this bird can sing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

England 2014, Part One

I guess this has sort of become a travel blog for me. But having just completed an amazing two week journey through England and Ireland, I wanted to document it in more depth here, for posterity. As I slowly sort through my photos, I will pull out a few to represent the trip and blog it here. I kept a brief journal throughout the trip, as I did during the last trip to Ireland, in order to jog my memory.

And so, the journey begins on September 15, 2014. We had actually arrived in London the day before and made our way to my cousin's house in Guildford. We had a really nice dinner at The Horse and Groom and then went to bed to rest for our upcoming adventures.

We took the bus to the Guildford train station in order to make our way into London. They offer an all-day travel pass which includes your roundtrip train tickets into London, and all day travel on the Underground. This is the way to go. We arrived at London Waterloo.

We decided to walk down to The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Station instead of taking the Underground right away.

As we approached Westminster Bridge, we got our first look at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

We walked across Westminster Bridge and had a nice view of the London Eye as well as a bagpiper playing away on the bridge in front of Big Ben.

We decided to brave the Underground after examining the maps. They're really easy to navigate after you do it a time or two, but the first time, we actually went the wrong direction. We loved the Underground and I wish we had a public transit system like this. It's easy to use and wonderful for giving you the freedom to explore the city as much as you want and on your own schedule.

 We took the tube to Tower Hill because I wanted to go to the Tower of London right away. I love English history, particularly the Plantagenets, the War of the Roses, and the Tudors. It was almost difficult to comprehend the amount of history that has taken place there. It's overwhelming, really.

As you approach the Tower, you immediately notice the sea of red poppies in the moat. We later learned that each ceramic poppy represents a British fatality from World War I. 

I wanted to do the Yeoman Warder's tour, and we arrived shortly before one began. The "Beefeaters" served in the Royal military for their career. The tour was very funny and also informative. 

I knew a large amount of history regarding the Tower, but I still learned new things and just being present where so much has taken place was awesome. We were able to sit in the chapel where Anne Boleyn is now buried. The ceiling was made of Spanish wood, as Henry VIII wanted to Catherine to feel at home (that is, before he divorced her).

See the archer?

Traitor's Gate. Anne Boleyn and Thomas More entered the Tower through here.

Memorial on Tower Green. A lot of executions took place near here.

After the tour concluded, we decided to view the Crown Jewels.

We also went up the White Tower. There was a lot of armor and various items on display up here.
Henry VIII's armor. 
We saw the ravens of the the tower. There was a superstition that if the ravens are ever gone from the Tower, it will fall, and Britain along with it. They keep ravens there with wings clipped to ensure that there are always ravens at the Tower - they are apparently well cared for and one just lived to be 44 years old.

After spending a good while at the Tower, we made our way toward Tower Bridge. 

 We picked up sandwiches at M&S, our new favorite store, and ate at the foot of the bridge. We then decided to walk across it.

There are a lot of nice views from the bridge. Next time, I might like to do the Tower Bridge Experience, but for this time, we just walked across.

We decided that we had to do a cruise down the Thames. So we walked down and bought tickets to take a cruise back to Westminster.

We sat on the top of the boat and had a nice view of Traitor's Gate from the river.

We went right past the HMS Belfast.

It was a good thing that they pointed out London Bridge, because it's pretty unremarkable when you see it. The history that has taken place at this spot over the river is quite remarkable, however.

It's definitely worth doing the cruise for the views from the river, as well as the commentary.

After arriving back at Westminster, we took some pictures of Big Ben as dusk was approaching and weighed our options for the rest of the evening.

We ended up deciding to get back on the tube to King's Cross Station, because I simply had to see Platform 9 3/4. 
Outside King's Cross Station.
Inside King's Cross.

We found Platform 9 3/4 and luckily I was not the only adult who wanted my picture taken here. In fact, the whole line consisted of adults. It wasn't too long of a wait, maybe 10 minutes or so. I got to the front and grabbed for the Ravenclaw scarf. You can buy the print of the photo they take for you, but they also let you take your own. 

I picked up a couple things in the shop, including a Ravenclaw print to frame for the house.

We made our way to Baker Street after finishing up at King's Cross. It was dark by this point, so we mainly just wanted to find 221B.

There are a lot of Sherlock Holmes themed things on this block. After my brief literary tour through two of my all-time favorites, we made our way back to Waterloo and took the train home to Guildford. We had some confusion in finding our way back to the bus station, and we may have gotten the last bus back to my cousin's house. Everything seems to close pretty early in this part of the world, so we ended up just picking up a late dinner at M&S. We got sausage pies, scotch eggs, and calamari to share. 

According to my fitbit, I walked over 9 miles on this day.