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London

Posted by on April 15, 2005

One last big vacation while we’re in Europe. We traveled via Ryan Air to London Stansted, and took a train, then subway (the Underground) to our hotel in the Bayswater region. It was great to not need to struggle with a new language, but we did learn some funny differences like “que” for line, “trolley” for stroller, and “Way Out” signs instead of Exit. Here’s the trip details!

Day 1

After close examination of the weather before we left, I knew a cold front with wind would hit in the morning around 10 am. I’m glad we knew what was coming…we would have been fooled by the clear blue sky, warm temps, and singing birds that we woke up to. Since the sun was out, we headed straight to the landmark I wanted pictures of the most: Big Ben. About an hour later, the front moved through, but thankfully didn’t bring any rain – only occasional sprinkles – so we still got to see a lot. We walked about 6.5 miles that day!

One of my prize pictures of Big Ben in our hour of sun!
Westminster Abbey after the front brought the clouds.
Next we went through St. James’s Park on the way to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony. This unfriendly goose hissed at Riley – he’s trying to get me to come experience it for myself.
The Changing of the Guard was not just one single event – it was a managerie of motions occuring at different locations. Dale and Riley sat in front of the Buckingham gates while I roamed and was able to catch several things on camera. One of the first to occur was the procession of the Horse Guard from the palace down The Mall to their grounds. These were dressed in black – another set going the opposite direction at the end of the ceremony wore red coats.
Foot soldiers marching down The Mall to the palace. At this time (and in the picture above) I was just east of the palace.
A view of the palace nearby where I stood for the above pictures. The Queen Victoria Memorial stood in front, and Dale and Riley were just on the other side of it. A Bobby (policeman) referred to it as “the wedding cayke” when he described the best place to be to watch the ceremony.
Next came a band from south of the palace leading the replacement regiment. For this picture I’m on the steps of the memorial on the left side.
A closeup of the regiment members.
Here the officers touch hands, symbolically handing off the keys as one regiment relieves the other.
Next we visited Trafalgar Square, had fish ‘n chips at “The Sherlock Holmes,” then headed back to the Thames to see the London Eye. It’s a huge ferris wheel with pods the size of a small room that offers a great view of the city. Big Ben is the tower on the right, with parliament just to the left of it.
Here’s the view from the top – you can see how big the pods are and how high above the Thames they get (see the bridge on the lower right).
Riley sure had fun…you can see the wonder on his face as we rotated around from the bottom. Every time we talk about or see pictures of the “big wheel” he says, “I like it.”
We finished out the day with a ride to a subway stop on a double-decker bus. Here’s Dale as we paused en route to the bus stop for a good view of Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Bridge.

Day 2

This day was rather rainy, but we packed umbrellas and headed out to hit the landmarks we missed. We did so much the first day, we really got to throttle the pace back and had a pretty fluid agenda. As we tend to on trips like this, we made some unexpected discoveries that end up being our best memories.

We first visited the Tower of London. The tour entrance fee was outrageous, so we settled for a book and pictures of the outside. What attracted us was the boat cruise that left from the pier on the river right by the tower – it was a great price, and was even less with our metro travel passes.
Since we had already seen the other end of the River with the London Eye, we opted to go east to Greenwich and back. This was the unexpected treasure of the day…the Cutty Sark, a tea clipper from the 1800’s, was on display there. We were able to explore the decks, including the hold which still held a slight fragrance of tea!
Riley in front of the wheel on the “old boat.” I took so many cool shots of the rigging, it’s hard to not show them here!
The sun popped out for a brief time, making me wonder if we overdressed for the previously cold temperatures. After the Cutty Sark, Riley took a nap in the stroller while we walked through lovely green parks. In the middle was the Greenwich Royal Observatory, set as the originator of the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
After Riley awoke from his nap, we caught the next cruise boat back to London Tower. We were living large, with a table to ourselves on a nearly vacant boat (the advantage of travelling off-season). Both to and from Greenwich, we went directly under Tower Bridge, giving us a neat view of the intricate details.
Riley on the boat showing me a trinket we got on the Cutty Sark. Tower Bridge is in the background. We went from there to Picadilly Square and Carnaby Street, then finished out the night letting Riley feed ducks at Kensington Gardens, just a few blocks from our hotel.

Day 3

Even though we had an afternoon departure, we didn’t have much time to spend in London with all the travel required to reach our plane. We tried to take it easy, and spent the morning in Hyde Park where Riley fed pigeons the rest of our bread loaf.

Riley feeding pigeons near Lancaster Gate and the fountains. He played in an adjacent playground for a while before we headed back to our hotel to retrieve our suitcase for the journey home.
Riley mailing a postcard in a signature postal box just a block away from our hotel in the Bayswater region. Nearly every building in the surrounding blocks looked like the one in the background – beautiful white townhouses, many of which were converted to hotels.
One of the many forms of transportation we used – here is the famous Underground, or “the tube.” This was actually one of the cleanest subways we’ve traveled on, and we came to laugh like many Londoners at the automated warning before you disembark to “mind the gap” between the train and the platform.
Riley enjoying the train ride from London to Stansted Airport.
Yet another form of transportation – a plane! Riley was pretty excited, saying “yeehoo!” as we walked on the apron to the plane. For the first time, he took the window seat and watched everything on the departure and landing. He especially liked the “little doors” (spoilers) that opened when the plane was slowing down. Here he is as we’re taxiing – you can see the control tower on the left. The next morning after we arrived, he woke me up and said “I closed my eyes, and had dream about the hairpane!”

That’s it for this trip. What I love is that our little Riley has become quite a traveler. Our satellite network for Americans overseas can’t show commercials, so instead they show little informative segments and pictures of places like Maine, the Blue Ridge mountains, etc. A couple of days after our trip, they showed something about Belgium with the Brussels town square. Riley said “Look – pree cool! Maybe go there later!” Funny thing…if we have time before we leave, that’s exactly where we wanted to go next!

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