28 November 2011

How to do London in 26 hours

It was a fantastic trip last weekend, but honestly, 26 hours is not enough time to see/smell/taste London or the surrounding areas.  There's way too many interesting sites and places to see/do and anything less than a week does not not do justice.  

I made the trek over to London via one of those high-speed Eurostar trains that take you from one major city to another.  I thought it would be neat and faster to take train verses a plane and I was right on one part, it was faster.  Cheaper too.  I had some kind of romanticized version of taking the train to London and watching the scenery go by and watch as we go through the Chunnel.  First of all, for most of the ride was on rails surrounded by walls and berms.  What scenery we did see went by too fast.  And the Chunnel?  If you want to experience your own ride through the Chunnel, turn off the lights in your house and sit in your chair for 20 minutes.  That's it.  One long dark tunnel. 

Arrived in St Pancras/Kings Cross Station around 0900 with time to figure out how to ride the tube system to get across London to Buckingham palace to hook up with Rock Chef.  As RC mentioned in his post, one of the tube lines (Victoria line) was completely shut down for the weekend and, of course, that was the one I needed to take.  Had to figure out the map to take a different train to Piccadilly Circus and hoof it down to the palace.  Since I arrived earlier than I anticipated, I meandered over to Trafalgar Square & Admiral’s Gate and explored some of the historical sites.  At one time in my youth, I considered becoming an architect so I have a certain fascination of the local architecture of the areas I visit, especially some with some history.  London has some very interesting sites to visit/tour and I took lots of pictures (thank goodness for digital camera). 

Lots of unique buildings and famous sites, took lots of pictures. 

Wound up hiking down to the Palace around the time of the changing of the guard.  There was a massive mob of tourists all around the front gate Given the mob that was there, I was concerned that there was no way RC and I could find each other.  I milled with the mob for a while and watched the start of the changing of the guard, but honestly was too far away to get any good pictures and I did not have a program to know what was going on.  I began to scan the crowd looking for RC and getting worried that we would not find each other.  Remembering he told me we could meet up on the right side of the palace next to Green Park, I parked myself there at the street crossing and scanned the crowd for a familiar face.  Finally spotted him in the crowd taking pictures and looking like he was looking for someone.  I wasn't 100% sure, but I went up to him anyway and asked some lame greeting like "You look like a guy who raises rabbits" or something like that.  It would have been really weird/awkward if is wasn't him. 

RC is a great guy.  We decided to bail on the crowd of tourists and head up to Piccadilly Circus where there are lots of shops and restaurants to grab some lunch and a beer.  We spent a good amount of time comparing notes on our past and what we do.  We covered the gauntlet from family to cars to books to Star Wars.  It was really good to meet the brains behind the keyboard and I was glad to have made the trip.  

We parted ways as he headed north into Soho in search of a few guitar shops and me trying to get in some obligatory tourist sites.  I checked into my hotel (just a short hop from Buckingham) to drop off my pack and headed out to catch the Tower of London.  I made it there in time to catch the audio tour but the warders had finished up for the day. Was able to wander through most of the tower and get some of the details, but had really hoped for a warder's tour/comments.  Wandered back across town to take some shots of Parliament and Big Ben before heading back to my hotel.  Was a bit "geographically challenged" trying to find a good pub for dinner only to find out that the one I picked a hundred yards down the street from my hotel.  Crashed for the night and got up early to set out to do some more exploring.  Was able to get some obligatory foggy shots of Parliament and Big Ben, but did not have time to ride the Eye before heading back to St Pancras to catch my train back to Brussels.      

Trafalgar Square


Buckingham Palace (note:  the flag is flying so the Queen is in da house)

Trying to catch a glimpse of the changing of the guard

Spotting a familiar face (or head) in the crowd.

The Famous Rock Chef in the flesh!

Tower of London

A Warder at the Tower

Tower Bridge

Big Ben and the London Eye at night

Westminster Abby

Big Ben and The Eye in the morning fog

Across from Waterloo Station

A Lego Christmas Tree in St Pancras Station

St Pancras/Kings Cross station
As I said, a lot to see & do in a short period of time.  This is only a few of the pictures I managed to take over the weekend.  Will post a few more tomorrow.  I even spotted a statue at the British Library that reminds me of a fellow blogger... 


Rock Chef said...

They tried to make the high speed train line as unseen and unheard as possible, hence the cuttings.

That was a sneaky shot of me in the crowd!

Britain has so much history, it is hard to see everything - even if you live here!

meleah rebeccah said...

"If you want to experience your own ride through the Chunnel, turn off the lights in your house and sit in your chair for 20 minutes.  That's it.  One long dark tunnel. "

That made me LOL for real.

I'm thrilled you and RC had such a great time together!

Westminster Abby looks AWESOMENESS. And that Lego Tree kicks-ass!

terri said...

Great pictures. I would love to visit Britain and see all of the history and sites. Someday... someday. Your pictures really bring some of it to life!

I'm not surprised you hit it off with RC. I've come to know him as a really wonderful guy. You're lucky to have met him in person. I'm anxiously awaiting my turn!

p.s. My mind kept reading "St. Pancras" as "St. Pancreas" ! ;-)