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Published: April 27th 2015
Saturday 27 April
Well, I didn’t get to meet the Queen but I am getting to do the laundry. Lugged it half a mile down the road and now waiting for it to wash, then dry, so could be here a while.
We were all up around 5:30am and a frustrating start to the day for me as I spent a lot of time on the phone on hold to the Cash Passport office. When I withdrew £500 from the ATM at Heathrow yesterday instead of taking it out of my pounds sterling “purse”, for some unknown reason it took it out of my Euro one and charged me a €45 conversion fee! They were simply NOT answering the phone, despite it being a 24/7 service so I ended up managing to leave a message to call me. After breakfast we headed off for a day around the city. I was initially not that keen on going to London, but Heather talked me into it. I’m glad she did, this is an AWESOME city. Despite it being so incredibly crowded and full of narrow streets, it somehow seems to work. Buses, taxis, and more buses are everywhere while the London Underground is truly a marvel (and fairly idiot-proof to use).
We started by heading to Trafalgar Square and we hung around there a bit admiring Nelson’s Column and taking lots of photos. Then we headed off on foot for a tour of the highlights. Walked down The Mall to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guards. All the flags were still up from yesterday’s marathon so looking down towards the Palace it looked really cool. I, along with many others, stopped in the middle of the road to take a photo. Zachary was very excited to see police officers on horses and then the guards coming down the road. Got to the Palace about 25 minutes before it was due to start and it was already heaving with people. We got a decent spot to watch, but unfortunately all the space near the gates was taken so while we saw the Beefeaters parading to and from and going in and out, we couldn’t really see anything of what was going on inside the gates. Still, it was cool to watch and worth the effort. People probably know I am no fan of the monarchy (although I rather like Prince Charles) but I do enjoy a bit of pomp and ceremony. I was hopeful of an announcement of the royal birth while we were there, but England still waits. The Palace itself I found rather underwhelming as a building. Not especially attractive and in need of a wash I thought.
Walked back through St James’ Park. Zachary was excited to find a playground, Heather even more excited to see a squirrel, and I was the most excited of all to find a waffle stand! Beautiful gardens, more squirrels and some cool birds (including pelicans which I find a bit bizarre).
After that we did a bit of a loop of the area taking in the sights such as the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and Westminster Cathedral and Abbey. We opted against going into the Abbey – too busy and for £20 entry each for Heather and I we decided we could do without it. We ended up at the rather brown looking Thames and got some good shots of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and the bridges. Then we decided to take a river bus to the Tower. Headed to the riverside and was greeted by applause and a rousing cheer from a group of young Dutchmen as I was wearing my KNVB Nederland football jacket. So of course I showed them my tattoo as well which got a huge chorus of approval! Once we had deciphered the rather confusing instructions we found the right pier on the other side of the river where there was a great old-style carousel for Zachary and plenty of buskers etc. We had our first encounter with a pay toilet, something that we will no doubt get used to as we head into Europe.
By the time we got to the Tower it was 3pm and there was no point paying the £50 it would have cost us to get in. Zachary was very tired (he has a cold and his nose has been running like a tap all day) and Heather has been before and said we would need at least 2 hours there. Next time.
We then rode a double-decker bus pack to Trafalgar Square – something Zachary had been looking forward to all day. We got to the top deck, found seats, and 5 minutes later he was fast asleep! But he stayed awake for the next ride to Hyde Park Corner. This is the site of Waterloo Gate and, more significantly from a Kiwi point of view, the Anzac Memorial. It really is excellent and, with Anzac Day having just been, there were still many wreaths and tributes laying there. An absolute credit to those who designed it and a wholly appropriate tribute to our fallen heroes.
After a couple of tube trips we were back and, as I hadn’t heard back from Cash Passport, I tried again. Miracle of miracles they answered right away and she looked into it and confirmed it was a fault with the ATM. They emailed me a form to fill in which I was able to print out, complete, scan, and send back, and hopefully it will be sorted soon and I have all my Euros back.
Dinner at Pax Lodge (fish and chips) and then bed for Zachary and laundry for me. A bit chilly today when the sun was obscured but at other times it was positively pleasant. I had fully expected to be kitted out in 5 layers plus waterproof pants and raincoat while in London so I have enjoyed being wrong in my prediction. Zachary much better today in terms of aural function and he and Heather will have a much more relaxed day tomorrow while I try and see the few things I missed (such as Downing Street) while fitting in Lords, the Globe, and some beer drinking.
Washing nearly finished now so time to read my book while it goes through the dryer. Until next time!
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