Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day Three

Our first stop off the Underground was the Trafalgar post office to mail postcards to the kids. Then we went back to Trafalgar Square to snap all the photos we couldn't get yesterday. We wandered down toward Downing Street just enjoying the buildings and the perfect weather. We passed the buildings that house the Home and Foreign Offices and ducked into the Cabinet War Rooms though we didn't do the tour. The Cabinet War Rooms are the underground rooms where Winston Churchill and his advisors more or less lived during WWII. We then crossed the street to St. James' Park which is absolutely beautiful. We took lots of pictures there of the lake and gorgeous flowers. There were lots of people in the park - lots of families picnicing and little ones with ice cream. We followed the park path to Buckingham Palace which was flying the Union Jack signalling that the Queen is not in residence (the Royal Standard flies when she is in residence). This was a little confusing because it used to be that NO flag flew over Buckingham Palace when the queen was gone but at the time of Princess Diana's death, the queen was at Balmoral and the Union Jack was raised at Buckingham Palace to half-mast in honor of the princess. Since then, Jack flies when the queen is absent. We were too cheap to pay the entrance fee to the Cabinet War Rooms but not to pay the entrance fee to Buckingham Palace because afterall, it is BUCKINGHAM PALACE! So, currently we are queing to buy tickets for the palace tour. We stopped earlier to buy the kids some touristy but totally fabulous gifts: a little black "I love London" purse for Ivy and a jester's hat decorated like the Union Jack for the boys.

At Starbucks this morning Tim asked for cream in my coffee, which they took to mean real cream. So far as I can make out there is no such thing as half and half in this country. Instead there is milk, pouring cream (what we call whipping or heavy cream) or whipped cream. So I had coffee with heavy cream in my coffee. Tastes good but if I keep this up I'll gain a couple of dress sizes!

Following the tour of Buckingham Palace (which was amazing), we thought about stopping for tea at the outdoor cafe - I mean how often can you say "I had tea at the Queen's house today"? But HRH charges a pretty penny (a pretty pence??) for a cuppa on her grounds. Instead we moved on to the gift shop and spent a bundle there :) While we were in the palace it started raining...then stopped...then started...then stopped...then started in real earnest. Luckily, we had remembered to bring the umbrella despite the day's perfect sunshiny start. Unluckily, we had a hard time fitting both of us under it whilst walking so Tim, gallant man that he is, gave up and resigned himself to a good soaking while I and the bags stayed relatively dry. I wore a long dress today and my feet and hem are soaked. I feel like Lizzy Bennett after the walk to Netherfield.

After the gift shop we walked back around to the front of the palace (which, by the way, is a pretty good hike) to take the pictures of the front that we should have taken before the tour but didn't because we were in a hurry to get our tickets. But it's a nice walk and we got some exercise.

We walked to Westminster Abbey and viewed it from the outside as it was already closed for the day. I was sad to miss going in but the outside is gorgeous and awe-inspiring as well. Our initial delayed flight means that our time is shortened in London and we won't get to everything we wanted but that's just all the more reason to come back right?

We also viewed the Houses of Parliament (which somehow always remind me of Colin Firth and I've no idea why because I've never seen him play a government minister...who knows...). Anyhow, they are really and truly amazing. We saw Big Ben and the London Eye. We stood and watched the flowing of the Thames River, so central to English history and apparently, also a very good place for disposing of bodies. Just before the Westminster Bridge is the statue of Boadicea and her two daughters - she was a famous Celtic warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She's very fascinating even if no one really knows how to say her name.

We looked at the London Eye but I couldn't quite conquer my fear of heights to get on it. I know, I'm a weenie but it's so high up there...ugh... We listened to Big Ben chime (or maybe "boom" is a more appropriate description) and then walked in a giant circle looking for the New Scotland Yard just so I could say I've been there. Tim very sportingly trudged through rain and puddles with me. We definately took a scenic route but the bonus was that we happened on a great park with a gorgeous view of the Houses of Parliament and it also contained a memorial gazebo dedicated to Fowell Buxton who worked with William Wilberforce (one of my heroes) to abolish the British slave trade.

We also happened upon a great pub, the Strutton Arms, which was much better than the Clarence for both taste and price. Tim ate fish and chips (again!) and I had a beef and rosemary pie and you guessed it...peas! ("Would you like those regular or smashed?") Tim prefers his peas smashed, it seems. To drink : Guiness and a shandy again.

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