A Travellerspoint blog

Day 20 - London

This morning the weather had improved and we had no rain even if the sun didn't really shine. First up was a walking tour to see the Changing of the Guard. This tour states off at Piccadilly Circus and you get a commentary as you move to St James' Palace. The guide takes you to various spots on the route from St James Palace to Buckingham Palace and at each point there is a special sight of guards, horses, bands etc moving about as part of the ceremony. Most the action happens away from Buckingham Palace so it was good to see all the behind the scenes action. We got to see Household Cavalry, Scots Guards, Irish Guards and mounted police. At Buckingham Palace the crowds were horrendous and it was hard to see much at all. There were still barricades in place from the State Opening of Parliament yesterday. This made criss crossing the streets more difficult. The Police were very jumpy and we found out tonight that some bloke had scaled the walls of Buck Palace last night! The Queen and Phil the Greek were in residence and there was a Garden Party in the grounds of the Palace this afternoon. Our invitation obviously got lost in the mail!

We walked through Green Park and had lunch not far from the Ritz. It was a restaurant bar full of business types doing deals. Channe got the seafood mixed grill - an impressive sight!

After lunch we walked to Oxford Street to have a look at the shops - we could have bought anything from a Bentley to diamonds, high end clothes etc. Channe enjoyed some clothes shopping in Marks & Spencer.

We wandered around for most of the afternoon then caught a random red double decker bus. This ended up going to Parliament Hill Gardens which are next to Hampstead Heath in north London. The bus route took us through rich and poorer areas. At one point we saw an interesting person dressed in white - it could have been a woman or a man dressed as a woman - sitting outside a grotty Starbucks café. At the next table were some down and out types who were doing their drug deals from the table on footpath! Yep we saw the drug deals going down!

We changed buses and came back along a similar route to Victoria Station. Here we were able to catch the Circle line tube to Barbican. It was a super crowded trip with long delays due to a signal failure.

St James Palace awaits

St James Palace awaits

Pipers

Pipers

Changing the guard

Changing the guard

All the Kings horses

All the Kings horses

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Seafood grill

Seafood grill

lady in white

lady in white

Posted by JHarman 10:51 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Day 19 - Exploring London

all seasons in one day

By feet, underground, boat and London Eye we explored London today.

Just a FYI it was wet and cold on and off all day so this made outdoor activities a tad trying!

Off to the Tower of London and we took the Yeoman Warder tour first up. An ex Sargent Major in the British Army made sure he gave his vocal chords some good practice. He thinks he is a funny guy! At one point he asks about the countries the group comes from - Canada, USA, NZ and Australia - when a few indicate they are there he says "Welcome back"! He needs to learn about free settlers and not just convicts!

We then toured the Crown Jewells display where a few key items were missing as some old lady called Betty wanted to play with them today. Nonetheless an impressive collection and a punch bowl that would look good at a Harman Christmas table.

After a quick look around the rest of the complex we took up places for a 41 gun salute in honour of the opening of Parliament. In the middle of this the rain went from a bearable shower to a downpour so we retreated into a nearby gift shop. But we got the impact of the noise, flashes when the gun went off and the smoke.

We headed towards Westminster and called into a typical English Pub and had fish n chips. Entertainment was provided by an Irish chap in full kilt regalia who got louder and louder the drunker he got. We toddled out to hear Big Ben strike 2 pm and noticed the London Eye was close by. We had tried to book tickets online but could not get a booking till June so we chanced our hand and walked down. We got tickets to a river cruise and the London Eye. Easy Peasy! Even though the London Eye looks extremely scary it was actually a smooth ride, very slow and steady and there was no huge feeling of being however many feet in the air.

On safe ground again we backtracked past the Palace of Westminster and did a tour of Westminister Abbey. More than a church it is a collection of graves, monuments and memorial plaques. Interestingly not all is ancient history as one of the Northumberland family was buried in the family vault in 2012. By chance we stumbled across some internal gardens, courtyards, residences and offices. Not something you expect to see from the outside.

Then home by the underground battling the peak hour commuters, a quick stop off at the shops and time now to put our feet up.

Betty

Betty

Punch bowl

Punch bowl

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Tower grounds

Tower grounds

Within the Tower

Within the Tower

Fire

Fire

Big Ben

Big Ben

in the Eye

in the Eye

From the Eye

From the Eye

Posted by JHarman 10:45 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Day 18 - London

Leaving Paris this morning we got a taxi to Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar train to London. To get to the platform we had to go through French and then British passport control and customs. So 2 new stamps in our passports for the price of one trip! Despite the crowds the train - or at least our carriage was not full. No sooner were we underway when lunch was delivered. A choice of roast beef or quiche with an apricot pistachio tart and free drinks.

The train spent most of the trip going through the French countryside. Lots of farming country with small villages dotted along the way. The train was very fast ........ in the video I took you just see things flashing by! The only hint that we were about to go beneath the English Channel was high fences with barbed wire protecting the entrance to the tunnel. So for about 20 minutes there was no view - the tunnel had intermittent lights but was basically dark. We emerged the other side and pull up at ....................................... ASHFORD!!!!!!! My it has changed since I was last there LOL!

Next stop St Pancras Station in London. In a very well organised fashion we walked from the train to a taxi point. Into a cute London cab and off to our accommodation. London is where Craig our travel agent managed to book us into a business complex which is not for tourists. I have to pretend to be working!!!! We arrived early but the concierge gave us our keys and up a lift (praise the Lord ... gotta love lifts) to our apartment. 2 bedrooms - 2 bathrooms, lounge room, kitchen and lots of English language channels! We are close to the Barbican and only a short 5 minute walk from St Paul's Cathedral. The building we are in - or more precisely its predecessor - was burnt in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

After all the time in Europe its odd to hear English spoken, to be able to read all the signs and for the cars to be driving on the right side of the road.

French country

French country

Cropping

Cropping

Ashford

Ashford

England

England

River in England

River in England

St Paul's

St Paul's

Posted by JHarman 10:42 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Day 17 - Paris

Another great day today.

We had entry tickets to the Lourve for 10.00 am so made our way there by Metro with time for coffee and croissants for breakfast. Then into the Lourve to do battle with the crowds. Because we had tickets the line was short and we got in quickly. But of course everyone who was in the Lourve only had one painting on their minds - Mona Lisa. We meandered around the various halls looking at sculptures, sacrophagi and magnificent paintings. Eventually we made it to room 6 where the tiny painting of Mona Lisa is a speck on a wall with a million tourists taking selfies in front of her. I swear each time I see the painting it has shrunk! So we battled FASIANS who had obviously moved on from Versailles! The rest of the museum was so quiet compared to that one room. We walked through the European Masters rooms and of particular note were Russian icons. Just the thing for decorating the walls at work or the Bishop's chapel despite the fact that they are priceless - though I am sure we would look after them well if they loaned them to us!!!

After the Lourve we Metro'ed to Montmarte and walked up the 50 billions steps to Sacre Coeur and the found there was a funicular and tram that you could get at the bottom!!!!!!!!!! Too bloody late for us to take advantage of. The view is magnificent and the church sits up on the hill like a white beacon. The only downside were all the hawkers and an scammers trying to tie "free" string bracelets on people. They targeted young girls in particular and quickly surrounded Channe. They had to deal with one cranky auntie!!!!! Their scam is to tie the string on and then harass you until you pay like $30 for the "free" gift. Or the other thing is that they work in teams and one is pickpocketing whilst the other is giving the string.

Down the hill we went off to a side street and had lunch. On our list of things to eat were escargot and confit du canard - snails and duck confit. We had both for lunch today! Channe managed one snail but loved the duck!

We wandered further down the hill with Channe doing a little shopping on the way and caught the Metro to Galleries La Fayette. This is a series of buildings which make up the department store to end all department stores. Again Channe found something to buy to add to what is becoming an impressive collection of goodies.

Back on the Metro to Bastille - home base. Then to an all too short interlude at a Thai massage place for a foot massage. We floated out of there down the street, picked up some supplies for dinner and home sweet home for our last night in Paris. (the sound you can hear is sobbing ........)

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

Icons

Icons

Down the hill from Sacre Coeur

Down the hill from Sacre Coeur

Dome in Galleries La Fayette

Dome in Galleries La Fayette

From the 7th floor terrace at Galleries La Fayette

From the 7th floor terrace at Galleries La Fayette

Posted by JHarman 09:00 Comments (1)

Day 16 - Versailles

After a lazy morning start we worked out how to get the Metro then the RER (the suburban train network) to Versailles. Buying our tickets we confirmed the stop we were to change trains. We get there walk a mile to find the platform to find a notice saying the train was not going there. So we back tracked and found and alternate metro to get us onto the line that joined the RER. Not bad when it was all in French!!!!

Arriving in Versailles we queued for a day pass to the Chateau and Gardens. They talked about a hour or so delay getting into the Chateau so we thought an early lunch would sort the queues out. Nooooooooooooooooooooo ....... we then queued for about an hour and a half with a snake line which comprised up to 9 lines. But we stuck with it .....

Into the Chateau we went to be pushed and shoved by bloody FASIAN tourists - they were the rudest and most pushy of anyone we have come across. Regardless of the crowds and FASIANs we enjoyed the various state rooms with all manner of uses. The bedrooms of the king and queen were very interesting with opportunity for servants and hangers on to be in the room - YUCK! The chandeliers and mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors did not disappoint.

Perhaps the highlight of the visit was time in the gardens which included musical accompaniment to the fountains. We did a speed tour of quite a few fountains and ended up at the Neptune Fountain for the special end of day display. We got that on video so you will have to wait of for the slide night to see that!!!!

We made our way back into Paris via RER and a metro change to arrive back at Bastille which is our closest metro stop. We stopped off at Café Francaise to have (bread of course), salmon for Channe , some fish for Jenny then a moulten chocolate concoction for Channe and apple crumble for Jenny. 2 blocks later we are home - well and truly ready for a shower and bed!

Today's photos are all by Channe

Versaille by Channe

Versaille by Channe

Gardens by Channe

Gardens by Channe

Fountain by Channe

Fountain by Channe

Fountain 2 by Channe

Fountain 2 by Channe

Selfie by Channe

Selfie by Channe

Posted by JHarman 11:58 Archived in France Comments (0)

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