We arrived in London on Saturday after a pleasant one hour train trip from Amiens to Paris and then a two hour ride on the Eurostar to London. By the time we had taxied from St Pancras Station to our hotel in Kensington, it was juat about dark. Sunrise here is currently at 8.00 am and sunset is at 4.00 pm.
After settlling in, I took Cathy for a short walk around the area. Jill and I have stayed here at Kensington on a numnber of previous trips and find it to be a very easy area from which to see London. We walked down to National History Museum in Gloucester Road and then around to Cromwell Road to see the some of the shops and the pizza resaurant where Princess Diana used to take her two boys. We made a quick exploration of the Waitrose suoermarket and then returned back to the hotel. I also checked how much money I had remaining on my old Oyster Travel Card but it was a negligable amount so I’ll just use the new feature of being able to tap on and off at the Metro station with my visa a card.
Our first foray into the city yesterday was to take the Tube to Westminster and then walk across Westminster Bridge to the London Eye. This was the major attraction on Violet’s to-do list. The crowds in the streets were dense and not helped by buskers who drew crowds around them. I think I heard more Arabic being spoken than anywhere else I have been (apart from Dubai).
The queue for the Eye wasn’t very long and we benefited from some pity that the staff felt for Jill with her walking stick. They popped us into the fast track line so the line was a lot shorter. There is always a great view across London from the wheel although with Big Ben and part of parliament buildings under wraps from renovation, it’s not quite the same as otherwise.
The girls both explored the view and took some photos with their polaroid cameras.
We walked back over the bridge and around to Westminster Abbey. It wasn’t open to visitors because it was Sunday so we walked along to a litle Pret a Manger cafe for lunch. Jill went back to our hotel in a taxi, having trouble walking through the crowds that were pushing in to her and slowing her progress along the street.
Cathy, the girls and I travelled on to see the Tower of London. Audrey wanted to see the crown jewels and we weren’t surpised to find that the wait in the queue was a bit over two hours. Instead of waiting, we looked at all the other parts of the tower and left the jewels until last.
Firstly, we looked around the ramparts on tbe old wall. This gave us a view across the Thames towards Tower Bridge. Our route took us through some of the towers where prisoners had been kept and past the place where the famous Ravens were kept. Their ‘keepers’ offical title is ‘Ravenmaster’
Next, we visited the central ‘White Tower’. In medieval days, this would have been a place of last resort if the casrtle was being attacked. It is now the Armoury. It’s a lot more elaborate than the ‘lock-up’ where we kept our weapons in Puckapunyal. This one actually has armour.
It has a wide range of weaponry from ancient lances and staves though to old mortars and early firearms. For a military enthusiast, this place would be a paradise.
By now, it was late in the day and the queue to see the royal jewels had shortened to about 30 minutes. The jewels consisted of orbs, spectres, crowns, goblets and table pieces. They are very much symbols of past wealthier times and I wonder what chances England has of continuing such lavishness in the future – especially with the probable economic effects of Brexit. It’s sad that Britain has already reduced itself from one of the powerhouses of the world to meer shadow of itself and I fear that this will only be further reduced after its exit from the Common Market.
We couldn’t take photos inside the very secure building where the jewels are kept. It had a massive vault door on both the entrance and exits . I’m nort so sure how much the soldiers on guard duty added to the security, but they put on a good show. Audrey watched their drill movements and wondered why they were so ‘angry’ in the way that they marched, turned and moved their weaqpons up to the shoulder and then to their sides. I needed to explain the basic elements of army drill and how every movement was based on the count of ‘one, two, three!’
It was just getting dark as we left and I had a brief chat to one of the Beefeaters or, to use their corrext title, “Yeoman Wardsmen’. Like all others, he was a returned serviceman having seen action in Afghanistan and a number of other places. I remember much older men in this role from before, but it is obvious that younger men will now be doing this duty. We compared conditions of fighting in Afghanisatan v’s Vietnam. He preferred the protection of hard walls and buildings around him but I preferred the jungle where you potentially see an enemy at a greater distance. I think that ultimately, we are all more comfortable with the conditions for which we were trained.
On leaving the tower, we stopped to se the view up the river to Tower Bridge and also across to the more modern buildings in the newer busines district of London.
We thought that we might have gone out to nearby pub for dinner but they were extremely busy and it was impossible to get a table without a reservation. In the end we just went back to the hotel and ate in the restaurant there. At least children under 12 eat for free there.