Rather than give you a complete account of the following three days in London I’ll just highlight a few things so I can get caught up faster.
So the day I escaped to the suburbs in Surrey offered some quiet time and a major history lesson when we made a special visit to Hampton Court Palace. A nice walk up the river and then we spent around five hours exploring. If you haven’t heard of this place before, don’t be surprised. It usually doesn’t make it to the front of the tourist pamphlets like Westminster or Kensington or Buckingham. However, it’s well worth the venture out of the city a bit.
This enormous site is sectioned into time periods and focuses on the monarch in power during those times. Most of the rooms, courtyards and furniture are original with appropriate refurbishment. One room is set with everything in it from the 1500s (no alterations). There is a free audio guide included with your admission, but if you prefer to walk about and read signs, there are plenty to inform you.
I was completely fascinated by everything but was especially captivated by the ceiling design in King Henry VIII’s dining hall, waiting room and the Chapel Royal. The Georgian period part of the palace is elaborate in other ways, with paintings and mantle carvings. In King William III’s apartments you can see more intimate rooms and studies designed during the baroque time period. So whatever it is you fancy, you’re sure to find something there that interests you. The gardens and courtyards outside are brilliant as well and they would really be a sight on a sunny day. I won’t be uploading many photos of this on the blog so check this site out for a good idea. : )
Days 4, 5, & 6 around London…
I wanted to make an effort to see some other sights, if only for a glance. Although I didn’t cross everything off the list I was able to see the Greenwich area park and markets, London Bridge, Tower of London and Tower Bridge. I heard another American girl looking at the magnificent Tower of London and her one comment was “That’s it?? I thought it was going to be a real castle.” My head shook a bit and all I could think was… This isn’t Disney sweetheart. This was a real castle. And it was spectacularly haunting under the light of the moon. Amazing.
So I left London ready for a change of pace. Packing my stuff around in the crowded city had been exhausting. I caught a coach from Victoria Station and sat for six hours admiring the countryside. : ) I arrived in York with a smile on my face. The sun was shining, people were happy and the whole place looked incredibly inviting…
The second day out in London provided even more walking opportunities. I had stayed at the hostel for two nights and had the chance to stay at my friend’s flat in Surrey the next evening. So I gathered everything again and set out. I hopped off the bus at Queensway on the Northern border of Kensington Gardens with the intention of hiring a bike from the stall near the entrance. I must have done something to my right foot the day before because it’s been annoying me ever since and that particular day seemed perfect for a bike ride. The bike never happened however, because I wasn’t the only one with the idea and there were none available.
Instead I walked with my full pack, winding around the park, gazing at the palace and ponds, wondering how gorgeous it would look in the summer. I saw The Albert Memorial which is located just opposite the Royal Albert Hall (both architecturally impressive sites). I found the Peter Pan statue I wanted to see, and hung there was a flower wreath memorialising the passing of a young one. Couldn’t help but get teary eyed with that one… An unexpected emotional walk through the park. Also I noticed an injured pigeon standing in the water and I couldn’t help it and I really felt like I let the poor guy down.
So, a bit sad, I continued my route around the Italian Gardens, crossed a section of Hyde Park and emerged from the bare Rose Garden to the city streets. Notable Hyde Park features included the horse track (designated dirt pathway) running all around the park and the various memorials and statues. The next place for me to see was Buckingham Palace, which was about a ten minute walk via Wellington Arch and war memorial areas. The weather had made a rapid turn for the worse about five minutes before this so I did a sort of scurry around the palace area, snapped a few obligatory photos and moved on.
I met my trusty guide and dear friend at a nearby tube station only to learn that we were walking another 45 minutes to our train. Haha! What’s another two miles at this rate… ; ) We did get there. And she showed me the MI6 building which is pretty awesome. So a slightly eventful ride to the suburbs and then quality downtime with a couch, home cooked food and my amazing friend. A great hot shower really sealed the deal.
Another day for the books and a deserved night of sleep. After two days of exploring, I felt pretty confident with getting around… so we spent the next day not in the city. It was fantastic, and you can read about that coming soon!
The first day after arrival I hopped on the bus to Piccadilly Circus and scooted past the other tourists gathering around the monument to make my way towards other points if interest. I strolled through St. James’s Park, admired the variety of birds taking a swim in the lake, the daffodils blooming, and the views of the city from this little green space.
I took a route across the yard at the Horse Guards Parade and caught the changing of the guards just in time. A walk south took me past 10 Downing St (Prime Minister lives here) and Westminster Palace with Big Ben. This is where I discovered some lovely quiet streets between beautiful buildings for my rest. The way back gave me time with Westminster Abbey (and a hot tea), a beautiful sunset, and my brief look at The National Gallery. A bit of shop discovery around Piccadilly and then I was on the return to my hostel, a thirty minute trip.
Actually seeing the buildings really gave me the feel of London that I had been looking for. Though road barriers, police sirens and dirty sidewalks surround them, I couldn’t help but hear some arrangement of horns trumpeting a welcome for me. ; ) Yes… once a romantic, always a romantic. No grafitti’s gonna get me down!
Next… London Photos Part 1