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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 51.5002, -0.126236
Today we got up for a buffet breakfast in the hotel basement around 8:00. Among all of us, we consumed oatmeal, yogurt, poached eggs, toast, baked beans, sausage, English bacon, cheese, apples, coffee, and orange juice. We were surprised that we were all hungry so early.
After breakfast, we headed towards Baker Street, home of Sherlock Holmes, whose image was plastered all over the tube station. After a few moments we located our Double Decker Bus Tour tickets and at the same time lost Rich's bookbag. After a frantic search up and down the street, it turned out that the elusive bag was strapped to Barb's shoulder. "It was a little scary," says Rich.
Shortly thereafter, we boarded our double decker tour only to find out that it was being conducted in every language known to man and child (literally) other than English. After just two stops, we switched buses to a live tour. The conductor looked like a cross between an Amish recluse and Moses. We hung out with him, and were thankful that he got us to Buckingham Palace just in time for the changing of the guard. The Union Jack flying over the Palace let us know that
the Queen was home. She didn't bother to say hi.
After the first half of the guard change, we visited the Queen's Gallery Gift Shop, warmed up, and spent a few pounds on souvenir items. From there it was off to the Bag of Nails for our lunch, which was imbibed in the form of cream tea and Young's Ale. (At this point, real lunch was about an hour away, or so we thought.)
Next it was back on the bus. Although we had agreed to continue on to St. Paul's, the lure of Westminster Abbey was too great for our collective will. Unfortunately, the abbey was closed to visitors for the day, but we managed to do quite well in the gift shop. (Is a recurring theme?) Rich also paused to take a picture of the Methodist Central Something-or-other. We aren't sure what it was, but it was central to something and it looked good.
At this point, we hopped back on board the tube in search of our New Years River Cruise tickets. The stop was called "Monument" and we were surprised to find a Christopher Wren monument to the victims of the London fire from 1666. A brief walk along
the Thames River Walk led to Jeannette once again landing upside down. This time, the stairs weren't moving. After a quick regathering and a few puns, e.g. "How was your trip?" we located Thames Leisure Company and collected our tickets from Rachel, the friendly staff member who had yet been just an email address.
After collecting our tickets, it was off to the Tower of London. En route we took several pictures of the famous tower bridge. We asked one of the guards when the Tower would open on Saturday, and he said it depended on how late we stayed out Friday night. Ha. Ha. So, plans have been laid to return.
From the Tower, it was off to Marble Arch in search of our rental car. It turned out to be the same style of Volkswagen that Jake drove in 1997. The license plate reads "AK55 FUU." (We'll let you read into that whatever you want, though the image of a really big gun and a four letter word came to all our minds.) Our driving adventure started out rather smoothly until we crossed the Vauxhall bridge. From there we ended up in the "dodgy" part of London. Actually, several dodgy
parts. With a little luck, and 3-5 miles of frantically covering the same ground, we finally made it back to the Days Inn and parked our new dear friend, "FU." Buying the parking tag was a cultural experience between man and machine in itself, but in the end a successful one.
And then we were off again for what should have been lunch but now had become dinner in the Piccadilly Circus area. After passing up several American-style chains, we stumbled upon the Bear and Staff Pub, which had a wonderful restaurant on top called "Chaplin's" which was once frequented by Charlie himself along with other notables including Lulu, Mr. Bean, Peter O'Toole, and others. Local fare was the goal, so for Jeannette and Barb it was chicken pie, for Jake was steak and ale pie, and for Rich was "toad in the hole" all followed up with a delicious dessert of roly poly pudding. Mulled wine escaped Jeannette and Barb yet again, which makes them even more determined to find it.
After dinner we used the marvelous system of public transport to return flawlessly despite large crowds at one stop due to a shut-down line. London Transport is an amazing system.
Tomorrow it's off to the Southeast, which according to news reports will look something like Siberia. Then again, if we believed everything we read, there would be a combined 18 inches of snow on the ground right here instead of just grit.
Cheers until next time!~
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