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Published: August 16th 2018
A whole lot of tall buildings, stone and glass, surrounded by neighborhoods and the Thames
Days 30 to 32 - Rivers and Royalty
Tuesday, after recovering from Kinky Boots and doing some laundry, we ventured out to explore more around London. We have heard good things about Canary Wharf, so we headed that way to eat lunch and walk around a bit. Tony and Anne are checking out different areas they might want to consider when potentially moving to London in a few years. Canary Wharf was a nice place, but was very close to too busy. There is a lot of construction going on right now (opportunity for investments, so the signs say), so we will plan to return later. The new Elizabeth Line (Cross Rail) will make this area very convenient. There are some other nice looking neighborhoods across the river as well.
Instead of taking the Underground back into Central London, we opted for a river boat. You can pay with your Oyster card (though it’s a bit more expensive), and it is a nice ride up the Thames. You definitely see things you never get to see from the streets, unless you walk the entire length of the river on both sides. We were caught
Gardens in London
So much landscaping work, so well done.
a bit off guard by how many people lived right up on the water so close to London center.
Later, we met up with the International Wilsons at Hyde park. The park has a really fun playground and a few acres of sculpture garden. We took turns admiring and also poking fun at the art on display. The Wilsons took our advice and got tickets for Matilda, so we dropped them off at the theater, went home, did some more laundry, got ice cream, then picked them up for a great pizza meal and, of course, chocolate cake!
Wednesday started off slow, with all of us finally awake after 9am. We spent some time doing domestic things again (laundry, bills, updating windows, etc), and Tony watched a SpaceX rocket launch online. We decided to head out to one of King Henry VIII’s favorite palaces that afternoon.
Hampton Court Palace is about 50 minutes travel from our flat. We stopped to eat lunch, and then ran to catch the train at Waterloo station. Because of a ticket reader problem with one of our tickets, we actually missed our intended
We love meeting these people on our travels.
train by about 2 seconds. However, the train conductor quickly gave us an alternative train leaving 7 minutes later and 4 platforms down which would beat our original train to a common station about 90%!o(MISSING)f the way there and we could jump off and rejoin our intended train. We did that, and it was great because the alternate train was newer, more comfortable, less crowded, and had air conditioning.
The Palace at Hampton Court consists of (in order of interest to us) the oldest remaining yew hedge maze, some fantastic gardens, and a big old palace full of rooms and stuff. We did the maze first, and just beat a group of about 80 high school students speaking french and italian. We made our way peacefully to the center of the maze, and were completely entertained by the confusion and panic of the students as we made our way back. Michelle and Tony were evil and gave incorrect non-verbal communication telling students they were on the wrong path.
After the maze, we had plenty of time to see every room, read a lot of words, walk through all of the gardens,
Go see Matilda, if you have not.. If you have.. see it again!
and hike around the large park settings with private canals and hunting grounds. We were even able to see the oldest grape vine in the world tucked into a greenhouse at the end of the gardens. Tony said to watch out for the mandrakes, they bite. If you are short on time, you can casually complete Hampton Court Palace in 3 hours. It was a perfect ½ day trip.
When we left the Palace, we walked down to the locks in town. The Thames is dammed at several points to provide flood control and hydroelectric power. We watched a boat come down in the last lock and then ate at a riverside restaurant near the Palace. A short (non air conditioned) train ride home and we did more laundry, watched some Star Trek, worked on the blog, and turned in. 6.1 miles walked on Wednesday..
Thursday was another lazy day (5.6 walking miles) of laundry and activities close-by before we left for the airport in the afternoon. We decided to walk down the river (east) towards Tower Bridge. On our way, we passed the HMS Belfast, and discovered that they had a
and the spoils of war
brand new escape room. We love escape rooms! However, it was not going to be open for a few more days so we put it on our list.
Just east of the London Bridge and a block in from the river’s south bank is a little restaurant called Bill’s, where we had our first pancakes of the trip, and they were fantastic. Tony feels that this restaurant, with its quality food and decor would do very well in the US.
We made our way further down the river to discover that the art had changed (again) at Potter park, and the giant statue of Jeff Goldblum was no longer there. In fact, there was currently no art at the park. It seems the art in that park, as well as many other places in London, changes almost daily, so there is usually something new to see all the time.
At the Tower Bridge, we waited in line to go into the tower and walk across the top. We were surpassed by dozens of people with the London Pass, which lets you skip the line. We think that would
Hampton Court Palace
It's really big... not quite so big as Space.. but still very large.
be a great option if we were only here for a few days (the pass has a time limit). After climbing a great many steps, stopping to read words on signs along the way, we reached the top.
The span across the bridge, between the two towers, has excellent views, a timeline and informational signs, and a number of glass floors where you can see the water and bridge beneath. There were a lot of people bravely (or not so bravely) creeping out onto the glass to get their picture taken. There were also a number of very cute babies sitting on the glass who did not seem concerned about the height at all, and were happy to giggle and smile for the cameras.
We took the underground to Heathrow (again) and had another hot crowded journey (again). When we finally arrived to the airport, the AC and cool air was very nice. Down near our gate, we discovered an observatory on the roof where you can watch the airport and see planes coming in. It was very hot on the roof (no AC) but worth the stairs and the heat for
We made it to the center of the maze. Now time to mislead High School students on the way out.
a short time.
The plane ride was uneventful, and we landed in Rome (only a little bit delayed). Just like in Athens, we opted to be picked up by a driver and taken to our flat in Rome. It might be more expensive, but it was air-conditioned, trouble-free, and we got to peek out (in the dark, because it was midnight) at the towering ruins we drove in from the airport. We are all looking forward to four days in Rome.
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