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deladane

Detailed Photo Review of Paris and London Trip in June 2019

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3 hours ago, Bimmer09 said:

 Dana, I am anticipating an amazing cruise-the ship is a stunner- Celebrity Silhouette, my favorite until I sail one I like better and Norwegian Fjords will be  a new experience for us

as we'll be very close to land for much of the sailing. We have excursions in 4 ports and I will get to do my favorite thing which is eat ashore in a harbor setting. You are already making me drool over your London pictures. It has changed so much since I lived there-tall buildings were rare indeed then.

 

I like that your husband wants to enjoy as many London pubs as he can. Yes, they have history and character in spades and can certainly draw a crowd, especially after work. You may be home now- I didn't pay attention to your travel dates so you are probably already home-but I hope you stopped into a British bakery shop for a cornish pasty or a hot sausage roll. I do miss some British foods that can be found nowhere else. I no doubt will be having a "Full English" breakfast when in London, but that even pales to an "Ulster Fry" (Ulster being N. Ireland, home of Game of Thrones).

 

Looking forward to more of your London experience. I love that you both had the idea for this itinerary. You only live once and you guys know how to live!

 

Yes I will write a review- I have reviewed every cruise I have taken since 2011 and this will be #14 I think. Celebrity Board, September 9th for the launch. Links will be placed on the Princess and Azamara boards.

 

Cheers and toodle-pip!

Norris, Brit who thinks Brexit is more than slightly silly.

 

3 hours ago, Bimmer09 said:

 

Dana, most of the fish and chips I have ordered in the USA have been little 4 inch strips of "cod"

which is unlike the British full fish-shaped filet as shown above. The fish should never be placed atop the chips though  as that adds grease below to the pillowy potato with crispy edges. There should be more mushy peas (the green stuff) for maximum pleasure.

I have lived in the USA for 33 years and only once have had British style fish and chips and that was in Ontario, which is in Canada, just over the border from Detroit in Sarnia-  a place called the Wharf which serves up the kind of fish and chips I crave from my days of living in N Ireland (Ulster).

More and more American restaurants are offering Malt Vinegar (Heinz or London Pub) and that is a small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.

 

Norris, fish and chips gourmand.

 

By the way-there are not enough chips on that plate....

 

 

Yay!  That sounds like a fabulous cruise so I look forward to reading your review!

 

We returned home to California on July 7.  We did try several different British foods while we were there, but we didn't try those things... guess I'll add that to the list of things to do next time we're in London!  I will say that I have never used malt vinegar before but I'm a big fan of it now!  

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1 hour ago, geoherb said:

We loved our visit to the Sky Garden last year. The views are amazing. I was chastised, though, by a guard for trying to take a photo holding my camera up over the edge of the glass. (I'm 6'3" and had the strap securely around my wrist, but he still didn't like it.) We took the tour of Shakespeare's Globe. It was wonderful. Our neighbors went to a play there when they visited last summer and loved it. We walked across the Millennium Bridge to get from the theater to the Sky Garden.

 

They are very intense with their security at the Sky Garden, so I'm not surprised they yelled at you for taking that photo!  When we went back at night, I crawled under the guard rail to put my camera up to the glass, but that was inside where there was no risk of dropping the camera.  DH was on the look-out for security guards and no one saw me doing it, so maybe that's how I got away with it? hehe

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So, do you remember how extremely hot it was while we were in Paris?  The high temperature was over 90 degrees every day we were there, and we were hot and sweaty pretty much 24 hours a day for 6 days straight.  We were greatly looking forward to visiting London as it was forecast to be cooler.  Well imagine our surprise when it was so cool that we were shivering in our shorts and t-shirts!!  We were going on a walking tour tonight along the Thames River, so if we were this cold at 7:30pm before the sun set, we knew we wouldn’t last long at the walking tour which started at 9:15pm if we didn’t go back to the hotel and get changed.  We weren’t planning to go back to the hotel until after the tour at the end of the night, but we had enough time and an unlimited ride metro pass, so why not?  We took the Tube back to the hotel and changed into jeans, and we brought a light sweater for me and a light jacket for DH in case we got cold in our short-sleeve shirts.

 

We took the Tube back down to the south bank, and this was the beautiful scene as we exited the station:

 

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I just loved how the sunset reflected on the windows, and the colorful flags hanging overhead made for a great photo!

 

We also stopped to look at this statue of Nelson Mandela

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As I’ve mentioned, tonight’s evening activity was a 2.5 hour free walking tour along the south bank of the Thames River to see the nighttime skyline and learn a bit of history about the city.  The tour was offered through Free Tours by Foot, the same company we had great experiences with in New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York.  It wasn’t exactly ideal to take this tour tonight considering we had a one hour time zone change coming from Paris, so our bodies felt like it was an hour later, plus we had already had a very long day of travel and touring.  It sounded like a fun tour, and they only offered it two days a week, with the other option being Monday night when we already had a 12-hour bus tour booked and knew we would be too tired to do this tour afterwards.  We figured that since it was a free tour, we would show up at the starting point and stay with the tour as long as we could, and if we got too tired, we would leave early. 

 

The tour met in Jubilee Gardens, a small park near the London Eye.  By the way, we decided not to ride in the London Eye.  We have been in the High Roller Ferris Wheel in Las Vegas, which is basically the same thing so we’ve already had that experience.  We could see the views from the Sky Garden for free, so the London Eye didn’t seem like a good way to spend our time or money.  Yes, you get a better view of Parliament and Big Ben from the London Eye, but those buildings were all covered in scaffolding so there wasn’t much to see.  Maybe if we go back to London in the future and if all the buildings are exposed and if the weather is perfectly clear, we might consider riding the London Eye.  We’ll see!

 

Anyway, this was about as close as we got to the London Eye on this trip.

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Our tour guide’s name was Matt and he moved to London from Poland a few years ago.  Matt was a great guide, offering lots of funny anecdotes and interesting information about the sites along the Thames.  I really enjoyed taking this tour in the evening and getting to see some of the activity along the river at night, and of course the buildings all looked so beautiful in the twilight glow.  There were about 30 people on the tour with us, so it was probably the biggest group I’ve had for walking tour.

 

Our first stop was to see Parliament and Big Ben from across the river.  In the foreground, you can see the pier where our tour boat docked earlier this afternoon to let more people onto our already-crowded sightseeing boat.

 

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Turning in the other direction, we could see Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges, with Charing Cross Station glowing in red in the distance.

 

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This was not a part of the tour, but we walked past this huge skate park under a terrace for the building above.  I looked it up and this skate park was built in the 1970’s. 

 

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We continued walking along the river, stopping every few minutes so Matt could tell us a story about London’s history.  I wished those barges weren’t in the river because they were blocking a beautiful scene of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London!

 

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The red bridge in the foreground is Blackfriars Railway Bridge, where we walked over the river before to get to dinner.  The building with the long slant on its right side is The Cheese Grater, the one with the sharp slant towards the top right side is The Scalpel, and the funky building on the far right is The Walkie Talkie (with the Sky Garden up on its roof).

 

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As the sun set and the sky got darker, the buildings looked even more beautiful!

 

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Standing in the same spot, I turned to the left to take this photo.  This is the train station bridge at night, so you can imagine how pretty the view is from here!

 

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People often confuse Tower Bridge and London Bridge.  I showed some photos of Tower Bridge from the river cruise earlier this afternoon.  It is the one with the two towers!  London Bridge is a fairly boring bridge during the day, but at night, it is lit up with bright colors.  It was so pretty to see the colors reflecting on the river!

 

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By this point in the tour, the temperatures dipped down to the low 50’s and the wind was blowing so strongly that it was hard to stand still enough to take a good photo!  Those light jackets we brought along were not cutting it and everyone on the tour was shaking because it was so cold!  Luckily, Matt took us on a detour away from the river, so the buildings helped to block the wind, but it was still very cold! 

 

We passed this mural of Shakespeare.  This is one of the things I love about walking tours… we would have never found this spot on our own.

 

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Around the corner from that mural, Matt showed us The Clink Prison Museum, which used to be a medieval prison.  It is located in a back alley one block from the river, but again, we would never have seen that if not for the walking tour.  It was now 10:45pm and I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open.  The next stop on the tour was going to be out on London Bridge to see the view of the Tower Bridge lit up at night, but I was just way too cold and tired to continue on.  We told Matt we needed to leave and tipped him for is efforts.  The London Bridge Underground station was close by, so we walked over there to head back to our hotel.

 

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Exiting at Kings Cross Station, I was so happy they had an escalator because I really didn’t have the strength to walk up all those stairs!  It was amazing how clean the Underground stations were in London.  Having lived in New York City for six years, I don’t think I ever saw a subway station this clean!

 

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We got back to our hotel around 11:30pm (which felt like 12:30am thanks to the time zone change), and we were fast asleep within minutes of hitting the pillows!

 

Fitbit Daily Summary… Steps: 24,738,  Miles: 11.97,  Flights of Stairs: 24 (had I lasted for the end of the walking tour, that would have tipped me over 25,000 steps and over 12 miles today… soooo close!)

 

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31 minutes ago, deladane said:

London Bridge is a fairly boring bridge during the day, but at night, it is lit up with bright colors.  It was so pretty to see the colors reflecting on the river!

 

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You’re a bridge too early! The bridge in the foreground here is the Cannon Street Railway Bridge - the two towers where it meets the opposite bank are part of the station.

 

You can just see part of London Bridge - it’s the slim coloured bridge visible through the first full span from the right, also lit up 🙂

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10 hours ago, Cotswold Eagle said:

 

You’re a bridge too early! The bridge in the foreground here is the Cannon Street Railway Bridge - the two towers where it meets the opposite bank are part of the station.

 

You can just see part of London Bridge - it’s the slim coloured bridge visible through the first full span from the right, also lit up 🙂

 

Oh no!   My bad!  He definitely said this was the London Bridge, but maybe he meant the bridge in the background and I just didn't hear that detail?  Thanks for the correction 🙂

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I hope I am not the only one going through withdrawal symptoms.  I hate it when fun gets in the way.

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No you’re not the only one. I am really enjoying this review and learning lots of useful info for my visit to both London and Paris in October. But I will be patient. 

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19 hours ago, singinalot said:

more more we need more 🙂

 

haha I can picture you banging your hands up and down like a child asking for more dessert 😝 more coming soon!!

 

17 hours ago, ejnsb said:

I hope I am not the only one going through withdrawal symptoms.  I hate it when fun gets in the way.

 

Oh no!  I don't want you to go through withdrawal!  More coming soon!!

 

5 hours ago, cairns local said:

No you’re not the only one. I am really enjoying this review and learning lots of useful info for my visit to both London and Paris in October. But I will be patient. 

 

Thanks for being patient!  I've had a busy week... Tuesday was my mom's birthday so had to call her in the morning when I usually do my postings, then I got a screw in my tire so had to deal with that (luckily the dealership fixed it for free but it took 3 hours so I didn't have time to work on the review).  Yesterday, DH and I went up to Oakland for the Yankees vs. A's game.  I'm back now though and I'll post a bit more today!

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Friday, June 28, 2019 ~ London in a Day Walking Tour of the City of London to Westminster, then exploring Covent Garden/Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus

 

On my first day visiting a new city, I usually like to take some kind of tour to get an overview of where the main attractions are located and learn about of history about that city.  Since we arrived in London mid-day yesterday, I hadn’t planned any tours in case of unexpected delays.  As it turned out, we actually covered quite a lot of ground in the two-thirds of a day that we spent in London yesterday, but the original plan was to treat today as our first full day and therefore I wanted to book an overview tour.  I did a few searches online and as soon as I found the Strawberry Tours website, I knew my search was complete.  Strawberry Tours offers a free 6-hour walking tour covering pretty much all the main sites on the north side of the river.  I have seen free walking tours that last one, two, and even three hours, but SIX hours?!?  In my experience, that is completely unheard of!!  The website warned that we would cover around 10km (over 6 miles) in about 7 hours with a 1 hour lunch break in the middle.  That sounded a bit daunting, but when you broke it down it only came out to one mile per hour, so it wasn’t really all that much.  Here is the tour description from the Strawberry Tours website:

 

“If your stay in London is shorter than you’d like it to be, but you want to leave with the feeling that you have seen the most important sites of this magnificent old town, then our Free London in a Day Tour is definitely the tour for you.

 

We’ll get going at 9.30 in the morning from Tower Hill, and we’ll spend all morning exploring the City of London, the root of it all, Londinium, the place where the Romans settled two thousand years ago. It is here where trade, economic power, and the middle classes have thrived since the times of William the Conqueror nearly a thousand years ago. Walk through the oldest streets of London as you gaze up to some of its most modern buildings. Be amazed by St. Paul’s Cathedral, and hear about the man who built it and rebuilt all of London after the Great Fire of 1666. Learn about some of the most powerful corporations in history, such as The East India Company, in the place were capitalism was born.

 

At around 13.00 will stop for an optional traditional Pub Lunch, where you can chat further to the guide, and enjoy a fish and chips with a pint of good old ale.

 

After lunch will venture into the City of Westminster, the place where political power has been held for the last 700 years, and certainly the most eccentric and picturesque area in town. See Buckingham Palace, where the Queen resides, and St. James’ Palace, built by Henry the VIII for his second wife Anne Bolene. Hear all the Royal gossip and learn about the history of the most popular Royal Family in the world. Walk to the houses of Parliament and see where the real power is held as you take your picture in front of the Big Ben.”

 

They also offer just tours of just the City of London separately from Westminster, so we could pick one or the other and not commit a full day to this tour, but this just seemed like too good a deal to be true and we couldn’t resist the chance to see all of these things in one tour.  It was a bit of a gamble because if we had a bad tour guide, that would totally ruin the day, but we took our chances and signed up on their website.

 

On Friday morning, we woke up and got ready for the day, then went downstairs to the basement of the hotel for breakfast.  When we checked in yesterday, they asked us to pick what time we wanted to eat breakfast.  They had a few little cards with half-hour time slots from 7am until 9am, so we picked 8am for Friday morning.  Each day, we could pick up a different time card for tomorrow’s breakfast or we could just reuse the one from the day before if we wanted to go at the same time.  The breakfast room was very small with only 5 or 6 tables, so it made sense that they needed to regulate the flow of traffic so there would be enough seats for everyone and so the kitchen staff could keep up with the food orders.  We arrived at 7:52am, which turned out to be very lucky because the kitchen had already finished cooking breakfast for the people who arrived at 7:30am and we were the first to arrive and place our order for the next round.  They actually did run out of tables because some of the 7:30 people hadn’t left yet when all of the 8am people arrived, so it was good that we were a few minutes early and we learned to use that strategy every day! 

 

I knew that breakfast was included with the nightly price of our hotel, but all of the reviews indicated that we would get a typical English breakfast with bacon, eggs, beans, and a grilled tomato.  I did not anticipate having any options, so I was shocked when we arrived and had a full menu to choose from!

 

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Sure, it wasn’t IHOP, but it was way more than I was expecting and we were thrilled!  I ordered the special sandwich with a side of scrambled eggs, and DH ordered fried eggs over medium.  While our food was cooking, we helped ourselves to the buffet of cold options.  I took a few slices of cheese to put on top of my eggs, and a single-serve container of nutella for my toast.  The food came out very quickly and everything was good.  It was a simple breakfast, but it was very filling and it was hard to complain when it was free and made to order!

 

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After breakfast, we walked across the street to Kings Cross to take the Tube to the Tower Hill station. 

 

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Our instructions said to meet near the Tower Hill Tram coffee stand right outside of the station at 9:30am.  I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to find this stand, but it was literally right there in front of us when we exited the station!  A few minutes after we got there, our guide showed up carrying a bright red umbrella with white dots on it, designed to look like a strawberry!   Our guide’s name was Carlton and he was energetic, theatrical, and entertaining all day long so we really lucked out with him as our guide.  There were only 14 of us taking the tour today, which was the perfect size for our group because it was big enough to have people asking questions and we could chat with them as we walked between the sites, but not so big that it was hard to keep track of everyone all day long.  Crazy enough, there was a family who lives in a town near us in California! 

 

We started the tour next to a section of the original stone wall that the Romans built around 200 AD to surround and protect London.  Pieces of this wall can be seen in various spots around the City of London, including right outside the exit to the Tower Hill Underground station! 

 

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As we turned around to leave this area, we got a sneak peak at our next destination:  The Tower of London!

 

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Carlton led us around the back of the Underground station and to a spot overlooking the Tower of London.  Since we did not have time to go inside of this very popular historical site, this was as close as we got to it with a view of the outer wall.

 

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It was so neat to see this historic landmark right across the river from the ultra-modern round building, London’s City Hall.  Notice all of those people lined up on the right side of the photo?  It was now a little after 10am so it looked like it was shaping up to be a busy day here!

 

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Carlton told us to take a seat on the steps while he gave us a thorough history lesson.  Given how long today’s tour was, it was great that he always looked out for places where we could sit down, although not always in the shade.

 

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Out next stop was at a hidden gem that most people don’t know exists… Saint Dunstan in the East Church.  Behind this church is a garden that is walled off, keeping the noise of the city out and leaving a lush, green garden with benches to sit and relax.

 

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The church itself is a beautiful old Gothic church, with white stone walls towering over the garden.

 

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Carlton intended for us to stay here in the shade while he told us another bit of London’s history, but unfortunately the gardeners were making a lot of noise so we had to leave haha

 

As we continued west through the City of London, Carlton pointed out the Walkie Talkie building…

 

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…and this neat view of the Shard peaking out at the end of the street (although it is actually located far away on the south bank)

 

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Carlton led us around the corner to take a closer look at the outside of the Walkie Talkie building.  He told us an interesting story… When this building first opened, a man parked his Jaguar on a nearby side street.  When he returned 2 hours later, he found that parts of his car had melted causing major damage to his car.  It turns out that the sun had reflected off the concave window panels of the Walkie Talkie building in just the right ankle that it was directed straight down to the Jaguar and caused the car to melt!  The building had to be fitted with special shades on the outside of all the windows to change the angle that the sun reflected so this problem would not happen again.  Talk about an engineering fail!!  Standing in the plaza outside of the building, we could look up to see those sunshades clearly.

 

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We walked through a few side streets to get to the Leadenhall Market.  Since it was still so early in the day, there weren’t many people around and we were able to take some photos of the beautiful building.

 

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As we exited the Leadenhall Market, we had a direct view of the Cheese Grater building.  It’s so interesting to see these super modern highrise buildings contrasting with the old architecture of the market.

 

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Carlton pointed out the St. Michael Cornhill Church which means it probably had some kind of historical significance, but I honestly can’t remember what he said haha

 

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I kept seeing these posts around the City and I noticed that they had different dates at the bottom.  I asked Carlton what it meant and he said he wasn’t positive but he thought it was the date that post was repaired after it got knocked over or damaged.

 

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The Bank of England, with a red double-decker bus driving by.  I really meant to ride on one of the buses (just to say I did it lol), but we never got a chance.

 

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I just thought this was a pretty spot with the lamp post and the old building behind it…

 

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Carlton explained the history of this pub, but as we walked around the corner, there was a plaque explaining the same story so I’ll just post a photo of it instead of re-explaining it hehe

 

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Next, we stopped outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral where Carlton pointed out the irony that it is free to visit museums in London, but the famous churches (here and Westminster Abbey, for example) charge a surprisingly high admission fee!  Unfortunately, the sun was in a bad spot so it was hard to get a good photo while he was talking.  At least I got some cool photos when we passed here yesterday!

 

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We walked past this store selling tons of Union Jack souvenirs.  Of course I didn’t have time to go inside during our tour, so this photo will have to serve as my keepsake instead.  In a way, it’s annoying that the building from across the street reflected in the window, but in a way, I kind of like the effect!

 

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Our next stop was St. Bride’s Church.  Carlton explained that many brides in London take photos here before the wedding because the church spire looks like a wedding cake!  Our view of it was from an alley looking through the trees, but you get the idea…

 

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While we were standing in the alley out of the way from the foot traffic on the sidewalk, Carlton took the opportunity to take our orders for lunch.  He called the restaurant where we were going and told them what we all wanted to eat from a set list of 5 items: fish and chips, burger and chips, sausage and mash, pesto penne pasta, or cottage pie (like shepherd’s pie but with no crust).  DH ordered the cottage pie and I ordered the fish and chips.  We still had about 30 minutes of walking before we would arrive at the lunch restaurant so now our food would be ready when we arrived.

 

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Just loving your review and now I have found what we will do with our one full day in London next May!  It looks like booking isn't open yet for next May so I will wait and watch.  

One question so far; was there bathroom stops along the tour?  Always an important aspect to me.😀

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14 hours ago, ROWSE said:

Just loving your review and now I have found what we will do with our one full day in London next May!  It looks like booking isn't open yet for next May so I will wait and watch.  

One question so far; was there bathroom stops along the tour?  Always an important aspect to me.😀

 

So funny you asked that question because I am about to address it in my next post... the short answer is no, there are no bathroom breaks except for at lunch.  I guess that's not to different than any other walking tour though.

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We didn’t really make any more official stops before getting to lunch, but we did walk past the Royal Courts of Justice building so I snapped a quick photo of it.

 

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I thought it was funny that they painted “Look Right --->” on the pavement to help people safely cross the street.  It seriously took me until our last day in London to get the hang of looking right first… you’d be surprised how hard it is to break a habit you’ve been practicing for nearly your entire life!

 

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Carlton led us on the scenic route to get to the lunch restaurant.  Instead of walking on the Strand, which was a very busy street with lots of people crowding the sidewalks, we cut down to the river and walked along the north bank on a pedestrian path.  We didn’t know exactly where we were going for lunch nor how long it would take to walk there, so it was kind of surprising when it ended up being a 30 minute walk.  It would have been nice if Carlton either warned us that the walk would be 30 minutes straight, or if he found somewhere to stop at the midway point.  Since he didn’t do that, it felt like we were walking f-o-r-e-v-e-r!!  That wouldn’t have been a problem normally (you’ve seen the amount of walking we did every day on this trip, so 30 minutes is no big deal in the grand scheme of things), but nearly everyone in our group desperately needed to use a restroom by this point in the day and we all would have appreciated a potty break before doing all that walking!  We got to the restaurant at 12:30pm, so 3 hours after the tour started, and closer to 4 hours after we left our hotel this morning, so yea… you get the idea!

 

Lunch was at a pub called Walkers of Whitehall.

 

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The restaurant was not very crowded, but the hostess was expecting us since we pre-ordered our food, and she led us downstairs to a private room with a booth large enough to fit our entire group at one table.  We had a family of 4 vegetarians on the tour with us, and they did not want to eat pasta for lunch (they said they eat A LOT of pasta as the default veggie dish haha), so Carlton told them where they could find some other options for good Indian food and they were going to meet us back at Walkers in an hour.  Another lady who was on the tour by herself decided she was going to leave right when we got to the pub.  It was actually kind of awkward because she told one of the other ladies while we were all in the restroom, and then she just left, so it became that lady’s obligation to tell Carlton.  We all thought it was very rude that she didn’t tell him she was leaving herself, likely to avoid having to give him a tip.

 

Anyway, that left us with 10 people at lunch including Carlton.  We sat down at our booth and they gave us this menu.  We had already ordered our food, so the waitress took our drink orders.  Strawberry Tours organized a deal for us where we get our choice of food and a half pint of beer/cider/soda/juice for £10. 

 

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The food came out about 5 minutes later.  DH really enjoyed his cottage pie… it had a base of chopped beef with mashed potatoes on top, then a ton of gravy poured all over it, and of course a side of peas.  Those Brits are all about their peas!

 

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My fish and chips was also very good, especially when I added some malt vinegar on top!

 

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Carlton did not rush us at all to finish lunch, and even after we all finished eating, we enjoyed our time relaxing on the comfy booth and soaking up the air conditioning.  It was also a great opportunity to chat with the other people on our tour.  This was when DH learned that two of the other parties on our tour were specifically visiting London to attend the MLB London Series baseball game with the Yankees vs. Red Sox playing on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.  He had noticed lots of people wearing Yankees and Red Sox shirts as we were walking around London yesterday and today, but he just assumed that it was other tourists visiting from the east coast (you can get to London in nearly the same time as you can get to California when coming from New York and Boston!)  Immediately, DH said he wanted to go to the game, but the others said the game sold out within minutes of tickets being released a few months ago.  DH was super bummed!

 

After lunch, we took a quick walk around the corner to see Trafalgar Square.  I thought it was a little weird that Carlton didn’t spend much time explaining the significance of this square considering it is so well known, but I think he wanted to avoid the area due to all the noise from the cars and other pedestrians.  He actually took out a portable microphone headset when we got here, and after using it for literally one minute, the batteries died!  He really was a great tour guide and we had a wonderful day with him, but I thought this was very unprofessional.  He knew he was leading this tour today and he knew that he liked using his headset when we walk through the more crowded parts of Westminster, so he should have known to charge his device last night.  Sorry… rant over!

 

Here is the glimpse we got of Nelson’s Column and Trafalgar Square as we walked around the corner towards The Mall.

 

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How cute is this crosswalk sign!?  Carlton said this neighborhood is very LGBTQ friendly, and this was one tribute to that.  There was another sign that had the male and female symbols light up in green instead of the little walking man, but I couldn’t get a good photo of it.

 

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We walked down along the Mall, which is the road that connects Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace.  Our next stop was to see this monument to the Duke of York.  There is a little chant that British children learn in school and Carlton was nice enough to sing it to us.  It’s actually a catchy little song… I am kind of obsessed with the animations in this video that I borrowed from Youtube hahaha

 

 

 

The funny thing about this song is that it was very popular with tour guides throughout our time in London.  We actually heard the story of the Duke of York and listened to the song on 3 of our tours!  They say repetition is the key to learning new information, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing to hear this story and the song 3 times because I actually remember it now that the trip is over! Haha!

 

This monument was built in 1834 to honor the Duke of York.

 

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This was the view I had all day, following Carlton and his red umbrella through the streets of London!  I told him how much I appreciated him carrying that umbrella all day long as it made it very easy to keep track of him when we got to more crowded areas.  There are moments in nearly every walking tour when I lose sight of my guide, so this eliminated that problem and we could always see the umbrella even on a busy sidewalk.

 

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Notice how the road on The Mall is red… this is to create the effect of a very long red carpet leading up to Buckingham Palace.

 

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The Prince Philip House is one of the more modern buildings on The Mall.

 

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Next to that was a pair of statues of Queen Elizabeth and King George VI.  While we were standing in the shade, Carlton took a moment to explain how they play into the history of the British royalty and that they are the parents of the current queen, Queen Elizabeth II.  He also explained how Kings and Queens get their names, which I thought was really interesting because I never realized how it all works.

 

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We took a detour onto a side street to see St. James’s Palace.  Look at all those fancy London taxicabs coming down the road!

 

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St. James’s Palace was built in the 1530’s by King Henry VIII.  Carlton took this opportunity to explain what made King Henry VIII famous… all of his wives!  He explained the story behind each wife, and we learned the phrase people use to keep them straight: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.  (This was the other story that we heard on every single tour we took in London!)  I really learned a lot of British history on this tour, and Carlton had a great way of telling the story so that I would retain the information.

 

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Heading out to The Mall, we walked all the way down to see Buckingham Palace.  We didn’t actually walk up to the gates because that would have involved crossing several lanes of traffic, but we had a good view of the palace and the gardens from where we stood.  Carlton was nice enough to give us a few minutes to take photos here.

 

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Next, we crossed The Mall to enter St. James’s Park.  This is one of the 8 Royal Parks across London, and covers 58 acres including a lake with ducks, geese, and pelicans!  This park was so lush and green, and is a beautiful escape from the bustling city that surrounds it.

 

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The London Eye peaked out above the trees in the distance…

 

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If you look closely, you can see the pelicans hanging out on the rocks in the lake…

 

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We exited St. James’s Park and walked past the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

 

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Our next stop was to see Westminster Abbey.  This church has hosted 16 royal weddings, including when Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011, and is the burial site of over 3,000 prominent British citizens.

 

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The last stop on our epic full day walking tour was Parliament Square Garden.  I imagine this must be a great place to take photos of Big Ben, but we were out of luck with all that scaffolding in the way.

 

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Overall, this tour was a fantastic way to get a huge overview of London.  We covered a ton of ground and Carlton was chock full of anecdotes and information about all of the sights we saw.  As wonderful as our tour was, I just looked back on their website and noticed that we did not visit all of the places they said we would see.  The places we missed were the Churchill War Rooms, Leicester Square, 10 Downing Street, and Tower Bridge.  We did get to see a bunch of places not mentioned on the website, but I’m not sure why we had to skip these other very notable locations.  We thanked Calrton for his time and tipped him generously before walking over to the Westminster Underground Station.  We wanted to go back to the hotel to get changed for tonight and grab some jackets because it was already cooling off and we didn’t want a repeat of yesterday!

 

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After we finished at the hotel, we took a quick detour to check out the lobby of the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.  We saw the grand facade every time we went to the train station, so we wanted to take a peak inside the hotel.  This hotel was originally built in the 1870’s by the railway company who was also building St. Pancras Station.  It was used as a hotel until 1935 when it was converted to offices for the railway, but then it was shut down in the 1980s after failing fire safety regulations.  In 2004, plans began to redevelop the historic building as a hotel, and the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel opened in 2011 as the building we can see today. 

 

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Fun fact:  In 1996, the Spice Girls filmed their Wannabe music video in this building while it was still abandoned. 

 

 

 

I was on a mission to find the grand staircase featured in that music video, but wow does it ever look more majestic today after the restoration project!

 

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Not the best photo because the light was shining in through the windows, but at least we can prove we were there hehe

 

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