London – Day 4 – Taking a Ride on a Big Red Bus

 

Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 have been a whirlwind of sights (and lots of familiar sounds…neither of us realized just how much we missed the English language).  There is so much to see and do in London, so on Day 4 we decided to find a faster way to take it all in.


Day 4 – London – 4/3/2016

We decided to get on our first big, red, double-decker bus to take a tour.  After doing a bit of research about the different companies that offered bus tours, we went with “The Original Tour” because they had the best price and offered the most.  Okay, so here’s how these bus tours work…The Original Tour has 6 bus routes working simultaneously.  Three of them are connector lines, while the other three are actually tour buses (the original tour, the multilingual tour, and the museum tour).  All of the lines intertwine at different stops so you can literally hop on and off the bus at any of the stops.  You’re ticket is good for a 24 hour period after its first use.  Our tickets also included a River Cruise pass and 3 Walking Tours (we missed out on the walking tours because we were still on the bus when they started).

So, first things first…find one of the bus stations to jump on.  Turns out there’s one at Piccadilly Circus, which we were familiar with by this point in the trip, so we headed there.  While waited for the bus, I did happen to notice this guy in the center of a park…

William Shakespeare

Hopefully we all know at least a little about this guy…actor, playwright, poet, genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist…okay, so maybe those last few are Iron Man.  Either way, the guys pretty famous and doesn’t need much of an introduction.  We saw the sight where his most famous works were performed when we went to The Globe on Day 2.  Among those famous works are a few you might have heard of, like Disney’s The Lion King (aka Hamlet), the ‘Cursed Play’ (Macbeth), and the oh-so-fun romp through teenage love that is Romeo and Juliet (plus like 35 more plays and a whole bunch of sonnets I won’t get into).

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And now…onto the bus…

A good deal of what we saw on the bus has already been dealt with in Day 1, 2, and 3 (including what the tour guide told us about each sight), so I’ll whiz through most of this and occasionally point a few things out…

We started down Oxden Street, which contains multiple theaters (Prince of Wales Theatre -showing The Book of Mormon {as seen in the photo}, Harold Pinter Theatre, Theatre Royal Haymarket, Her Majesty’s Theatre, etc.)

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Trafalgar Square

Next sight…Trafalgar Square…home of the National Gallery (a museum we would come back to the following day), four plinths with statues, Nelson’s Column with four lions, and two fountains.  Though the area has been of some significance since the 13th century, the current square was not completed and opened until 1844.  It is named after the “Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory in the Napoleonic Wars.” (Wikipedia)

In the picture, a couple of lions, one fountain, Nelson’s Column, and the Fourth Plinth are in view.  Nelson’s Column depicts Admiral Horatio Nelson (who died at the Battle of Trafalgar) and the four lions are cast from captured French guns.  The original design for the column had it almost 100 feet taller than it is now, and the designer of Trafalgar Square did not want it placed in the square.  The Fourth Plinth is significant because the other three all contain permanent sculptures (including the statue that was originally supposed to be on top of the Marble Arch), but the statue on the Fourth Plinth rotates to display commissioned artwork.  Currently on display (and seen in the photo) is “The Gift Horse.  It was installed on the fourth plinth on March 5, 2015. It is a model of a horse’s skeleton with a live display of the London Stock Exchange.” (Wikipedia)

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The National Gallery, home to over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900…

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A front view of Nelson’s Column (with lions) and the National Museum in the background…

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This is the exterior of The Athenaeum Club, an elite club for men and women (as of 2002) with intellectual interests, and particularly (but not exclusively) for those who have attained some distinction in science, literature or the arts.  Notable members include…Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Charles Darwin…just to name a few.  There were several other private clubs in the area, but I recognized the most names from this one.

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This is the Apsley House, but it is also called Number One, London.  Built between 1771 and 1778 for Lord Apsley, who gave the house its name, it was home to the first Duke of Wellington (who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte) and currently (partially) houses the ninth Duke of Wellington.  It’s called Number One, London because it “was the first house encountered from the countryside after passing the tollgates at the top of Knightsbridge (where central London started).” (GoLondon.about.com)  As well as housing the current Duke, it also serves as a museum.

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Park Lane contained quite a few famous hotels and some really interesting sculptures…like Dynamos, which was unveiled on October 5, 2013.  According to the artist, Bushra Fakhoury, “It symbolizes human struggle to achieve
excellence, pushing boundaries to make the impossible possible. We need to prioritise, work positively, and relentlessly towards reaching our goals, and dreams.” (bfakhoury.com)

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And Lorenzo Quinn’s (son of actor Anthony Quinn) Would You Catch Me If I Fall?.  According to PhotosLondon.com, Quinn says this about the piece…”when all around us seems to be kept in a fragile balance, it is important to know that if it all comes crumbling down there will be someone to catch our fall.”

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We even traveled through the area of London known as Belgravia, which contained several of the gated parks like the ones from the movie Notting Hill.  Also in this area, is the home of a certain author who wrote a certain series of books about a certain young wizard.  Her’s is the fifth car in (from left to right).

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Eventually we ended up back in the Palace of Westminster area.  Here are a few photos of the area from the top of the bus.

Palace of Westminster…

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Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben)…

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(In order from foreground to background) A statue of Winston Churchill, St. Margaret’s (with the blue clock face and heavy construction), and Westminster Abbey…

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Elizabeth Tower and the Palace of Westminster…

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Across the Thames, we get the London Eye and Elizabeth Tower (it’s a real struggle to call this Elizabeth Tower instead of Big Ben, but I’m trying to force it into my memory)…

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We’re picking up the pace now…

Remember, facing the dragon means entering London.  So here we are entering again at Temple Bar…

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…making our way past St. Paul’s Cathedral…

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…and once more over Tower Bridge…

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And finally…”Old” Scotland Yard (and, according to our tour guide, the “proper” Scotland Yard…apparently he does not like the architecture of the new Scotland Yard building…).  Either way, it’s the original headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service of London.

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Whew…that was a lot of touristing…

Next, we touristed some more by getting on the River Cruise.  Honestly, it was a bit disappointing because it really didn’t go very far (and because there were several French elementary school field trip groups on the boat and the students were being allowed to run, scream, and pretty much do whatever they wanted), but it did give us a different view of the city.

The statue Boadicea and Her Daughters stands on the Westminster Bridge that crosses the Thames between Elizabeth Tower and the London Eye.  The statue was placed here in 1902.  It  “portrays Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni tribe of Britons, accompanied by her two daughters, mounted on a scythed chariot drawn by two rearing horses.”  It was requested by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  “Parallels were drawn between the Victoria and Boadicea, whose name also means ‘victory.’  Albert lent two horses as models, and the statue of Boadicea bears some resemblance to a young Queen Victoria.” (Wikipedia)

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A couple of detail shots of the Coca-Cola London Eye…

This is one of the 32 passenger capsules.  Each 11 ton capsule represents one of the London Boroughs, and holds up to 25 people. (Wikipedia)

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The spindle, hub, and tensioned cables that support the rim…

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And the pièce de résistance…the conclusion of the short journey…the end all…another view of the Tower Bridge…

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Yay…we were there…and so were those other people…

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The cruise did give us a unique view of the Tower of London as well.  In this photo, on the bottom left, you can just barely see the entrance to Traitor’s Gate…

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And one final shot before getting off the boat…

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Since we had 24 hour hop on / hop off privileges for the bus tour, we decided to jump on one of the connecting buses and head to a part of the city we hadn’t seen before.

Baker Street

This street was originally filled with high class residents but is now primarily commercial. Of course the reason we went to Baker Street was to search for a specific address…221b.

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Home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

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221b is actually not at 221b on Baker Street, but in 1990 the city council gave the Sherlock Holmes Museum the address (which was 239).

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The Sherlock Holmes Museum was closed, so we set off towards our next site (which also interested us based on fiction)…King’s Cross Station.

However, the building beside King’s Cross is kind of amazing…

St. Pancras International

St. Pancras was opened in 1868 by the Midland Railway as the southern terminus of its main line which connected London with the East Midlands and Yorkshire.

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The building also houses a hotel and several shops.  It is sometimes referred to as the “cathedral of railways.”

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King’s Cross Station

As seen in the photos, it was not only starting to get dark by this point, but about 10 minutes after this photo was taken, the sky would open up…all that to say, we didn’t get a great photo of the station.  Some info though…the station opened in 1852 and is named after a statue of King George IV that was demolished in 1845.  It shares an Underground with St. Pancras (this is where Brittany and I came to get on the Eurostar to France).

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More importantly (in our minds anyway) is that the station is used by the previously alluded to JK Rowling as the starting point of the Hogwarts Express.  “Within King’s Cross, a cast-iron ‘Platform 9¾’ plaque was erected…in 2002 on a bricked up entryway to platform 9 on the exterior wall of the station annex.” (Wikipedia)

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So…we ended our day of bus, boat, and foot touring with a little trip into the fantastic world of literature…

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Like Day 4, well then check out what happens on Day 5! (coming soon)

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