England #8 (London #5) 5-13

June 15, 2013

It was our last day in London. How much could we cram in? Perhaps there was a better way to see more without walking 10 miles. Historically, London was a very busy port and the center of commerce. The River Thames winds its way through the heart of the city, bordering the most important districts and crisscrossed by no less than seven bridges, including the Tower Bridge. We discovered one of the easiest and best ways to see a good portion of London is to take a river cruise up and down the Thames. The Hop-on Hop-off bus tour included a trip on the River Thames. The boat dock was in walking distance to both the Tower Bridge and The Tower of London.

To our advantage, the tour guide spoke very understandable English with a good sense of humor. “Coming up on the left-hand side now, you’ll see the Tate Modern Museum. It’s free. If you know anything about modern art, you’ll know why it’s free.”

The views from a river tour boat were often better than from a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus.

The views from a river tour boat were often better than from a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus.

A relaxing City Cruise gave our tired feet a rest.

A relaxing City Cruise gave our tired feet a rest.

Our tour guide spoke very understandable English with a good sense of British humor.

Our tour guide spoke very understandable English with a good sense of British humor.

From our comfortable seat on the upper deck we saw parts of London that it would require several days of walking or busing.

Ahh, those famous double-decker red busses. Everywhere you look, busses and more busses.

Ahh, those famous double-decker red buses. Everywhere you look, buses and more buses.

Many buildings damaged during the war have been beautifully restored.

Many buildings damaged during the war have been beautifully restored.

Old pubs like this corner bar still hold the British charm.

Old pubs like this corner bar still hold the British charm.

The Tower of London has a history dating back to its beginning in 1066 during the reign of William the Conqueror. The Tower is in fact a castle, but over the years it has served as a palace, an observatory, a storehouse and a mint. During its bloody past it was a prison and the site of uncountable executions. It was home to England’s medieval monarchs. Among the impressive displays are two rooms filled with 500 years of Royal Armor and of course, we couldn’t miss seeing the Crown Jewels up-close, including the 530-carat Cullinan Diamond at the top of the Royal Scepter. Sorry, photos are not allowed. The 23,578 other gems are well guarded. An elaborate ceremony of locking the gates has been performed for more than 700 years.

The castle/fortress Tower of London dates back to the year 1066 during the reign of William the Conqueror. Among other treasures, it houses the Crown Jewels.

The castle/fortress Tower of London dates back to the year 1066 during the reign of William the Conqueror. Among other treasures, it houses the Crown Jewels.

Like Buckingham Palace, the Royal Guards keep a watchful eye.

Like Buckingham Palace, the Royal Guards keep a watchful eye.

Did he smile or blink with all those cameras pointed at him?

Did he smile or blink with all those cameras pointed at him?

Surely one of London’s most recognizable landmarks is The Tower Bridge with its neo-Gothic towers and blue suspension struts. It was built back in 1894 and was designed with a revolutionary bascule (see-saw) mechanism that could clear the way for oncoming ships in 3 minutes. It still operates, often and as much as 10 times a day in the summer. For a fascinating look at the mechanics of this famous bridge, we signed up for the tour into the depths of its engine rooms.

Viewed from the ramparts of the Tower of London castle, the Tower Bridge is a major landmark of the city.

Viewed from the ramparts of the Tower of London castle, the Tower Bridge is a major landmark of the city.

The Shard, looking like a broken piece of glass, is one of London’s more unique examples of modern arcatecture.

The Shard, looking like a broken piece of glass, is one of London’s more unique examples of modern architecture.

Some times dubbed “the Easter Egg” arteches from around the world have pushed design of buildings in London to its limits.

Some times dubbed “the Easter Egg” arteches from around the world have pushed design of buildings in London to its limits.

Hopping on the bus again, we were able to see a little more of the city, stopping just in time to attend the Musical Billy Elliot. A true British musical, it has received rave reviews since it opened in 2005. Sir Elton John composed the music. While we did enjoy the performance, some of the British humor was lost to our untrained ears.

Rushing to get back to the Waterloo Train Station to catch the last train out, we flagged down the ever-present London Cab and were lucky to get an old one.

What would a visit to London be without a ride in the classic Londoner Cab?

What would a visit to London be without a ride in the classic Londoner Cab?

Even though it felt like it had no springs left, we were happy to have flagged down an old model, destined to be retired in just a few weeks.

Even though it felt like it had no springs left, we were happy to have flagged down an old model, destined to be retired in just a few weeks.

After a final goodbye to our luxury hideaway, we headed for the airport to catch an Easy-Jet to Amsterdam.

We said farewell to our luxury hideout and headed for the airport. Next stop is Amsterdam.

We said farewell to our luxury hideout and headed for the airport. Next stop is Amsterdam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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