London – Day 2 – East London

During a later tour of London we would find out that what is commonly referred to as ‘London’ is actually the City of London and the City of Westminster.  The City of Westminster is a borough of London while the City of London is not…confused yet…no worries.  Most of what we did on Day 1 was in Westminster, Day 2 was spent in London.  So if Big Ben, Parliament, and Buckingham Palace are all in Westminster, what’s in London?  A lot…

Day 2 – London – 4/1/2016

As is often the case with Brittany and I, we wandered around for quite a while trying to find the best path for our destination.  While that might seem like a negative thing, we love it because it usually leads us to things we probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

For instance, we found America Street (which is in neither Westminster nor London, but the borough of Southwark…nevermind…we’ll just say London here on out…)


I think America Street really sums up how the residents of London feel about America…


Look…there’s even a Ford in the picture!  Ah, America…

Not too far from our short venture down the dilapidated America Street we reached our destination…

Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe is a remake of the original Globe Theatre. (Well, maybe not quite the original.  The original Globe was built in 1599, then it burned down in 1613, was rebuilt in 1614, and the torn down in 1644…but it’s a remake of one of the originals anyway.  Funny story too, the original Globe was built using timber from The Theatre which was the second permanent theatre built in England.  Oh…oh…another funny story…the original Globe was destroyed by fire when a canon went off during a production of Henry VIII.  A text from that time states that “This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabrick, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks; only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broyled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit, put it out with a bottle of ale.” – Sir Henry Wotton  And for some finality to this side venture, the Globe was torn down in 1644 because the Puritans closed all theaters in 1642…sorry about that rant, but this is what I do for a living you know…)  Anyway, we found Shakespeare’s Globe!


We also found a Starbucks about 20 feet from the entrance to the theatre, so we had coffee before going in.  Don’t judge…it was really cold and we needed something to warm us up.  London is cold in April.  London is also hot in April.  We found that we were in a constant battle between wearing coats, long sleeves, gloves, and hats and trying to pack all of the mentioned items into a backpack because we were sweating so much.

On to Shakespeare’s Globe!


We could walk around the exterior as much as we wanted, but you could only go inside with a tour group or for a show.  There were no tickets available for any shows while we were there.  We were going to go on the tour but ended up not having time.


We did get some fancy-smancy souvenirs though!


The original Globe sight was only 750 feet from the new Shakespeare’s Globe, and we had read that there were markings indicating where the theatre stood, so we headed off in search of said sight.

After going in the opposite direction for some time, we turned around and easily found the sight.


There were markings in the stone where excavations had revealed some of the theatre layout, but a rather tall fence kept us from getting close enough to take too many good photos.  In the photo below, the line “The Globe” follows the projected outer wall of the theatre.  Immediately to the right of the line, where the theatre would have stood, is an apartment building…


Next we walked the Thames River is search of more London, and it didn’t take long to find.  We stumbled into things such as…

The remains of Winchester Palace…


The Golden Hinde II, a reconstruction of the ship Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the globe between 1577-80…


London Bridge…

(Clearly this is not the original London Bridge.  Our tour guide would later inform us that this is, in fact, London Bridge number 5.  The nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down is supposedly based on this bridges predecessor, which stood for more than 600 years.)


Our walk also afforded us some pretty spectacular views of the Tower Bridge…


Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge is another of the most iconic images of London.  The bridge officially open on June 30, 1894.  (In the following photo the HMS Belfast, which became the Imperial War Museum in 1978, can be seen on the left.)


According to Wikipedia, “In the second half of the 19th century, increased commercial development in the East End of London led to a requirement for a new river crossing downstream of London Bridge. A traditional fixed bridge at street level could not be built because it would cut off access by sailing ships to the port facilities in the Pool of London, between London Bridge and the Tower of London.”  Although we never actually got to witness it, the bottom center section of the bridge is divided in two and can be raised to allow ships passage.


Brittany thinks I’m a bit foolish, but I still claim it looks like a wooly mammoth…This image also shows how far down the water level was.


And, of course, I am always in gargoyle spotting mode…


A different perspective and a better idea of just how large the two towers really are…



According to the previously mentioned Wikipedia page, the current color scheme of the bridge “dates from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee.”


Above the center section on the bridge, there is a pedestrian walkway but you have to pay to go up (there is also a walkway on the main bridge allowing pedestrians to cross).  The following photo shows the walkway.  In the center of the walkway, there is a dark rectangle…this is actually a portion of the walkway floor that is glass so walkers can look down…nope…


Walking the Tower Bridge gave us some great views of the surrounding area.  On the South Bank, the super tall building is known as The Shard (a 95 story building with a hotel, offices, residencies, and an observation area) and the small, bulbous shaped building is City Hall.


Brittany’s panoramic picture gets the South Bank and the North Bank.  We actually did some exploring on the North Bank, so I’ll leave that for now, but I’d like to point out one building.  The first tall building to the right of the Thames is called the “Walkie-Talkie” because of its unusual shape, but that’s not why I point it out.  If you look closely, you can see that the portion of the building facing the Thames is slightly darker than the rest of the building as a solution to the building reflecting the sun’s glare.  Our tour guide told us that was not originally the case.  He said that in the summer of 2013, the sun’s reflection off of the building was melting cars.  Wikipedia confirms…”Spot temperature readings at street-level including up to 196 °F and 243 °F were observed during summer 2013, when the reflection of a beam of light up to six times brighter than direct sunlight shining onto the streets beneath damaged parked vehicles.”


And finally Tower Bridge from the North Bank…


Tower of London (officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London)

The Tower Bridge’s northern portion ends very near the entrance to the Tower of London.  “It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower (seen directly over Brittany’s head in the photo), which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.” (Wikipedia)


We didn’t actually go in the Tower of London, again because of the expense, but we got some nice exterior shots.  Like the Traitor’s Gate…

Traitor’s Gate provided a water gate entrance to the Tower.  Prisoners were brought by barge along the Thames, passing under London Bridge, where the heads of recently executed prisoners were displayed on pikes.


Yum…nothing like a story about piked heads to make us think of lunch, but how could we resist Fish & Chips.  (These were actually delicious, and I spent the rest of our time in London trying to find Fish & Chips that would match these.)


Another view of the Tower of London from its north-western side…


We left the Tower of London in search of some movie/TV locations we both wanted to see…meaning we set off in search of the Gherkin building, featured in Thor: The Dark World, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and a couple of Doctor Who episodes.

30 St Mary Axe (aka The Gherkin)


But we found some other interesting skyscrapers along the way…

Lloyd’s Building (aka the Inside-Out Building)


And the Leadenhall Building (known as The Cheesegrater because of its shape) which opened in July of 2014…


The Gherkin “stands on the former sites of the Baltic Exchange and Chamber of Shipping, which were extensively damaged in 1992 by the explosion of a bomb placed by the Provisional IRA in St Mary Axe, the street from which the tower takes its name.  The building has become an iconic symbol of London and is one of the city’s most widely recognised examples of contemporary architecture.” (Wikipedia)


In the plaza of the Gherkin is a piece of art by Ai Weiwei titled Forever.


It was apparently made using 700 bicycles…


Another view of the Gherkin…


At this point, I have to admit, we got a bit distracted.  Brittany’s feet were killing her and there just happened to be a TK Maxx across the street (yes, in London it’s TK not TJ), so we headed in and got her a more comfortable pair of shoes.

But then, after walking just a few blocks, we found a game changer…


Yes, we found Krispy Kreme doughnuts for sale.  I literally saw the logo out of the corner of my eye as we passed by the grocery story.  Glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts are heavenly, but we only got one of those.  The other two in the box are filled with Reese’s Peanut Butter.  Now you have to remember Brittany has been in Italy for the better part of 7 months at this point, and peanut butter is really difficult to find in Italy.  And peanut butter is one of my all time favorite foods…especially Reece’s.  So to find a Reese’s filled doughnut…magical.  And it wasn’t just like a little peanut butter inside either, it was totally full.  We went and got more on another day…


Let’s get something straight real quick, there’s been talk of Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, and we even (I’m not too ashamed to admit) stopped at McDonald’s.  It may sound like we skipped out on the delicacies that London had to offer, but 1) the UK is not necessarily known for its food, 2) it’s a Reese’s doughnut!, and 3) yeah…we’ve missed a few American-tasting options.  (And it goes past food too, it was a bit heartwarming to see a T’K’ Maxx.)  You also have to remember this…everything is expensive in London…as I pointed out in a previous blog, the £ is worth about $1.50…so if the burger is £15 we would really be paying $21…better be the best burger ever made…

So, yeah, we could go to a pub and pay 10 to 15 £ for a burger, or we could go to McDonald’s and get two meals for the same price…sometimes your pocketbook/wallet requires you go to McDonald’s (plus McDonald’s and Starbucks had free Wifi and bathrooms).

After our doughnut break (actually while Brittany was still enjoying her doughnut and Dr. Pepper – also the first we’d seen in Europe), I started taking some pictures of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

The original church on this site dates back to 604 AD (the current cathedral is the 5th St. Paul’s).  In 1669, after the London fire in 1666, Sir Christopher Wren (who seemed to design every building in London during this time) designed the current cathedral.  It was not considered officially complete until December 25, 1711.  St. Paul’s housed the funeral of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill.  It is also were the Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II have been held.  Charles and Diana even got married here.  There are also some famous photographs of the church from the Blitz.

From the park outside of the church we got our first view of St. Paul, gilded on top of a pillar…


A bit of a better view with some of the statues atop the cathedral in view…


The base of this pillar was a fountain (not on when we were there), but I really love the faces built into it.  Again, I think the deterioration added to its look…





This fat little guy is just one of the many, many cherubs found on the façade of the building…


On top of the north façade are a row of statues (left to right – St. Bartholomew, St. ?, St. James the Lesser, St. Thomas, St. Philip {According to})


A better view of St. Phillip…


And another of St. Phillip which shows the statues erosion…


The front façade…


In front of the cathedral is a statue of Queen Anne…


Anne was the queen when St. Paul’s was built – this is actually a copy of the original statue (1712), which was replaced in 1885…


A short walk away from St. Paul’s…one of the most famous streets in London (in theatre anyway)…

Fleet Street (as in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)

Fleet Street is also mentioned by Charles Dickens several times, but its real fame (I suppose) comes as an area of printing and publishing.  Most of the newspapers have moved to other areas now, but our tour guide told us this was where most were located between the 16th and 20th centuries.


Also located on this street…Punch Tavern.  It is named after Punch Magazine, which had its offices nearby.  My personal connection, and subsequent love, comes from having been in Aurand Harris’ The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Punch and Judy while in college.


They serve lots of drinks at the pub, but their specialty is gin.  So we got something with gin, cranberry juice, ginger beer, and…actual rose petals in the drink.


And don’t worry…there were barber shops on Fleet Street as well…


Fleet Street / The Strand

In the City of London, this street is called Fleet Street.  In the City of Westminster, it’s called The Strand.  Where they meet you have the Temple Bar.


Apparently, there are several of these dragons all over London.  If you walk in facing the dragon, you are entering the City of London; if you are facing the dragon’s back, you are leaving the City of London.  We got to see a couple of sets of these as we went along.


There were also some beautiful buildings on The Strand / Fleet Street, such as the Royal Courts of Justice…


And lots of guys like this on the street as well…


We walked quite a bit more and eventually made our way to Trafalgar Square (there are more photos later in our trip).  This picture is the Admiralty Arch.  If you take this arch and follow The Mall (street name), you end up at Buckingham Palace.  You can just kind of make out the palace behind the gates in this picture.


After a long day, we made our way back to Piccadilly Circus, with its famous video display.


And way, way, way further than it looked on the map, we found the Disney Store (apparently the largest Disney Store in Europe).  And we took a few photos with some friends…


Brittany…sad to be in a pumpkin…


…but wait, now it’s a gilded carriage!


I have to say, Robert Downey Jr…I mean…Iron Man was shorter than I expected (although he probably still wins this battle)…


As much as Brittany and I both love Disney, though, I think we were more impressed with Hamleys…7 floors of toys!!!

An even shorter version of Iron Man found inside Hamleys…


We eventually headed home, crossing the Golden Jubilee Bridge, which offered some great night views of the city.


And finally we made it back to the lift that would take us to our flat…Brittany looking British in her Union Flag hat (it’s only called the Union Jack when flown on a jack over water according to Brittany {Doctor Who – thank you, Rose Tyler} and our tour guide)…me looking, well…weird, I suppose…


For more, check out Day 3 in London…


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