So here's where we are so far:
Days 1 & 2: Bath
Day 3: Blenheim, Cotswolds and Oxford day trip
Days 4, 5, and part of 6 were dedicated to London. London is huge. We gave ourselves about two and a half days to see it, so we knew that we would only scratch the surface. Short as it was, I'm really happy with all the things we got to see!
The quick facts:
Where we stayed: The Jesmond Hotel
Why we wanted come: Well, it's London!
Major sights we visited: Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms, the Tower of London, British Museum, British Library, St. Paul's Cathedral
Amber was in charge of choosing our hotel for London and she did a great job. The Jesmond Hotel was in a nice part of North London, but still fairly convenient to the big sights. We loved the breakfast and they even did our laundry, which was great! Our room was up in the attic, so we really got our exercise. It was not the first or last time that we would all wish to ourselves that we had brought smaller suitcases.
You can see our window up at the top on the left, behind the street light.
Looking down the street that our hotel was on--Gower Street.
Candid shot of the messiness that was our room--I thought our room was surprisingly big for being up in the attic!
Amber recommended getting hop-on, hop-off tour bus tickets and I'm glad she did. It's super touristy, but so efficient. We used that quite a bit to get around London.
Christina looking back at Trafalgar Square from the top of a double-decker bus (by the way, why do we not have these in the U.S.?).
Westminster Abbey was on our short list of places we wanted to see. It's incredible how much history is packed into that one building. It's also beautiful, although I must say it seemed almost cluttered to me because it's so full of graves and memorials. Something I had to get used to in the UK is that they often buried their dead inside the churches. Westminster Abbey is full of graves and memorials, along the hallways, in the chapels, in the walls, and yes, even in the very floor you walk on. They don't allow photography, though, so I don't have any pictures of the inside. It was amazing to see the graves of so many important people, including my personal favorite--William Wilberforce.
Looking across the "cloister garth," another part of the Abbey grounds.
We also saw Big Ben and Parliament, but only from the outside.
Our next stop was the Churchill War Rooms, the underground headquarters where Winston Churchill and his staff worked during World War II. It was quite fascinating.
A sign letting those working in the war rooms know what the weather was like above ground.
Imagine tracking a complex war with paper maps and pins!
One fun aspect of our time in London was meeting up with Amber's friends Phil and Elyse, We did a lot of our sight-seeing with them and also had dinner at the cool old pub--The Anchor.
We started our second day with a tour of the Tower of London. Unfortunately, I kind of failed at taking pictures there. Here's one looking down from the White Tower, one of the older buildings in the complex, at a courtyard within the Tower walls. The crowd of people is a group listening to a Beefeater tour guide. The tour was the best part--the men who lead them are quite entertaining, while giving a lot of good history about the long and rather gory history of the Tower. To the right is the building where they keep the Crown Jewels--quite impressive, but no photography allowed. :-(
We also went to see the British Museum that day. Don't be fooled by this picture. I snapped it while walking past the museum before it opened. By the time we actually went in, this courtyard was very full!
The British Museum has a lot of artifacts that are not actually British. It has a famous collection of Egyptian mummies.
It also has the Rosetta Stone!
This hall contains marble carvings from the Parthenon in Greece.
Statues from the Parthenon.
It's not a tourist site strictly speaking, but my summary of London wouldn't be complete without talking about the Tube. At first it seemed confusing and I was glad that Amber had already used it before. By the time we left, though, I thought it was great and really enjoyed using it. The tube is so efficient!
There lots of escalators in the tube stations, many lined all the way with posters. The juxtaposition of the leveled posters and the angled escalators always seemed strange to me.
Our last morning in London was Sunday and we went to church at St. Paul's Cathedral. We used a new (to us) tube station to get there--Goodge Street. We headed down the stairs toward the platform, which happened to be spiral. We kept thinking that surely the bottom must be just around the next bend, but it wasn't. It felt like we were on a journey to the center of the earth! Then we finally got to the bottom and found this sign:
...needless to say we used the lift (elevator) on the way back!
St. Paul's was beautiful--more spacious than Westminster. It was quite a treat to hear the choir sing during the service in a space like that. And just listening to the bells before and after the service was delightful! (I miss church bells. Why don't we have more church bells in the states?)
Our last notable stop in London was the Twining's store on the Strand, which has operated in that location since 1706!
Amber on the Strand.
Sunday afternoon we said goodbye to London and hopped on a train for Wales, ready for our next adventure! I can't wait to tell you about it! :-)
p.s. Here's another map, if you'd like to see where all the places I talked about are located: