As previously mentioned in my latest weekly update I spent a few days playing at being a tourist last week. My cousin and his wife were in the UK (they’ve just left) for three weeks and they needed tour guides for their London section. Of course my sisters and I were more than happy to oblige, especially as there’s lots in London that I haven’t done since I was a child. The plan was to spend two days in London and then two days in Somerset and Wiltshire, and man did we manage to cram a helluva lot in. I’ll try not to bore you with too many pictures or words (okay that one’s a lie!) but here’s what we managed to do…
London Day 1
Once the other half of the tourist party arrived in London we headed straight to the Tower of London, stopping for lunch at Zizzi’s – they have an excellent Gluten Free menu FYI – before heading into the Tower. It’s been years since I’ve been to this London landmark, I’ve ice skated outside a couple of times but actually going inside the tower? Not for ages. In fact we worked out I was around 10 or 11 the last time when my Grampy and Nanna took the Evans sisters for a family outing there when they were over from Australia. The only thing I could remember from previous visits was the travelator at the Crown Jewels and the artist outside the tower where I got some pencil drawings of London landmarks. So basically it was all new to me to. We headed first to the Crown Jewels exhibit which were spectacular, you step onto a travelator to go past all the crowns and they are so sparkly and regal. I especially loved Queen Victoria’s mourning crown. Unfortunately there are no pics as you’re not allowed photography inside, so you’ll all have to go there to see all the sparkles! Next we headed into the White Tower to see the power house exhibit. It’s a collection of everything that can be found at the Tower of London; the Storehouse, The Mint, The Ordnance Survey, The Prison and more. Plus there’s a dragon made up of lots of things relating to these national institutions. Also around the Tower there are sculptures of various animals, all of which have been at the tower at some point in time, my favourites were the monkeys, but there was also a polar bear hiding near the raven houses. I’d completely forgotten how amazing the Tower of London is, I have to admit my inner history geek surfaced as soon as we walked through the walls! We spent a good couple of hours there before dragging ourselves away to the next stop on our magical mystery sightseeing tour.
Monkeys at the Tower of London
What a view
The White Tower
After the Tower we hopped onto a river bus to the Tate Modern, The river buses are a great way to go on the river without having to pay out for a full cruise, plus the rocking of the waves is just so relaxing. After a stroll around the museum – my favourites there are always the Kandinsky’s – we wandered across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s tube station to make our way to Harrods. Of course no tourist trip is complete without a trip to this shopping Mecca. We made sure we travelled on the Egyptian escalators and then somehow we found ourselves in the Toy Kingdom – completely by accident of course! After loosing ourselves in Harrods for an hour or so we schooched around the corner to the nearest Pizza Express (another great GF option) for a quick bite to eat before jumping in a cab for home. All the sightseeing is utterly exhausting! Although we did manage to fit in a quick board game – The Best of British, if you were wondering.
St Paul’s Cathedral
The Globe Theatre
The Egyptian escalators, Harrods
View of St Paul’s from The Tate Modern
London Day 2
Friday started bright and early we were at St Paul’s (via Starbucks) by 10am. At St Paul’s an audio guide is included in the admission price, which is totally awesome as you learn so much, plus the cathedral isn’t ruined by big signs all over the place. Once inside our first stop was the trek up the many, many stairs to the Whispering Gallery. After a few whispered conversations from across the gallery, four of our party headed up even further while Fi made her way back to the Cathedral floor – she’s not one for heights you see, so the fact that she even got to the Whispering Gallery is impressive in itself. Above the Whispering Gallery there are two outside levels to explore; the Stone Gallery and the Golden Gallery. Believe me it’s totally worth making the trek if you can handle the heights. To get to the very very top you have to go up five spiral staircases so I was quite dizzy by the end of it. But once we fought our way through the German school party we were enjoying a stunning 360 degrees view of the streets of London. After making our way back down we wandered around exploring all the other sights on the Cathedral floor and down in the crypt. There’s a stunning mosaic of the creation story on the ceiling near the altar which even includes kangaroos!
The imposing front of St Paul’s
View from the Stone Gallery
Becca, the City and the Gherkin from the Golden Gallery
The Shard with some storm clouds
View from the Stone Gallery
View from the Stone Gallery
View from the Golden Gallery
Our next stop was somewhere for lunch so we headed to Hyde Park and found a bench with our name on it at the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen. After filling up on delicious sandwiches (and cake) we set of on a bit of a walk. Friday was lovely weather-wise so we ambled our way through Hyde Park and Green Park towards Buckingham Palace – clearly a must see for any visitor to London. Then we managed to catch the changing of the guards at Horse Guards Parade, before catching the 87 bus home past Parliament Square and Downing Street.
The unicorn on the gates
Cromwell statue outside the Houses of Parliament
Memorial to the Women of World War 1
The tourists are walking
Changing the Guards
Horse Guard’s Parade
The Queen’s home
The Serpentine with deckchair
Queen Victoria statue
A quick nap and we set off for a night of theatre. As soon as we knew the Aussies were coming to see us we started thinking about theatre shows. We finally settled on a trip to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as it’s something that none of us have watched – it’s still so new so we haven’t had a chance really. It’s a fantastic show and I can’t recommend it enough. I swear the three hours flew by with smiles, faces of awe and peels of laughter. I don’t want to say too much but as a big fan of this book (and the film) I was definitely not dissapointed! In fact everyone in our party from the 19 year old up to the 58 year old simply loved the show.
Wow, this has been a lot longer post than I realised so I’m going to leave the Bath part of our sightseeing for another day. Lucky you to have something to look forward to hey?!