First real day in London - yay! :)
We had a really nice tradition going during the entire trip, where I always met my Dad and his family in the breakfast room for breakfast every morning. It opened at 7.30 a.m., and even though I basically tried to leave my room at 7.29 or 7.30 every morning, they always beat me to it, and were there before me! *lol*
Anyway, I really liked that tradition, it was a great way of meeting, we could discuss what we had done the day before or what we were going to do on that day - and we started this tradition already the first day.
My plan was to use the London Pass during the first two real days in London, Friday (1 August) and Saturday (2 August). My Dad and his family had bought tickets to go to the Tower Bridge Exhibition from home, and even though I went there in 2012 it was really great, so I figured I'd do it again this year (since it didn't cost me anything, as it is included in the London Pass) and we could do this activity together.
We ended up deciding to go there first of all, do it together, and afterwards split up - and so we did.
Since we were done with breakfast around eight, and Tower Bridge Exhibition didn't open until ten, I figured we had time to do something else first, but I underestimated a number of things. First of all, during this trip I learned (which is obvious really, I know!) that it takes a lot longer for four people, including two children to "get ready" for a day a out, than it does for one adult! *lol* I also totally underestimated travel times, constantly, during the entire trip!!
We were there in the middle of summer and vacation and there were SO MUCH PEOPLE everywhere, which meant going anywhere by bus took a loooong time (nope, still not brave enough to try the underground *lol*)!
In the end we went straight from the hotel to Tower Bridge, had to change buses at St. Paul's, and the exhibition had opened when we got there!
Again, a great experience, I can really recommend it!! This time a bit different though - well, security checks first, which is quite common these days, and as usual it took a little while for the four of them, and their rather large backpack to go through, then I walked up, opened my bag and they sent me through! *lol*
The last time I was there we took an elevator up to the North Tower ... this time we walked!!!! In pretty much extreme heat ... Yeah, that was tough!! Okay, Tower Bridge is no London Eye or The Shard but when your walking up staircase after staircase and it's like 33 degrees Celsius, it sure feels high enough! :) When you get to the "top" of the North Tower (well, not technically the top, but as far as you're allowed to go) they show a pretty cool movie about how the bridge came about - quite educational, but a little difficult to explain and translate to the children. I think the younger accepted she wouldn't understand so much and didn't care a lot, but the older one is right now very inquisitive and quite upset about not understanding English (she's taken some in school already but not enough to follow conversations), so her mother tried to explain as much as possible to her.
After the movie you get to walk through the East Walkway to the South Tower, then through the West Walkway (but unfortunately you can't get through there, so you have to walk back the way you came to the North Tower again). It's really cool to be walking so high, pretty much inside and over Tower Bridge, and the view over the Thames is fantastic. They also have a lot of informative exhibitions in the walkways where you can read about a lot of different bridges, about Tower Bridge, this time they had this really cool 1960s exhibition on, where they mentioned my hero, Sean Connery! :)
When you're back in the North Tower you head down, and then follow painted arrows and signs to the Engine Rooms, you actually walk underneath the South Tower to where the actually engine rooms where that lifted the bridge. I don't understand much of the technical stuff but it's really cool to see it! :)
When we were done at Tower Bridge Exhibition we had a bit of a break and some water just outside, and then decided to split up.
The others wanted to check out London Eye, so I had a tip about a really nice bus, RV1, which departs from Tower Hill Gateway, goes across Tower Bridge and on the south side of the Thames all the way to London Eye, then goes over the Waterloo Bridge and ends at Aldwych, so the four of them set off in search of a bus stop.
I walked around Tower Bridge for a while and took a lot of photos (guess nobody is surprised about that!), and then went over to the Tower of London (and had to change my memory card on the way *lol*).
The London Pass is truly great, I could just walk passed all the ticket booths and all the queues and head straight for the entrance, a lady scanned my card and I was in. Amazing! :)
They have this absolutely fantastic installation going on at the Tower right now, which is called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red - The Tower remembers the First World War. This is what it says on the plaque describing it:
Teams of volunteers are installing 888,246 handmade ceramic poppies in the Tower moat. Each marks the death of a member of the British Forces in the First World War.
For more information on the project and how to volunteer, please visit hrp.org.uk
It is just amazing the way the British care and about and respect their history!!
I had arrived just as a beefeater guide started a tour so I joined in back - and it was quite fun. The information on these tours are a bit too detailed for someone who is not that great at British History, but the beefeater, Billy Beefeater he was called, was hilarious and made the tour really nice and funny!!
I really couldn't go in anywhere as the lines were enormous!!!!!!!! Again, a loooot of people in London this time of year. The queues to see the Crown Jewels were almost unbelievable. They had these usual ropes out, forming lines covering almost half the entire courtyard outside the house hosting the Crown Jewels. All that space was crammed with people standing in line, and the queue even continued several hundred meters after the ropes ended.
It wasn't that bad at other places, but still bad enough.
Despite that I had a really good time, I haven't been to The Tower since I visited it with Annika and it was great to just be able to walk around in my own pace, taking photographs and just taking in the atmosphere and the history that surrounds the place.
The Tower Bridge Exhibition and the Tower of London were really great activities and everything worked out fine, after that however, things started to go not-quite-so-well ...
I had a hard time, during the entire trip but I think it was most evident on this day, to work out how long travelling would take, when I needed to get food, when I needed to get water etc., and that sometimes threw a spanner in the wheels for me.
As it was I was done at The Tower around 2 p.m. - and all I had to eat and drink since breakfast (at 7.30 a.m.) was a small cup of water and a small bun, and it was sunshine and around 30 degrees out ... not good!!
I was also unsure about what to do during the afternoon, I wanted to make use of my London Pass but hadn't really planned anything specific, time went by fast, I didn't know where I was going, I was really hungry and needed something to drink really bad ...
I have this favourite London McDonald's which is up at Marble Arch, they have this really large seating area downstairs and even when there's a lot of people it's usually feels pretty calm there, they have nice bathrooms etc. - I felt I needed some peace and quite, and food and drink, so I made my way up to Marble Arch ... which took quite a while!!!
Did get food and drink, and peace and quiet, and were able to think - which was very necessary!!
I wanted to visit the London Transport Museum (which was also included in London Pass), but when I started checking I was unsure if I'd really have the time. It was almost 3.30 p.m. and I hadn't quite finished my food, and the London Transport Museum is down by Covent Garden ... It didn't close until 6 p.m., but I don't see the point in getting there half an hour before they close and have to rush through it all ... I debated a lot with myself and didn't quite know what to do, but in the end I felt I didn't have it in me to stress, I don't do well when I have to stress, so instead I took a really long nice walk in Hyde Park, and crossed over into Kensington Gardens!
I entered Hyde Park a bit down Park Lane and came about this amazing monument, this one a tribute to animals killed in wars. The main text read THEY HAD NO CHOICE.
I was indeed very moved by this - not many people care to remember animals and certainly to to the extent of giving them their own memorial monument. Impressive!
The walk in the parks was really nice, even though I was quite tired and I got a tiny little bit of rain at one point - but I just love the London parks, they are amazing!!!
I ended up at the hotel a little earlier than expected due to the miscalculations in the afternoon, but I know these things happen and you can't stress yourself out about it. You can't make the right choices all the time and not everything will go according to plan - and despite the afternoon, I had a really really great first whole day in London! :)