Well, we knew the sunshine would fade… In classic English weather style for the major “on-foot” days while Colleen was here, it rained. We decided it made her England experience more “authentic.” We took the train into London and started with Derek’s and my favorite tour…the Tower of London. It did not disappoint, Colleen was hand selected by Mark our Beefeater tour guide to play Anne Boleyn and he would be Henry VIII. It did not end well, at least not for Anne. He was hysterical! The Beefeaters tell great, but gruesome, tales of the Tower and its long history. Highly recommend this tour!
We knew we wanted to see the popular sites in London so we decided to buy a 3 day London Pass, which allows fast track and free entry into many of the most popular sites throughout London and neighboring areas. I highly recommend the London Pass if you’re going to see 4 or more major sites. We also used the pass for a water taxi from the Tower to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is enormous and a true architectural marvel in its day. The church as we know it today, was designed by Baroque architect Sir Christopher Wren, in the late 17th century, although the church was originally founded in AD 604. Interesting fact, the cathedral’s famous dome that we see outside is not the beautiful painted domed ceiling we see inside from the floor. It is a dome placed on top a dome. Colleen and I climbed the 259 steps to the first dome level, which is nicknamed the Whispering Gallery. It gets its name because of the design of the dome; a whisper on one side would be audible at any other point around the gallery. We then ventured an additional 272 stairs to two outdoor observation decks for an authentic view of London skyline; where we proceeded to be pelted with raindrops while trying to get photos.
We were able to see the only thatched roof in London proper since the great fire of London, the replica of The Globe Theatre. The Globe Theatre is most known for hosting William Shakespeare. The tour guide explained that the people of Shakespearean day were entertained by the words not the production. That is why Shakespeare spends a lot of time describing where they are and what they are doing before the actors even speak. Often times during their time it would be an empty stage with minimal props or costume. The words set up the show.
We hurried to our next stop, Buckingham Palace, for the “changing of the guard.” We had hoped for a better view but were glad to see the show through the bars of the side gate. We tried to see it straight on, but the crowds were thicker there. If you can’t get there early enough, a side view is really good for the entire production. Lots of marching, yelling and then the band came in for the final bit. They finished the show with an unexpected rendition of New York, New York…. Yes, you read that right, New York, New York.
We then walked to Westminster Abbey, host of William and Katherine’s nuptials and additionally the burial or memorial site of Britain’s notables for over 1000 years. The Abbey is beautiful and rich in history. The audio guide is done by Jeremy Irons, which I believe added a little something extra to the tour. Unfortunately, there are no pictures allowed in the Abbey or St. Paul’s unless you go into super stealth-mode like me, taking photos from my pocket. Surprisingly, they didn’t turn out that great.
No visit to London is complete without seeing or going onto the Eye of London. The views are really special and I’m positive they’d be AMAZING on a clear day. Of course, it started to rain after a somewhat dry day. They say you can see for over 30 miles on a clear day.
Our last day was spent at Hampton Court Palace. We were there most of the day… so much to see! I had no idea that it would take that much time, or how big it is. The palace was built in 1514 and finally lived in by 1529 by Henry VIII. Over one hundred years later, William III started rebuilding the palace in the new and very popular Baroque style with the help of the architect Sir Christopher Wren (again). but ran out of money, leaving the palace unfinished and two very distinctly different sections of the palace– Tudor and Baroque. Cool huh? The palace also has the oldest, according to Guinness World Records, hedge maze. We got to the center of the centre.
Three packed days of London greater area sites. What’s to say, great sites and great friends. I’m so lucky! Love you, Colleen!