Tuesday was set aside for an all-day discovering London tour. We were collected at our hotel and brought to the Victoria Coach Station, which is a bus station, and it is several blocks away from the Victoria rail station (which we found out later during a different journey). At the coach station, we were greeted by our neatly appointed guide, Rodney, who was polite, but not amiable.
This tour brought us to various famous landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, which is right next to Parliament. It is very much like other Gothic Cathedrals I have visited in Spain. There’s a ton of famous dead people buried in the floor, including several poets, scientists and musicians. A few kings and queens are also entombed there, and memorialized in effigy. After a quick run around there with Rodney pointing out all of the appropriate historical artefacts (that’s the British spelling), we made our way over to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. I don’t know why this is a big deal, except that it has been going on for a few hundred years. There’s one group of soldiers who march up one street into Buckingham Palace, and then a few minutes later a second group comes along and also goes into BP. Aside from being accompanied by a band, it’s really no big deal. Judging by the traffic that let loose after each regiment passed, it seems like a place to avoid at 11 a.m. each day, unless it’s raining, because they don’t change the guard in the rain.
We ate lunch in a “true” British pub near Trafalgar square, which meant being cordoned in a downstairs room and given a choice between meat pie (which I ate and enjoyed), chicken or lasagna pasta (with the a said like when saying “as”). Susan had the lasagna, which turned out to be vegetarian, defined by Susan to mean inedible.
After repairing to the coach again, we were off to Tower of London, which isn’t much of a tower. Perhaps in the 11th century when it was first built as a strategic defensive position on the River Thames it was considered a tower, but it didn’t look like what we think of as a tower today. That said, it was quite full of history and fascinating. I liked the armor and weapons inside the White Tower (the main building often referred to as the Tower), Susan, of course, liked the Crown Jewels. I liked them, too, but there weren’t as many as I thought. I was imagining a room like Scrooge McDuck’s vault.
This is quickly becoming one of my favorite photos of Susan. She’s got such a pretty smile here. And why shouldn’t she? The sun had just come out during our tour of the Tower of London. Tower Bridge can be seen poking through the trees in the background.
The next part of our journey was aboard a passenger ferry on the Thames from the Tower area to Parliament. This is where we lost some people. Although everyone who got on the boat also got off, Rodney took a hairpin left along the Embankment (sic) walkway and up some stairs. Some people continued straight without realizing and they disappeared. When one of the passengers told Rodney after the coach pulled away from the curb, he said, “Oh, well. They’ve got to keep up.” He also promised to make sure their belongings, such as souvenirs, umbrellas and jackets would be taken to the tour office and if the people found their way back to the office, they could collect their things.
This should have been the signal that Rodney had mentally shut off his guide function. He was now Joe Schmoe Londoner who wasn’t in the mood to deal with tourists anymore. We asked him to drop us at Hyde Park Corner, but he forgot, and so we were left at Marble Arch, which was somewhat near the Corner, if you consider Boston’s Theater District near to Park Street Station.
On the recommendation of a trusted family member, whose trust is beginning to erode (Susan suggests I write that I am being cheeky as I write this, and that it is meant in good fun), we ate dinner at Garfunkel’s, a chain restaurant with nearly as many locations in London as McDonald’s has in any American city. The food was borderline disgusting, and not worth the value. We swore we wouldn’t be back. We checked into the cost of theater tickets, ducked into a few stores in Picadilly, took the bus to Blackwell’s bookstore, ducked into an Internet cafe and Tubed back to the hotel. We’ve set aside Wednesday for museums. That’s my kind of day!