Swinging London!

Trip Start Oct 29, 2012
Trip End Nov 27, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 1

We arrive back at Gatwick Airport, to be picked up by Stephen Chow. Stephen is Michelle's 2nd cousin on her Father's side. His grandfather and Michelle's paternal grandmother were siblings. Stephen contacted us in early 2012 via Ancestry,com From there we were able to discover the Loo family across the globe.

Stephen kindly took us back to his home in Horsham (40 miles from London) to meet his Scottish wife Marion and children Laura and Joanna. Stephen brought out his huge family tree and many photos to show us. A wonderful evening and very kind of Stephen to drive us into London for our stay in Bayswater. We were both very, very tired and hit the bed immediately for some well earned rest and dreaming of what London has to offer us over the course of the week.

Day 2

Great to be back on London! The weather, though cold, is bearable as we walk to the Underground for our trip to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. The site of Big Ben is simply amazing. The detail that has gone into the design and building of this famous clock and surrounding parliament beggars belief. As expected, the crowds are huge: even for the off-season. We take voluminous amounts of photos and videos to last a lifetime and some how manage to get in a sandwich.

A quick pause here to discuss service levels in this country. Whilst Australian customer service has some way to go to eclipse that of the Americans, the English level of service would be on par with THE worst one could find. No-one wants to serve and when they do you may as well be dealing with a brick wall. The temptation to bang some heads together has been there on more than one occasion (from both Michelle and I). Further, whilst I am on a roll, I swear I never ever want to see or eat baked beans again!!! Baked beans with everything. Very uncreative menus spoilt by baked beans splashed everywhere - ugh! Now, back to the trip.

Westminster Abbey was the highlight to date, if not the entire trip. Truly the most majestic and amazing man-made structure we've ever witnessed. Built in 940AD, all but two English monarchs have been crowned here. Further, some dozen Kings and Queens and notable English Knights and Noblemen are buried within the confines of the Abbey. The key highlight being the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots and the twin tomb of Henry VIII's Queen daughters: Mary and Elizabeth I. It is hard to believe that such renowned historical figures' mortal remains are all found in this one spot.

One the day of our visit the grounds were being prepared for Remembrance Day. Poppies littered the gardens of the Abbey and made for a somber reminder of all lives lost during each of the wars.

A memorable day that will long live with us.

Day 3

We made a morning journey direct to Trafalgar Square. Nelson's Column towers over the area, watched by four huge bronze lions. The area of course is full of tourist snappy at every conceivable angle as the column to so high it is difficult to capture it all in one shot. We note the 'Do not feed the pigeons' sign so accordingly leave a mess after our hot chocolate and muffins.

Behind Nelson's Column is the Art Gallery. Another impressive building. We save the best of English architecture until the afternoon when we visit St Paul's Cathedral. Although the weather was miserable, we get some great snaps of the classic dome as we work our way around. Like all the famous landmarks in London, it is surprising that each looks so crammed in by the web of small streets and lane ways: St Paul's is no exception. Our highlight here was to stand on the steps that Charles and Di did some 31 years ago.

After taking the obligatory shots at Piccadilly, we take a visit to Carnaby Street to see the heart of swinging London in the 1960's. Still a hip place with plenty of great clothes and food. Highly recommend the French Onion soup at Le Petits!

It was whisks visiting Carnaby Street that we run into the Chelsea FC and English captain John Terry. Unfortunately it took me forever to get my camera out and get a photo together. Anyhow, his loss.

At night we ventured out to an English Pub for a good feed of roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding - the best meal by far. It would be fair to say that English food would be at the bottom of the world's food chain, however when your freezing you'll eat anything.

After eating, it's down to Oxford Street for some serious window shopping. The precinct is awash with Christmas decorations (in November??) and make for some great photo opportunities.

Day 4

Bad start to the morning with the worst breakfast imaginable. Sadly the waitress had never heard that you can poach eggs? Funnily enough, every cup of tea in London is made with dishwater. The more I stay in England the more I feel like a whingeing Pom as well. Love the place, hate the food and service levels.

With a slice of untoasted bread in the belly we make for Buckingham Palace via Notting Hill. Freezing, we walk up to the gates of the Palace with millions of others. Push and shoving, we grab the advantage to get the best possible photo opportunity for the changing of the guard. An underwhelming event, we got more excitement from the policewoman yelling at people to "get off the fence!" We did get a kind gentlemen from Venezuela take our photo in front of the Palace so at least we could say we were there!

A quick trip down to Waterloo Station and then the train north to St John's Wood to walk down Abbey Road. Plenty of people there to photograph the famous zebra crossing made famous as the cover of the Beatles 'Abbey Road' album. We walk across a few times, much to the annoyance of local traffic. We also got a look at the EMI studios on Abbey Road which was smothered in Beatles graffiti.

The lure of Oxford Street brought us back to trawling the shopping strip for bargains. Michelle picked up some terrific outfits and accessories that would look great in any European city - stay tuned for the photos.

Day 4

Final day in London.

We get our selves a big breakfast (sans baked beans) and walk around Hyde Park in a beautiful autumn day. Sadly the best weather day is our last. After giving the hotel a mouthful for their sheer stupidity and incompetence, we head off to Heathrow for the afternoon flight to Brussels. Michelle goes to Terminal 3 to collect her 'lost' iPad and all is well.

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