DAY 2:  London sightseeing

We had an early start today, getting up at 6:30 and taking a local tour of the city.  We spent half the day being driven around the city on a bus.  Our tour director was Valarie, a plucky woman full of stories.  She had a seemingly endless repository of historical knowledge and trivia.  Val was quick to keep us clued in to all the local lingo, such as "plonkers".  A plonker is an idiot.  At first I thought a plonker was a truck driver...  little did I know that the "bloody plonker" was the man in the truck who had parked in front of our bus on the narrow street!

Albert Hall

Our morning tour consisted of a drive about, with Val narrating the sights and sounds.  We did make a few stops, including Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards, and some special bands and horsemen practicing for an upcoming event.  Pageantry is definitely the way of life here.  Of course, I didn't  take my mother's advice -- to take a jacket everywhere -- it was a chilly morning!

The fountain in front of
Buckingham Palace

The afternoon was to ourselves.  After heading back to the hotel for my jacket, we made our way to the Tower Bridge, to take the tour.  This was a very well done presentation.  They have several multimedia presentations showing the history and design of the bridge.  The Tower Bridge organization has restored several sections of the original hydraulics and mechanics. 

Buckingham Palace

After the bridge, we went to the Tower of London.  We experienced the crusty old "beefeaters", or Yoeman Warders as they are called.  I finally asked one of them how one goes about to become a Warder.  Each Warder must be retired from military service with the rank of Sargent Major and the recommendation of at least three generals.  Don't believe the pictures you see of these guys as friendly old coots!  They're gruff and somewhat short-fused.  Their storytelling abilities are unparalleled, however, and I think much of their reputation comes from their duties as guides in the Tower of London.  The most interesting sites at the Tower were the structures, the graffiti of the prisoners, the armory, and of course the Crown Jewels.

The Tower Bridge
(our hotel is at the bottom right).

Our day was almost over, and we wanted to make an attempt see the rebuilt Shakespeare's Globe Theater.  Douglas and I took a cab to the Globe, but when we arrived, the theater section was closed.  Douglas and I went "sneaking in" the side door and pulled the doors open far enough to take some (pretty crummy) pictures of the Theater from the crack in the door.  Afterwards, we went to the Globe cafe to get a bite to eat.  Douglas mentioned that a friend's wife was a friend of the cafe manager.  When we inquired about the manager (Anna Burns), she came out to meet us.  Not only did we receive complimentary refreshments, we ended up with a private tour of the Globe Theater.  Cha-ching!  It was the highlight of the day!

One of the crusty ol' Beefeaters!
(Him, not me!)

Leaving the Globe, Douglas and I walked along the Thames to Blackfriars.  Not willing to end the day (although we were both pretty tired) we took the subway (a.k.a. "tube") to Barbican in London city (the original town referred to as the "old city").  From there we made our way to Smithfield, where William Wallace (i.e. Braveheart) was executed in 1305.  It was eerie to see buildings that he most likely saw the day he was beheaded.

The "White Tower" at the
Tower of London

After a brief walk around, we headed further into the old town.  On the recommendation of a local, we headed to a nearby pub for "Bangers and Mash".  (Actually, we asked him for a good place to get Bangers and Mash).  A friend of mine told me about them before I left for the trip.  Our local "lit up" when we asked about it -- and directed us to his favorite place.  There we had a plate full of sausage and potatoes!  Bangers and Mash will be on my dinner list again before I leave! 

The Globe!

Bangers and Mash ended our day.  We made our way back to the hotel via the tube.  On the way, we by chance met a cute young Finnish girl trying to make her way to our very hotel.  She is here in London on a job interview. 

Valarie let us off at  this great spot to take a photograph of Parliament and Big Ben!

We all arrived at the hotel, only to end up waiting in the lobby during a fire drill or false alarm.  Finally, we made it to room, ready to collapse and begin our trip to Coventry tomorrow .  We begin at 5:30 a.m.  Perhaps we'll get some sleep on the tour couch, but somehow I doubt it.

A guard at the Tower of London outside the Crown Jewels

Read Doug's Journal for the Day!

Return to the Daily Journal List