Free Day in London

Trip Start Jul 20, 2014
Trip End Aug 05, 2014

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I got up at 7:00 and had to wake Larry up at 8:00 for our free day in London.  We went to breakfast which was fabulous, everything you could possibly want for breakfast.  We had eggs, bacon, sausage and fruit.  I also had roasted tomatoes and mushrooms.  Larry also had juice and pastries.  We met Jane and Debbie at 9:15 and headed to the Churchill War Rooms.  On the way we walked right past Downing Street where the Prime Minister lives.  When we came in 1971 we could walk right down the street.  Now it is barricaded at both ends and there are guards.  The world has changed.

When we arrived there was hardly anyone else in line.  So we showed our London Passes and went down.  Churchill ran the war from these rooms and he even slept there.  The first thing we saw was the war room set up just as it was at the end of the war with the original maps and all.  One of the maps had a cartoon character of Hitler on it.  We saw a window into the lower level  called "the dock" where most of the people who worked there slept.  We also saw a cut away of the steel reinforced concrete 6' thick that protected the whole complex from bombs.  We went into the Churchill Museum which had lot of information on his whole life.  We saw an enigma coding machine, letters from his wife, Clementine, and an Interactive Lifeline of his life.  While we were still looking at the exhibits we were all ushered out as there was a leak in the air conditioning system.  As we finished the tour we saw the Map Room, Churchill's Kitchen, the Chiefs of Staff Conference Room, the BBC Broadcasting Room and the telephone that was a secure line to our President. 

We left there at 11:20 and the four of us walked to St. James Park just across the street to find the stop of the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off Tour.  Larry and I took the Blue Line and Jane and Debbie took the Red Line.  Our first stop was the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner.  We had to walk under the road to get there through a tunnel they call a "subway."  We went into the arch and showed our London Pass and walked the stairs up to the top.  We stopped to see exhibits on the way up.  The top was disappointing as there weren't any good views.  When we got back on the bus and were just past Marble Arch we realized that the Blue Line was going to make a large loop we were not ready for.  While we were on this loop there was a traffic jam due to an accident, we think.  It took us about an hour to get to Harrod's.  We could have walked there in 20 minutes from the Wellington Arch.  We went through several neighborhoods including Mayfair and Belgravia.  We saw  the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, and Berkley Square.  We drove by the Hard Rock Cafe.  Somewhere on this long journey another couple from our tour got on the bus and sat right behind us.

We finally arrived at Harrod's about 1:00.  We went in and went to the Food Court which has wonderfully tiled floors and walls and the ceiling are also decorated.  We looked around there for a while and finally ended up in an area where they sold sandwiches etc.  We got a Chicken Caesar wrap and Larry got a coke for our lunch.  We needed to use the restroom so we went up to the second floor and found it.  It was lovely and there were attendants in there.  We decided it was time to eat so we went down the escalator and out the side door where we found a bench to sit on to eat our lunch.  Then we went back to the bus stop and had to wait 35 minutes for a bus.  The rumor was that there was another accident at Hyde Park Corner and traffic was even in a worse snarl.  The Big Bus dropped us off about 1/2 mile from the Royal Albert Hall.  By then it was after 3:00 and we got on the 4:00 tour.  We walked around the outside and across the street to Hyde Park to see the Albert Memorial which Queen Victoria erected when he died at the age of 42.  She dressed in Mourning Clothes for the rest of her life. 

We went back inside and waited for our tour.  Ruth was our Tour Guide and she was very dramatic and very funny.  The first thing she told us was no picture taking inside.  The Hall is built like the Coliseum in Rome but smaller.  We got to go on all the levels.  We sat in the boxes right next to the Queen's box and see the staircase and waiting room where the queen and royal family go before and after and during intermission.  We went up to the Gallery at the top and saw the upside down mushrooms at the top that were put there to help with dampening the echo in there. 

We decided to walk across Hyde Park to Marble Arch and catch the Red Line back to our hotel.  This mile walk saved us having to go on another loop that would have taken too much time.  We walked to Serpentine Lake where we saw Princess Diana's Memorial Fountain, then across the Serpentine Bridge, and across the Policeman's Walk to Marble Arch.  We only had to wait a short time for a Red Bus.  We went through Piccadilly Circus which is like Times Square and Trafalgar Square. We retraced some of our route from the morning but got back to the hotel about 6:00.  In retrospect we should have just taken the Underground as we had planned.  It was still a good day and we did see a lot more from the bus, that we wouldn't have seen going under ground.

We got showers as it was a very hot day and gathered with 1/2 of our tour group for a Dinner Cruise at 6:45.  We walked about 5 minutes down to the river to the Bateaux London at Embankment Pier and boarded the Symphony.  It was very posh!  We started with wine, then a prestarter of pureed peas and shrimp on toast.  We had choices for the starter (appetizer), main entree and dessert.  I got asparagus with goat cheese, hake (white fish) with pak choi, mussels and capers, and triple chocolate something for dessert.  Larry got a salmon and caviar starter, with pork entree and apple pastry with raspberry ice cream.  He also had a Kronenbourg beer.  We cruised first up river past our hotel, Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings.  Then we went down river almost to Greenwich.  We had a musical group playing which included a piano player, percussionist, saxophonist and female vocalist.  They did different kinds of music, all very good.  Some of the people in our group danced.  After the meal we were coming back up river in the dark.  We went outside on the back of the boat to take pictures of the Tower Bridge after we went under it.  It was almost 11:00 when we got back.  Larry and I walked up onto the pedestrian bridge for a look at the Eye and Big Ben all lit up.  Then we came back to the hotel and found out that Nancy who we were with at Sherlock Holmes Pub last night is going home.  She went into the hospital today and is too sick to stay with the tour.  How sad for her!

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