Today we started our day with a turn in Hyde Park. This area is where the Sandeman’s New Europe Free Walking Tour started, but we were there early and needed to kill some time. We did this by walking through the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland…but we will give you more details on that when we do a more complete visit (sometime in the next 2 days). For now, enjoy these photos as a teaser:
Our Sandeman’s tour met beneath the Wellington Arch. This sits off the south-east corner of Hyde Park and Green Park and was built to commemorate British victories during the Napoleonic Wars.
The first exciting tour moment was when we passed Buckingham Palace and caught part of the Changing of the Guards. It was crazy busy, but we maneuvered our way into an ok view. It wasn’t the most exciting thing, but we’re glad we got to see this iconic London attraction. This ceremony is performed everyday (only odd days in the off season) and lasts for about 40 minutes. But don’t worry! The guards don’t have to stand there for one or two days straight…the guards actually change every 2 hours, just without the huge spectacle. Hilariously, the band doesn’t just play marching tunes…as we were leaving the area we heard them strike up the James Bond theme. We’re told they’ve been known to do songs from a variety of movies & tv shows, including the Star Wars themes at inappropriate times (like when the Saudi president pulls up…opps!).
We were excited when we stopped outside a palace that we hadn’t seen yet. St. James’s Palace is one of London’s oldest palaces. It was commissioned by Henry VIII. Interestingly, two of his children died here. It is still a working palace even though no monarch has lived there in over two centuries. Today the Royal Court is formally based at the palace and it forms a large complex of Court offices and officials’ apartments.
Other than that, the tour pretty much covered things we had already seen. However, we got to hear a few new anecdotes, it was nice to walk past all of the major sites again and there were a few places that were Christmas-a-fied, such as Westminster Abbey:
The afternoon activity of choice was the National Portrait Gallery. We talked about this on our first visit in the post “Fish and Chops”. We’d been rushed by closing last time and had missed the modern floor. This time that’s where we started. The gallery is really interesting in how there will be 3 portraits side by side, one of the William & Harry (aka the Princes), one of the guy who first statistically linked smoking & lung cancer, and one of Keira Knightley (the actress), and none of them gets any more or less attention. There was an interesting exhibit chronicling the progression of actresses from their beginning as ladies of questionable nature to the well publicized and much honored women they are today. This set of portraits really highlighted how amazing the cast of the Harry Potter movies was…there were probably about 50 actresses shown and at least 10 of them had acted in some part of the series. When we’d seen the modern era we moved backwards through history, re-examining the portraits of so many famous Brits (and people of other nationalities that had lived important lives in Britian). We ended with our favorite section: the Tudors.
For supper we indulged in delicious meat pies (chicken & mushroom to be exact) with mash and a beer. Justine had a Strongbow and it was a Fullers local London brew for Kristin. British pub food is just the best. And after months of having to ask & wait 8 hours for our bill it is nice to pay when you order and have it done with early…for those of you who don’t understand that, in British pubs you order at the bar and pay right away. Your food is then delivered to you when it’s cooked and you can just leave when you finish. It’s a good set up for a place that is also a bar and can have people drinking before or after they eat or not eating at all.
The evening featured a walk through Trafalgar and a bit of souvenir shopping. Then we blog posted and planned out what was left to do in the next two days…only two days left…craziness…
And it’s question time, as this is now becoming a daily thing! Today we are looking for everyone’s favorite post title…did it make you laugh? leave you scratching your head and wishing for an explanation? Either way, which title did you like best?
What We Miss:
Justine – Having a big cup of well made coffee in the morning…and another one if I want one.
Kristin – Ordering a steamed milk and not being looked at like I’m a nut case…and not being charged for a latte (just with no coffee).
Both of Us – Tim Hortons! We are addicts in withdrawal!
Love, Luck & Last Walking Tour,