Monday, May 23, 2011

London Sights

One of the first things we did when everyone finally arrived on Friday was take in some sightseeing. Dr. Post and Dr. G. thought that if they kept everyone busy for the remainder of the afternoon, everyone would be less tempted to sleep and ruin their transition to European time.

About 4 o'clock, we headed out and caught a double decker bus, with an open top, to view some the sights of London.
 Here's Madame Tossaud's, which doesn't look terrible impressive from the outside, aside from the large cue of people. However, Madame Tossaud's contains wax figurines of many famous individuals, including the Queen, Prince Charles, David Beckham, Lady Gaga, and President Obama, to name a few.
We also drove along Baker street, past the fictional location of Sherlock Holmes. Many people believe the character to be real, and 221B Baker Street receives over 1,000 letters a year asking for helping finding things or solving crimes. We didn't stop to visit, since it looks to be very touristy, but it's still fun to see the setting of these books.
We also drove a building where H.G. Wells once wrote. In addition, we saw one of the more original Routemaster buses, which reminds me of two enjoyable movies - Harry Potter's Night Bus and the bus fight from the Mummy (please be appreciative Emily!).
Here's a shot of the American Embassy. It was hard to get a fully shot of the Embassy, since the Embassy looks over a park full of many trees. According to our guide however, the Americans will be driving a new embassy soon, since the congestion costs are becoming unmanageable. The funniest part of seeing the Embassy is that President Obama was visiting London on this particular day. Imagine, the closest I'll ever be to President Obama was in London, and not the U.S.
We also passed by Her Majesty's Theatre, where the Phantom of the Opera is currently playing. This is one show I'm particularly keen to see. This theatre changes its name when the leading monarch's sex changes. It started out as the Queen's Theatre, became the King's Theatre, and over time eventually became His Majesty's Theatre.
Trafalgar Square is a busy part of London, with many iconic sights known to London. Here is one of them, the National Gallery. There's also a large square where many people often congregate for festivals, rallies, or even to have lunch.
 In order to keep the area fresh, a new art display is used. This year it's a ship in a glass bottle. Not sure what the significance is but I found it interesting how often the art was to change. 
For all you Harry Potter fans, we also drove by the location where the Ministry of Magic scene was filmed for the seventh movie. Geek out!
Here's one of the Horse Guards in front of an entrance to St. James Park by Buckingham Palace. According to our guide, sometimes soldiers from Prince Harry's regiment will be mounted guards as well. The color of the uniform indicates which regiment. I believe a blue uniform indicates the soldiers belong to Harry's regiment, although I may be mistaken in recalling what the guide related. 
 My first view of Westminster Cathedral.
The bus tour let us see parts of the cathedral, but I plan to visit again to get a better view - and better pictures! It was still breathtaking from what I did get to see.
As beautiful as the cathedral was, I felt ever more awed by the House of Parliament and the intricate
 work in all the architecture. That, and Big Ben, of course. We got off our tour bus after we crossed Westminster Bridge and walked back across, which allowed me to see the House of Parliament much longer.
And here's me, on the boat cruise, with Big Ben in the background :)
 The London Eye, which is a highly recommended attraction for all visitors. It takes 1/2 hour to complete a full revolution, and supposedly has an amazing view of London from the top. I might have Mom try this when she comes to London!

Our boat ride to Greenwich was a lot of fun. The captain wasn't really a 'professional tour guide' as he called himself, but he was gracious enough to point out several different landmarks and historical spots along the wa. I thoroughly enjoyed his commentary. This building for instance, was the first building to advertise on the river. When it was built, advertising on the river was not allowed. However, using the windows and balconies, they spelled out OXO, a brand of food products. Ingenious, no?
Here's a view of the four spires of the Tower of London, a very historical spot for London, since many prisoners were kept, tortured, and even killed here. Now, it's a tourist attraction both for it's history and for the crown jewels that are kept inside.
In addition to London Bridge, which is wonderful, Tower Bridge also decorates the skyline. I was more impressed with Tower Bridge than London Bridge, which is the next bridge over. Tower Bridge opens about 1,000 times a year to let boats through, and was converted from the original form so it could open. 
We ended out trip at Greenwich, at the Royal Observatory. Besides some very interesting displays and exhibits, the scenery from the top of the hill was wonderful!
Oh, and so was straddling the international date line!

Congratulations if you've stayed with me for the entire post. I'm sorry it's so long, and that it's taken me A WEEK to post it. Hopefully you've enjoyed this mini tour of London, though there's much more to see. Stay turned for more sights!

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