London Calling

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Flying to London from New York takes just about as long as flying to San Francisco, 5 1/2 to 6 hours depending on how long you sit on the runway and a tailwind.   Armed with my iPad mini loaded with books, a movie and games, and snacks to munch on,  we boarded our plane to London.  A documentary, so-so food and a few glasses of wine later we landed in London.   WIth a 6 hour flight  plus the 5 hour time difference, it was 7:30 pm by the time we made it to our hotel.  We left New York at 7:45 am, talk about a long day!  Exhaustion set in so we grabbed a quick bite to eat in the hotel and headed to bed.  Now for some people a 5 hour time difference can be hard to adjust to, especially when it’s 5 hours earlier.  We were trying to go to sleep at 9:00 pm London time but that was only 4:00 pm New York time.   We had a bus tour of London’s highlights at 8:00 am the next morning so we really needed a good nights sleep.  I managed to sleep but my husband did not and decided to stay behind and catch up on sleep.

I have no idea how many people had booked our trip, but I was one of 3 people on the bus tour.  Yes, 3 people.  Our tour guide didn’t seem to mind and actually we got to ask lots of questions and take extra time at our 2 stops.   Once we (driver, tour guide and me) picked up two women at another hotel we were off to see the sights.  Our first stop was St. Paul’s Cathedral, the church where Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles were married.  No pictures are allowed to be taken inside so I found this these two for you.  It’s quite overwhelming and beautiful.

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Exterior view through small alley. Our next stop was Buckingham Palace and the obligatory changing of the guard.  We were dropped off on a side street and began to walk past an old brick building.  The building was St. James Palace where Prince Charles and Camilla live as well as Prince Harry on occasion.  It is also where William and Kate celebrated the baptism of George in the Chapel Royal.  The palace was built by Henry VIII on the site of the Hospital of St. James, Westminster.   The history here is mind boggling! Image

Around the corner is the entrance used by guests to enter the compound.  It is also a chance to get up close to the guards who watch over it 24/7. Image

On we went down the mall to Buckingham Palace. Image Image

We were also lucky enough to see the British cavalry ride by.  Beautiful horses and shiny hats!  In order to get the best view of the changing of the guard pomp and circumstance we walked back along the mall to the cross street where we had first been dropped off and waited.  Mounted cops stood ready to stop traffic. Image

And finally they arrived.

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Very impressive, and to think they do that over and over every day.  We found our way back to the van and headed back to my hotel.  We stayed at the Hilton Metropole which is in a section of London that has become home to a majority of Middle Eastern residents.  Consequently there are lots and lots of restaurants and shops catering to them.  Walking down the street you notice men sitting outside smoking on Hookah pipes.  I’ve never seen so many Hookah bars. On Tuesday I had signed up for a tour of Kensington Palace.  After a better night’s sleep, my husband and I headed off to explore the Palace.  The London Metro is very efficient and clean.  The cars were bright and quiet. Kensington Palace gates.  This is where William and Kate live part of the year. Image

After our tour we decided to head to Harrods Department Store.  My husband’s dad was in the retail business and would come to London once a year to walk the floors of Harrods to get ideas and be inspired.  We had to do the same.  Nothing prepared me for the size of the store.  To say big or huge doesn’t do it justice.  Let’s just say it’s mammoth. Image Image

Here’s my souvenir from the store.  A change purse, now I don’t just throw my change in my bag. Image

Now there was only one more thing to do before our train trip to Paris the next day.   A double decker bus ride!  A cousin had given us a list of his favorite restaurants to try so we picked one and then mapped our route via bus.  Climbing aboard we headed up top and sat right in front. Image

Riding through Piccadilly Circus Image Stepping off at our stop we followed Google maps down an alley where our restaurant was shown to be.  Just as we thought we were really lost, there it was.  A small canopy over the door identifying Joe Allen Restaurant.  Stepping inside we were surrounded by dark wood, hundreds of pictures of celebrities and movie posters, and piano music played by an older gentleman. Image Image

The food was delicious and the experience fantastic!  A perfect end to our first London trip.

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