For the first day of our Summer Adventure, Darlene, Pam and I decided to tackle the London in a Day walking tour. The tour included Westminster Abbey, the Changing of the Guards outside Buckingham Palace, lunch by Trafalgar Square, a Thames River Cruise, a tour of the inner workings of Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. Phew!
We met our Tour Guide, Toby, and other people in our group by the Churchill statue in Parliament Square across the street from Big Ben and Parliament and right next to Westminster Abbey. These walking tours max out at 15 people, but I don't think we had more than 8 - 10 in our party, which was really nice! I also liked that technology made the whole experience super easy as we each had an earphone and receiver so we could hear our tour guide even if he was several feet away from us. I'm sure the tour guides like this much better, too, as now they don't have to shout to be heard over the hustle and bustle of the city! Surrounding Parliament Square are statues of 12 statesmen and other notable peoples such as Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, and the newest - and only female statue - Millicent Fawcett who campaigned for women's suffrage.
Our first stop was Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs inside the Abbey, which was disappointing because it's just as gorgeous inside as it is outside. It's most known as a burial place for Kings and Queens, and other notable people like Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, and the most recent to be interred, physicist Stephen Hawking. One section known as Poet's Corner, boasts Geoffrey Chauser, Charles Dickens, Lawrence Olivier, memorials for Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis.
Next we headed up along St. James' Park towards Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. I didn't get many pictures because I was trying to take video instead. It didn't really come out too well, unfortunately, but I did get a great shot of the Palace complete with the huge number of tourists mingling about! After the ceremony, we headed up the Mall and watched the Horse Guards come out, then headed up to Whitehall to walk past the heavily guarded 10 Downing street, Horse Guards, and Ben Franklin's home (when he was staying in London).
Then we headed up to Trafalgar Square where the 14-foot-tall Nelson's Column stands with four Bronze lions at each corner, and two fountains in front of the National Gallery. Here we had an hour to ourselves to get lunch and look around. We chose The Admiralty pub close by where I had a delicious brie and jam sandwich. We were able to get a table on the patio, and enjoyed some people watching!
After lunch we met up with our group in front of the George Washington statue by the National Gallery. It is said that Washington stated he wouldn't step foot in England, so soil from the US was shipped over and placed in the ground where the statue stands! We headed over to the Thames for our River Cruise, and enjoyed the view of London from the water.
Once back on dry land, we made our way toward the Tower Bridge for a tour of the inner workings of the bridge, a walk along the upper clear glass walkway, and were even treated to the sight of the bridge rising to let a larger boat through!
After crossing to the other side, we ended our day-long walking tour of London at the Tower of London and got to view the Crown Jewels! Of course they do not allow photography of the jewels, and don't even let you get a close, lingering look at them. I remember the first time I saw them (back in 1987), they had you walking around the jewels in a large glass case with guards constantly chanting "Move along! Move along!" if people stood staring too long. If you wanted to linger longer, you could go up a small flight of stairs to a viewing loft. Now, while they are still in a glass case, they have the "moving walkways" you see in airports to take you past either side of the case the Crown Jewels are in so there's no chance of getting a very long look! There is space behind the walkway to stand back and look at them, but you can't get a real close view.
Phew! So after all that walking (only 16,234 steps according to my bellabeat, though I swear I took more steps than that!!), we were exhausted and our feet hurt, so we took the tube back to our hotel in time for the evening reception then collapsed into bed! I really do recommend this tour, though! You get a great overview of the highlights of London, and it gives you ideas of sights you might want to take a closer look at. But! Be sure to be in really good shape beforehand, and wear really comfortable shoes!!
Next up: Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge! Cheers!