bologna.  I think we were actually up and ready before the taxi service.  Normally you text them and they immediately text back saying they’re on their way, but it took us about 10 minutes to get a response.  It all turned out okay though, we got to the airport and had an easy flight to London…and it meant that we had all day to walk London when we arrived.  Which leads to our first minor adventure…

To summarize…Brittany and I (both Americans if you’re reading this and don’t know us) have iPhones with ‘Pay-As-You-Go’ SIM cards installed for our stay in Bologna, Italy.  But that means when we travel outside of Italy we don’t have service until we buy another P.A.Y.G. card from wherever we are.  Cool…except all reports said the cards available at Heathrow were way more expensive than the ones purchased outside the airport…so we waited.  Which meant that we had no cell service or no Wi-Fi.  Still cool though…we downloaded an offline map app and we had the address to our apartment.  From Heathrow Airport, take the Underground to the city and then switch lines to get to Lambeth North, which is right beside the street our apartment is on…Kennington.  Simple.  Well it would be except, when we get to the address on Kennington, there is no apartment at the number…and we have no cell or Wi-Fi to call…

Just a quick side note…upon entering the Underground for the first time…this is the sign we were greeted with.  When we tell people we are from Tennessee…Jack is what they know…

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Anyway, back to finding the apartment…turns out that the map app we downloaded is good, but not great when it’s offline.  It really, really did not want to find Kennington Lane, and instead kept insisting we needed to be on Kennington Road, which was why there was no apartment at the number given.  Luckily, a fantastic English gentleman and his wife happened to be walking by and saw that we looked lost.  He told us how to get to Kennington Lane, with a nice rib about taking a left at a pub called “The Dirty Dog,” and we were off.  Thankfully, the lane version of the street was really close to the road version.

Addresses in Europe are very similar to addresses in America, but not quite the same; so our next project was finding the actual apartment on the street.  The number in our address didn’t coincide with a building, but rather the apartment number inside the building.  We had to search for the name of the apartment complex instead.  Randomly, we found a map of the area that helped…a bit.  So we wandered around and around and around…at least it was an interesting lost this time…we found a park, and a playground, and some places to eat, and finally our apartment, which was on the 11th floor…but it’s okay, there was a lift…thank goodness.

Whew…that’s a lot of story to not even get started.  It was worth it though…we ended up with a pretty spectacular view of London.

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Bags dropped off…SIM card acquired…we were now ready to check out the city…and that we did.  We started off near the Palace of Westminster, near such iconic places like…

The London Eye (also known as The Coca-Cola London Eye)

The London Eye was built in 1999, and at that time it was both the highest view point in London and the tallest ferris wheel in the world (both have now been surpassed).  It stands  443 feet tall and has a diameter of 394 feet.  It may look small in the photo, but trust me, it’s not.  (Brittany side note: This is also an important Doctor Who location in the Pilot episode of the reboot series!!)

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There are 32 passenger capsules (one to represent every borough of London), and each pod holds up to 25 people that are free to walk around during the ride.  A trip around the Eye takes about 30 minutes to complete, and it does not stop to let passengers on and off.  It moves slowly enough to embark/disembark while it’s moving. (Wikipedia and my own knowledge)  We visited this area many times, so there will be plenty more pictures as the London post continues…

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We also found a couple of iconic British phone booths!

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This is also home to Big Ben…

Elizabeth Tower (also called Big Benformally known as Clock Tower {very creative})

Big Ben is actually the nickname of the bell inside of the tower.  The name of the tower itself was changed to Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (the 60th anniversary of Elizabeth II as queen).  The tower was completed in 1858 and stands 315 feet tall. (Wikipedia)

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The Palace of Westminster and Victoria Tower

Connected to Big Ben is the Palace of Westminster, which was constructed around the same time as Elizabeth Tower (a massive fire destroyed the previous Parliament building in 1834).  The building was designed in the Gothic Revival style by architect Charles Barry.  It houses both the “House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.” (Wikipedia)

At the opposite end of the Palace from Elizabeth Tower is Victoria Tower.  This tower was originally called King’s Tower to honor King Willian IV, the reigning king when the tower was built, but was later renamed Victoria Tower in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.  The tower serves as a “fireproof repository for books and documents.” (Wikipedia)

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The architectural style of the Palace of Westminster, and all of its towers, is remarkable.  From a distance, the style is unique and interesting to look at, but upon closer inspection, you begin to see that almost every inch is covered in intricate design.  The next few photos, which are close-ups of a section near Victoria Tower, exemplify that idea…

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The northern end of the Palace of Westminster with another iconic image of London interrupting our photo…the red, double-decker bus….

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Directly across the street from the Palace of Westminster is Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey

An abbey has been on this spot since around 960, but construction of the present church began in 1254.  As shown in the following photos, the exterior of this building is amazing.

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If you continue reading through these posts, you will find that Brittany and I both enjoy looking at statues, but I am a fiend for gargoyles, and Westminster Abbey had quite a few statues and gargoyles to enjoy.  The following photos are just a few examples.  Some of these guys have been recently cleaned and repaired…

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Just in case anyone needed proof we were actually there…

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Also, a quick note before we move on, it is expensive to get into Westminster Abbey!  It’s £20 each to get in.  Since the £ is worth around $1.50 it would have cost about $60 for us to go inside!  We were going to go in on our last day, but just couldn’t bring ourselves to pay that much.  Throughout our journey we discovered time and time again that several things in London are expensive (in all fairness, some things {like museums} are free)…and multiply that by an exchange rate…sheesh….I guess we’ve gotten too used to everything in Bologna being ridiculously affordable.


We left the parliament / Westminster area and headed north in search of…well…nothing in particular and found all sorts of fun…

King Charles Street

In the Buckingham Palace area there are all sorts of side streets…some accessible, some not.  We were allowed to go down King Charles Street where we found some nice things to look at.

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We both really like the weathering on these (and all the other) statues…

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Downing Street

The next street over is Downing Street, which is not open to the public.  10 Downing Street is the home of the Prime Minister, currently David Cameron.  While viewing the home of the Prime Minister is pretty neat, Brittany had an alterer motive for wanting her picture taken here…10 Downing Street was the setting for a couple of Doctor Who episodes… (Eccleston episodes!!!)

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Next, we headed away from the Slitheen encounter and across to St. James’s Park.

Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Park

Lots and lots of wildlife in St. James’s Park, mostly of the feathered variety.  There’s even a Duck Island, which is where we met this guy.  Don’t let the photo fool you with cuteness…he was eyeballing us pretty threateningly the whole time we passed by…perhaps we should have brought bread…

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Some of the garden was starting to bloom while we were there.  Buckingham Palace is in the background of this picture…

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Our ‘fantastic’ little stroll led us right to the palace gates.

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Buckingham Palace is “the London residence and principal workplace of the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, currently Queen Elizabeth II.  Originally known as Buckingham House, the building at the core of today’s palace was a large  built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 on a site that had been in private ownership for at least 150 years. It was acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and became known as “The Queen’s House.”  Buckingham Palace became the London residence of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837.” (Wikipedia)

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The palace also house the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony (we’ll get to that on a later post) by the Queen’s Guard…you know…those guys that you supposedly can’t make laugh or smile whilst on duty, but we didn’t try…I mean come on, how annoyed would you be if someone did that to you while you were on duty…

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Victoria Memorial

In front of Buckingham Palace is the Victoria Memorial, which was completed in 1924.  The gilded statue on top is Winged Victory with Constancy, holding a compass (on the left), and Courage, holding a club (on the right).  In the photo, the statue under the Winged Victory is Queen Victoria, with Justice (on the right) and Truth (on the left), (Motherhood is in the back).  Two bronze statues can be seen in this photo, in the distant left is Military and Naval Power, and Progress can be seen in the center. (Wikipedia and Bob Speel’s Website)

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After our long trek we took a break on the steps of the memorial…

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Piccadilly Circus

We covered quite a bit of ground on our first day, but we weren’t quite done.  It started getting a little too dark for picture taking…so we explored Piccadilly Circus.  Where we found the M&M’s Store!!!

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Dusk led us back to the Palace of Westminster area, where we were able to snap a few more  photos of Elizabeth Tower and the London Eye.

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And after a long day of touristing, what better way to unwind than a good ole English pint.  We even went to the pub the elder gentleman had suggested when we first arrived (lost) in Kennington…”The Dirty Dog”…although its real name was The Dog House…

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We even stopped to get a couple of Doctor Who treats before heading home.  FYI…Jammie Dodgers are delicious!

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So much for Day 1 in London. Our adventure continues with Day 2

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