Monday, March 17, 2014

Lincoln and Rachel in London: Day 2

This morning marked what is perhaps a first: I was awake and fully conscious before Rachel, so I seized the moment and the shower (carpe bathem?) to get things rolling while she fully enjoyed the fringe benefits of vacation (not being helped by my "are you ready to get going?" queries)

Initially deciding not to take our jackets, once again we set out down Millbank with the idea of stopping at the Houses of Parliament for a tour: Sadly we were informed that tours are offered Saturdays only, undaunted, we continued on and across the Thames to the London Eye, purchasing the "Day and Night" ticket package we rode around for the first of two revolutions. While it is more than a bit "tourist-trapy" and the revolution speed could be increased a tad, it does offer some great views from the "top of London".
From the London Eye by Day

Feeling a bit chilled following disembarking from the London Eye, we decided we would make a quick stop by our hotel to fetch our coats. On the route we selected (without resorting to maps or our phones) we happened to stumble upon Westminster Abbey and elected -- "since we're already here" -- to do the tour. While photos are not permitted in the Abbey it is an impressive and storied place, with the remains of or monuments to dozens of well known and not-so-well known figures, including the composers Elgar, Britten, and Hayden. Perhaps most interesting, was the tidbit about Oliver Cromwell initially being buried in the Abbey, then upon restoration of the monarchy, being dug up and posthumously hanged.

Innovative queueing at the Post Office
Following the tour we made our way though the giftshop with some trinket purchases and returned to our room to collect our coats and rest our feet for a few moments before once again greeting the beautiful city of London. This time, while our ultimate destination was Buckingham Palace our interim destination was a post office to send off cards to our respective mothers. It is true that the British love their queues, however the Post Office has an innovative system -- and is generally unlike any post office I've ever experienced in the United States. Upon entering a kiosk asks you to select the purpose of your visit and a numbered voucher -- also indicating how many people are in front of you -- is printed and you're free to take a seat at a comfortable couch or browse the retail offerings until your number is automatically called to a window.

Yes, that's a motorcycle labeled "Ambulance"
Following, we walked up Buckingham Gate Street until we reached the palace. We elected not to go inside the palace, but instead walked nearly the entire perimeter of the fence -- quite an imposing set of spikes and fences once you're past the main facade, eventually winding up at the impressive edifice of  Wellington Gate.
Outside Buckingham Palace; Wellington Gate in the distance

Having concluded our business in that part of London, we marked off another one of the "tourist must do's" by catching a London red Double Decker bus to Victoria Station where we first munched at the McDonald's [I just couldn't resist trying the British incarnation of the American chain -- and they had fried apple pies. Yum.] and then stocked up on beverages at the same Sainsbury's we had stopped at yesterday.

Catching the Victoria line tube to Pimlico station, we avoided much of the ambling we did last night, however, emerging from the station Rachel -- again, a passionate bibliophile -- spotted a building emblazoned "Random House" and we investigated. She was disappointed to find the building didn't appear to be open to the public. (Likewise, she is a large fan of Burberry coats, but cannot be talked into wandering into their headquarters, around the corner from our hotel).

We dropped our food purchases off in the hotel room and debated the virtues of attending debates in the House of Lords or the House of Commons but elected instead to rest our screaming feet (I can still feel them pulsing as I type this) while watching the "BBC Parliament Channel" -- it was not exactly gripping, but it was interesting to see some of the similarities and differences between the systems I know in the states(such as those in Virginia, a favorite client).
London Eye and Big Ben at Night

Realizing that the London Eye closes at 22.30, at about 21.00 (7pm) Rachel and I headed back to the site to make use of our "Night" ticket and along the way listened to Big Ben proclaiming the hour of through its beautiful -- yet quieter than expected -- bells. Arriving at the site and moving through the efficient queue we once again took in the sights of aerial London though this time with the sparkling  night lights.
From the London Eye by Night

Finally, we walked along the edge of the Thames until arriving at Pizza Express, adjacent to the hotel, and ordering a margarita pizza and garlic bread for takewaway -- and retiring to the hotel for the evening.


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